ECOSS has been working with communities to restore a habitat site at Seward Park. The site was previously covered in Himalayan Blackberries, which are a non-native species that out-competes understory vegetation and makes it difficult for trees to grow due to the thick foliage. According to kingcounty.gov, the Himalayan blackberry is a Class C noxious weed. Although control of Himalayan Blackberry is not required, it is recommended in protected wilderness areas and in natural lands that are being restored to native vegetation because of the invasiveness of these species.
Last summer, ECOSS invited immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC communities to come together for a work party to restore the land and clear out Himalayan Blackberries at a site in Seward. This month, 14 adults and 3 youths from the community came together with ECOSS and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for a planting event. The day included reflection on how we can form impactful connections to the land, forming new relationships with staff and community, and planting native trees and shrubs to restore the land. By the end of the event, about 135 native plants had been planted at the site. Community members were also invited to take a native plant with them to plant at home.
I was mindful when ordering the plants for this project– typically in restoration work there isn’t a lot of variety or diversity in the plants that are planted, so I took this opportunity to incorporate plants of importance that most people don’t typically see or work with. It affirms my passion to grow this impact area in our organization and to be able to provide more opportunities to our community to steward the land whether it’s in a leisurely setting or a skilled professional setting.
Miranda perez, Senior Program Manager
Here are 14 native species that ECOSS planted with the community at Seward Park
Compiled by Miranda Perez, ECOSS Senior Program Manager, with information from Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon.
Red alder, alnus rubra—large deciduous; considered the best wood for smoking salmon and other fish and valued for its medicinal qualities in making a tonic for tuberculosis and respiratory ailments; improves disturbed soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil
Cascara, rhamnus purshiana—tall shrub/small tree; the bark was boiled and drunk as a strong laxative tea by Nuxalk, Coast Salish, Quilete, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw and other groups. It has been scientifically proven to be an effective laxative
Shore pine, pinuscontorta—large conifer; The Haida used peeled sheets of the bark as splints for broken limbs; Also used medicinally by Nuxalk, Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit as gum, and applied to cuts as well as the skin to treat heart pain and rheumatism.
Western red cedar, thuja plicata—large conifer; Trees of life are held with high respect for their healing and spiritual powers by west coast peoples; cedars were extraordinarily useful to indigenous people of PNW and played key roles culturally, providing for the people from birth to death, cradles to coffins.
Oregon grape, mahonia nervosa—yellow blooms; the tart berries were eaten (with great caution as they are very potent) in a mixture with salal berries or other sweet fruit, or medicinally for liver, gall bladder, and eye problems; the bark was used to make a bright yellow dye for basket materials
Twinberry, lonicera involucrate—yellow blooms; the blackberries are not considered edible and often considered taboo as the Kwakwaka’wakw believed eating them would cause one to become unable to speak; The Quileute and Kwakwaka’wakw used the berries as a black pigment, and the Haida rubbed the berries on their scalp to prevent grey hairs.
Salal, gaultheria shallon—white/pink blooms; the dark juicy berries were important to many groups eaten fresh and dried into cakes; young leaves were chewed as a hunger suppressant by the Ditidaht.
Herbs and Flowers:
Entire leaved gumweed, grindelia integrifolia—yellow bloom; important to many Coast Salish peoples, used medicinally to treat asthma, bronchitis, colic.; great pollinator plant
Goatsbeard, aruncus diocius—white blooms; the Tlingit and Makah prepared the root for curing diseases of the blood (commonly gonorrhea); the Lummi chewed the leaves to help cure smallpox; An infusion of the roots was given to Squamish women just before giving birth to help heal; other parts of the plant were steeped and bathed in to help with swelling.
Oregon sunshine, eriophyllum lanatum—yellow blooms; great pollinator plant
Pearly everlasting, anaphalis margaritacea—white blooms; Ditidaht healers rubbed this plant on their hands to soften them; the Nlaka’pamux used this plant in an influenza medicine.
Slender cinquefoil, potentilla gracilis—yellow blooms; used as a food by most coastal groups; patches of cinquefoil were traditionally owned by certain chiefs of Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Haida; the roots were dug out by women in the late fall/early spring and were steamed to remove bitter flavor, once cooked they tasted similar to a sweet potato.
Grasses and Ferns:
Tufted hairgrass, deschampsia cespitosa—structure/host plant; grasses are important ecological structures since they provide necessary food, shelter, and life cycle completion for many animals and species; their root system aids in preventing erosion and flooding.
Lady fern, athyrium filix-femina—structure/host plant; similar to grasses they are important ecological structures; the leaves were used by coastal groups for covering food, laying out food, and drying berries on; the fiddleheads were eaten in early spring by boiling, baking, or raw with grease.
This Environmental Stewardship program is made possible by the support of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and Green Seattle Partnership.
ECOSS recently wrapped up its summer season of in-language hiking trips to Little Si, on Snoqualmie Ancestral Lands, through King County Metro and King County Parks’ Trailhead Direct program, with support from Washington Trails Association’s Outdoor Leadership Training. Part of ECOSS’ mission is to connect BIPOC, refugee, and immigrant communities with environmental solutions and stewardship opportunities. BIPOC communities have historically experienced barriers to recreation and outdoors access, such as language, transportation, safety, and general knowledge about hiking. ECOSS’ guided in-language hiking program utilizes KC Metro and KC Parks’ Trailhead Direct bus service to expand access for these communities. This year, over 66 community members of all ages and across 7 languages participated.
For many of the community members, aged 4 years old to 50+, this was their first experience in hiking, exploring, and learning how to express themselves in nature. ECOSS’ program created an opportunity to engage with Seattle’s public transportation system and a popular hiking trail in a way that felt accessible and comfortable, especially with in-language support available to coordinate logistics and answer questions. The trip leaders each received training from WTA to further support their community members on the trail and teach them about different aspects of safe outdoor recreation.
We connected with some of the ECOSS outreach team (Kevin Duong, Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, Oni Curitol, and Ernest Mak) who led trips this past summer and reflected on their experiences hiking Little Si with their communities.
Q: How did your hikes go this summer?
Kevin: We did two hikes. It was a lot of the participants’ first time actually hiking, and experiencing a more challenging hike. The youngest participant was about three or four years old and by the time she got on top of Little Si, we were amazed at her accomplishment, with the parent’s help carrying her on the way. There were actually four kids who all made it to the top. When we met together at the summit, we ate bánh mì, and grapes, took a break, and just really talked to each other and had a nice community conversation on top of the mountain, building that relationship there.
Cindy: We had a really great turnout—there was actually a pretty long waitlist of people who wanted to go. Thirteen people participated in the Vietnamese group ranging in age from three years old to over fifty years old, so truly an intergenerational group. Most of the adults were also more recent immigrants as well, so the language assistance and being able to speak Vietnamese was something that they really appreciated. The majority of them also live in South Seattle, Renton, or Kent and so it was really a trip for them to come up to Seattle and take the Trailhead Direct bus. They really enjoyed the convenience and learning that there is a service like that available. Many said that they had wanted to try hiking before but had been looking for a Vietnamese group out there that they could connect and go with. I think the idea in my head of “Oh, maybe people in my community don’t go outdoors” or, “they don’t like the idea of it” is changing and I’m seeing that in Seattle. There is a lot of interest in outdoor recreation and people waiting to see if there are programs or opportunities like this to have someone like them help them start the process and navigate it.
Oni: The participants were so excited about this trip and the bus service. They were constantly talking about how there’s not really much representation in the Latinx community when we go outside to hike and mentioned that they seemed like they were often the only people, and it was nice to hear other Spanish speakers, hikers, are out there. At the bus stop before we left for the hike, they were already interested in leading trips like this on their own and getting involved with more Latinx members in outdoor activities, and future restoration or stewardship volunteer work with ECOSS. Going the same day as the other groups was special because we built relationships between the groups with different languages. When we’d stop to rest, we were cheering up all together so that was pretty amazing and beautiful. My group also mentioned that they love to do this in community and they see the connection between spending time in nature and enjoying it, and the link with taking care of the environment and also passing those values on to their families. You care about something that you have a relationship with or you love, so, I think it was a pretty wholesome hike in terms of the vibe between the groups.
Ernest: I had a group of about 6 to 7 seniors, excluding me, their average age was about 60. They had never hiked before but it was great. I used some of the training and techniques that we did in the WTA workshop like timekeeping, water breaks, and little activities to let people rest in between the hiking duration and keep it interesting. We were able to have lunch at the top, but at the beginning of the hike, we weren’t planning on going to the top because we were unsure if it was too challenging. As we kept going, I asked if they felt comfortable walking a couple more minutes and if they felt uncomfortable continuing we would stop at any point and then go back, but we ended up going to the top so we were able to enjoy the view at the top and have lunch there. ECOSS doesn’t have hiking gear, like boots or hiking poles. But the individuals were interested in learning more about where to rent gear and what the process is, so I shared that information with them and they were so excited. They’re looking forward to doing more of this but with the gear next time.
Q: Why is it important to be able to offer experiences like this, in different languages?
Cindy: The most important reason for having trips specific to different language groups is that it’s important for the Vietnamese community to hear and see people speaking in their language, going outdoors, and on trails where they commonly don’t see much diversity. They could feel comfortable going together because they can express themselves in nature in a way that is unique to them. I noticed for the Vietnamese group, we learned that it’s important to take a lot of breaks and that they bring all sorts of foods. When I was starting out hiking, like, I thought I had to bring a certain type of granola bars, or, this is the only type of food or backpack that I can bring, but they brought whatever was comfortable for them.
I think just learning how they want to engage with the outdoors as a group is a culture that is still forming in a way. “How do Vietnamese people interact with nature,” is something we are learning and wanting to develop. There was also a lot of teaching each other what all these different terms (Trailhead Direct, light rail, trail, mountain peak) mean and how to pronounce them—even just saying “Little Si” out loud helped one person feel more comfortable knowing they weren’t saying it wrong, and vice versa, it was an opportunity for me as someone who was born here to hear new words in Vietnamese that I hadn’t learned before. It’s a chance also for youth growing up here to develop their Vietnamese vocabulary and feel confident speaking the language, for older folks to practice their English, and for different generational groups to engage in dialogue with each other and preserve the Vietnamese language. On that same day, Oni and our colleague Allan’s groups were there. It was cool to see all these different groups: Vietnamese speaking, Spanish speaking, Nepali speaking, encounter and interact with each other and encourage each other to keep going on the most difficult sections of the trail, sharing food, snacks, water, and taking pictures of each other.
Kevin: We want our community to be able to navigate and eventually be able to guide hiking trips and having language support makes it less scary for them to go hiking their first time. Especially when using public transit where safety is a concern, being able to go with a group makes them feel safer, and having somebody to lead and guide makes the community members feel confident going out to nature.
Ernest: I think it is important to offer in-language assistance because, for most of the participants that I lead, it was their first time using the bus service. I was able to use in-language assistance to tell them where they can find information for a specific trip, where to locate the bus stop, and trail information like the elevation, and the weather for the day. Being able to tell them this information gave them a feeling of comfort because going to a new place, not knowing anything, can be stressful. If they had any questions or concerns during the trip, they could also ask questions and I’d answer them. But I think most of the in-language effort is put towards the bus service, the logistics, and the organizing of the whole trip.
Oni: Having in-language activities creates a sense of belonging. I think having a shared language on a hike is really powerful because it’s also a reminder that nature doesn’t belong to any group or any language itself, and that it is something that is a shared space that we all get the chance to enjoy. Seeing other communities at the same time, speaking their own language, sharing, and resting together as a group also brought the essence of a shared community instead of a competitive one. So that was very beautiful.
I had one participant, she has been here for over 10 years and doesn’t speak English very well so she was saying it was pretty cool to be together sharing this experience in the same language. Now that they know how Trailhead Direct works, they feel more confident taking the bus by themselves or inviting people because they know where to go and how it functions. So I think that it’s good for bringing inclusivity to the outdoors.
Q: Do any other moments from the hike stand out as particularly great or memorable?
Oni: I was going up with four members and the rest of the group was already waiting for us on top. It was pretty beautiful to meet together at the top and then share lunch. I think that was the highlight because they had the chance to introduce themselves to each other and then also get to see Cindy’s and Kevin’s group, sharing food on top—I think that was very, very special. We also helped each other take pictures from the different groups, so that felt very in communion. On the same note, when we were meeting on the way up or the way down with Allan’s group, and seeing how they cheered each other on, I think that was so wholesome.
Cindy: A mother and her two-year-old joined our group and even though she and her daughter were typically behind, she really let her daughter try to walk as much of the trail as possible. Something I noticed was that everyone else in the group was patient, and offered to support her or carry the daughter. She also expressed it was really great that she didn’t feel like she was judged for being slow or being the last one and that was really great that people were supportive and did not set expectations. Even for the other mother and her six-year-old—she and her daughter liked to go off trail a lot and spend a lot of time doing all those things and it was awesome to see her let her daughter learn how to connect with nature in a way that was more exploring and not in any particular way. I think parents here are really wanting to let their kids experience nature in their own way and express themselves and enjoy being outside.
Ernest: Because I was leading seniors, I thought they might need more rest. I kept asking if they needed water breaks or to rest a little bit, but they ended up always saying they didn’t need it, that they were okay, and to just keep going and so I was the one asking for rest. I just remember thinking “Wow you guys are amazing, you guys just keep going.” I was amazed by them, by how great they are, athletically speaking.
Kevin: After the hike, we were pretty hungry even though we got a lot of sandwiches. We took the light rail back, and for those who could stay, we went to a restaurant to eat and connect further. It was fun to really get to know each other more through deeper conversation and getting to know their families as well. After the hike, a lot of the participants really wanted to continue doing activities like this so we created the Vietnamese hiking club group chat. As we continue to do outreach we will add the people who are interested to the chat. People post the hikes that they’re going on and a lot of the people like carpooling together to go hiking so it’s like a community gathering so that they can continue enjoying nature beyond this program.
ECOSS’ in-language Trailhead Direct trips are made possible by the support of King County Metro, King County Parks, the Wilderness Society, and the Washington Trails Association. To learn more about ECOSS’ programs, visit ecoss.org/projects.
This September, ECOSS hosted its first in-person fundraiser since the beginning of the pandemic. The concept for this year’s event was to celebrate an exciting transition in the organization with a new Executive Director, highlight local BIPOC-owned businesses and groups, and be able to safely come together in an outdoor space as a community after two years apart. A goal during the planning of the fundraiser was to have more community involvement and equitable access to the event. ECOSS wanted an event that was welcoming to all of its supporters, rather than simply disproportionately valuing attendees who could financially give more.
Here are four ways that ECOSS made its fundraiser more community-centered this year:
1. Sliding price scale for tickets
Cost can be a barrier to some communities attending these types of events, so ECOSS offered discounted $15 tickets, as well as $55 tickets for anyone who wanted to help cover the cost of a discounted ticket. The standard ticket price was $35, and regardless of the ticket cost, all attendees received 2 food tickets and one drink ticket.
2. BIPOC Food Vendors and Performers
ECOSS wanted to celebrate the communities that they serve, so the fundraising committee sought out local BIPOC-owned businesses like Rainbow Fresh, and Garzón Latinx Street Food, whose missions align with ECOSS’ values.
“Rainbow Fresh was born during the pandemic by a strong will to engage with the local community. We are a tight-knit team run by a group of enthusiastic women who love cooking and share this passion with others.” – Rainbow Fresh
“Our food is Latinx inspired, our chef is Ecuadorian born and raised. [Chef Garzón] also traveled the world playing music with many musical groups, where he found the inspiration for a lot of the dishes you’re eating today. All of our dishes have a story and a cultural background. We advise you to ask the chef for a quick story time.” – Garzón
Karinyo, a local musician, also performed at the event. Their music mixes cumbia, salsa, and punk rock and addresses themes of mental health, Diaspora, and reclaiming inner power.
3. Raffle vs. Auction
At previous fundraisers, auctions have been a way to raise money in a fun and competitive atmosphere, but due to the fact that they function by outbidding others, the team decided that this form of programming needed an alternate approach to be more inclusive. After sourcing many items from various generous donors like REI, Ascent Outdoors, Patagonia, The Plant Store, Mountaineers Books, and Bikeworks, ECOSS had enough items to do a raffle at the event. Raffles are a more equitable form of fundraising since it is the same cost to enter, and with tickets priced at $5 each, multiple entries could be purchased at a fairly low cost. It was a hit at the event as well, and was a fun way to end the programming for the evening. Over $1000 was raised at the event from the raffle alone.
4. Happy Hour Format
In a major shift from previous years’ fundraisers, this year, ECOSS hosted a Happy Hour “come as you are” style event as an accessible way for folks to interface with the organization and as a shift towards community-centered fundraising. Jellyfish Brewing in Georgetown served as a fitting backdrop for the event since ECOSS has a long history of working with the communities in South Park and Georgetown. The beginning of the event held time for attendees to connect with each other and staff over food and drinks in an informal setting. A short program included remarks and community stories from Villa Comunitaria, members of ECOSS Board, and our new Executive Director, Dr. Chiyo Crawford, who shared her vision for ECOSS and the community moving forward, together.
The traditional fundraising approach focuses on donors who can give large monetary gifts, catering to their interests and values, often to the detriment of those who do not have the capacity to donate as much. There is a fear that if the fundraiser does not center the “high-profile” donors, then the organization won’t raise enough money. But that did not come to fruition for ECOSS. The happy hour raised a comparable amount of funds to previous events while cultivating community among a broad base of supporters. Over 127 people attended the event and helped ECOSS reach $56,414 of its ambitious $65,000 goal. Thanks to a generous challenge donation by a group of board members, every gift received through the end of September was matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000.
Want to amplify your impact further? Opt for a monthly gift to ECOSS and frontline communities throughout the Puget Sound region. To make a gift, visit ecoss.org/donate
Members of ECOSS outreach and project management teams carpooled to Tacoma to attend the Green Transporation Summit and Expo’s Ride & Drive program earlier this month. GTSE is a 3-day event that focuses on sustainable transportation and provides information sessions about funding opportunities at the local, state, and national levels. This is particularly relevant in light of Seattle’s Transportation Electrification Blueprint and goal of 90% of trips being zero-emission (walking, bikes, public transportation, or electric vehicles) by 2030.
The expo showcased a variety of EV technologies and 100% electric/zero-emission vehicles: from food trucks to charter buses and semi-trucks. These vehicles utilized existing EV technologies and showed the potential for innovative new technologies. The fully electric semi-truck is only usable for local short-route deliveries since the charge station infrastructure and battery life are not yet optimized for long-haul drives. Another vehicle at the expo was an electric charter bus, which is currently utilized on the Seattle-Portland FlixBus route. The ECOSS team got to ride in the semi-truck and charter bus, and also had the opportunity to test drive an electric food truck and a forklift.
ECOSS is currently working to bring awareness and access to funding opportunities for the communities that we work with. The electrification of transportation is an exciting opportunity to reduce vehicle emissions, but it is imperative that all communities have equal access to these technologies. ECOSS hopes to inspire community-led projects that will satisfy not only needs, but desires and aspirations as well.
Special thanks to Angela Song, the Transportation Electrification Portfolio Manager at Seattle City Light, for sharing this opportunity at GTSE with ECOSS.
On Saturday, July 23rd, ECOSS led a nature walk and habitat restoration event for BIPOC communities in collaboration with Mountains to Sound Greenway, Green Seattle Partnership, and the Audubon Center at Seward Park. BIPOC and low-income communities have historically experienced inequality in access to outdoor parks and environmental stewardship programs. This event served as an opportunity for these communities to come together and enjoy a morning of caring for the forest and learning about one of their local parks.
GSP has been funding ECOSS since last year to provide opportunities for more BIPOC and low-income community members to engage in environmental stewardship programs. This year Greenway Trust helped ECOSS secure additional funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Grant to supplement outreach/recruitment efforts. Outreach and recruitment are unique at ECOSS since the staff speaks the community’s languages and they reach out to the community where they are. This personalized and intentional method of outreach builds authentic relationships between organizations and communities.
Community members started off the morning by sharing their thoughts on how they would like to engage with forests/trees in the future and expressed a strong interest in future planting events and nature walks.
The Lead Naturalist at the Seward Park Audubon Center, Ed Dominguez, led a nature walk for the volunteers that included a lesson on how to use binoculars, and information about the various trees and birds that call the park home. Along the way, the group learned about Douglas fir trees and saw a juvenile hawk and a large bald eagle nest with their binoculars.
Afterward, the community members helped to remove Himalayan Blackberry plants, an invasive species, from an ECOSS adopted site in the park. They learned about the tools and techniques to safely remove this plant since it is covered in thorns and has a large bulb-like structure that needed to be dug out. Removal of these plants will make way for the planting of native brush and trees at a future event in the fall. Providing tools, knowledge, and meeting these communities where they were by having 6 language interpreters available at the program paved the way for a fun and successful event that will have a lasting impact.
ECOSS, Mountains to Sound Greenway, and Green Seattle Partnership also provided lunch, Visa gift cards, beanies, native wildflower seed packets, and raffled outdoor gear to participants to encourage them to pursue outdoor activities and environmental stewardship in the future.
Mark your calendar for the ECOSS Community Happy Hour! ECOSS is hosting its annual fundraiser at Jellyfish Brewing Co. on September 15. Come learn about plans for the organization’s future in promoting environmental equity, meet our new Executive Director, Chiyo Crawford, and connect with community members. There will be food, drinks, entertainment, and much more!
The standard ticket price for our event is $35 per person. We believe that cost should not be a barrier to celebrating with the ECOSS community. Thus, we are offering discounted tickets at $15. We encourage those who can pay more to purchase a $55 ticket to supplement the cost of someone else’s ticket.
We take the safety of our guests and staff seriously. As the event approaches, we will share more information about our guidelines for COVID-19 precautions at this event.
Interest in outdoor recreation has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, but access to green spaces remains inequitable across King County due to factors such as language barriers, proximity to outdoor spaces, culturally-relevant programming and more.
ECOSS has helped bring community voices to outdoors initiatives through outreach around King County’s Trailhead Direct service and leading hiking trips that are inclusive of immigrant and refugee communities. In 2021, King County Parks, The Wilderness Society and ECOSS took that collaboration to new heights.
Centering and empowering community voices
Building on the successes of gathering feedback during Trailhead Direct hikes, the team set out to conduct a community needs assessment dedicated to centering underrepresented voices around the challenges of accessing parks and green spaces. To do so, the three organizations connected with additional community-based organizations and groups to co-create surveys and discussion sessions (termed “Roundtables”) that were culturally-relevant and tailored to different communities. Ultimately, the core team invited an additional 11 community-based organizations that served Black, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, youth, disabled, immigrant and refugee populations.
“We’d like to see the county treating transit safety and greenspace access as interconnected issues intersecting with environmental issues, racial justice, etc. It seems like different issues are addressed in a silo, one by one.”
—Young Women Empowered roundtable
Community recommendations highlight growth opportunities
From the surveys and roundtable discussions, five key themes arose. Chief among them was how safety concerns using public transit and being within parks discouraged communities’ access to green spaces.
In addition, participants highlighted education & outreach, infrastructure improvements, better representation & inclusion, and continued engagement & accountability from government decisionmakers.
“Better access for disabled people. In other parks outside of Seattle, there are swings that can be used by people and kids with wheelchairs Machines to work out by yourself in the park. Swings for moms that can be used with their babies.”
—ECOSS Spanish speakers roundtable
Authentic partnership was key to the success of this project. From planning to execution to reporting, the team engaged partners to understand how to tailor surveys and provide support for partners to lead roundtables that would center the partners’ communities. Community partners were provided flexibility in how deeply they engaged, and were financially compensated accordingly. Transparency and collaboration built trust with community partners. And these relations will promote the sustainability of the partnerships.
Continuing the community engagement
King County Parks, The Wilderness Society, and ECOSS are engaging various local and regional agencies to discuss how we keep the momentum and bring the community recommendations to life. Additionally, this project highlights the value of We look forward to deeper engagement with community-based groups and more opportunities to fund their work!
Learn more and download the report from ECOSS’ partner, The Wilderness Society:
May 3-4 is GiveBIG and this year, we are excited to share the opportunity to double your impact. Thanks to the Washington Hydrological Society, your donation through May 4 will be matched, up to $3,000!
Due to the pandemic, several projects were put on hold in 2020. Nevertheless, ECOSS persevered and continued to serve diverse communities and small businesses. 2021 was a year of growth for ECOSS, with greater female representation in management and promotions of people of color into senior leadership positions. And as public health restrictions loosened, ECOSS’ trusted approach of in-person outreach returned. ECOSS programming served 429 community members and 422 businesses in 2021! Check out the summary of the year in this printable summary sheet.
Attendance at habitat restoration events is typically dominated by people who are white, affluent, and/or retired. Although these events provide opportunities to connect with nature, there are a number of barriers for low-income and/or people of color to get involved — knowledge gaps, the opportunity cost of working a weekend job, and safety concerns, to name a few.
Fundamental changes to how we approach habitat restoration events are needed to make these outdoors activities more equitable. Over the years, ECOSS has advocated for and implemented compensation models, training and community outreach to make environmental stewardship more inclusive.
This year, ECOSS began working with Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Green Seattle Partnership to further assess community needs and interests around urban environmental stewardship. ECOSS recruited eight community leaders from Vietnamese, Filipino, Bhutanese, Burmese and Latinx communities for focus groups to learn about Green Seattle Partnerships, gather input on how to make stewardship more equitable and help co-create stewardship events. Thus, community members could influence the conversations around environmental stewardship at a broader scale than simply individual events.
The year’s work culminated at Seattle’s Seward Park. ECOSS brought together 17 community members across Vietnamese, East African and Bhutanese/Nepalese communities for a planting event. In addition to showing people how to plant and mulch for different native plants, ECOSS provided food, hot beverages, and giveaways including: indoor/outdoor plants, tote bags, beanies, and $30 gift cards as thanks for their time and participation.
The focus group greatly supported the event’s success. ECOSS learned which plants were culturally-relevant, what activities were of interest, and how ECOSS and the Green Seattle Partnership should recruit for the event. The preparation also affirmed that the volunteering mindset of the dominant stewardship model doesn’t resonate for people who don’t have the privileges of ample time and resources.
Habitat restoration can be an inclusive activity that resonates with different communities’ connections with nature and stewardship. The key is in meeting underserved communities where they are.