Bhutanese Community Members at Cedar River Watershed

Allan Kafley named a Sustainability Leader!

Congratulations Allan Kafley!

Allan Kafley at Mt Si. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Despite the desire to connect with their environment, immigrant and refugee communities often face language, geographic and lifestyle barriers that limit their access to outdoors experiences. Allan Kafley saw this need within his own community and took the opportunity to spearhead the New Arrivals program in 2014. Allan currently leads this and other programs as one of ECOSS’ Multicultural Outreach Managers.

Tours to the Cedar River Watershed are an excellent opportunity to show new arrivals the source of their drinking water. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

The New Arrivals program provides education, services and experiences to immigrants and refugees newly-arriving in the greater Seattle area. Crucially, the program generates outreach in collaboration with the communities it serves.

For this pivotal role and for being a leader within Puget Sound’s Bhutanese community, Sustainable Seattle honored Allan with a Sustainability Leadership Award!

Until the age of 19, Allan grew up in a refugee camp, where he was not afforded the privilege of self-determination. This changed in 2008 when Allan came to Seattle as one of the city’s first Bhutanese refugees. Spurred by his father’s stories of Bhutanese wilderness exploration, Allan sought out opportunities to engage with the environment and other refugees. He subsequently helped found the Bhutanese Community Resource Center in 2010, which hosts cultural events and connects Bhutanese refugees with resources, education and experiences.

Allan connects the Bhutanese refugee community with opportunities to give back to their environment. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Joining ECOSS in 2013, Allan has since built awareness of healthy fishing along the Duwamish River, led outdoors trips throughout Washington and improved the environmental health of underserved communities throughout the greater Seattle area. Check out some of his recent projects and features:

Creating opportunities for immigrants and refugees to give back to nature

What does camping mean for the Bhutanese community?

Promoting outdoors access via public transit

New Arrivals program featured as a social innovation

Congratulations Allan Kafley on the award! Your leadership in centering equity in environmental programs is truly inspiring. Join ECOSS in celebrating his accomplishments at Sustainable Seattle’s Campfire Stories.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Equity in stormwater management must start from the Summit

Centering Equity at the Annual Green Stormwater Infrastructure Summit 

The Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map, a recently-published tool, revealed plainly what many already knew from their lived experiences: communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately subjected to environmental health risks. Yet, these same communities receive disproportionately fewer resources and their voices are disproportionately left out of the conversations around environmental solutions. ECOSS pioneers education and outreach programs with these communities to help right these environmental injustices, but we can’t do it alone.

ECOSS recently attended the 4th Annual GSI Summit, a City Habitats event led by Stewardship Partners. The summit focused on green infrastructure – emerging research, applied solutions, community stories and more. This year, ECOSS joined the hosting committee, a central role that allowed ECOSS to advocate for a larger focus on equity in the summit.

Challenge tables centered solutions-driven conversations around a plethora of green infrastructure challenges. ECOSS led a discussion around equity. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Taking the role to heart, ECOSS led a session on community engagement and captained a discussion table to discuss equity in green stormwater infrastructure. ECOSS brought its experience working with Vietnamese and Chinese communities and businesses. Conversation blossomed around how all sectors can make green stormwater infrastructure more equitable.

Surveying the rest of the summit, numerous presentations concluded with the revelation that organizations should work with communities rather than for communities. It was encouraging to see more people adopt this approach, but it also came with a sense of disappointment that was perfectly captured by the summit’s Youth Voices Panel.

The Youth Voices Panel, from left to right: Risa Suho, Hannah Price, Shelina Lal. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

“We need you to need us.” – Shelina Lal

A simple statement, but one that spoke volumes. Lal went on to lament that youth shouldn’t even be speaking at the summit – that if green infrastructure leaders were actively working with communities to advance solutions, the summit wouldn’t need youth to make impassioned speeches about the suffering of low-income communities and communities of color. The entire Youth Voices panel echoed similar sentiments throughout their hour on stage.

ECOSS works with RainWise to provide green infrastructure rebates and career pathways within communities disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental injustices. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

This is the pulse that organizations must track to advance the equity of green infrastructure. ECOSS has been a trusted partner of businesses, diverse communities and government to provide co-created, practical solutions for 25 years. ECOSS works with communities; the majority of staff are from those communities. Yet, these and other connections are underutilized by environmental organizations wanting to reach historically underserved communities. The best time to work with low-income communities and communities of color on environmentally just programs was at the programs’ inceptions. The next best time is now.

An undercurrent of urgency pervaded the summit. We must mobilize. We must go beyond naming problems and act. There is still much room for progress in equitable green stormwater infrastructure. However, that the words from the youth of our most-impacted communities were met with standing ovation rather than only uncomfortable stares raises hope for the future of equitable environmental solutions.

Read other green stormwater infrastructure stories

Thank you to RainWise partners for promoting ECOSS as a leader in equitable green stormwater solutions!

Give to environmental sustainability and equity on #GivingTuesday

Join the global movement to support charitable organizations on November 27, #GivingTuesday. No matter how big or small, giving to ECOSS funds:

  • Pollution prevention training for small businesses
  • Outdoor experiences for immigrants and refugees
  • Protection of healthy waters via rain gardens and cisterns
  • Education on and access to clean energy technology such as electrical vehicles and solar panels
  • And more!

And when you give on November 27, your donation will be matched 100% by Facebook and Paypal.

Give on Facebook

There are also other ways to support local businesses and communities:

  • Give online at ecoss.org/donate.
  • Select ECOSS as your charitable organization on AmazonSmile, and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to us.

All donations to ECOSS are tax-deductible (Tax ID: 91-1613460) and will help empower local small businesses and diverse communities to be more environmentally sustainable.

What does camping mean for the Bhutanese community?

“Let’s go to the place where you can make a lot of noise, where you can yell and shout!”

How do you escape the hustle and bustle of city life? Many Seattle residents seek out the serenity and simplicity in nearby mountains that is rare in the city center. Pack up the car, pick a destination and play. But these adventures are not always so accessible to all.

A common misconception is that non-English-speaking communities don’t care about the environment or need to be “convinced” to go outdoors. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many underserved communities simply do not have the information that comes to long-time or English-speaking residents. They may not know where to go, what to bring, what spoken and unspoken rules to follow.

Part of the collection of gear the Bhutanese community brought camping at Deception Pass. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Seattle’s Bhutanese refugees are intimately familiar with the jungles of their home country. It is their backyard. It is their solace. It is where they can shout and not a soul would hear. Recreating outdoors around Seattle, however, is an entirely unknown prospect for refugees when they first arrive.

The New Arrivals program builds resilient immigrant communities by providing access to environmental learning, resources and experiences like this trip to Deception Pass:

Over 40 Bhutanese community members went on this camping trip, many for the first time! At least, in the United States. The Bhutanese connected with the environment and with each other. And they did it in their own way. Communal dinner (made from scratch!), music and dancing. The energetic spirit was unmatched on the campgrounds.

Bhutanese community gathering to cook communal meals for over 40 campers. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

The community also gained a deep knowledge of the rules, regulations and expectations of camping in the United States. The group learned how to borrow outdoors gear, where to go exploring and — with the help of a friendly park ranger — the appropriate hours for merrymaking.

Trip by trip, the New Arrivals program helps this and other communities regard their new environment as their home environment.

Learn more about New Arrivals!

Partnerships with community organizations like the Bhutanese Community Resource Center make New Arrivals connections possible.

Thank you to the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation for generously funding outdoor recreation opportunities for diverse communities.

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Washington Trails Association for supporting the camping trip.

On the Radio-ECOSS Superhero Sophorn Sim

 

Three smiling women posing for a photo.

KNKX’s Bellamy Pailthorp (left) and Jennifer Wing (right) interview ECOSS’ Sophorn Sim (center) at a popular Duwamish River fishing spot. Sophorn has done a lot of outreach here, educating angler’s that salmon is the only safe fish to eat from the river.

ECOSS Community Outreach Associate Sophorn Sim has spent much of her adult life dedicated to building healthy, resilient communities.

On the KNKX radio show Sound Effect, Sophorn shares her story and how her experience guides her work to connect refugees and immigrants to their new home.

Her story will give you a real understanding of what it’s like to be a refugee and why it’s important for everyone to have access to environmental education and resources.

Conservationists-The Next Generation

For six weeks this summer, ECOSS had the pleasure of co-hosting two Doris Duke Conservation Scholars (DDCS). Arunika Bhatia and Chris Spencer split their time in a shared internship between ECOSS and The Nature Conservancy.

2017 Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Chris Spenser & Arunika Bhatia

Chris Spencer and Arunika Bhatia

 

Both from Colby College in Maine, they are in the final phase of a two-year program funded by the Doris Duke Foundation and hosted by the University of Washington.

Every year, 20 students come to Washington from around the country with a shared passion — to change the face, practice and future of conservation.

 

“They packed a lot into their short time with ECOSS and quickly became indispensable,” said Executive Director Cluny McCaffrey. “They worked alongside staff to deliver environmental training in people’s homes, conducted an analysis of our Spill Kit program and drafted case studies for the Conservancy.”

Chris studies Environmental Studies and Policy. He’s interested in exploring the interactions between human communities and wildlife, in search of effective policy solutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Arunika studies Environmental Science and Policy. She is searching for ways of making natural resources accessible to all and promoting traditional conservation practices in mainstream environmentalism.

When asked what three words capture the essence of their time with ECOSS, here’s what they said: Empowerment, Holistic, Protection (Arunika), Personal, Inclusive, Empowering (Chris)

It’s easy to get caught up worrying about the future of our environment, then you meet students like Arunika and Chris and realize, there is hope, and it lies with the next generation of bright, practical and passionate conservationists.

Oh What A Night-PINKAPALOOZA 2017!

Pinkapalooza Guests

Guests in the spirit and wearing their pinks!

Nearly 200 ECOSS supporters shared an evening of inspiration, storytelling, music and dance at our inaugural PINKAPALOOZA event. The event celebrated the return of the pink salmon to Washington rivers and raised critical funds for ECOSS.

See highlights of this special evening captured by photographers Char Davies and Sam Le.

Together, we raised over $73,000 through sponsorships, ticket sales and Raise the Paddle, making it the most successful ECOSS event EVER!

We are incredibly grateful for this support which helps ECOSS continue to deliver environmentally sustainable and equitable solutions that address the needs of businesses, people and nature.

PINKAPALOOZA will return in 2019 along with the pink salmon. Sign up for our E-News to receive PINKAPALOOZA 2019 updates.

If you weren’t able to join us this year,  you can support ECOSS through a donation or cross something off our Amazon wish list.

 

 

South Park Rain Garden

Environmental Equity—One Rain Garden at a Time

Polluted runoff (aka stormwater) is the #1 source of pollution in Puget Sound. Rain gardens and cisterns help collect, absorb and filter polluted runoff before it reaches storm drains and ultimately our waterways.

To help diverse communities access the RainWise rebate program, (which helps homeowners build rain gardens and cisterns), ECOSS recruited multicultural contractors and worked with them every step of the way in becoming RainWise certified. This program invests in our communities by creating local jobs, supports our economy and reduces pollution in our waterways.

We invited Hop Tran, a contractor recruited by ECOSS to share his experience with us.    

RainWise certified contractor, Hop waving

How did you get involved with RainWise?                                                                    We were first approached by ECOSS outreach staff and they provided me with all the information I needed to become a RainWise-certified contractor. ECOSS helped me fulfill the requirements, materials were even translated into my language and ECOSS attended the training with me to translate complex terms.

After the training, ECOSS helped me navigate and complete the RainWise process by helping me to understand and use the website and forms for the program.

What would you tell other landscaping companies about RainWise?                    RainWise has been a great benefit to me and my company. At first, I was a little intimidated, but ECOSS offered a lot of help to overcome any barriers. The city inspectors are very nice and knowledgeable. They are always willing to help and answer questions. Also, ECOSS staff worked closely with me and made me feel comfortable and confident to move forward with RainWise.

How has RainWise helped your business?
RainWise has helped my business grow by about 20-30%. Once you get the basics down, the work is pretty straight forward. It’s just a matter of working closely with the homeowner to keep them happy and closely with the inspectors to make sure all guidelines are followed. Through RainWise, I have learned better communication skills, how to fill out forms and interacted with City/County staff for the first time.

“Hop was very professional and I’m very happy with
the results of his work.”

RainWise homeowner & Hop Gardening customer

The contractor training has helped bring rain gardens and cisterns to more communities and provided economic and professional development for local garden and landscaping businesses.To date, we’ve added nine multicultural RainWise contractors and collectively they’ve completed 18 RainWise projects in five languages.

If you’re interested in our next round of training beginning in the fall, contact ruben@ecoss.org

Hop’s Gardening is available for rain gardens, cisterns and other landscaping needs. He can be reached at 425-306-1380.

 

ECOSS Staff Wins Top Prize!

Sophorn Sim was honored with Sustainable Seattle’s “Sustainability Hero Award” for her work with immigrant and refugee communities. The award recognizes an individual who has made an exceptionally significant and inspiring contribution to the sustainability movement in the Puget Sound region.

As an ECOSS Community Outreach Associate, Sophorn meets underserved communities where they are and connects them to environmental resources and education. She’s reached thousands of people on topics like clean water, stormwater pollution and healthy fishing on the Duwamish River.

2017 Sustainability Hero Sophorn Sim with her award

2017 Sustainability Hero Sophorn Sim

Sophorn is a trusted community leader because of her passion for the environment and her own experience as a refugee.

“My community comes from a war-torn country, it takes time to build this trusted relationship with my people. I like doing presentations and taking them on tours to see where their drinking water comes from and where it goes. I like showing them how their daily living could impact the environment and could impact their lives.” 

The ECOSS staff and board are incredibly proud to work side by side with Sophorn and are thrilled she is being recognized for her dedication to sustainable communities.

Check out the Sustainability Awards photo album and learn about the other winners here.