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

Promoting accessible clean energy with community solar

Transitioning to clean energy – for example, owning an electric car or installing solar panels – is commonly touted as a proactive measure for helping the environment.

Last year, ECOSS conducted outreach on electrical vehicles to understand communities’ concerns about buying and owning electrical vehicles. Communities of color are overwhelmingly interested in clean technology, but they do not always have the information or resources to invest judiciously. ECOSS subsequently helped raise awareness of financial incentives and assuage concerns around vehicle maintenance.

There are many models for community solar. A couple examples are (a) solar farms that people can buy into and (b) solar panels installed onto the roof of a public building for the benefit of those who use it.

Now, ECOSS is expanding its clean energy program into solar. Similar to electrical vehicles, there are financial incentives for owning solar panels – namely the money saved from generating solar energy. But those benefits only materialize after purchase, thus creating a financial barrier.

Community solar is one approach to lowering the financial barrier to owning solar energy technology. Rather than foist the upfront cost of solar panels on a single individual or household, community solar distributes that burden among a collective of stakeholders. Some projects involve residents buying shares of solar energy from a solar farm that reduce their utility bills. Others are centered on public spaces like schools. There are many models for community solar, but they all share a goal of democratizing solar technology.

Outreach and engagement promotes community buy-in and more sustainable solutions. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

ECOSS is teaming up with Spark Northwest and Emerald Cities to bring community solar to affordable housing — a first in Washington State. Spark Northwest is a leader in clean energy solutions, and Emerald Cities has extensive experience in working with low-income housing. These two organizations complement ECOSS’ expertise in community outreach and connections within communities of color.

Community solar projects present unique challenges in comparison to private solar installations. ECOSS’ project is centered on a multi-family housing complex, whose tenants will be the beneficiaries, which raises difficult questions such as:

  • Who owns the project? The developer installing the solar panels? The housing authority? The residents?
  • How will financial kickbacks be distributed? Should they be disbursed to individuals or collected into a community pool?
  • When does ownership of the solar panels transfer to the community?

As negotiations progress, ECOSS will engage housing residents to ensure that their thoughts and feedback are heard. If successful, this pioneering project can form the basis for community solar at other multi-family properties. Look forward to more news about community solar in the coming months!

Learn more about clean energy outreach

This is but a brief look into community solar. Learn more about community solar models through our partner, Spark Northwest.

Celebrating Tết with stormwater outreach

By Kevin Duong, Multicultural Outreach Associate

Tết is the Vietnamese celebration of the Lunar New Year. This year, ECOSS and I celebrated Tết with the Hoi Thanh Tin Lanh Hy Vong church. Kids were up and singing and the Pastor and members provided words of wisdom. After the service celebration was Tết dinner, featuring traditional food like bitter melon soup, braised pork and Banh Trung (glutinous rice wrapped with mung beans and banana leaves). True to ECOSS’ spirit, dishes were served with compostable dinnerware, helping the church reduce garbage waste.

After dinner, we offered an education session with members and kids who came up to learn about stormwater pollution, the benefits of cisterns and rain gardens and the RainWise program.

For this event and others, I had the pleasure of working with Cindy Nguyen, who was an awesome intern with a bubbly personality. Cindy is a student at Colby College with an interest in environmental law.

ECOSS intern Cindy Nguyen speaking to a church member about rain gardens and cisterns. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

And over the last month, she helped deliver ECOSS and RainWise messages and resources to the Vietnamese community. Despite the short time frame, her hard work to perfect her Vietnamese and her commitment to community outreach was outstanding. Thank you Cindy for working with us and being part of the ECOSS family.

Check out other multicultural outreach work here

We’re hiring! Join our multicultural outreach team

Are you passionate about environmental justice? Do you want to make a difference in your community? Join our multicultural outreach team!

ECOSS empowers diverse businesses and communities to become more environmentally resilient and sustainable. In 2018, we conducted outreach in a dozen languages covering topics ranging across clean energy, stormwater pollution, waste management and more.

The key to our approach is hiring from within the communities that we serve. Our outreach staff understand the communities’ cultures and needs because they are part of those communities. We are expanding this team so that all communities can thrive and be environmentally sustainable.

Are you a bilingual/multilingual individual who would be excited to promote environmental justice with our Chinese, Latinx, Khmer and/or East African communities? Apply to join our multicultural outreach team!

Go here to read the full job description and application instructions

 

Over 10,000 businesses and community members served in 2018

“My English is very limited. Not a single cleaning product available in the market is labeled in my primary language, but after this presentation I can at least recognize products labeled with Caution, Hazard, Poison, and Danger.”

The passing of a calendar year is often a time for reflection and celebration. With the recent transition into a Gregorian New Year along with Lunar New Years celebrations starting on February 5 (Chinese New Year, Tết, Seollal, Losar, Tsagaan Sar), now is the perfect time to reflect on ECOSS’ impacts for sustainable businesses and diverse communities in 2018:

But outreach and community engagement is not just about numbers. We empower sustainable businesses and communities of color to improve the lives of people. Feedback from businesses, communities and partners is critical for improving the education and services we provide.

We served over 10,000 businesses and community members in 2018. And 2019 looks to be even more impactful. New Arrivals is expanding to more communities. Waste management outreach is shifting from simply recycling and composting conversations to education around food waste reduction. And our RainWise outreach continues to grow in ambition. Look forward to the stories in 2019!

Learn more about our projects

Want to learn more about the individual successes that contributed to these impacts? Check out the links below:

Want to help us continue this impactful outreach and education? Give a gift for sustainable businesses and diverse communities.

Multicultural outreach extends green outdoor access to diverse communities

“ECOSS’ ambassador model and community-based work is invaluable and irreplaceable. Their successful outreach is a major achievement of the Trailhead Direct program.” — Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust

Bhutanese community used the Trailhead Direct service to travel to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley, ECOSS.

Over the summer and autumn of 2018, ECOSS led 65 hikers from diverse communities on hikes throughout Washington! For numerous hikers, these trips were only possible thanks to Trailhead Direct, a service launched by King County Parks and King County Metro.

Many immigrant and refugee communities around Puget Sound yearn for opportunities to connect with nature, but face language, cultural and lifestyle barriers to accessing the outdoors. Transportation access is one of the greatest of these barriers.

“Trailhead Direct is a great way to protect our environment by not driving personal cars.” — Bhutanese community member.

King County’s Trailhead Direct service seeks to lower the transportation barrier by providing an affordable alternative to driving to faraway hiking destinations. At the same price point as any other bus ride in the city, a Trailhead Direct bus will drop you off and pick you up at trailheads at Issaquah Alps, Mt. Si and Mailbox Peak. And by partnering with ECOSS, Trailhead Direct reached communities in 2018 that would otherwise have never heard of this transportation option.

Trailhead Direct enabled the Cambodian community to bring all family members hiking, from youth to seniors. Photo Credit: Sophorn Sim / ECOSS.

To help King County learn about the accessibility of Trailhead Direct and improve the service, ECOSS led hiking trips via Trailhead Direct with members of the Bhutanese, Cambodian, Korean and Latinx communities. In partnership with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society, we also developed surveys that gauged participants’ outdoors experience and solicited feedback on the Trailhead Direct trips.

During our outreach, 53% of hikers were new to the activity and 42% were youth or seniors. And regardless of age or experience, all hikers enjoyed Trailhead Direct and would recommend it to others. Check out our infographic summarizing the season’s outreach for other statistics and feedback from communities!

ECOSS’ New Arrivals program connects immigrants and refugees with environmental education and outdoor experiences that align with their interests. We look forward to continuing partnerships to ensure diverse communities can take advantage of Trailhead Direct service.

Check out other New Arrivals activities

Thank you to King County Parks and The Wilderness Society for your generous funding and support. And thank you to Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for connecting us to the opportunity to conduct this outreach. We’re proud to lower the transportation barrier to the outdoors and enable connections to nature for all.

November 27 is #GivingTuesday

Give today to promote environmental solutions in local communities and your gift will be doubled for #GivingTuesday!

Multicultural Outreach Associate digging into his work, helping build a rain garden at Sylvester Middle School. Photo Credit: Leda Costa.

Your donation will fund projects like our RainWise outreach, tackling Puget Sound’s #1 source of pollution: stormwater. 2018 marks the addition of over 200,000 gallons per year in stormwater management from RainWise demonstration site installations.

Promote environmental sustainability

Kevin Duong, Multicultural Outreach Associate, explains how this program is essential:

“This year, the RainWise outreach team completed our first collaboration with a restaurant. Young’s Restaurant joins other important demonstration sites like Co Lam Temple and Pyung An Presbyterian Church to educate diverse communities about stormwater pollution and what they can do at home, like installing rain gardens and cisterns.

At Young’s Restaurant, I had the pleasure to work with Janice, Ella and Mr. Van Young, who are all so happy about their three giant cisterns. The collected rainwater waters their mini vegetable garden while preventing flooding during the rainy season. They really appreciate the RainWise program, which helped install the three cisterns.”

Donate today

New Arrivals program is a featured social innovation

Bhutanese hiking trip to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Many immigrants and refugees appreciate the environment and want to protect nature, but are unaware of opportunities to do so in new surroundings. The New Arrivals program connects these new Seattle residents to environmental education, outdoor opportunities and more.

Read about how and why the New Arrivals program focuses on multicultural outreach in this feature with the Social Innovations Journal!

Learn more about New Arrivals

The New Arrivals program is generously supported by the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation.

Multicultural business outreach the focus of City Habitats story

Young’s family standing in front of their restaurant’s cisterns. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

Equitable access to environmental solutions means reaching out to underserved communities. These are often the people most impacted by water pollution, air pollution and other environmental challenges, yet commonly face language and cultural barriers that hinder their ability to protect the environment.

In partnership with King County’s RainWise program, ECOSS helped Young’s Restaurant become the first Seattle restaurant and business to be part of the stormwater pollution solution. And The Nature Conservancy’s City Habitats program recently featured this accomplishment!

ECOSS recruited multicultural contractors for this project and helped both the contractors and restaurant owners navigate the RainWise program to install and maintain cisterns at Young’s Restaurant.

Learn more about our RainWise work

Native planting for Duwamish Alive!

Habitat restoration at the April 2018 Duwamish Alive! event. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

ECOSS is again teaming up with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to host a volunteer work party at the Duwamish Hill Preserve! Join us on October 20, 10 AM for a fun day of planting native plants and learning about your local environment.

Register here!