Environmental, Health and Racial Justice

In response the the COIVD-19 pandemic, ECOSS adapted its strengths in multicultural outreach to help businesses stay afloat and communities stay healthy. ECOSS staff have deep, trusted relationships with the businesses and communities they work with, which was critical during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.

ECOSS is continuing to help frontline communities and businesses. Recently, King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice awarded ECOSS with a Community Response grant to build capacity and meet immediate needs. From that, staff have implemented numerous accomplishments:

  • Informed and assisted restaurants about City of Seattle’s Business Stabilization grants; 15 of these restaurants were among the selected grantees: Addis Market, Canton Noodle House, East African Grocery, Pho Hanoi Restaurant, Rain Café, Safari Njema Restaraunt, Thanh Thanh Cafe, Thien Phat Restaurant, Time Bistro, Yummy House Bakery, Blue Heron Café, Oak Tree Teriyaki, Teriyaki Plus, U DupBop, Rainier Teriyaki.
  • Delivered information and resources to over 80 restaurants and grocery stores in nine languages.
  • Provided translations and interpretation of coronavirus health literacy materials in Amharic, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
  • Trained Vietnamese community members in conducting wellness checks via phone and worked with a temple in White Center to distribute masks.
  • Created audio transcriptions of business loan information and coronavirus-related materials.

Many of the same disparities that lead to environmental injustices and inequities are drivers of health inequities: language access, digital literacy and geographical location, among others. For immigrants, refugees, non-native English speakers and other underserved communities, these disparities are being magnified during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

ECOSS has leaned into its role as an education and community outreach expert, pivoting quickly and nimbly to meet the immediate needs of those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. However, your support will ensure ECOSS can continue to do this vital work:

GiveBIG through May 15

Donate to ECOSS directly or set up a monthly gift

Thank you for believing in ECOSS’ vision of thriving communities that are environmentally sustainable and equitable.

Meet ECOSS’ first Monthly Sustaining Donors!

ECOSS promotes environmental equity through multicultural education and outreach. By providing in-language, culturally-relevant, community-led connections to resources, services and experiences, ECOSS empowers local businesses and communities of color to be more environmentally sustainable.

This work requires innovative changes that don’t always fit neatly into grant applications and public contracts. ECOSS, like many nonprofits, relies on the support of generous individuals to provide the funding that fuels innovation.

The ECOSS family is grateful to everyone who has contributed over the last 26 years and is thrilled to announce its first Monthly Sustaining Donors: Sandhya Nakhasi and Jordan Clark! Learn more about why they give.

How did you learn about ECOSS?

 

I [Sandhya] volunteer with the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC). In their monthly meetings, they bring in representatives from other organizations to learn about how they are serving the needs of communities of color. ECOSS was featured at one such meeting and I was intrigued by the work.

 

Why ECOSS?

 

We have been looking for a local environmental and sustainability oriented nonprofit to give to for a while. We want to support an organization focused on issues locally that also incorporates the voices of people of color. When we learned that ECOSS’ staff are hired from the communities they serve, that really resonated with us.

 

What prompted you to give monthly?

 

From our experience with the nonprofit sector, we know that continual giving contributes unrestricted funding that allows for capacity building, which will promote and sustain programs.

 

What are your thoughts about giving during this crisis?

 

This pandemic has revealed the massive inequities that we see in our society today, that have been persisting for many generations. Nonprofits are working hard every day to fill these gaps in the absence of services and support, while also trying to change the way our systems operate and ensure that a future world is able to support everyone.

 

If people have the capacity to support nonprofits whether they are providing direct relief or working towards systemic change, this is the time they need us most. Let’s support organizations that are building a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.

Thank you so much Sandhya and Jordan for your generosity and your contribution towards environmental justice and racial equity!

Sustaining donations support local businesses, communities of color and a healthier environment for all.

Make a sustaining donation today!

 

Increasing Access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Through Language

Language is one of the greatest barriers immigrants and refugees face in accessing resources, services and solutions that improve health outcomes and environmental well-being. When it comes to promoting clean water in the Puget Sound region, one of the ways this barrier manifests is in language access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).

Home rain garden installation, full of lush, green vegetation and framed by bricks.

Rain gardens not only add beauty to a property, but also filter pollution from stormwater.

GSI such as rain gardens, cisterns and permeable pavement help protect local waters from stormwater pollution. This infrastructure is a great way for homeowners to contribute to Puget Sound’s health. However, the process for scoping, installing and maintaining GSI can be daunting for those unfamiliar, especially if English is not a native language.

Thus, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Month, ECOSS staff have prepared three articles in Traditional Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese:

Introduction to RainWise:

Rain garden maintenance:

In-language resources are one way that ECOSS is closing the racial inequity gap of environmental solutions.

Learn more about GSI outreach

ECOSS partners with Seattle Public Utilities and King County to increase access to the RainWise program and shape tools that deliver more equitable environmental solutions.

Multicultural outreach leads to clean water and green jobs

Polluted stormwater runoff is the greatest source of pollution to the Puget Sound and other local water bodies. This pollution not only threatens local wildlife like salmon and orcas, but also surrounding communities, such as those neighboring the Duwamish River, where water is central to their cultures.

The critical need for clean water is why Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is one of ECOSS’ core impact areas.

A recent report from King County and Seattle Public Utilities highlighted recent accomplishments in green stormwater solutions, including features of ECOSS’ work in multicultural outreach, green career pathways development and industrial-scale stormwater solutions.

Check out the report!

To learn more about how ECOSS is supporting diverse communities and businesses in adopting green stormwater solutions, check out the projects page.

ECOSS’ 2019 Impacts

By building trust and relationships through shared language and cultural understanding, ECOSS empowers communities of color as environmental stewards, helps local businesses become more financially and environmentally sustainable, and advances the equity of environmental solutions.

2019 ushered in a new core program, new equity roles and more! Check out a summary of ECOSS’ impacts below:

Learn more about ECOSS programs here

Solarize the Land Trust brings affordable solar to King County homeowners

“It sounded like the United Nations,” said one participant at a solar energy workshop, where ECOSS conveyed information in Chinese, Vietnamese and Amharic. Two participant homeowners ultimately applied for and received solar grants, and are now producing solar energy.

This success was possible thanks to Solarize the Land Trust, a project piloted by Spark Northwest and Homestead Community Land Trust in King County, Washington. In total, this program has helped 11 low- to moderate-income homeowners start making electricity from the sun.

One of 11 homeowners to benefit from Solarize the Land Trust (middle).

For many families, solar can seem beyond reach—because of upfront costs, home prices or language barriers. To overcome these obstacles, Solarize the Land Trust brought together a unique team of solar experts, affordable homeownership providers, multicultural communicators and funders.

Over the summer of 2019, Spark Northwest, Homestead and ECOSS held workshops for Homestead’s homeowners to learn about solar, financing and the Solarize opportunity. Homeowners could then participate in a group purchase to receive a discount on installing solar and apply for a grant to help pay for it. Ultimately, 84 people attended workshops, 22 applied for grants, and 11 installed solar.

Under Homestead’s Community Land Trust model, an income-qualified buyer pays for and owns the home, while the land is owned collectively through Homestead. The home appreciates at a formula rate to keep it affordable to future low-income homeowners.

The homeowners led a competitive process to select a local solar installer for the group purchase. The selected installer, Puget Sound Solar, offered a discount to homeowners who participated in the program. Even with the group purchase savings, the upfront costs of installing solar still posed a major barrier for many of Homestead’s homeowners, so four foundations funded grants to help with the cost: All Points North Foundation, the Ren Che Foundation, Tudor Foundation and Union Bank. These grants helped ten homeowners, covering 65-100% of the system cost, depending on the homeowner’s site and preferences.

ECOSS and Puget Sound Solar visited homeowners to explain the solar panel installation process.

ECOSS’ Clean Energy program helps communities of color navigate language, cultural and knowledge barriers to access clean energy solutions. This perfectly complemented the Solarize the Land Trust program, where about 10% of Homestead homeowners have limited English proficiency.

“The Community Land Trust opportunity quickly gained steam because working directly with homeowners was simple and rewarding for our staff,” explained Jose Chi, one of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach managers.

ECOSS called each homeowner to explain the program in their preferred language and invited them to a workshop, where ECOSS offered simultaneous translation.

One multicultural homeowner is so excited about solar that “he asked for solar information in Vietnamese and Mandarin and he’s going to take it to work and give it to all of his neighbors,” said James Crawford, Residential Solar Adviser with Puget Sound Solar.

“Together we’ve made history,” said Kathleen Hosfeld, Homestead’s Executive Director at a gathering to celebrate the success of the program. “Going forward, housing must be both affordable and environmentally sustainable.”

Learn more about ECOSS’ Clean Energy outreach

Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) educates and empowers businesses and diverse communities to implement environmentally sustainable practices. ECOSS leads industry, small businesses, communities and government to practical and sustainable environmental solutions. Through deep relationships built on trust and a capacity of 15+ languages, they deliver equitable strategies and results in stormwater compliance, pollution prevention, electrical vehicles, solar energy and recycling. Contact: William Chen, wchen@ecoss.org, (206) 767-0432 x1016; https://ecoss.org/

Spark Northwest accelerates the shift to clean energy one community at a time. Through its Solarize Northwest program, Spark Northwest has educated over 4,500 people in Washington and Oregon, resulting in over 1000 solar installations and over $21 million invested clean energy.  Contact: Jill Eikenhorst, jill@sparknorthwest.org, 206-457-5403; https://sparknorthwest.org/

Homestead Community Land Trust makes it possible for low- and moderate-income people of King County to own their own home. It was founded in 1992 to arrest the displacement of low- to moderate-income people from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Homestead builds and rehabs homes; makes and keeps them affordable permanently through the community land trust (CLT) model; and supports homeowners in successful ownership. Homestead has 215 homes in trust, and is one of the largest community land trusts in Washington State. http://www.homesteadclt.org/

Puget Sound Solar Founded in 2001, by Pam Burton and Jeremy Smithson, Puget Sound Solar, (PSS) is the most experienced solar installation company in Washington.  PSS installed the first permitted grid-tie solar PV system in Seattle. Puget Sound Solar is proud of their history of engaging in educational activities and environmental policy work to benefit future generations. They’re a socially responsible company and engaged in the community. Contact: Stu Frothingham, sfrothingham@pugetsoundsolar.com, (206) 706-1931; https://www.pugetsoundsolar.com/

All Points North Foundation is dedicated to navigating communities upward. Established in 2011, its funding priorities include projects that promote solar energy awareness and implementation and evidence-based programs that measurably improve public middle school education. https://www.allpointsnorthfoundation.org/

Looking back on 2019

2019 saw substantial progress on environmental sustainability and equity for small businesses, immigrants, refugees and communities of color. ECOSS’ work was affirmed multiple times throughout the year, including recognition by the Port of Seattle, accolades from King County and a spotlight from Sustainable Seattle on one of our staff. Join us below in reliving the highlights of our year’s work!


Facilitating outdoor recreation firsts

Reports increasingly highlight the disparities in access to recreational opportunities across Seattle and King County. ECOSS works to address inequities in green space access through our New Arrivals program. By listening to immigrant and refugee communities in South Seattle and South King County, we tailored experiences and promoted inclusive outdoors access.

Read about other first-time experiences!


Promoting waste-free lifestyles

Small changes can make a significant difference if everyone is empowered to participate. The ECOSS resource conservation team engaged diverse communities at 72 tabling opportunities, presentations and community events, reaching thousands of Seattle residents. Through these events, we helped community members reduce food waste and improve awareness of recycling and composting guidelines.

We also worked closely with 28 businesses and multi-family complex managers from around King County to assist in installing energy-efficient lighting and setting up education programs around waste management. Having a staff who speak more than a dozen languages is especially helpful for business owners whose native language wasn’t English.

Check out these stories about resource conservation!


Managing Puget Sound’s #1 source of pollution

In the wake of Seattle’s gloomiest day on record, Puget Sound’s #1 source of pollution – stormwater – took center stage in multiple news headlines, including flooding and sewage spills. This is why addressing stormwater pollution is one of our largest outreach and education programs, featuring Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) such as rain gardens and cisterns. In 2019, we:

  • Engaged over 400 residents on the RainWise rebate program to install cisterns and rain gardens; 100 of these residents signed up to learn more
  • Completed eight new residential GSI installations
  • Recruited five Spanish, six Chinese and 3 Vietnamese contractors to install GSI, promoting their businesses while expanding access to GSI within multicultural communities
  • Provided over 500 free spill kits and training to small businesses, 25% of which were multicultural or multilingual

We also launched a new initiative to promote “industrial-strength” GSI – larger installations designed for business properties with limited space. Starting with a partnership with Equinox Studios, we are showcasing innovative solutions to manage stormwater, decrease flooding and protect water quality.

Learn more about our stormwater management projects!


Transitioning to a clean energy future

Clean energy solutions can help cut climate-warming carbon emissions in some of society’s greatest polluters – transportation and buildings. And transitioning to clean energy in a way that includes everyone will better ensure its success.

This year, we established our Clean Energy program to provide education and bridge cultural, knowledge and financial gaps to access solar panels and electrical vehicles. We’re working particularly with low-income communities and communities of color – both demographics have historically been left out of conversations around clean energy technology.

Thanks to ECOSS outreach , we’ve already walked two households from disadvantaged communities through the process of obtaining solar panels!

Read more about our approach to clean energy outreach


 

Encore! Encore!

And here are some of your favorite stories from Facebook throughout 2019.

  1. Feeling gratitude for Grattix boxes
  2. Patagonia honors ECOSS’ environmental equity work with a grant
  3. PINKAPALOOZA highlights

Want to ensure you don’t miss out on these and other updates on important environmental equity work? Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!


We couldn’t do this without you

One important role of nonprofits is in bridging the gaps between government services and community needs. For ECOSS, that means addressing the language, cultural and knowledge gaps that limit immigrants, refugees, communities of color and small businesses in engaging around environmental sustainability.

Your support advances our capacity to think big about small business and community benefit. Whether that be innovative community funding frameworks, new pathways to the outdoors and more, your donation will help us deliver authentic outreach and equitable environmental solutions for all.

Donate to help us continue the momentum in 2020!

Lowering barriers and inspiring outdoors enthusiasts

Being outdoors and around green spaces has been repeatedly shown to be good for one’s health. But not everyone has equal access to outdoor recreation opportunities. Trailhead Direct – a bus service provided by King County – lowers one of the greatest barriers to outdoor recreation: transportation.

In 2018, ECOSS partnered with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society to amplify the impact of Trailhead Direct through outreach to multicultural communities. By organizing and leading hiking trips with diverse communities, ECOSS created culturally-centered opportunities for community members to enjoy the outdoors and opened an avenue for immigrants, refugees and other people of color to give direct feedback on the bus service. This feedback contributed greatly to the opening of a Tukwila/Renton to Cougar Mountain route to meet the needs of South Seattle residents.

For the 2019 season, ECOSS reached 621 community members of diverse communities to raise awareness of Trailhead Direct. From that outreach, 145 people participated in ECOSS-led hikes! Youth, adults and seniors alike enjoyed the mountains, from strolls through Cougar Mountain to summiting the locally-famous Mailbox Peak.

Despite King County’s increased effort to advertise Trailhead Direct on common public transit options, most community hikers had never heard of the service. 76% of community hikers did not know about Trailhead Direct before ECOSS’ outreach. Many that did know were through previous ECOSS outreach. This was also reflected in communities’ feedback to King County.

 

“Let more people know about the services because I didn’t know we have this service until I went on this trip.” – Vietnamese community hiker

“Get information to minority communities.” – East African community hiker

This represents yet untapped potential for public transit to connect people and nature. Many community hikers with ECOSS were not just using Trailhead Direct for the first time, but also hiking for the first time. Community members cited barriers to participation such as knowledge of trails and knowledge of transportation options (especially for those without cars). But after overcoming those barriers, the benefits are vast, not just to health, but also to perspective:

“I participated for the first time in a hiking activity organized by Trailhead Direct and ECOSS last summer.  As a Latino immigrant man, I never had anyone to introduce me or invite me to explore this wonderful physical, social and emotional activity. Meeting new people in such a healthy outdoor environment and being able to reach extraordinary views and be in direct contact with the abundant nature of PNW was profound to me. I cannot wait to continue this activity with friends and other members of my community. Thank you so much to the organizers, sponsors and to the public transportation system for letting me have this positive experience free of cost.” – J. Fernando Luna, Latinx community hiker

One hiking trip centered on a group of 34 Latinx community members that included all ages! Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Lack of knowledge should not be misinterpreted as lack of interest. When presented in a culturally-relevant manner and with thoughtful inclusion, immigrants, refugees and other people of color are eager to engage in nature. As Trailhead Direct evolves out of its pilot phase, ECOSS is ensuring community feedback on the diverse needs in outdoor recreation reaches government so they can adjust accordingly. This type of private-public partnerships is promoting the vision of outdoors access and sustainable living for all.

 

Read more Trailhead Direct stories!

Thank you to The Wilderness Society and King County Parks for funding multicultural community engagement. Thank you Entre Hermanos and Bhutanese Community Resource Center for working with ECOSS to recruit hikers. Thank you REI, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and Washington Trails Association for your support.

Forging a path to foraging

Are you familiar with the Pacific Northwest’s variety of edible wild plants? The rainy climate that gives Seattle its gloomy reputation also feeds local mushrooms, ferns and other forage food. And this last autumn, ECOSS and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (MTS) opened up that world for one Bhutanese community.

In an immersive workshop along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, Bhutanese community members get a hands-on introduction to public land regulations and foraging. Photo Credit: Britt Lê / Washington Trails Association.

For Bhutanese refugees living in the greater Seattle area, there are several similarities between the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the jungles of Bhutan. This includes some shared wild plants such as the fiddlehead fern. But whereas Bhutan has few regulations on outdoors recreation, federal, state and county regulations restrict how people in the Pacific Northwest can use public lands and harvest plants.

Seeing the knowledge gap that prevented Bhutanese refugees from connecting with nature in the same way they would have in their native country, ECOSS worked with the community and with MTS to design an immersive workshop on public lands regulations and local foraging.

In an immersive workshop along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, Bhutanese community members get a hands-on introduction to public land regulations and foraging. Photo Credit: Britt Lê / Washington Trails Association.

The workshop included a guided walk/hike led by MTS and the US Forest Service, an introduction to the rules and regulations regarding public lands and a discussion of the different types of public lands. As a demonstration of the education, the workshop led into a conversation about foraging and local flora. After the formal workshop, the dozen Bhutanese community members were free to enjoy the surroundings and camp overnight.

 

“I am really thankful to this workshop. Foraging specially fiddlehead fern, watercress and mushroom was very common in our community back in Bhutan and in the refugee camp, but because of limited English and cultural differences, many of our community folks are not able to do what they loved doing.” — Bhutanese community member, workshop attendee

ECOSS’ New Arrivals program collaborates with communities of color to create access to environmental education and experiences that are directed by community needs. This community-centric approach ensures both program success and community benefit, like in this public lands workshop.

Read more New Arrivals stories

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for partnering with us, Washington Trails Association for providing gear, US Forest Service for providing public lands education and Bhutanese Community Resource Center for bringing community members!

First Trailhead Direct trip of the season in the books!

Find yourself wanting to escape the city on weekends? Do you enjoy hiking? King County’s Trailhead Direct bus service offers a solution for accessing trails near the Greater Seattle Area and is in its third season of operation.

ECOSS partnered with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society last summer to conduct outreach on Trailhead Direct within communities of color. By leading trips with the Khmer, Bhutanese, Latinx and Korean communities, ECOSS helped build the case to expand Trailhead Direct services, which added stops in Tukwila and Renton this season.

Continuing the momentum, ECOSS is working with Chinese, Vietnamese, Latinx, Bhutanese and East African communities to access Trailhead Direct and nearby trailheads this summer.

Members of Hong Kong, Chinese and other Cantonese-speaking communities recently completed their trip to Issaquah Alps! Check out some photos from the trip:

Most of the Cantonese-speaking participants had not heard of Trailhead Direct before the ECOSS trip, despite being avid hikers. The cloudy morning skies gave way to lush greens as the group embarked up Margaret’s Way Trail. The hikers appreciated the fresh air and ample trees. They even encountered a garter snake on the way up.

Most Trailhead Direct bus stops feature this sign. Unfortunately, it is often missed by those who are unfamiliar. Photo Credit: Joycelyn Chui / ECOSS.

The trip was also an opportunity for diverse feedback. Finding the initial bus stop was a challenge with minimal Trailhead Direct signage at the Eastgate Park and Ride station. Combined with a premature bus departure, the group was forced to catch the following bus… which was practically full before the group of 17 could board.

Undaunted, the group ultimately made their way to the top of the Margaret’s Way Trail. Many commented that they would recommend Trailhead Direct to others despite the challenges they faced.

By now, many King County residents have heard about Trailhead Direct, especially those who regularly take public transit. But the banners, brochures and advertisements don’t naturally reach all residents. Non-English speakers and those who live farther away from transit corridors are much less likely to be exposed to Trailhead Direct.

Access to green spaces promotes individual health and community connections. ECOSS is dedicated to ensuring outdoors access extends to communities of color as well.

More stories on outdoors access here!