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.
The Port of Seattle honored ECOSS as an Environmental Excellence Awardee!
Video by Port of Seattle with footage and photos contributed by ECOSS and Sam Le.
ECOSS’ programs are as diverse as the communities and businesses it serves. From clean energy to waste management, outdoor recreation to stormwater education, ECOSS provides access to environmental solutions to small businesses and marginalized communities. By working from within the communities that are most-impacted by climate injustices, ECOSS bridges gaps among industry, government and communities in ways that respect people’s cultures and lifestyles.
The Port of Seattle recently honored ECOSS with an Environmental Excellence Award for achievements in environmental equity! ECOSS envisions sustainable businesses and thriving communities supported by equitable environmental solutions. The award symbolizes that ECOSS is on the right track in addressing environmental injustices.
ECOSS joined other environmental leaders, including small businesses recognized for their transition to clean energy and transportation heavyweight Lyft that is greening their rideshare service.
Thank you Port of Seattle for honoring ECOSS with this honor. And thank you SVP for nominating ECOSS for the award.
There’s a Chinese saying, 治標不治本 ; simply treating the symptoms to a problem does not solve the root cause. And right now, businesses are stuck addressing food waste symptoms.
Seattle is no stranger to environmentally sustainable policies. The city enacted a plastic bag ban in 2012. And in 2018, Seattle was the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils in food service businesses. These policies are steps forward to a cleaner, healthier environment. But how effective are they in practice? And how equitable is the burden to comply?
ECOSS partners with Seattle Public Utilities to conduct outreach with small, minority-owned food service businesses about recycling and composting. Over the course of several visits, ECOSS works with each business in their native language to understand Seattle’s recycling and composting policies, implement operations that meet the city’s regulations and adapt to new initiatives.
By visiting businesses repeatedly, ECOSS builds relationships with the owners. These relationships in turn build trust as owners become familiar with ECOSS staff. Businesses become more eager to work with ECOSS and change behavior.
Repeat visits also enable business owners to discuss the challenges they face with ECOSS. Large businesses more often have the capacity to anticipate and adapt to changing policies and trends. But small businesses face numerous barriers to advancing recycling and composting capacity. Crucially, food service businesses are constrained by distributors’ supplies. Not all businesses are located near a distributor that supply compostable utensils or reusable straws. The compostable options can be two to three times more expensive than their plastic counterparts even when the distributor does supply. And yes, the city can do little to stop distributors from carrying plastic straws and utensils. Ultimately, small businesses feel like they are simply being punished for their good environmental deeds.
These barriers create a gap between understanding zero food waste versus implementing and operating the processes necessary to realize zero food waste. Since 2014, ECOSS has helped businesses establish and increase their recycling and composting capacity. Businesses fully understand the importance of zero food waste and how to comply with regulations, but there’s a limit to their recycling and composting capacity. In addition to the above challenges, recycling and composting pickup is not continuous and businesses only have so much space to store their waste. ECOSS has shifted to education around waste reduction, compostable, recyclable or otherwise, rather than simply sorting waste properly.
Education is now more important than ever. ECOSS is a leader in bridging the gaps among government, industry, and small and minority-owned businesses to reduce waste. We as a society must take responsibility for the waste we create, especially as countries such as China no longer wish to be the world’s dump sites. That means first reducing how much we consume, secondly reusing what we can, before finally recycling products. ECOSS is working with businesses and communities to spread this “Reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra.
Without systemic changes in the policies that govern waste creation and management – such as incentivizing compostable utensils throughout the entire supply chain – Seattle’s growth as an environmentally sustainable hub will be stunted. Until local, regional and state policies engender more accessible and equitable waste management solutions, ECOSS is helping relieve symptoms of urban waste management.
What does meditation and recycling have in common? Perhaps surprisingly, quite a lot.
ECOSS recently partnered with community leaders Stephanie Ung and Venerable Sok Theavy to host an environmental health workshop at a local Cambodian Temple for community members and temple monks.
The workshop began by asking attendees to envision a healthy neighborhood and illustrate their visions through drawing and talking to each other. This exercise formed the foundation for discussing waste streams. Where does our trash go? How do we minimize the impact of our waste on the healthy neighborhoods we envision?
Although Seattle has developed a culture of recycling and composting, residents still have difficulty in navigating the processes. For example, as much as 20% of what residents throw in recycling bins is actually trash. Soiled pizza boxes, uncleaned bottles, loose plastic bags and more all disrupt recycling. And recycling has gotten much more complicated in the last year, with large processing entities like China heavily restricting to outright banning recycling imports due to contamination. While big businesses can have a large impact on waste streams through their decisions, individuals can play a role in reducing waste too.
But immigrants and refugees who did not grow up in a recycling and composting-centric culture face greater barriers in participating. ECOSS goes to where communities already congregate to engage them in their native languages around sustainability issues. Through sorting games, community members interactively learned about recycling and composting. The environmental health workshop posed the challenge of waste reduction as a community undertaking rather than an individual one. The environment impacts every aspect of our lives – it’s literally what society is built on and in. By connecting outreach to a community’s culture, ECOSS bridges the gap between environmental stewardship and people’s values and traditions.
During a meditative walk through the temple, Venerable Sok Theavy encouraged people to be mindful of every step, paying attention to when they lift the foot and when they place the foot back down on the earth. Analogously, the workshop asked attendees to be mindful of what they were consuming, what waste they were creating and how that waste impacts the environment.
Just as every step we take leaves a mark on the ground, every action we make leaves a mark on the environment.
Thank you Seattle Public Utilities for helping ECOSS bridge the gap on recycling and composting.
Blue bins are now practically synonymous with recycling. Many know that soda cans and old newspapers go into recycling bins, destined to become other useful products.
But what about old electronics? Emptied propane tanks? Scrap metal leftover from a home project? These and many other materials can be recycled too, though often not as easily. Since 2016, ECOSS has worked with the City of Kent to help King County residents recycle less-common items such as refrigerators, concrete, tires and mattresses.
In 2018, we helped with three free community recycling events, which collectively welcomed over 4,000 vehicles full of recyclables. The events altogether collected over 3,000 toilets, mattresses and other individual items plus over 300 tons of material like scrap metal, bulky wood debris and concrete!
ECOSS strives to make environmentally sustainable practices accessible to all. Many people are interested in reducing their environmental impact. We empower people to act on those interests and to let others know how they can make a difference, too.
Collection events are opportunities for Kent and King County residents to dispose of recyclable household items that are not normally accepted for routine curbside pickup.
On October 20, go to Hogan Park to recycle mattresses, appliances, toilets/sinks, scrap metal, propane tanks, concrete/asphalt/rocks/brick, household batteries, styrofoam, e-waste, cardboard and reusable household goods.
The last two collections events kept almost 400,000 pounds of recyclable and reusable materials out of the landfill trash!
Click here to learn what you can bring to this recycling event!
The Snohomish County Tribune featured ECOSS-hosted outreach around the connections between healthy homes and a healthy environment.
Small changes at home can protect the environment and your community from pollution.
Thanks Puget Sound Starts Here, City of Snohomish and Washington Department Of Ecology for partnering with us!