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Get Your Canned Dirt Today! Mini Mart City Park Puts the Fun in Brownfield Revitalization

October 1, 2014
cans

These nifty cans of dirt represent both art and environmental clean-up.

ECOSS’ resident brownfields expert, Emery Bayley, recently had the whole office abuzz with an unlikely new piece of office décor: a soup can full of dirt. This was not just any can of dirt, but a creative brownfields clean-up solution from collaborative art trio SuttonBeresCuller. Doubling as an art piece and accompanied by a fun video, the cans (which are available for purchase) are filled with contaminated dirt from the site of a former gas station in Georgetown. The cans both remove dirt from the site as part of remediation efforts and raise awareness about SuttonBeresCuller’s community-enhancing vision.

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Before: The site’s chain link fence currently doubles as an art gallery (credit: SuttonBeresCuller)

after

After: Mini-Mart City Park’s vision is to create a public park and community center (credit: Sutton Beres Culler)

Across from Boeing Field, the station stored fuel for Boeing during World War II. The gas station went out of business in the 1970s. The site has subsequently been home to a dry cleaners and other businesses. Since 2008, SuttonBeresCuller has worked with ECOSS, the King County Brownfields Program, and the EPA to conduct environmental assessments of the site. In 2013, they formed the nonprofit Mini Mart City Park, which purchased the site for remediation. This innovative project—which ultimately will transform the site into a pocket park, public sculpture, and community center—“blurs the lines between public art, architecture, environmental activism and green design,” as SuttonBeresCuller put it. The goal is to provide not only provide public green space to the community, but a potential new model for small site brownfield remediation. Get your can of dirt today while supplies last!

ECOSS Guest Post for EPA: Opening Immigrants’ Eyes to Environmental Health in American Homes

September 11, 2014

Originally posted at Opening Immigrants’ Eyes to Environmental Health in American Homes | Environmental Justice.

By Kate Gibson

ECOSS Staff member Sophorn Sim at an Indoor Air event

When Sophorn Sim first moved to the United States from Cambodia, she finally received medical treatment for her chronic lung problems, a legacy of an early childhood illness and years spent in a forced labor camp run by the Khmer Rouge. Despite treatment, Sophorn’s condition got worse: she started coughing up blood and had to use her emergency inhaler up to three times a week.

Like many new immigrants and refugees, Sophorn faced new health hazards in the United States for which she was ill-prepared and that exacerbated her condition. Her first apartment was covered with mold, to which her family responded by cleaning the entire apartment with bleach and without proper precautions. Not accustomed to the American notion of different soaps for different uses, she used laundry detergent for bathing and washing her hair, irritating her scarred lungs and contributing to her worsening condition.

Fahmo Abdulle goes over healthy home tips with members of the Somali community

Sophorn’s story, sadly, is not unique. Many refugee immigrant families, already living in areas with higher concentrations of poverty and less healthy conditions, are exposed to additional health hazards due to language and cultural barriers, lack of education, and misinformation spread through communities. For example, many immigrant families have settled in communities in close proximity to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the I-5 freeway that runs through Seattle, Superfund sites such as the Lower Duwamish River, mixed industrial/residential zones, and other potential sources of toxic exposures. Some new immigrants and refugees come from different climates and don’t know about proper ventilation practices for their new homes. Others have misconceptions about items that people who grew up in the United States take for granted, such as using Murphy’s Oil cleaner to wash dishes or to cook eggs, or confusing such items as Pine Sol with apple juice and Comet with parmesan cheese.

Thanks to an EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant, the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) significantly expanded its Healthy Homes program this year to reach more immigrants in a broader region. The program, coordinated by Sophorn, now an ECOSS staff member, is aimed at increasing awareness of indoor air quality among the Seattle area’s new immigrant and refugee populations—particularly Burmese, Bhutanese, and Somalian.

Through the program, ECOSS is reaching out to low-income, refugee, and new immigrant communities with free training, information, and green cleaning kits to improve indoor air quality and prevent harmful health effects associated with indoor air pollution. In partnership with the American Lung Association and the cities of SeaTac and Tukwila, ECOSS trained community members, who then planned outreach for their communities. In addition, they conducted home assessments, helping families in their homes with practical, low cost solutions.

For many participants, the information was eye opening. Often, new immigrants think of the United States as a healthy place with the best indoor air quality, and often assume that unsafe products would not be available in stores. For many new immigrants it can thus come as a surprise that education about product safety is even necessary.

Allan Kafley, who led outreach to the Bhutanese community, noted that many in his community had spent years in refugee camps where “pollution was much more obvious: dust in the air, particulates from at-home wool spinning businesses, and the charcoal briquettes used for cooking.” In sharp contrast, indoor air hazards in the United States—chemicals used in paint and cleaners, for example—are relatively invisible.

The ECOSS team distributes green cleaning kits

The expanded Healthy Homes program has been a tremendous success so far, reaching over 500 individuals in the first year through presentations and in-home assessments. To Allan, the in-home assessments are particularly effective, allowing outreach coordinators to be much more specific and concrete than through group presentations. “I can point directly to the car cleaning chemicals that a father stores in his kitchen and tell him about the danger it poses to his family. This way, we see immediate results.”

Members of the Somali community loved that baking soda and vinegar can be used to both cook and clean, and that they can save money with greener cleaning supplies. “One single mother of nine said she used to have to buy all kinds of cleaners: some for the dishes, the floor, clothes. Now she is using healthier cleaning products and has more money to spend on her children,” said Somali Coordinator, Fahmo Abdulle.

ECOSS looks forward to reaching more new immigrants and refugees through this important ongoing program, as well as through word of mouth.

About the Author: Kate Gibson is the Communications/Fund Development Associate for the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle.

January E-Cycling Event at ECOSS

January 31, 2014

by Ariel Williams

Ariel is currently is serving as an AmeriCorps member at ECOSS. This event was part of her “Greening South Park” project. For more information, contact ariel@ecoss.org or call 206-767-0432.

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Ariel on the event day, waiting to greet people with electronics to donate.

The holidays are always hectic: with family, friends, and of course all of the new things people have given you—or you have given yourself! With technology getting more and more advanced in short periods of time, it is sometimes difficult to find the right place to put that old TV or cell phone. That got me thinking. Maybe we should have an electronics recycling event after the holidays so people have a place to take their old “toys.”

It is important to keep electronics out of landfills and off street corners. As electronics break down they release chemicals that are toxic to our environment. These chemicals can leech into and contaminate our waterways, which can lead to big issues in the future. This includes unhealthy fish and unsafe waters, meaning we couldn’t eat the fish or drink the water. That is why it is key to know what goes where, especially when it comes to old electronics.

I partnered with InterConnection.org, a nonprofit that specializes in electronic recycling and is certified as an environmentally responsible electronic recycler.They take the newer electronics and refurbish them and then sell the electronics at a discounted price to low-income individuals, nonprofit organizations, and schools. Some of the refurbished items get sent to other countries so they can have access to newer technology. The items they are not able to refurbish are guaranteed to be recycled responsibly in the US.

The event was featured in the Seattle Times, West Seattle Blog, Seattle.gov, King County E-Cycle program and more!

When the day came, the E-Cycling event was a huge hit! In three hours, we collected 4,679 pounds of electronics—that’s over two tons! I am ecstatic about the success of the event and hope to partner with InterConnection.org again to help keep electronics out of landfills. Special thanks to InterConection.org for helping us create such a great free event, and thanks to all the volunteers that helped move the donations from people’s cars and trucks.

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Ruben Chi, ECOSS employee, and the author in front of the InterConnection.org truck. All of those cardboard boxes are full of donated electronics!

 

For more information about recycling electronics, visit:

 E-Cycle Washington http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/eproductrecycle/

King County Take It Back Network http://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/takeitback/index.asp

InterConnection.org http://interconnection.org/

ECOSS http://www.ecoss.org/

 Hazardous Waste Information http://www.lhwmp.org/home/hhw/disposal-locations.aspx

 

 

ECOSS’ Spill Kit Program Expands to New Counties

April 30, 2013

ECOSS’ spill kit program will be reaching out into new areas of King, Kitsap, and Snohomish counties thanks to a grant awarded by the Puget Sound Partnership’s Stewardship Program.

This means that eligible businesses across the Central Puget Sound area can get free starter kits, training, and plans to be ready to respond to spills of oil or other chemicals on site, and prevent pollution of storm drains and local bodies of water.

EZ-Mart-Des-Moines_Korean-Mini-Mart_Gas-Station_3

Business owners prepared to respond to a spill after a visit from ECOSS.

ECOSS and Seattle Public Utilities jointly developed the spill kit incentive program in 2004. In the nine years of this successful program, ECOSS staff members have served hundreds of small businesses that didn’t necessarily know what should go down the drain, where their drain leads to, and best practices to prevent pollution.

“Our program has been successful because businesses trust us, and we know what they need,” said Kevin Burrell, ECOSS’ executive director. “This grant is seed funding to develop an on-going program through public/private partnerships where more cities can have on-the-ground support with ECOSS’ help.”

spill-team-with-buckets

ECOSS’ Sustainable Business Coordinators getting ready to tackle pollution across the Puget Sound.

ECOSS is forming partnerships with cities to identify priority areas, provide services on-site, and customize information to specific businesses’ needs. Through ECOSS’ trained multicultural outreach team, services are available in nine languages.

The Puget Sound Partnership is investing approximately $281,000 in federal funds during the next two years, with a 50 percent match from other sources. Through this funding, ECOSS plans to reach 2,500 businesses in the next two years.

The Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency, is leading the recovery of Puget Sound, and coordinates the efforts of citizens, governments, tribes, scientists, and businesses. The Partnership’s Stewardship Program identifies and evaluates model programs in the region and works to expand them to larger geographic areas.

For more information on the Puget Sound Partnership, visit www.psp.wa.gov. For more on ECOSS stormwater program, visit www.ecoss.org/stormwater.html, or contact John Loyd or Ann Boyce at ECOSS at 206.767.0432.

Meet the Staff – Jin Wook Lee

April 30, 2013

JinJin Wook Lee – Sustainable Business Coordinator

Where are you from?

I was born in Korea, and lived there until I moved to the U.S. in 1992. I originally moved to Texas with family before coming to Washington.

What were you doing before you came to ECOSS? 

I was a real estate agent, and I still have a license for that. I also did some installation of telecommunications equipment when I first moved here.

What do you do day-to-day at work at ECOSS?

For the past few months I had been helping perform waste audits for multi-family housing buildings. We would sort through a building’s trash at the end of the day and catalog their waste to help determine potential cost savings and environmental impacts from increased recycling and composting.

I have also helped with outreach to Korean businesses through the Spill-kit Incentive Program.  We go to small businesses to see if they would be good candidates to get a free spill-kit to help prevent pollution from their business. Recently we presented to the Korean Grocers Association in Lakewood, South Tacoma and Bremerton to promote the program, which was very rewarding.

Now, I am working again with the Powerful Neighborhoods program in Seattle, helping to directly install energy efficient lighting and plumbing in multi-family buildings.

What is your favorite/most rewarding aspect of working at ECOSS?

The Powerful Neighborhoods project is my favorite. It is a long-term project that is going to have a really big impact. It makes me happy to think about all of the money and energy we are helping to save. The rest of the staff on the project are also really fun to work with.

If you could change one thing about Seattle, what would it be?

The weather! Actually, where I grew up in Korea the climate was very similar to Seattle, but after living in Texas for a while I could go for a bit more sunshine.

What is your favorite spot in South Park?

Well, I am actually not in South Park very often except for work, so I don’t think I could say that I have a favorite spot down here.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

I love golfing. Sometimes I like to play tennis. This is why I would like a little more sun around here.

Biggest goal for 2013?

I really want to focus on my faith. I am thinking about doing missionary work in the future. This past year I went on a two-week missionary immersion trip and it really changed my perspective.

Meet the Staff – Socorro Medina

January 31, 2013

 

socorro

Socorro Medina – Multi-Cultural Business Outreach Coordinator

Where are you from?

I was born and grew up in Juarez, Mexico.  I moved to Seattle in 1998.

What were you doing before you came to ECOSS? 

I worked at the University of Washington as a researcher.  My research focused on how mountain ranges affect rain distribution during storms. I did that for about 15 years before deciding I needed to be involved with something that offered more tangible results for people.

What do you do day-to-day at work?

Mostly I have been working on waste reduction audits for apartment buildings; helping to determine how big of a problem waste management is in multi-family buildings.  We talk to building managers and assess the garbage dumpsters, which is much more interesting and not as gross as it sounds.

I have also been helping with the RainWise program.  Mostly going door-to-door to talk to residents about their suggestions and impressions about rain gardens, and how we could improve the program.  People are much more interested in rain gardens and managing polluted runoff than I imagined.

What is your favorite/most rewarding aspect of working at ECOSS?

I love the diversity of tasks I get to work on.  Some days I am out in the field, other days I am working on reports in the office, but it is always changing and I like all of it.  I never feel stuck in a routine.  I also have enjoyed learning about all of the aspects of the work that ECOSS is involved in.

If you could change one thing about Seattle, what would it be?

I would want the city to get rid of parking on main roads, it makes traffic so bad in some places.  Why should they give a whole lane just for people to park their cars?

What is your favorite spot in South Park?

All of the Mexican grocery stores down here.  I can get Mexican and Guatemalan breads, and even nopales (cactus)!  I can’t find those things in my neighborhood.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

I love to eat, and my husband loves to cook so it works out well!  I enjoy walking down to the International District to get food down there.  Also, it is nice to go on short trips around Seattle to experience and know the Northwest a little more.

Biggest goal for 2013?

Trying to not get stressed out.  It is working alright so far.

Local Restaurants Make a Change!

March 14, 2012

In the Fall of 2011, ECOSS expanded its free assistance in greening local restaurants with a new project called “Go Green All Over”.

Thirteen restaurants participated from four South King County communities; White Center, Burien, SeaTac, and Tukwila. They had 30 days to use the getting starting package and work with staff to make changes to reduce waste, save energy and water, and prevent pollution.

ECOSS provided participants with a starting packet with free supplies and services including spill kits, aerators, CFL light-bulbs, a free trial of compost service, and discounted used grease recycling service. A key component of the program was educating staff and encouraging their ideas and participation in making improvements through the use of a poster showing changes that could be made.

“This program really helped me in getting my point across to other staff members,” reported Anthony Sims, manager of Pho La Vang, a participating restaurant in Burien. “It made them see it more clearly instead of it just coming form me.”

The top participants,  based on how many positive changes were made within the 30 day challenge were: Mac’s Triangle Pub, White Center; Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant Inc., White Center; Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue, White Center; and Pho La Vang, Burien.

“This program got restaurants excited about going green and also made it fun” said Stephanie Gowing, project lead and Sustainable Business Coordinator with ECOSS. “All the restaurants said they will continue to work on conserving resources and reducing waste.”

The name Go Green All Over refers to all areas where improvements can be made, including the kitchen, bathroom, dining area, and outside area of the restaurant.  ECOSS worked with restaurant owners and staff to focus on pollution prevention, energy and water conservation & waste reduction in these four areas. In addition to helping the environment, these changes can also save businesses money.

Participating Restaurants:

White Center: Mac’s Triangle Pub, Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant Inc., Uncle Mike’s Superlicious, Barbecue, Café Rozellias, Marv’s Broiler, Jumbo Buffet Chinese, Café Delia
Burien: Armoire Chocolat, Mike Kelly’s Irish Pub, Pho La Vang
SeaTac: Mango Thai Cuisine and Bar
Tukwila: Mayflower of China, Mizu Japanese Steakhouse

And the winners are…

Mac’s Triangle Pub

Geoff McElry proudly supporting Mac's Triangle Pub's success

Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant Inc.

Ana Catho and her coworkers celebrate their win!

Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue

Mike and Elizabeth Gordon pose proudly with their coworkers!

Pho La Vang

Pho La Vang showing off their winning certificate!

Pho La Vang showing off their winning certificate!

Visit this site map to find out where the winners are located!

ECOSS wants to thank all the restaurant staff and management that participated for their continued support and advocacy toward a more sustainable work place.  We encourage the public to dine in these locations and take notice of any environmentally influenced changes!

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