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You can support Environmental Equity!

May 2, 2016

Ever moved to a new city and experienced how disorienting it can be?  Now imagine you’re in a new country with a new language and everything is different.

ECOSS’ New Arrivals Program helps immigrants and refugees bridge the knowledge and cultural gaps they face while adapting to their new home. By working directly in their communities, we nurture environmental leadership, understanding and connect people to resources.

On May 3rd, you can help support our work with a donation to ECOSS during GiveBIG, a one-day online giving event. All donations will be “stretched” by the Seattle Foundation. You can preschedule your donation today by clicking here or donate by midnight tomorrow.

This is our moment to work and give together–donations large and small–making our Puget Sound region a healthier and more vibrant community for all. Together, we make an impact. Thank you for your support!

New Arrivals CollageThrough tours, helping care for a watershed and even a skit written and performed by students, our community coordinators introduce people to healthy fishing practices, water quality issues and how to be good stewards.




Inside ECOSS: Courtney Maheras

December 2, 2015

ECOSS is powered by a group of talented individuals working to bring sustainable solutions to all and making our world a cleaner and healthier place.

We are thankful for every person on our team and we’d like to shine the spotlight on the people behind ECOSS and the work we do. Instead of asking our staff for cliff notes of their life story, we asked them five questions (think “Inside the Actor’s Studio”).

First up, Courtney Maheras, Administrative Associate aka “Jill of All Trades”.

FullSizeRender (003)

In one sentence, describe your work at ECOSS.

I work on Accounts Payable & Receivable, coordinate supplies, and generally help with whatever needs doing around the office.

What is your favorite noise or sound?  

 Ice cracking beneath my shoes in the winter!

What is your least favorite noise or sound? 

Steely Dan.  (Sorry, I understand that answer might be controversial.)

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?  

A really good homemade chicken pot pie.

Do you have a sustainable solution you practice daily? 

At our house, we’ve replaced clean-up sprays like 409 or bleach spray with a mixture of biodegradable castile soap, vinegar, and water.  We’ve also switched from disposable cleaning wipes to rags saturated in castile soap and water.  It’s much cheaper, we’re not exposing our skin to so many chemicals, and there’s nothing to throw away! 

Water Festival splashes down in South Park this weekend!

August 12, 2015
WF crop

There’s only one place this weekend (August 15th and 16th) where you can watch traditional Filipino and Cambodian dancing, dragon boat races and Mexican wrestling-at the Water Festival in South Park! The festival is part of Duwamish Revealed, a summer long celebration of the Duwamish River.

ECOSS collaborated with Las Promotoras and the University of Washington Khmer Students to put together two colorful days of performance, art, food and activities showcasing the Latin America and Southeast Asia cultures.

The Water Festival is from 12-8 on Saturday and 12-6 on Sunday at Duwamish Waterway Park (7900 10th Ave S). For a complete schedule of events, visit:

If you’re feeling adventurous, paddle your way to the festival via boat or pedal your way on Sunday with the Cascade Bicycle Club. Join them for a leisurely ride from Jack Block Park to the festival. Along the way, you’ll stop and visit some of the other Duwamish Revealed art installations. Click here for more information about the ride.

The Water Festival is a one-time only weekend festival NOT to be missed, it will be a splash!

Farewell to ECOSS Executive Director Kevin Burrell

March 30, 2015

After 15 years at ECOSS and eight years at the helm, our Executive Director Kevin Burrell is leaving ECOSS to take on a
new adventure as Deputy Director of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development. As Kevin expressed the transition, “After a wonderful and inspired ride in the non-profit sector, I’ve decided to step down from my post at ECOSS and throw myself into public service. I leave with a warm heart, a lifetime of delightful memories, and confidence that the Board and staff will continue to do amazing things.”

The feeling is mutual—all the best, Kevin!

Board Chair Matt Woltman summed up Kevin’s contribution to ECOSS in his letter to ECOSS supporters:

Dear Friends of ECOSS,

It is with mixed emotions that I share the news that, after 15 years of dedicated service, our illustrious Executive Director, Kevin Burrell, is leaving ECOSS to take on a new adventure with the City of Seattle. Kevin’s new position will be Deputy Director at the Office of Economic Development, where he will be working to help support Seattle’s thriving businesses and grow economic opportunities within the Seattle area.

Many of you have worked with Kevin over the years, consulted with him on stormwater or other issues at your business, attended a workshop he organized, or negotiated contract details for one or more of your projects. At ECOSS since 2001, he started as a staff member with a strong geology background conducting outreach to businesses. Over time the work that he spearheaded expanded and so did his role with ECOSS—to Deputy Director under Charlie Cunniff, and eventually to Executive Director eight years ago. As ED he launched new programs and grew the organization’s staff base to 30 full and part time employees that speak 17 languages.

In addition to Kevin’s significant achievements with delivery of programs and growing the organization’s support, Kevin has also contributed the most in terms of putting his heart and soul into building the organization, pursuing the mission of ECOSS, being a catalyst in the community of South Park, and treating others with grace and respect—even under pressure. His diplomatic and public relation skills are legendary and will serve him well in the public sector.

As Board Chair, I have had the pleasure of working with Kevin for over 5 years and have been delighted and inspired by his work, vision and commitment to the organization. We are all very pleased that Kevin will put his talents to work in public service, and wish him well in his new adventures at the City of Seattle.We also want to thank him for his many years of dedication and commitment to ECOSS, and for building bridges with diverse businesses and communities. He leaves a solid foundation of talented staff, dedicated board, and well-established, comprehensive programs at ECOSS to carry on the mission.

Moving forward, the ECOSS Board and staff have started the significant task of finding a new ED for the organization.  We have appointed Elizabeth Loudon as Interim ED until such time that a new ED is selected for ECOSS.  Please direct future communications or questions to Elizabeth at or (206) 767-0432 ext 1010.

Matt Woltman,

Chair, Board of Directors,

P1000519We will miss him, but wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor!! As we begin the search for a new ED, ECOSS is in the capable hands of Interim Executive Director Elizabeth Loudon.

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

October 1, 2014

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.


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


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 or call 206-767-0432.


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, 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,, 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 again to help keep electronics out of landfills. Special thanks to 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.


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


For more information about recycling electronics, visit:

 E-Cycle Washington

King County Take It Back Network


 Hazardous Waste Information