Jan 26, 2015

The 2015 Sustainability Leadership Awards Dinner was Amazing! And the Winners are...

Oh what a night! With over 200 attending the 2015 Sustainability Leadership Awards opened at 6:30pm on January 23 with an hour of lively networking, giving nominees and attendees and chance to connect. New introductions were made and old friends reunited, including several who have been involved in Seattle area sustainability since the ‘90s. On their way in to the event, many attendees took advantage of the Tesla car parking shuttle, experiencing a ride in this game-changing electric vehicle. Once inside, looking around the festive MOHAI venue we heard more than once, “Wow, this is amazing!”

Indeed, it was an amazing evening. The attendees took their seats and were served a mouth-watering array of dishes by Herban Feast, a noted “Best of the Northwest” caterer. Terri Butler, Sustainable Seattle’s Executive Director, welcomed attendees and thanked the lead sponsor Seattle City Light, as well as sponsors Saturna Capital, Enwave, UW Surplus, Lead the Difference, and Floral Soil Solutions.

Board Chair, Dave Woolley-Wilson, introduced the evening’s master of ceremonies, Paul Shoemaker, Founding President of Social Venture Partners International. Paul welcomed the crowd and set the tone for the evening in his opening remarks emphasizing the multi-faceted positive impacts of social innovation.

Then, show time! Judges representing each category of award stepped to the stage in sequence, giving the audience insider information about the judging process and the challenges in choosing the winners. As each winner was announced their delight in being chosen warmed the audience, filling the room with energy throughout the evening.

Midstream Terri Butler stepped to the stage to share with the crowd information about Sustainable Seattle’s programs. She spoke about the PNW Resilience Challenge which launched last October, the business programs that provide tools and networking for sustainability professionals, and the community work which is focused on climate impacts and stormwater. She spoke about the wide network of people who are key partners in Sustainable Seattle’s work, then shared a video with compelling comments from four of these partners, Ruth Lee of Sustainable Business Consulting, David Brenner of Riddell Williams, Cari Simson of Urban Systems Design, and Jill Jago, Communications Strategist for GLY Construction.

Garrett Kephart, Sustainable Seattle board member and Point B consultant, followed, asking the audience for their financial support while speaking to the changes happening in the region including rapid growth and more storms due to climate impacts. He emphasized the importance of paying attention to these changes and making sure our communities are well designed and connected so they are resilient into the future.

The final award, the Sustainability Hero, was presented by last year’s Hero, Bill Thorness. His remarks leading up to the announcement touched on happiness and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness as a compelling way to measure well-being. Then, he went on to deliver happiness to the 2015 award winner, BJ Cummings.

The night wound up with an hour and a half of networking, closing at 11pm when the last attendees drifted out the door.

more about the Awards and nominees

The winners are:

Individual Award

Sustainable Hero: BJ Cummings, founder of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, for her leadership in empowering residents to bring their voices to the table in the "River for All" campaign, building EPA and government support for cleanup of the superfund site. 

Category Awards

Significant Newcomer: Tiny Trees Preschool for its innovative approach to making outdoor preschool education affordable for a wide range of families.

Creative Solution: Co-winners include Forterra and the City of Tukwila for their collaborative approach addressing sustainability challenges in the diverse community of Tukwila, and RE-USE Consulting for finding sustainable alternatives to demolition.  

Setting and Example: The Seattle Mariners for their leadership in sustainable ballpark operations since 2006.

Transportation Changer: Pronto Cycle Share, for providing access to a low-cost, fast, flexible, and convenient transportation alternative.

Resource Impact: Co-winners Pike Place Market PDA and Seattle Tilth for bringing healthy food access to hundreds of Seattle's most vulnerable families and Travelers Against Plastic for their initiative to educate global travelers about the harmful impacts of plastic water bottle usage.  

Transforming Spaces: Co-winners, Highland Park Improvement Club, the Nature Consortium, and Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, highlighting their work in building healthier, vibrant communities in South Seattle.
People’s Choice Award

Nov 30, 2014

Oh My, How Sustainability Has Changed!

© 2014 by Alan AtKisson of the AtKisson Group

Sustainability work has certainly changed over the years. I was reminded of this when an email arrived, telling me that Sustainable Seattle (an NGO I co-founded in the early 1990s) was accepting nominations for their annual leadership awards. You see, I remember sitting in my kitchen, making the very first such award, almost 20 years ago.

When I say "making the award," I mean that literally. Kara Palmer, then-coordinator of Sustainable Seattle, and I put together an artsy, home-made award plaque out of re-used and found objects. It was in keeping with the spirit (and budget) of the group at that time, and indeed with the spirit of sustainability then, at least as I experienced it:  simple, creative, down-to-earth. 

(I was an avid biker, and before I moved from an apartment into a house, I would carry tubs of compost in plastic containers around with me, in my backpack or on the back of my bike. Then I would "gift" my kitchen waste to friends who had compost piles. That's what I mean by "down-to-earth".)

Two decades later, I live near Stockholm, Sweden, and our compost gets collected by the local municipality every other Friday. No need to bike around looking for places to donate my onion peels and egg shells: we have a system for that. 

Sustainability itself has changed in similar ways. Once the exclusive province of the counter-culturists on one end of the spectrum, and the researchers and senior UN officials on the other (with not much in the middle), sustainability has long since found its way into the mainstream. And we have systems for it. 

There is the Global Reporting Initiative for companies, the ISO 26000 guidelines for organizations, countless frameworks and assessments and training tools (my company created some of these). 

So it’s no longer about collecting compost. Sustainability management now covers all the long-term economic, social, and health or wellbeing aspects of a company or community or nation, just as much as it does issues related to environment and resources.

And sustainability has moved from the kitchens of voluntary and civic groups like Sustainable Seattle, to the boardrooms of the world's biggest corporations. Next week I will be moderator for the Gothenburg Award, one of the world's most prestigious prizes in sustainability, and the winner will be Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. (I’m pretty sure his plaque will not be hand-made in somebody’s kitchen.)

And while I obviously was one of those counter-culturalists back in the early 1990s, hunched down at one end of that two-ends-and-no-middle spectrum I described earlier, now I find myself working with those UN officials who were over at the other end ... and with everyone in between, from small-town mayors to national governments, from leading scientists to school children. 

Sustainability has truly spread "everywhere" in the past 20 years. I went so far as to write a book last year with the title, "Sustainability is for Everyone" — because I truly believe that we are at that stage. When football teams are going sustainable, you know the term has firmly established itself as a normal part of normal life.

I take it as a great sign of hope that the global community of nations is negotiating, right now, its first-ever universal set of goals for ... well, for the whole world. For human progress. For eradicating poverty, caring for the Earth, providing good lives for everyone without destroying nature in the process. Called the "Sustainable Development Goals," or SDGs, their adoption is truly a watershed historic moment. 

But does that mean the "sustainability movement" has succeeded? Oh no, not yet. The idea may be well established. Some basic goals and good practices have certainly rooted themselves into business, government, education, municipal planning, and more.

You just have to look around, though, and read the data on things like climate change, our use of the sea, youth unemployment, the migration of refugees, and of course headlines revolving around armed conflict and disease vectors to realize that we still have far to go. We now understand that we need sustainability. We even understand a good bit about how to achieve it. 

But there is still an awful lot of work to actually do, at every level, from global policy making, to the reorganization of corporate supply chains, to the acceleration of development for the billions who do not have enough. And yes, we still need compost systems — lots of them — for the world's growing cities and mega-cities. 

Analyst Aromar Revi speaks of global urbanization as a "giga-trend," with billions of people making the transition from agricultural to urban lives in the space of one or two generations. That's going to take a whole new level of innovation to accomplish sustainably.

Which brings me back to Sustainable Seattle, and all the initiatives like it, all over the world. Local initiatives, based in cities. Promoting change. Initiating projects. Rewarding leadership. Not only have we not outgrown the need for groups like these, who keep pushing the envelope and continuously raising the bar.

We need them more than ever. 

Nov 19, 2014

Where are the Green Spaces?

By Erin Fox

     The question has been brought up whether millennials (those born from the early 1980’s to the early 2000’s), who have typically flocked to urban living, will stay in their urban dwellings to raise a family or move outward into more suburban/rural areas. As a millennial myself living in downtown Seattle for 10 years, after growing up in the country, I think the cityscape is missing one thing which will be a deciding factor in how long people will stay and if they have families in this environment, and that is green spaces.

     Nearly 58,000 people call downtown Seattle home. The area has a density of over 20,000 people per square mile (downtownseattle.com). Downtown also has the fastest growing population of the city.  Conversely, there are only 220 p-patch plots in the downtown area - one plot per 264 people. Along with this rapid growth, and construction,  large, mature trees are being cut down and replaced with much younger, weaker ones. This takes a toll on the “feel” of downtown. The mature trees provide shelter from the ever persistent drizzle, shade in the increasingly sunny summers, natural beauty, and a very real reminder of our roots.

     As we grow older and contemplate having a family, community, connection, and quality of life becoming increasingly important. We need to ask ourselves: is there community in downtown Seattle, is there connection? The downtown is becoming rapidly gentrified, the rich isolated in clusters of luxury condos, our front and back yards sterilized with pavement. There is no community, no connection. The quality of life is not sustainable for the long term and is poor on many fronts.

     First, I would like to address the need for more p-patches in the downtown area. P-patches are small areas of refuge against the bustle of the city. Even if you don’t have a plot in the garden you can wander through the small trails and enjoy the flowers. Growing your own food has become significant for living a more sustainable, healthy life, but also for connection with the land, pride, and an indispensable educational experience for children. Because p-patches are but small patches on a larger piece of land, you are working alongside neighbors, breaking down the solitude and isolation often associated with apartment living and connecting within a community.

     Second, because there is such limited space for ground gardens, many will need to “grow up” with our expansion. Build up, not out as the saying goes in development and this rings true for green spaces. There should be a law requiring all new residential buildings to have a certain amount of garden space dedicated to the residents, be it on the roof or on large common patios. Tops of stand-alone parking garages should become p-patches and green spaces. Ultimately, a mid/high rise building should be dedicated to growing food, a new-style urban park, and a year round farmers market at street level. This may seem radical at first glance, but only because it has yet to be done. If future generations are going to be living in urban environments, our city needs to be sustainable, and foster strong community and connection. We can address these needs by replicating the development of the city itself.  

     To create a greener downtown we also need to address the issue of transportation. Downtown car traffic is a commuter headache, incredibly expensive, time consuming, loud, and one of the largest contributors to pollution in the city. A unified train system should run through downtown to the outlying neighborhoods and popular destinations. Public transit should be the main mode of city transportation. This would free up other streets for safer bike and pedestrian commuting and more green spaces. The lesser-used streets could be turned into one way roads providing more potential green and gardening space, as has been done on Terry Ave and Bell Street. Again, to push this further in the interest of urban families, sustainability, community, and a higher quality of life: portions of downtown should be car free, bike/pedestrian only.

     Finally, vertical gardens and ivy should be considered for covering up the newer "lego" buildings which have recently exploded at the expense of neighborhood aesthetic. These and other flora solutions can be used to roll back the sterile look and feel of our neighborhoods, especially downtown. For example, large hanging baskets have been used to beautify dingy alleyways in Pioneer Square, enticing people to meander the neighborhood and admire its history.

     Nature brings people out and it brings people together. To get people to stay in urban environments and start a family we need these things. Not everyone can own a property out in the country, in fact, most of us can't. So we need to incorporate the country into our cities. We need quieter, safer streets. We need options to grow our own food, easy access to public transportation and prevalent green spaces. We need our cities to be sustainable. 

Nov 7, 2014

SplashBoxx wins KCD Award


Sustainable Seattle has partnered with SplashBoxx, LLC and GeAlogica, LLC to carry out an innovative "above ground" rain garden project at the Port of Seattle.
SplashBoxx makes it possible to use Nature's stormwater cleaning magic even when the soil in a particular area does not test well for in-ground rain gardens.  The project is going well. Regular soil and volcanic soil mixes are being compared as dirty runoff falls from the roof of an old building at the Port then filters through the SplashBoxx. If successful, the Port and other highly paved industrial sites are likely to use this approach to clean the runoff from their operations before it heads into the Sound. Learn more about the project in the fun video below!

Treating Stormwater Runoff

Oct 23, 2014

Sustainability Leadership Awards 2015

It is the season.. for the Sustainability Leadership Awards!

 Send us your nominations, we know you have some great organizations in mind.

Nominations due by November 14th.
Mark your calendars for January 23rd!

We will be heading to MOHAI again this year, celebrating the most inspiring accomplishments in the region that are moving sustainability forward.  Check out
photos from last year! 

Individual Award
Sustainability Hero  
A specific individual who has made a significant and inspiring contribution to the sustainability movement in the Greater Seattle area in their role as a community member or as part of an organization.

Business/Government Awards
Significant Newcomer (The First Step is the Hardest) 
A business that is new to incorporating sustainability into their business practies.  The changes are making a significant impact on the business' resource use and social impacts.
Creative Solution to a Big Problem: Innovator
  A business that has engaged in an innovative approach to a sustainability challenge, reducing resource use and negative social impacts.
Setting An Example: Doing it Right 
( A business that has become a model for their sustainability practices.  The business emphasizes transparency and education in implementing the sustainability practices, providing a demonstration for other businesses to duplicate their efforts.

Community Awards
Transforming Spaces:Landscape or Building
  Project that revived, transformed, or changed the purpose of an urban community space - including parks, streets, and other public spaces.
Resource Impact: Energy, Water, Materials, Waste
Project or campaign that significantly impacted water and/or energy use, air and/or water quality, and/or local food networks at a community-wide level.
Transportation Changer
Transformed and/or impacted how one or more community utilizes or engages with transportation relating to bike and pedestrian safety, transit-oriented communities, and/or public transit.

Depave Seattle Launches

We are ready to kick some asphalt! 

Last week our team launched Depave the Duwamish, a King County and King Conservation District funded project that will entail pulling up unnecessary asphalt at industrial sites in the Duwamish Valley and replacing it with rain gardens, trees, and other plants. This has a powerful positive impact on our waterways, cleaning dirty stormwater as it filters through the ground, preventing polluted runoff from entering the Sound and other waterways.  Tune in to the project on Facebook!
To be a feasible Depave site for this project, properties need to fit certain criteria.  For one, we are focusing on sites that are not connected to the Combined Sewer System, and are not known toxic cleanup sites. Two, we are seeking sites with property owners who are excited to partner with us on this project to remove asphalt and improve the site with greenery and other amenities to improve customer and employee experiences. 

Know of a good site? Have questions about the site criteria?  Let us know!

Sep 24, 2014

The Age of Sustainable Development

Is it really the Age of Sustainable Development?
Jeffery Sacks, a Columbia University professor, is teaching a free course over the next few weeks on Coursera. The title, "The Age of Sustainable Development," evokes a sense of large scale transition in our society and, indeed, he points out many elements coming together that indicate this change is happening.

Looking around the city it's obvious we are experiencing another growth spurt. One of our urban farming partners just had two of their city block farm properties be put on the market to sell for further real estate development. Our office at the Seattle Impact Hub is surrounded by a newly vibrant Pioneer Square community of businesses. Urbanization is upon us and is expected to continue toward greater densification. The Urban Land institute has recognized this and developed helpful frameworks for communities to use to address their resilience as they densify. Disasters like Hurricane Sandy illustrate our vulnerability in densely populated regions.

All sorts of good things happen in cities. People use less energy because they can walk, bike, or ride transit. There is more innovation in cities due to cross-pollination of ideas. Land outside of the city can be preserved for farms and recreation, giving city dwellers easy access to locally grown food and nature.

Running with the trend we can use this growth as an opportunity to build the cities we want. More green spaces, bike paths, resilient buildings and roadways. The Age of Sustainable Development is bringing with it great opportunities to make our cities better, cleaner, safer, more resilient, and overall more vibrant for all.

Join us on October 2nd at the PNW Resilience Challenge Summit where an impressive line-up of regional leaders will launch us into a multi-year initiative aimed at reinventing our cities for the challenges of the future.

Aug 21, 2014

PNW Resilience Challenge Launches Oct 2nd

Sustainable Seattle invites you to join the Pacific Northwest Resilience Challenge, a three-year initiative aimed at accelerating the ability of our urban areas in the Puget Sound Region to respond to disruptive events. 

Our team of over 20 regional leaders have been working months to put together a program full of various ways to act together on key issues. Including:
  • Rapid Urban Growth 
  • Low Income Communities 
  • Climate Impacts 
  • Earthquakes 
  • Public Health Risks
Join the conversation at a full-day summit on October 2, 2014 at the University of Washington's HUB. Registration is now open! Mobilize with regional citizens and design solutions that will address the vulnerabilities of our growing urban communities, our infrastructure and our businesses. Learn more

A primary focus of the proposed initiative is fostering cross-sector information exchange and collaborative action toward high priority goals. We are drawing together different communities across silos, including representation from a wide range of sectors: 
  • Land use and development construction, green building
  • Regulatory, legal, political 
  • Data communications and security 
  • Finance, insurance, business 
  • Scientific, academic, engineering 
Join us and mobilize for resiliency!

Meet the Speakers
From reinsurance specialists, to scientists, urban planners and an official Executive Connector. Our speakers are all committed to working across sectors to change and adapt to the times that lie ahead.  More
Register Before Sept 12 for Early Bird Prices
Registration for the summit is $99 when purchased by Friday, September 12 (11:59pm). (Sustainable Seattle members receive an additional discount). Register

Look Back at Sustainable Seattle's 2013 Conference
The challenge is an extension of last Fall's conference, Climate Change and The Bottom Line. At this year's summit, similar topics on regional economic risks will be discussed but will include a broader set of issues such as community and infrastructure risks. Read a blog recap, watch videos, or find photos of that event here.
Head to pnwresilience.org to find the agenda and read more on:


PointB logo
GC logo2

Help spark a regional resiliency movement. Sponsors of the summit can expect visibility with a large number of business, non-profit, government and education leaders in the Pacific Northwest. View sponsorship opportunities