Feb 26, 2015

Seattle’s Transportation Changers

By Cassie Maylor

Think about the car you have now. How many times do you take it into get repairs? What will your next car be?  Powered by water? Or electricity? Will it fly? Will you even need one? But suppose it’s cheaper than the one you have now? And suppose it’s cheaper to not have one all together.

Transportation is traditionally a big thing to people in the younger generation.  In the last four or five decades it’s been a milestone for a young adult to receive or purchase their first car.  But what if, instead of taking out a loan to afford a car, you took the opportunity to use alternative kinds of public transportation instead?  There are many different options in the Seattle area that, if utilized, could grow into a very popular and common transportation networks!

During Sustainable Seattle’s 2015 Sustainability Leadership Awards in January; Pronto Cycle Share won the transportation changer category out of a field of five nominees.  Pronto Cycle Share is connecting Seattle though the sharing of bicycles.  They provide a fast, low cost and flexible transportation alternative. You can choose to try the bicycle sharing system, or jump in and purchase a membership! You may need to invest a little in a bike lock, your own helmet, or reflective safety gear but other than that this is a great organization that provides a full service to the people of Seattle! The other top 5 nominees for the transportation changer category included FREEWHEEL Carbon Free Cargo, Car2Go, Mobile Bicycle Rescue and Uber. 
Here is a quick look at each of these transportation alternatives and resources.  FREEWHEEL Carbon Free Cargo works with 14 local businesses and delivers products or product shipments to homes, offices, and other businesses without the carbon pollution that comes along with other delivery services.  FREEWHEEL employees believe in putting their values into action and getting things done, and that is what they have been doing for the last year because the business is growing fast.

Car2go works hard to empower and inspire people to live a more eco-friendly life by providing convenience and encouraging members and users to drive more efficiently.  This option is great for the on the move person looking for something quick and easy for one way trips to fast transport when running late, and is easiest for the smartphone user.

MBR or Mobile Bicycle Rescue is exactly what it sounds like! They provide everything from a quick tune up to a full assembly or inspection. This organization would be a life-saver for any bicycle commuter in need of a quick repair or the avid bike rider.

Uber is an organization known around the globe and they have many drivers in many major cities across the US. The Seattle Uber system is the best alternative to driving your own car and in a way is similar to the taxi system. 

Here are some facts you need to be convinced of to decide not buy a new car. In 2012, the Energy Information Administration published that the average household spent $2,912 on gasoline alone, which translates to about 4% of a family's income. That year gasoline averaged $3.70 a gallon.

·       price to own $2,151 (annually)
·       price to cover insurance $910 (annually)
·       price to pay for gas (2012) $866 (annually)
·       price to cover repairs $375 (annually)
·       the average american owns 1.9 vehicles and spends about 1.5% of annual income on auto repairs

(sources: GasBuddy.com, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Association of Insurance Commissioners Statistics, CarMD.com)

Using these innovative and sustainable transportation alternatives can significantly lower your carbon footprint. More importantly to a lot of Americans, is that it will significantly lower your annual transportation costs. Any person, active environmental steward or not, can make these changes and see a positive impact on their lives. In Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man, he says at the end of his epilogue,

“The question isn’t whether or not I make a difference. The question is whether I want to be the type of person who tries. We can can all make a difference. We all have the responsibility to make a difference.”

Feb 12, 2015


Divest UW "Mock-Wedding" UW Marries Coal Industry, Friday February 13th

By Aden Kinne

Join University of Washington’s student organization, Divest UW, for a day of fun action in UW's Red Square on Friday February 13th,  12:10 in front of Suzzallo Library.   Divest will hold a mock wedding, potentially (you’ll have to come to see) binding the University to the Fossil Fuel industry.

Students will wear fossil-fuel-divestment orange or husky-pride purple, come with some objections to the unholy union, and participate in an aerial photo afterwards.

So, is the UW Married to Coal?

What is the most harmful industry in the world? The answer is coal. Will the UW remove its investments in the coal industry? We will find out in March when the Board of Regents is set to discuss whether it will divest the university from coal.

For those not in the know, fossil fuel divestment is the fastest growing divestment movement in history. It demands that individuals and institutions, such as universities, city governments, pension funds, banks and religious institutions, divest from the fossil fuel industry. Seattle was the first city to commit to fossil fuel divestment in 2012. Since then students with Divest UW have been campaigning to get the university to remove its investment in the fossil fuel industry and,  now, particularly, the coal industry. So why divest from coal? 

1)     Coal is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
As Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm argues, “t
he overwhelmingly immediate question in climate change is how to stop and then reverse the dash-for-coal, and to do it quickly in order to tackle climate change”. A recent study in Nature showed that if we are to meet the globally agreed upon temperature target of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial temperatures, that we will need to keep 80% of coal reserves unexploited.

2)     Coal is a racist unjust killer
Coal contains a slew of toxic substances which leach into our water, pollute our air and harm public health, leading to the death and suffering of millions each year. Coal’s harmful air pollution and water and soil contamination fall disproportionately on communities of color and minorities. Doubling down on injustice, the impacts of climate change also fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable.

3)     Coal is not a great investment
Coal has underperformed the market drastically over the past five years, and is arguably set to continue its decline as renewable energy becomes increasingly competitive and demand for coal wanes. Mark Lewis, one of Europe’s leading financial analysts, estimates that if we are to keep global temperatures within the internationally agreed upon target of two degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels), that the coal industry will face losses of $4.9 trillion in the next twenty years.

4)     We can do better
Numerous studies from the likes of Stanford University and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have shown that we can transition to clean energy and phase out coal, and that we can do so while ensuring robust economic growth and much better job creation too. Recognizing this Washington State has committed to phasing out coal. However, in other parts of the US the clean energy transition is not going so smoothly.

5)     What’s stopping us from a clean energy future?
The fossil fuel industry is spending billions of dollars spreading misinformation, lobbying and corrupting the democratic process in order to halt the transition to clean energy, kill environmental regulation and protect its own profits over the future of people and the planet. That’s why the divestment movement is standing up against the industry and committing to a clean energy future that doesn’t sacrifice a healthy planet for the sake of the profits of the fossil fuel industry. UW can make an important statement that it is no longer willing to contribute to the corruption, lobbying and harm associated with the coal industry.

6)     Students Support Divestment
Both the ASUW and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate have voted in favor of divesting from coal. We are the ones who will have to live with the effects of climate change and whose future our institutions are supposed to serve. It is morally suspect and arguably hypocritical for an institution as committed to sustainability to continue to invest in an industry that aims to undermine our future. We need to stop investing in climate failure.

Is the UW committed to continuing its investments in the deeply harmful coal industry or can we break that unholy union? Join Divest UW 13th of February at 12:10pm in Red Square, where they will test whether UW should continue its union or not.  Join in sending a message of hope out loud and clear to politicians, the university, and the fossil fuel industry alike: let's make fossil fuels history.

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.