Mar 17, 2015

South Seattle’s Tree Enhancement Project is Bringing Residents Together

By Ed Nebendahl

Two of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods of Seattle, Georgetown and South Park, are in the process of adding a new tree canopy to their community. Long seen as just an industrial area, the neighborhood residents are now getting together to plant trees and green the community.

Most area residents love the trees that grow in our urban environment but until recently have given little thought to the importance of a having a tree canopy. The ecosystem services provided by trees are important in reducing air and noise pollution along with improving air quality. In fact, by absorbing and filtering out nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), and absorbing minute particulate matter in their leaves, urban trees perform a vital air cleaning service that directly affects the well-being of urban dwellers. 

But, that’s not all. Trees sequester carbon. That is, they remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their trunk, branches and leaves. But wait, there’s more. Along with cleaning the air they decrease the amount of stormwater runoff volume generated during a rainstorm which helps with storage and diversion to the river and Puget Sound which saves on property stormwater fees.

Here are some interesting statistics from a recent Audubon Society CITYgreen study:
  • The whole Seattle area has an estimated average of 23% canopy cover
  • Georgetown/South-park has a 3.7% canopy cover
  • The Delridge district adjacent to Georgetown/South Park boasts the highest at 34.1%
  • A recent study of Georgetown showed the existing trees removed 2,456 lbs. of air pollution for a health care savings approximately $5,523
  • 9 tons of carbon are sequestered annually from the existing Georgetown trees
  • The cost of future stormwater systems with current or future trees in place is $0 as the study revealed with continued improvement of tree canopy cover adequate stormwater capacity is in place.

Progress is being made and a new tree canopy density will be the crowning achievement

Since 2001 the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, along with the EPA, has been working towards cleaning up and restoring the Duwamish River and adjacent neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park.  Cari Simson is a big part of the success. As program manager for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition she has been a part of those successes, but since 2009 has become more involved on a personal level. She started Urban Systems Design as she puts it, “to have a more hands on role helping with the cleanup and restoration”. Her only regret is financially not being able to grow Urban Systems Design fast enough to increase the successes. Already this year her involvement has helped give the communities 80 native trees and by the end of March the goal is 150 trees. She connects people to trees to tree planting.

Local tree giveaway

Cari is currently involved in the Duwamish Tree Canopy Enhancement program. Free tree giveaways is only the beginning. Making sure that everyone receiving a tree knows how and where to plant it, and that they keep up on care to get it through the critical first few years is also an important step.  The location of each tree planted is plotted on an area map to build a tree canopy projection model. Tree giveaways are bringing these communities together to share in planting and care. Social media plays a huge role in keeping people informed of the current happenings.  A webpage, “ Hey Duwamish,” allows people to post comments with information about construction problems and successes so other residents to see these, learn from them and comment on.

The benefits of a healthy tree canopy are more than just a better looking neighborhood. The denser canopy will bring a diverse ecosystem, creating habitat for a variety of urban wildlife and birds. The tree enhancement project is a major undertaking, but will have the benefit of a healthier community. Having the community take charge of their trees is an aspect of the program that truly awesome.

If you are interested in participating please check on the next tree giveaway at!duwamish-tree-canopy/cckk

Another important website to checkout is this new page where you can join in and further increase community involvement.

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:, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Association of Insurance Commissioners Statistics,

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