Sustainable West Seattle – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 16 Aug 2018 04:47:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Whales in The Junction! GreenLife @ 2018 West Seattle Summer Fest Sun, 01 Jul 2018 00:56:33 +0000 Now that West Seattle Summer Fest 2018 is 13 days away – Friday-Sunday, July 13-15, in The Junction – it’s time to start counting down. First up, let’s talk about GreenLife, the sustainability expo/festival-within-a-festival that you’ll find at Summer Fest again this year. From Stu Hennessey:

The GreenLife Festival will focus on the issues surrounding the failing Southern Resident Killer Whale population and the health of the Salish Sea. There are many solvable issues connected to the decline of our local waters, including Puget Sound. We will examine these issues at the Junction Plaza Park location.

Much of the marine wildlife is in decline, (including) the salmon that our Orcas depend on for survival. The 3 days of the festival will be divided into Day 1: What can we as individuals do? Day 2: What is being done with legislation? And Day 3: What solutions are already helping?

This will be very enlightening for the whole family. We will have a virtual reality underwater tour of the Puget Sound with 3D headsets, presented by “Diver Laura” James. There will be a mechanical Orca whale ride for the kids. You will hear a lot about what is being done by our local governments, and on Saturday night, July 14th, we will be showing the movie “DamNation” at the West Seattle Senior Center (Oregon and California). The movie is free and starts at 7 pm. We hope you are concerned about the decline of our native Orcas and will want to learn more about what can be done. The GreenLife Festival is a project of Sustainable West Seattle. Sponsors include Verity Credit Union, Alki Bike and Board, West Seattle Nursery, PCC, West Seattle Electric and Solar, and Waste Management.

And as part of that:

Governor Inslee’s task force on the Southern Resident Orca crisis wants to hear from you. Task force director Stephanie Solien will be coming to the GreenLife Festival on Saturday, July 14th, at 12 noon.

The objective is to present the task force mission and to hear from the public their concerns and comments about the failing status of our iconic Orca population.

Your concern and your comments can have an impact on what the task force will recommend to the Governor for future action.

You can find out more about the task force here; its other members include West Seattleite Donna Sandstrom, founder of The Whale Trail.

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HAPPENING NOW: Garden tool(s) need repair? West Seattle Tool Library clinic Sun, 29 Apr 2018 21:18:24 +0000

It’s prime time for gardening – so don’t let your broken tool(s) keep you from getting out and working in the yard, or courtyard, or P-Patch plot – take it to the West Seattle Tool Library before 4 pm and the WSTL/Sustainable West Seattle folks will be happy to help. Thanks to Julie for the photo! The WSTL is at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW), on the northeast side of the building.

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Looking into Sustainable West Seattle’s future – and seeing you Wed, 28 Feb 2018 06:35:48 +0000 (WSB photo: ‘Diver Laura’ James, left, demonstrates virtual-reality viewers at Sustainable West Seattle meetup)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Over its decade-plus history, Sustainable West Seattle has launched and/or nurtured a multitude of community-enhancing projects.

Among the biggest: The West Seattle Tool Library and the annual GreenLife expo at West Seattle Summer Fest.

SWS also supports West Seattle Meaningful Movies, the West Seattle Timebank, Hate-Free Delridge, and more, as listed by president Stu Hennessey toward the start of last night’s SWS meetup at the Senior Center/Sisson Building in The Junction.

But even more than projects and programs … the biggest change can be made in cumulative small actions by people who care, and that was the theme.

SWS board members were on hand, as well as interested visitors — “we’ve had bigger and smaller teams in the past,” as Hennessey put it. Around the table, various participants voiced what had brought them to the gathering – from polluted stormwater runoff, to diversity/inclusion, to food sustainability, and beyond.

“Diver Laura” James talked about having taken over the project, for which SWS is the fiscal sponsor, and which isn’t grant-funded at the moment, though she did an online fundraiser recently to scratch together some money for ongoing projects. She talked about her mission of showing people what’s happening beneath the surface of Puget Sound; her work with 360-degree video shows not just the runoff stream but also what’s not being caught, what trash is already down here – “it really changes the experience.”

360-degree video in general changes the way that people engage, she explained, with an anecdote about showing a Google Street View scene to an elder who got excited about exploring the area where she had grown up. She also talked about virtual reality – for elders, and everyone else – and how “the industry is just starting to mature” with standalone headsets that helps 360-degree content reach wider audiences. She’s working on a project to document “Virtual Puget Sound,” where she will be in the 360 space as your guide – “you can turn me on or turn me off,” choosing (or not) to see hotspots in video where she can pop up and explain more about something particular in the video.

(2017 photo by “Diver Laura” James)

She talked about the herring spawn at Alki that got so much attention last year. She describes herself as “super-excited” about what she’s working on and how it’s opening the doors to a wider world for so many. But she doesn’t think this has to be done on such a large scale – it is something that can be done on a community scale. She told the story of VR video artists who went on a tour documenting community concerns, like a doomed market in another part of the city. She distributed the headsets and showed video of a harbor seal – likely this one:

“Diver Laura” explained how stormwater factors into all this. “The organizations, the institutions can’t fix this problem – it’s going to be up to the communities, the individuals.” She described herself as more of a “carrot” person than a “stick” person in trying to encourage better behavior. “Humans tend to want to do the right thing, but going about our day to day business, that’s the last thing we think about.” She hopes to build a grass-roots effort that makes it “uncool” to not be working toward a “sustainable solution.”

Hennessey noted that some things are getting better – like the increase in using electric vehicles, which at least cuts the emissions, if not the various fluids that vehicles are still putting out onto the roads.

“Diver Laura” said that making change can be easy if you do one little thing at a time – maybe walk to the corner store, telecommute to a meeting. “If you try to gently say – here are seven solutions, plus an extra … very simple day-to-day activities … small baby steps … if all of us do small baby steps in the right direction, we can cause a groundswell.”

That segued to Hennessey noting that Sustainable WS is focusing even more on the Salish Sea – which Puget Sound is part of – than before. Board member Amanda Goodwin talked about the orcas-and-salmon issue, and the fact that more public pressure is needed. Hildegarde Nichols called attention to last summer’s Seattle Times coverage about “pesticide-free parks” where chemicals were being used – including West Seattle’s Fairmount Playfield. Anyone concerned about the possibility of that continuing should contact the Seattle Parks official quoted in the story, she said –

If any of those topics interest you, and/or you have others that seem to match the mission of a more-sustainable West Seattle, SWS welcomes your involvement – and is hoping to attract more volunteer leadership, too (one long-dedicated board member is likely moving out of the area soon). SWS has no dues – just a passion for action. Said Hennessey: “It’s all about participating.”

If you’re interested in Sustainable West Seattle – e-mail to get connected.

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Be part of the solution! Sustainable West Seattle meetup Monday Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:57:31 +0000 Ever wonder what you can do to make a difference, even just a bit? Set aside a little time for a Monday meetup that can answer the question in some memorable ways. Here’s the announcement from Sustainable West Seattle‘s Stu Hennessey:

Sustainable West Seattle would like to hear from our neighbors on a variety of subjects that we can have a lasting effect on. If you would like to be part of the solution, we would like to work with you. We will be hosting a public meetup on Monday, February 26th, at the West Seattle Senior Center, 4217 SW Oregon St, Nucor Room. The meeting will start at 7 pm.

Come to this meetup and take a Virtual Puget Sound underwater tour with diver Laura James, West Seattle’s famous underwater videographer. Find out which “Pesticide-Free” playgrounds in West Seattle are using increasing amounts of glyphosate toxic Roundup where your kids are playing. Learn how you can be a part of the 11th year of Sustainable West Seattle and the GreenLife Festival contribution to the West Seattle Summer Fest street fair.

You’ll also find out about helping our region’s endangered orcas.

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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Sustainable West Seattle celebrates 10 years Sun, 19 Mar 2017 22:27:29 +0000 It’s been 10 years since Sustainable West Seattle launched (found this in our archives!) and the group is getting ready for the next decade. SWS sent the following update after its annual meeting and election of new board members:

Sustainable West Seattle’s new board is set to tackle projects in 2017!

On February 27th, Sustainable West Seattle held its Annual Meeting at the Senior Center of West Seattle. The membership elected a new board, discussed the focal points and alliances for 2017, and celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Sustainable West Seattle, SWS.

Stu Hennessey, Sustainable West Seattle’s new president, suggested that members no longer be required to pay annual dues, which was approved. SWS is transitioning to an open-membership policy and is currently considering all persons who participate in SWS meetings to be members of the organization. Tax-deductible donations to Sustainable West Seattle are appreciated and help fund operational expenses and events like Green Life at West Seattle Summer Fest.

The new board has hit the ground running and is currently working on a spring newsletter and the Green Life festival lineup (2017 schedule coming soon!). The strategic goals for 2017 have largely been set. The Green Life Festival, the transition to open membership, communication (via newsletter, website, and social media), and getting members involved in on-going projects and events, are in the focus of this year’s board. SWS’s mission is to educate, create and advocate for urban sustainability in our local community. It does so in cooperation with allies such as the West Seattle Timebank, the West Seattle Tool Library,, Community Orchard of West Seattle, Hate-Free Delridge, West Seattle Bike Connections, DIY Bikes, and West Seattle Meaningful Movies.

This is Sustainable West Seattle’s new board:

Amanda Goodwin
Position: Secretary

Amanda has been on the board of Sustainable West Seattle previously for 3 years from 2010-2012. Amanda is a dancer and choreographer and has collaborated to create a multi-disciplinary art project called Illuminatio. She is a certified Spanish translator and interpreter and has translated Illuminatio from its original Spanish (originally titled Illuminatio: Yo soy.) She also translated the stormwater presentation of into Spanish. She has taught ballet and Spanish to children. As a mother, she cares intensely about healthy living conditions, now and in the future.

Jon Grant
Position: Treasurer

Jon is a 11-year resident of West Seattle and has been volunteering for Sustainable West Seattle for most of that time. Jon is looking forward to working on the exciting projects SWS has coming up and maintaining SWS’s web presence.

Stu Hennessey
Position: President

Longtime West Seattle neighbor, lifetime Seattle resident, and Seattle native! Growing up surrounded by trees, mountains and seas, the instinctive feeling of being one with nature will never leave my consciousness. I am on the core group of several Sustainable West Seattle endeavors. Carbon-free transportation associated with West Seattle Spokespeople and DIY Bikes as well as growing food locally at COWS are my passions and commitments to a healthier and happier community. My day job is the owner of Alki Bike and Board in the Admiral District. Typical of a gardener/farmer, I like to plant seeds of change in our community, and watch them grow.

Hildegard Nichols
Position: Board member, Social Media

A resident of West Seattle for the last 10 years, Hildegard studied political economics and journalism in Mainz, Germany. She worked for many years as a free-lance journalist for public TV stations, mostly in Berlin, focusing on economy and ecology, with a special interest in rivers. Hildegard has been active in the Green Party of Seattle and looks forward to help her friends at Sustainable West Seattle get the message across, through social media.

Ibrahim Osman (no photo provided)
Position: Board – Graphic Artist

I am Ibrahim Osman, a Somali-American design student who has lived in West Seattle for 2 years. The idea of sustainability to me is pretty new, it’s not something I really thought about before. By joining Sustainable West Seattle, I hope to gain a lot of knowledge on what that means and grow in the process. I also hope to help out SWS with the skillset that I have.

Watch for word of upcoming meetings and SWS projects to get involved with!

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YOU CAN HELP! Sustainable West Seattle seeking board members Sat, 09 Jan 2016 05:27:07 +0000 From Sustainable West Seattle‘s Stu Hennessey:

Sustainable West Seattle has board of director positions open for 2016. The board members meet once a month to plan the activities and events, like the Green Life Festival that Sustainable West Seattle is known for. The board members also take part in the management of the various projects they partner with such as the West Seattle Tool Library and the Community Orchard of West Seattle.

Being involved with Sustainable West Seattle can be great for experiencing the building of community and hope. Please join us!

The annual membership meeting for Sustainable West Seattle will be held on MLK Day of Service, January 18th at the Admiral Bird Café, located at the corner of California Ave. SW and SW Admiral Way. The meet and greet starts at 6:30 pm and the meeting starts at 7 pm.

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West Seattle holidays: WS Tool Library taking a break Tue, 22 Dec 2015 11:01:32 +0000 If you need to borrow something from the West Seattle Tool Library before Christmas – hurry! After today and tomorrow, the WSTL is taking a break until the New Year. Christina Hahs wants you to know the Tool Library will “be closed from Thursday, December 24th through Thursday, December 31st. We’ll be back up and running on Saturday, January 2nd. We are requesting that items due back during this time not be returned until we are open again. No late fees will accrue.” Haven’t been to the Tool Library? It’s on the northeast side of Youngstown Cultural Arts Center at 4408 Delridge Way SW – read all about it here, including inventory and regular hours.

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Community involvement for MLK Day: Sustainable West Seattle Mon, 19 Jan 2015 03:11:18 +0000 Wondering about community work you can do tomorrow on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Might be as simple as coming to a meeting: Sustainable West Seattle has chosen Monday night for its annual membership meeting, themed “Learn, Volunteer, Join.” The invitation is for anyone and everyone, member or not, per the official announcement:

On the National Day of Service, start the New Year off by donating some time to Sustainable West Seattle (SWS), the organization spearheading West Seattle’s effort to provide alternatives to globalization and planet exploitation. SWS is looking for new members and board members for 2015’s “projects of hope.”

Here is your chance to influence the shape of your sustainable community and local projects. The evening will include:

*Review of Projects & Events in 2014
*Look Forward & Idea Sharing for Focus of 2015
*Prospective Board Candidates — Attendees for consideration by Incoming 2015 Board will share their ideas for, and what they can contribute to SWS
*SWS Members at large and interested participants (not SWS members) share ideas for local West Seattle efforts and to help SWS as an organization

Dessert will be provided by the current 2014 SWS Board. Hope you can join in the local effort with Sustainable West Seattle.

It’s happening at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), 5612 California SW (if you’re taking the bus, the California/Findlay RapidRide station is steps away), 6:30 pm. P.S. New benefit for SWS membership – discounts at several local businesses!

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Sustainable West Seattle presents awards, celebrates a busy year Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:27:29 +0000

This year, Sustainable West Seattle members and friends headed into the trees for the group’s annual picnic, gathering among the food-producing plants at the Community Orchard of West Seattle on the northeast edge of the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) campus. Before dessert time – which included the option to make smoothies with a human-powered blender! – SWS’s Stu Hennessey announced this year’s honorees. First, Steve Richmond, honored for his work with native plants and removing invasives – projects such as the wetland restoration by Sanislo Elementary – “which he does all by bicycle!”

Speaking of bicycling – tonight’s other honoree was West Seattle Bike Connections president Don Brubeck, not on hand, but lauded by Stu for his “mild-mannered” advocacy, and everything he and WSBC have accomplished in just a few short years.

Stu also listed some of SWS’s main projects/events this past year, including the orchard itself, where a row of trellissed apple trees grows – most made naturally problem-resistant, compared to a few on the north side that aren’t:

Apples were going into the cider press borrowed from the West Seattle Tool Library, also a SWS project:

SWS also planned and presented the GreenLife area at West Seattle Summer Fest again this year; other programs and projects include DIY Bikes, Tox-Ick.Org, Spokespeople, and West Seattle Meaningful Movies, whose next presentation, September 6th, is “Princess Angeline,” about Chief Sealth‘s daughter, an event also intended for support of and updates about the Duwamish Tribe‘s ongoing battle for official recognition.

Find out more about SWS at

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You can help! Sustainable West Seattle welcoming, celebrating volunteers next Saturday Tue, 29 Apr 2014 01:32:36 +0000

(WSB photo from SWS picnic – including a celebration of volunteers – last August)
“Volunteers are the essential ingredient to make West Seattle more sustainable.” So says Sustainable West Seattle, inviting you to its first Volunteer Orientation and Appreciation Party next Saturday (May 3), 4-7 pm, at CrossFit West Seattle in The Admiral District (4200 SW Admiral Way). From the announcement:

… The orientation for prospective volunteers includes descriptions of what SWS volunteers do and the many opportunities offered. Volunteers work at the Tool Library, Community Orchard, Tox-Ick wastewater awareness program, multiple bicycle activities including WS Spokespeople, West Seattle Bike Connections and our newest project, DIY Bikes.

… The celebration includes a Volunteer Appreciation Party, with a potluck, music and green prizes. SWS will provide food and beverages and you’re welcome to bring a dish to share. For additional information, contact Kimberly Leeper at

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West Seattle holidays: Festive ‘Festivus’ for WS Tool Library Sat, 07 Dec 2013 04:25:42 +0000

Yes, there really is a Festivus pole at tonight’s West Seattle Tool Library/Sustainable West Seattle holiday party/fundraiser at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (that’s Chas Redmond next to it in our photo). They chose the theme of the “Seinfeld“-sparked anti-holiday just for fun – and a lot of that was being had when we stopped by in the early going, with a casual dinner, kids’ activities, silent auction, and more:

Out in the lobby, an unexpected sight – Santa Claus!

Santa (with Bill Reiswig in our photo) said he was actually on his way to another event so wouldn’t be able to stop for the traditional Festivus “airing of grievances” or “feats of strength.” We didn’t check the roof for his reindeer, but we’re sure they felt right at home on this North Pole-chilly night. If you missed the party, you can visit the Tool Library on the north side of Youngstown, open two weeknights and two weekend days each week, where you’ll even find the cider press that was in use at tonight’s party:

The nonprofit Tool Library also suggests that gift memberships make great presents – for Christmas as well as Festivus; you can even buy them online.

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Duwamish River: Taking a look toward its future, ‘for all’ Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:24:22 +0000

(2011 photo by Danny McMillin)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“The Duwamish really needs our help.”

So began this month’s Sustainable West Seattle community forum about our city’s only river.

How can you help? One way is through simple personal action, particularly when it comes to reducing/preventing stormwater/runoff-pollution, a campaign crystallized at, whose champion “Diver Laura” James emceed the forum. She told those in attendance that just days earlier, she had spoken about it to 800 high-school students outside West Seattle.

Another way: Realize that the process of determining a cleanup plan for the river – so polluted in spots, it’s a “Superfund” site – is the process of determining whether it can be “A River for All.” That’s the vision of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, whose coordinator James Rasmussen spoke at the forum, recapping the comment period just concluded on the Environmental Protection Agency‘s proposed cleanup plan for the river – a plan which would leave 62 percent of the river “under monitored natural recovery, which basically means, ‘we’re not going to do anything with it’.”

DRCC, however, wants to “kickstart that with enhanced natural recovery,” and is very intent on “source control” – addressing the source of pollution, present and future as well as past – being part of the plan.

Rasmussen explained more of the backstory, for those who haven’t followed the cleanup saga extensively, noting that the Port, city, county, and Boeing formed the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group – but note that third word: “It’s fascinating to me that they never want to call it a river .. I’m sure they’ve done studies showing people would care about it if they call it a river.”

(The word “waterway” came into the equation more than a century ago, related to the straightening of what had been a curvy river – here’s the essay about that.)

(WSB photo this Tuesday, taken from passenger seat during drive over the West Seattle Bridge)
Other verbiage explained: The DRCC, Rasmussen noted, is not just an advocacy organization, it is the “technical advisory group” to the community and for the community in working with the EPA, educating rather than coaching; ” we take that role very seriously … we are not going to foist onto the community what we think they should do.”

He talked about some of the early cleanup work, such as T-117 in South Park, where work is under way now and “it’s amazing what they are finding there … barrels and tanks of recycled oil … even though it was visible … they didn’t think they would find what they have been finding.” When cleaned, though, he says, it will become “one of the most important habitat areas on the Duwamish River” – which already has several key areas, such as Kellogg Island (just off West Seattle’s shore – here’s a map).

The new South Park Bridge also will have “another big, huge habitat area.”

(September 2013 photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
But, Rasmussen stressed, people need to understand the city, county, port, etc., aren’t cleaning up and restoring habitat out of the goodness of their hearts – they have incentives to try to make up for the damage that’s been done over decades. And, he said, there’s pushback – while one goal is to clean the Duwamish to a level of pollution comparable to Puget Sound, which, according to Rasmussen, “is not a high bar,” they are asking for waivers even before things begin.

He then spoke of the concerns for the health of people who fish, and DRCC’s belief that they have the right to fish in a place with pollution no worse than the Sound. “We already know that thousands of people use the river to fish,” despite so many warnings – some for economic reasons, some for cultural reasons, including tribe members – Rasmussen noted that he himself is a member of the Duwamish Tribe.

The pollution is hard to imagine sometimes because it is hard to see or smell – he spoke of a DRCC outreach worker from Honduras who said, “This river looks great” – no smell, no floating dead fish, no open outfall pipes … and that can be deceptive, as well as dangerous, because the river is used by people who come from miles away; they come because there are no Fish and Wildlife agents, since no one is SUPPOSED to fish there. And it “becomes a haven” for people who don’t want official entanglements.

So, he elaborated, while no one is supposed to fish there, people ARE fishing there – and yet while the EPA is supposed to make sure the fish can become edible, he says, they already have warned that won’t be possible: “Which is very disappointing.” He said that DRCC does not do its own modeling – instead using information culled from elsewhere – one reference point right now, for example, is the Hudson River Superfund cleanup back east. A point of contention here right now is how much dredging should be done, and some concern that it will stir up more pollutants – but the Hudson’s recent dredges, according to Rasmussen, “have been among some of the cleanest dredges in the United States,” largely because an “environmental dredge” is being used, a piece of equipment that makes it a more-precise, closely monitored process. “Turbidity” – mud in the water – is an important measurement, he continued, saying that even recent dredges at “the most polluted site on the Duwamish River, Boeing Plant 2” (where bombers were made at a fast and furious pace last century) had very little.

It’s not just industrial pollution – there are also untreated sewer overflows into the river, for miles and miles and miles, Rasmussen noted – overflows that the county and city are now under orders to get controlled. Those control processes are higher on the priority list so that they’re taken care of sooner rather than later.

Rasmussen acknowledged the plan with more dredging would cost $200 million more than the EPA’s $300 million estimate – but he described it as something of a drop in the bucket compared to what’s being spent, for example, on beautifying Seattle’s waterfront. Responding to an attendee’s question, he said the locals aren’t even behind the EPA’s proposal. “If Seattle and King County don’t get out in front of this and show the leadership, none of the other cities that will go through this will (try hard).”

Seattle is the wealthiest city on Puget Sound in no small part because of the Duwamish River and what it’s enabled, like Boeing’s work.

“We OWE the river,” Laura James said at that point, from the sideline.

A question about money brought more enlightenment: Superfund is not so well-funded any more.

But the point remains, he said in another response, those who made the mess need to take care of it.

Things have changed, he said – businesses generally do not deliberately pollute any more. Pollution used to be 80 percent industry, 20 percent others, and now it’s the other way around. Storm runoff and sewer overflow is huge, so an awareness campaign is under way. And it’s possible – remember that a quarter-century ago, we didn’t separate our trash, and now everyone (here, at least) recycles.

He brought it home to their “A River for All” philosophy – for industry, for people, for fish/wildlife. For all. “I believe firmly not only can we do this, we NEED to do this. … My people have been here for 10,000 years, since the ice receded … it’s only been in the last 150 years that all this has happened.”

To truly address keeping more runoff out of the water, the city and county are building capacity – therefore the efforts with green stormwater infrastructure, for example, such as raingardens to get storm runoff into groundwater, not into sewer systems and then into waterways. The ground cleans the water. Eastern West Seattle, in particular, needs more of this, he said – Longfellow Creek, which runs along Delridge, kills off 90 percent of the returning fish.

It’s not just runoff – it’s thinking about substances that are used in manufacturing. Overall, it’s not even just about fish and wildlife. Between South Park and Ravenna residents, he said, there’s a 13-year gap in life expectancy. And it’s not just about industry; it’s now a matter of environmental justice and social justice

Rasmussen’s closing exhortation, circling back to how the Duwamish “needs your help”: Contact your city councilmembers, county councilmembers, mayor, and county executive, and tell them you want a better cleanup for the river, “because right now they are listening to their staff people, who are telling them, ‘we can get this done quickly and cheaply’ … But we need to help the river. … Our vision for the Duwamish River is that it can be ‘A River for All’.”

(WSB photo, summer 2010)
Introducing the next speaker, from the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle, James recalled growing up in Eastern Washington and not knowing about the toxicity of fish she and her family ate from a river near where they lived.

The speaker, Kevin Burrell, is South Park-based ECOSS’s executive director and a West Seattleite, who started by mentioning a video from the organization’s website, marking its 20th anniversary, starting with a trip out onto the Duwamish:

Burrell explained that ECOSS is “non-advocates and apolitical,” focused on teaching, “though we wouldn’t be nearly as successful” if not for those who ARE advocates and champions.

They focus on teaching businesses (with courses such as “regulatory compliance”). ECOSS, he said, is working with the community near the river about not only the cleanup but also about gentrification concerns and issues such as “how do we create better access to the river itself.” That’s a big issue in South Park, which has changed in a big way in recent years, and is grappling with many issues.

He wondered what expectations for the Duwamish would be if we fast-forwarded 20, 25 years. And he also noted that the business community along the river is vital in that “we need those jobs – family-wage jobs.” One suggestion for the future would be that those who use the river might be more the source of its good than government money and operations – especially if people learn the skills that are needed.

James observed that it is indeed the residents and others who for example keep small businesses in business – ultimately being reliant on your fellow locals is a good thing.

Same goes for West Seattle, said Burrell – if we all want healthy communities and healthy people, “there’s a lot more we need to be doing.”

Back to South Park and the Duwamish, ECOSS is working hard on outreach to as many parts of the community as they can, including people from all corners of the world. More studies with results due in the months ahead will show more information about “who’s using the river” and how, Burrell added, also sharing words of advice – be careful about spending non-locally, be careful what you buy, and what you do with it.

Laura James at that point made note of the “simple daily solutions.” She also works with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, and brought up her previous volunteer work pulling lead batteries out of Puget Sound.

Speeches over, the ensuing dialogue ranged beyond specifics of pollution/cleanup to issues of racial equality and social justice. One exchange involved the apparent predominance of “well-off white people” in environmental work – and how people of color and economically challenged people can best be brought in – showing them how to make a difference in their own neighborhood is empowering, rather than something abstract such as “taking inner-city kids out into the splendor of a national forest,” Rasmussen suggested.

The issue of jobs and companies came up. The cleanup is not a threat to jobs, Rasmussen noted – for one, it creates jobs; for two, if it’s done right, there will be ongoing jobs in industry. And, he added during another conversation line – “We have to find compromise. … we have to be honest, but we have to find middle ground.”

Burrell said there are many facets to issues and concerns – residents might think businesses have been getting away with murder, while businesses are feeling “not taken care of.” But: “We’re all in this together,” and in the end, “we’re going to see a very different-looking shoreline” someday. Even in recent months, cleanup work has made changes.

And yet – “we have some catching up to do,” James said.

But “less fingerpointing and more working together” is vital, said Burrell.

Somebody has to show leadership, countered Rasmussen. And be sure to let your leaders “who are supposed to represent the community, but right now they are not” know what you are thinking, he insisted.

City contact info is at

The forum was held Monday, October 21st, at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). SWS began with a couple of announcements, including that it is looking for additional board members – watch for information on that, and that the West Seattle Tool Library – launched as a project of Sustainable WS – will have a holiday party with the “Festivus” theme on December 6th.

Watch the SWS website for word of upcoming community forums’ topics and dates.

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Tomorrow: Imagine, and talk about, the Duwamish River’s future Mon, 21 Oct 2013 01:00:36 +0000

In the wake of Saturday’s semi-annual Duwamish Alive! cleanup day, you have the chance tomorrow night to join in a discussion about the river’s future – not just the bigger cleanups that are happening now and in the future, but also the vision for what it should be. Sustainable West Seattle is convening the conversation, to be moderated by “Diver Laura” James, who shared the photo above from the start of Saturday’s cleanup (including kayaks loaned for the occasion by West Seattle’s Alki Kayak Tours). Reps from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition will be there too, as well as other organizations with a stake in the river’s future, but this isn’t just about the experts – it’s about you. Come to C & P Coffee Company (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor) Monday night, 7-9 pm.

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Video: Sustainable West Seattle honors ‘Diver Laura’ James, WS Bike Connections at Lincoln Park picnic Tue, 20 Aug 2013 05:00:42 +0000

That photo is from tonight’s Sustainable West Seattle community picnic at Lincoln Park, where SWS (whose president Kimberly Leeper is second from right) honored West Seattle Bike Connections (4 reps at left) as Sustainability Champions and “Diver Laura” James (at right) as Volunteer of the Year. Here’s our video of the back-to-back presentations – and speeches:

As members explained in the clip, WSBC is a relatively new group – its early organizational outreach last year, in fact, involved the WSB Forums. WSBC has since gotten deeply involved in advocacy for safety, for a louder West Seattle voice in transportation planning, and much more. You can find WSBC online here.

“Diver Laura,” meantime, at first gained attention for her amazing underwater video and cleanup work – and then got increasingly involved in organized environmental advocacy, taking over the Tox-Ick Monster runoff-reducing campaign and most recently joining up with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.

The announcements were part of an annual tradition for SWS, now in its seventh year (first mentioned here on WSB in the summer of 2007) – a celebratory summer picnic:

This past year, its meetings continued evolving into community forums, focusing on a particular sustainability topic for more than one month at a time – such as a popular series on gardening. Watch for upcoming events – not just sponsored by SWS, but related to sustainability, all over the peninsula – on the group’s frequently updated website.

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Sustainable West Seattle announces annual picnic for August 19th Sun, 11 Aug 2013 04:39:13 +0000 Much yet to come this summer – including Sustainable West Seattle‘s annual picnic on the Lincoln Park shore, just announced:

Join Sustainable West Seattle on Monday, August 19th for our fun and beautiful Annual Community Harvest Celebration and Picnic!

We will be gathering at Shelter #3 at Lincoln Park, the large shelter with a barbecue grill, on the southern end of the park near the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal dock. The picnic begins around 4:30 pm with the preparation of the grill. We should have everything ready for celebrating by 5:00 pm. Members, guests, and new folks who want to check out this group are asked to bring a potluck item to share — side dish OR dessert would be great. SWS will provide the protein for the BBQ + condiments. Bring your own dishes/utensils, if possible. The picnic continues through sunset on the beach and usually concludes around 9:00 pm with shelter-area cleanup.

We’ll honor a few of the amazing people in our local community, too – Sustainability Champion and Volunteer of the Year. Also, consider bringing your acoustic instrument to share a song or two with our creative & playful group…maybe a community jam will happen?! We’d love to hear about the “green” things you’ve been up to in the last year! Come on out and connect with an inspring community of people, ideas, and practice!

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