Spring Clean in Pioneer Square

On May 18th Stewardship Partners joined The Alliance for Pioneer Square and over 250 volunteers participating in multiple projects for their annual Spring Clean event. Our group was small but mighty as we maintained the four rain gardens on Occidental. We cleaned up the gardens, installed 30 plants and added mulch to top them off. There’s nothing more gratifying than creating a positive impact in your community especially in a spot you walk by each day. Thank you, volunteers!

The 8th Annual Green Infrastructure Summit: An Amazing Convergence of Like Minds and Hearts

It seems like absence really does make the heart grow fonder. After 3 years of virtual Summits, on March 17th, we were finally able to gather about 230 leaders of the green infrastructure movement together in person (with a couple dozen more joining us online). It was great to see everyone (and the sunshine didn’t hurt either)! Faces and perspectives new and old gathered at Cascadia College in Bothell for the 8th annual Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. The host committee’s chosen theme of “money as medicine, historic investments are a historic opportunity for healing*”, helped us all consider our work with shared goals of healing harms, environmental, social, and otherwise.

Over the course of 8 summits in 8 years, a lot has happened. But one theme has persisted throughout: How can we repair environmental damage in a way that heals our social wounds as well? Or put in the terms that Host committee member Bridget Ray spoke, the people here belong to this land, are of this land, not the other way around, and when we work to heal and care for one, we must keep that relationship in mind. This is happening. Investments in green infrastructure are taking community-identified goals and needs into account. Some of those goals relate to workforce and career pathways. Others talked about the very rich complexity of community-centered strategies. Green infrastructure is increasingly helping create accessible outdoor spaces in the form of stormwater parks.

Most of the sessions (all the ones in the auditorium) were recorded and will remain available for you to watch and share with your colleagues on the summit webpage (along with content from past summits).

“While I didn’t know it at the time, this summit was my last in my current role. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding send off than that. I am profoundly grateful for this community, your vision, your love for this land and all the people that belong to it.” -A note from Aaron Clark

*Acknowledgement to Edgar Villanueva who popularized the concept ‘money as medicine’ in his important book, Decolonizing Wealth.

Buy Summit Tickets Now!

At the 2023 Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea we are taking the historic opportunity to look at the way infrastructure investments have been done to date, and inform the ways that we want them done now. This year’s theme is: Money as Medicine* – Historic investments are an historic opportunity for healing that we can’t afford to miss. There will be presentations and discussions on funding, workforce and career pathways, regional coordination, research, modeling, design and planning at watershed scales, and food systems too. We’ll have opportunities to walk outside, share food and drinks together, talk in the hallways, and yes, we will talk about tires too!

On behalf of an incredible host committee and Stewardship Partners, please join us.

What: The 8th annual Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea
Where: Mobius Hall, Cascadia College, Bothell, WA (with an online livestreaming option for the larger sessions)
When: March 17, 2023 (approx. 8:30 AM-4:30 PM)
Register Now: Eventbrite

*Acknowledgement to Edgar Villanueva who popularized the concept ‘money as medicine’ in his important book, Decolonizing Wealth.

The Summit is Returning in Person!

Stewardship Partners and the Summit Host Committee are excited to announce that after 3 years in virtual formats, the Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea will have be coming back in person on March 17, 2023 at Cascadia College in Bothell.

Over the last 3 years we brought attention to regions beyond the central Seattle and King County area to the South, the North, and the West, and now we are back in the middle. We hope you will save the date and watch for updates on the Summit website. Even as we shine a spotlight on the greater Seattle area and meet up in person there, this event is always about sharing stories and leadership in the field of green infrastructure from across the whole Salish Sea region. Please join us and help turn the tide of polluted runoff.

Win a Rain Barrel!

We are celebrating Summer at our local Farmers Markets! Visit the Carnation Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 3-7 pm and stop by our table to learn more about green infrastructure and enter to win a rain barrel! Every week we raffle away a rain barrel and deliver it to the recipient. We will also doing the same thing at the Duvall Farmers Market on August 12th & 19th!

Rain barrels collect rainwater running off your roof so you can put it to a better use, like watering your garden! Our raffle rain barrels, provided by Seattle Conservation Corps, once had a past career holding Greek olives, which we think is pretty neat! Talk about upcycling! We hope to see you at the market! If you’re lucky enough, maybe you’ll get a chance to visit with the Powder Hound Woodworks puppy as well!

Our friend, the Powder Hound Woodworks puppy!

Rain Gardens and Cisterns Make for Good Neighbors

Stone Gossard is featured along with the Orca in a new campaign about grants to property owners. 

A few months ago, Stewardship Partners was awarded a grant to spread the news about incentives  for rain gardens and cisterns in King County. The challenge? To reach those unsure about rain gardens and cisterns or who would like to help the environment but also have other pressing concerns about their property such as water damage, high water bills, or landscaping. The 12,000 Rain Gardens campaign started in 2011, so Stewardship Partners figured that most people who were already primed and ready for a rain garden or a cistern had likely installed one. But what about that next layer of folks? Those for whom it can seem like a financial stretch – but are amenable to taking steps that help their property as well as Puget Sound, provided they can afford it. 

After working with Board members Cal McAllister and Samantha Neukom to identify the opportunity, Stewardship Partners gathered the talents of Merlino Media Group and Northbound to create a media plan and creative campaign to reach property owners in the King County area. Our goal? To let them know that there are grants available that can cover  $4,000 toward installing a rain garden or cistern and that by doing so, they can create a win-win. The first win is improving property: rain gardens can improve drainage, dry out basements and decrease mold, and cisterns can significantly lower summer water bills. Rain gardens can also be a beautiful way to add landscaping to your yard. The second win is that by installing a rain garden or cistern, you’re also helping your human, orca, salmon, and other wildlife neighbors that cohabitate with us here in Puget Sound. 

The creative idea came from a mix of Pacific Northwest quirky attitude with lovable, custom animations of our fauna neighbors, featuring the Orca, the Octopus, and the Salmon. In posters, print ads, and bus side ads, you see our animal neighbors installing their own rain gardens and encouraging us, their human neighbors, to do the same. Radio ads feature Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, a rain garden and cistern owner himself, chatting with his orca, salmon, and octopus neighbors. In one radio ad he notes, “if you want to keep your basement dry and the Sound clean, cisterns and rain gardens are a beautiful way to help.”

Stone Gossard, The Neighbor

Monisa Brown, The Orca

The campaign’s goal is to reach King County residents who may be eligible for one of several grants that could cover up to 100% of the cost of installing a cistern or rain garden and to let them know the multiple benefits of doing so. With a simple click or two at www.rainchangers.org, property owners can check their eligibility and set up a visit from a local certified contractor.   

Check out RainChangers in the news at https://www.seattletimes.com/life/garden/installing-a-rain-garden-you-could-be-eligible-for-a-rebate/

View the press release at https://www.stewardshippartners.org/new-program-offers-free-rain-gardens-and-cisterns/

Summit 2021 Highlights and Call for Action

Looking back on six years of Green Infrastructure Summits, some things have changed and others have stayed the same. That first year, I had this phrase I couldn’t stop saying about how this region was poised to become the “silicon valley of green infrastructure.” I felt that we had the necessary components for an “innovation ecosystem” that could lead the world in nature-based solutions to complex, “wicked problems” like stormwater, climate change, and environmental justice if we could “connect the dots” across sectors (.com, .gov, .org, .edu)  and “bust silos.” With all those catchphrases, I’m lucky no one kicked me out of the PNW to go live in the real silicon valley! Creating a host committee that shared many of those ideas and brought so many more of their own took that initial vision and made it into something that the whole green infrastructure sector can feel proud of.  

The summit host committee is the heart of the event, and this year proved that yet again. From identifying a unifying theme to selecting speakers and sessions, right down to redefining and helping de-colonize the event name, this year’s summit host committee put on a fantastic event against the odds, in the face of multiple pandemics (e.g. COVID and Global-scale Zoom Fatigue) a societal reckoning around race and equity, a climate crisis, and a more divided society than we’ve seen in decades. Yet we all gathered. We all shared openly, even vulnerably. And we participated in difficult conversations that opened doors, and learned about collaborations that poked holes in silos and brought down barriers. We heard about agencies “failing forward” (did .govs learn that from our .com colleagues?), community needs that were put first and ultimately supported by stormwater funding. It is humbling and inspiring at the same time to see where we started and the significant progress we’ve achieved as a community and as a green infrastructure movement. There’s a long way to go before we reach our shared goals of human and natural systems in balance, the end of any one dominant culture, and an infrastructure system that grows better with age rather than deteriorating. But looking back at where we started and forward into the unknown, it’s possible to imagine all those things. And if we can imagine them, we can create them.   

If you missed this year’s summit, or if you joined us but want to revisit anything that was shared, please visit the summit webpage at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit2021. All the presentations are available to watch, and additional resources from the event can be downloaded at that webpage.  

Written by Aaron Clark, Director of Strategic Partnerships

Reflections on a Collaborative Funder Relationship with The Russell Family Foundation 

In 2002 Stewardship Partners was barely 3 years old, but that year marked the beginning of a critical partnership that has brought us to where we are today. Our collaboration with The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) began with a grant. In financial terms alone, this partnership has been foundational, totaling over $1 Million granted since 2002. But this partnership does not begin and end with the money. The collaborative problem solving and network building that we have done together has been equally important in creating a movement of community-focused stewardship across the Puget Sound region. The close of 2020 seemed like a good time to indulge in hindsight, so I sat down virtually with Holly Powers, Senior Program Officer at TRFF to pause and reflect on our collective history.

Rather than transcribe our entire, far-reaching conversation, I’ve decided to pull together observations from both the grant-maker and grantee perspectives that made this a successful relationship.

As a grant-maker, TRFF is very clear in their understanding that they only succeed when their partners succeed. I think the approach is exemplified by what Holly described as trying to be the funder who gets a call when things don’t go as planned, rather than the funder you try to avoid. As a grantee, that approach means that we are trusted to lead the work, understand the challenges, and respond effectively without being penalized for innovating or changing course when needed. Even the most well-planned projects encounter unexpected challenges. Knowing that a funder wants to know about those challenges and might help us collaboratively, means that challenges are opportunities to do better rather than failures of foresight. Taking this approach to the next level, when COVID -19 changed everything for everyone, TRFF didn’t wait for their grantees to tell them what they needed. Instead, they asked us what had changed and what did we need to weather the storm. Providing additional financial support and peer-to-peer connections with other grantees has helped many organizations continue our collective work in the face of a challenging time.

Another significant aspect of TRFF’s approach is the value they place on connecting grantees to each other. Many of our most essential partnerships came about because of TRFF’s active efforts to connect their grantees. Examples include the Habitat for Humanity homes near Tacoma that we certified Salmon-Safe and the thought-leader convening TRFF started with Sightline Institute that gave rise to our Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Connections like these make everything we do more impactful and effective.

As a grantee, it’s always humbling and lovely to hear from a funder why they support your work, and as partners in and supporters of our work, I want to share some of Holly’s thoughts on Stewardship Partners. I think my favorite thing was hearing that walking into the Stewardship Partners office has always felt like being invited into a living room for a cup of coffee and a conversation. That we have created a culture and a welcoming sense of community with partners feels like a significant accomplishment and one that doesn’t fit in any grant reporting metrics. TRFF also sees us as we see ourselves as a ‘small but mighty’ organization able to catalyze, respond quickly, and nimbly to emerging issues and opportunities, but not clinging to ownership at the expense of the idea. Yet, for anything involving stormwater and green infrastructure, we act as a hub, keeping the wheel rolling forward. The 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign for Puget Sound is one example. SP coordinated rain garden resource hubs and trainings across 12 counties, leading to the regional multi-sector City Habitats network and the annual Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Holly also described Stewardship Partners as a ‘first to listen’ partner. From our first projects, we have acknowledged our partners on the land and communities as the work leaders. We have always understood that we need to listen to them to make anything happen and move anything forward. Having that part of our values identified so clearly is so validating. But then again, it makes sense. It takes one to know one, and TRFF and Stewardship Partners both know that we only succeed when our partners succeed

I want to close by thanking Holly Powers, Fabiola Greenwalt, Linsey Sauer, Britta Franscesconi, Kathleen Simpson, and past team members Richard Woo and Scott Miller, as well as the Russell Family and the TRFF board of directors. It is an honor to partner with you all.

Written by Aaron Clark

Photo courtesy of TRFF

Tire Chemical Kills Coho Salmon

Recent research by our partners at the University of Washington and Washington State University has identified a specific chemical in tire rubber that is killing countless Coho salmon right before they spawn in streams across the region. Other species of salmon are likely affected to varying degrees. The chemical 6PPD appears to be universally used in all tires currently made. Unfortunately, we don’t have any Salmon-Safe certified tires to offer yet (though we are actively supporting that pursuit). In the meantime, the best thing we can do is to keep building rain gardens and trying to get more of them installed wherever roadway runoff gets into salmon streams (which in our region is almost anywhere there are roads and parking lots). 

To help car tires — and maybe salmon runs — last longer:

  • Drive less. Fewer miles driven equals less tire dust. Consider if you can walk, bike or bus to your destination instead of driving.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and maintained.
  • Drive less aggressively: Don’t “lay rubber” when accelerating or braking.
  • Drive small. Small cars shed about half as much tire dust per mile as large cars, according to European studies. Trucks shed several times more.

To find out more about this vital cutting edge research here is the original research article. Media coverage of this research has been done by The Seattle TimesThe New York TimesMotor TrendNW Public Broadcasting and more.

Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea

Building off of the 2020 Green Infrastructure Summit and events since, it is more apparent than ever that we can’t merely fix and put back the stuff that breaks (due to a pandemic, racial inequity, economic downturn, etc.). Instead, we need better stuff. So this year, the theme of the summit is “Evolving Green Infrastructure: adapting systems for better outcomes.” 

Up-to-date info can be found on the summit webpage. There are many details still in the offing, but below is what we know:

  •  This summit will be held virtually over the mornings of March 25th and 26th, 2021 (mark your calendars).
  • After five years of calling this event the “Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit” we are pleased to announce that we are renaming it the “Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea.”  This re-naming is in recognition and honor of the original Indigenous inhabitants and stewards of this land and water, the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, since time immemorial. This re-naming also underscores our continued commitment to identify and implement solutions that protect and enhance the Salish Sea basin, through collaboration, best practices, racial equity, and community engagement. 
  • If you have a topic or story that you would like to share, please fill out this simple online abstract submission form. Your submission does not need to include details. Many of the best summit presentations started as a simple sentence. But the deadline for submissions is January 26th (extended), so don’t delay!
  • This event will give us all a chance to connect across geographies and sectors, discuss and learn about topics as far reaching as: leadership in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties; green infrastructure across the urban-rural continuum; whole watershed systems; storytelling; maintenance; stimulus spending; climate resilience; tires; silos; racial equity; the WA environmental justice task force; youth leadership; career pathways; the state of the science and what works and what doesn’t. 
  • Financial sponsors make this event possible. If your organization would like to learn more, please email Aaron Clark.