“I was shy, I was quiet, I would never be able to [speak to an audience like this]… Paulina gave me a voice… gave me a sense of purpose, gave me a safe place to do what I love to do which is to be an environmental activist for my community… in South Park and Georgetown.” These were the words of Daniella, a youth leader from the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, speaking about her mentor, Paulina Lopez (who later received an award for youth mentorship from the City Habitats network). Voices and stories like Daniella’s took center stage at this year’s 3rd annual Green Infrastructure Summit as we continued a quest to make green infrastructure into a force for equity and environmental justice. A big part of that quest lies in making sure that as the Green Infrastructure sector grows, new jobs and career pathways become accessible and attractive to diverse and brilliant minds from communities disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation.
On February 9th Stewardship Partners reached another landmark in our leadership role of turning our region’s cities and towns from #GrayToGreen. As we convened the Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit, a City Habitats event, it was amazing to see the difference this event makes for innovators across the region and sectors. As we continue to mindfully “connect the dots” (.com, .org, .gov, and .edu), we are seeing more and more collaboration between public and private sectors, as well as research and implementation. The vision that inspired us to create this event in 2016 is beginning to turn into reality: The Puget Sound region is taking flight as a “Silicon Valley of Green Infrastructure.”
As with both of the two previous summits, our cross-sector host committee (including Seattle Public Utilities, MIG|SvR, Washington State University, Salmon-Safe, Washington Environmental Council, and The Nature Conservancy) intentionally centered and highlighted equity within the agenda and speakers throughout the day. This year the main theme of the summit was green infrastructure jobs and youth pathways. A new companion event: The Youth Forum on Green Infrastructure Jobs and Youth of Color, held in January, allowed us to bring new voices and faces into the conversation, informing workforce decision-makers at the summit. The UW Bothell/Cascadia College campus (a Salmon-Safe certified campus) provided a powerful backdrop for the summit next to a created wetland and floodplain. Welcome remarks from Ken Workman, a direct descendant of Chief Seattle, Andy Rheaume, Bothell’s mayor, Anthony Guerrero of UW Bothell, and Aaron Clark, grounded the 220 attendees in time and place, ready to imagine and co-create our shared clean water and healthy community future. A few highlights from the day included: a keynote discussion on diversity in the green infrastructure field; an award for youth leadership given to Paulina Lopez of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps; a panel on pavement and it’s immense impacts on water, habitat, and pollution; breakout sessions on trees, codes and policies, maps, mentorship and equity, and research gaps; case studies throughout the day; and calls to action from Washington State Representative Derek Stanford and Steve Shestag from Boeing.
Like everything Stewardship Partners does, this accomplishment was a team effort. It included the entire SP staff, an immense community of partners (especially those from the City Habitats network), the host committee, and of course the generous sponsors who, at 13 financial sponsors, have more than doubled our sponsor base from the first summit we convened in 2016. To see the presentations, videos and other resources shared at the summit visit the summit webpage at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit