Annual Winter Celebration Potluck

Scenes from last year's Winter Celebration

Join us Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. to celebrate a great year of sustainable success!

We have so many people to thank and want to end the year with a Winter Celebration Dinner Party — and you’re invited!

We’ll gather at the beautiful Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way Southwest) to enjoy some excellent food and drink. There will be wonderful music and even some special guests! This will be a potluck dinner, so please bring a gift to share.

We’ll also be having a great raffle and sharing this event with other local groups.

Don’t miss this fantastic evening of celebration!

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Don’t miss the West Seattle Barter Fair

Money Free Shopping Spree photo courtesy WestSeattleBlog

Join us for a fun and unique “money free shopping spree” geared toward the holiday shopping season on ‘Green Saturday’, the day after “Black Friday”. We’ll be enjoying a potluck at the same time, so bring a gift to share!

This unique event will be held in an equally unique setting — The Lodge at Camp Long ( 5200 35th Ave SW Seattle, WA 98126). The object of the Barter Fair is to promote more meaningful gifting of products through exchanging services, or items made from raw materials

The “Money Free Shopping Spree” is gift trading. Categories include: Services, Art Crafts, Home Crafts, Food Crafts and Salvaged/Refurbished Items.

If you’re planning to bring an item for bartering, please share what that will be in the comments.

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Film Screening Oct. 17: The Power of Community

Power of Community Movie
The Power of Community filming at the Admiral Theater
Join Sustainable West Seattle for a unique film event: “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” The screening will be 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Admiral Theater.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half — and food by 80 percent — people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.

It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call “The Special Period.” The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis — the massive reduction of fossil fuels — is an example of options and hope.

This fascinating and empowering film shows how communities pulled together, created solutions, and ultimately thrived in spite of their decreased dependence on imported energy.

Following the film, Sustainable West Seattle will host a discussion on building community in West Seattle. The Admiral Theater is located at 2343 California Avenue SW. $5 suggested donation per attendee.


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Join us for our Annual Summer Picnic

Join the Sustainable West Seattle team for our Annual Summer Potluck at Lincoln Park.  Look for us in Lincoln Park at Shelter 3 at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15.  We’ll set up the grill and provide condiments. Please bring your favorite summertime dish and your own cup, utensils & plates.  Shelter 3 is very close to the principal restroom facilities on the beach at the south end of Lincoln Park.

To add to the fun, Alki Bike and Board will be providing a few electric bikes and Alki Kayak Tours will be bringing paddle boards and kayaks.  All of these will be available to use throughout the potluck, free of charge.
We’ll also be using the occasion to celebrate our Sustainable Hero of the Year, Dean Michael Ryan of South Seattle Community College.
So come join some fun in the sun in one of the most beautiful places in West Seattle!

Thank you, Stewart Wechsler

Stewart Wechsler
Stewart Wechsler discusses the uses of plants during Sustainable West Seattle event.

We’re very late (hey, we’re all volunteers!) posting a big thank you to Stewart Wechsler for leading our Urban Foraging Walk through Lincoln Park on July 18.

The event was one of our best-attended of the year and was an incredibly educational event. Those that attended will never walk through Lincoln Park, or any northwest forest setting for that matter, without looking at the surrounding plant life in a whole new way.

Stewart is an ecological consultant, nature guide and botanist who has placed a special focus on maintaining the beauty and native texture of this magical park. Stewart offers education programs, nature walks and has led many local kids on memorable field trips.

Stewart Wechsler

To invite Stewart to speak at your local school or organization or for advice on site-appropriate native plants that enhance our local diversity, call him at 206-932-7225. Stewart, thanks again!!

Stewart Wechsler leads a group for Sustainable West Seattle through Seattle’s Lincoln Park.


More national media coverage for tool library

Sustainable West Seattle project featured in August issue of Popular Mechanics

Sustainable West Seattle’s Tool Library project was featured in the August 2011 print issue of Popular Mechanics.

The well-known Popular Mechanics, which is devoted to everything from DIY home tips, gadget news, test drives of new cars and science breakthroughs, featured the West Seattle Tool Library in its “10 Ways to Change the World” story.

The West Seattle Tool Library has received local and national coverage in the past, with publicity in the Chicago Tribune, KOMO TV, AM1090, the West Seattle Blog and the West Seattle Herald.

“Pretty much whenever you explain the concept of a tool library to someone who isn’t familiar with the idea, they respond with ‘wow, that’s a great idea,’” said Patrick Dunn, West Seattle Tool Library Director. “I think that’s why it’s getting so much interest.”

If you’re not familiar with the tool library, the idea is a simple one. Collect some tools that might just be gathering dust in local basements or garages and then allow neighbors to have easy access to them. As The West Seattle Tool Library can attest, these formerly unappreciated tools then tend to spring to life. They’re loaned out as-needed for home projects or sometimes borrowed in-bulk for community projects. They can even help reinforce a community’s disaster preparedness.

About a year after starting off with that very simple idea, The Tool Library now has over 300 members and 1,300 active tools. It also just recently opened a fully equipped, community workshop at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, where neighbors can congregate to share their skills, stories, and even more tools.

Dale Roose, founding member of West Seattle Tool Library

By Kate Kaemerle

Dale Roose

Dale Roose, one of the founding members of the West Seattle Tool Library, passed away this week in Tucson after a long illness. He was 55 years old. It was Dale and his wife Tina’s 30th anniversary the day he passed.

Dale was active in sustainability, public access media and a proponent in teaching people about the power of community to make a better world close to home. Dale is remembered for his intelligence, hard work, thoughtfulness, love of animals and wry sense of humor.

He worked with Sustainable West Seattle and the West Seattle Tool Library, Indymedia in Seattle and Pan Left Productions in Tucson. Dale made a number of videos as he documented efforts of humanitarians in Tucson that were trying to keep immigrants from dying in the desert.

In January 2010 Dale was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain. He fought to stay alive through surgery and many complications, but ultimately the tumor grew back.

According to his spouse Tina, there will not be a funeral. Dale donated his body to science and will be cremated and buried at sea. Tina suggests donations be made to the American Cancer Society as they provide much needed services to cancer patients.

Spain’s bike paths a model for West Seattle?

Grade separated bike paths in Barcelona

By Nicholas Smith

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Spain and snapped this photo in Barcelona of a great example of grade-separated bike lanes. Enormous walking path, followed by well-marked bike paths and then the roadway for cars. Beautiful, efficient and, best of all, safe. All integrated with a robust subway system.

One thing we’re really good at in America is laying down lots of cement. Perhaps with some rule changes we can begin putting that hard surface down in layers and make getting around safer for everyone.

As an added benefit, the (skinny) Spanish often take long walks in the evenings, chatting with friends and family along the way. There may be benefits to this approach that can’t be captured in a government planning study.

I can imagine several roadways in West Seattle where this approach would work well. All the way down 35th? Along Delridge? In the shopping zone of California? Others?

Becoming a Steward of Puget Sound

By Cate White, MPA Earth Systems Science, Policy & Management & Coordinating Council Member, Sustainable West Seattle

Puget Sound is sick. Polluted runoff from sealed surfaces like paved streets, sidewalks and rooftops is the number one source of toxics entering Puget Sound each year. This toxic mix threatens human health, the economic vitality of the region, and the survivability of the Sound’s most emblematic species: salmon and orcas.

The good news is that local community members can adopt behaviors that will reverse the damage to Puget Sound and restore it to health. Our citizens are the stewards of the same streets, sidewalks and rooftops that convey 14 million pounds of pollutants into Puget Sound each year. Pollutants include motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers, grease, paint, heavy metals, and bacteria.

There are simple actions people can take to become stewards of Puget Sound. Among the most important are:

  1. Keeping water on-site with rain barrels, rain gardens, and porous surfaces,
  2. Practicing natural yard care,
  3. Picking up pet waste,
  4. Walking, biking, or riding public transit instead of driving,
  5. Planting and protecting native evergreens, and
  6. Using car wash facilities instead of washing cars on driveways.

1. Keep water on-site with rain barrels, rain gardens, and permeable surfaces

A big part of the problem with polluted runoff is that it runs quickly over hard surfaces and collects toxics that flow directly into our streams, rivers and Puget Sound. Rainwater retained onsite that percolates through soil can cleanse many of the toxins.

Keeping water on-site may sound counter-intuitive. One might think “if the polluted rainwater runoff is bad for Puget Sound, then it must be bad for my yard.” But that isn’t exactly true. A healthy soil profile with lots of microbes and fungi can help degrade many of the pollutants like hydrocarbons that wash off our streets and driveways. Some mushrooms can absorb heavy metals too, although they do require proper hazardous waste disposal. So filtering rainwater through healthy soils is a first step toward cleaning the water that goes into Puget Sound.

There are many ways to retain water on one’s property. You can use rain barrels to collect water that is later used to water gardens. Or, you can build a special kind of garden called a rain garden to absorb rainwater. Or, you can replace cement surface with permeable surfaces that absorb water. Learn more about each of these alternatives at

2. Practicing natural yard care

Directing rainwater into porous surfaces for absorption is half the solution. The other half is making sure that those surfaces have the ability to break down pollutants. Soils rich in organic matter that have lots of microbes are critical to solving polluted runoff because those microbes can start metabolizing and degrading many pollutants. Soils that have chemicals added like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides or insecticides) and other unnatural chemicals don’t develop the microbial populations that are necessary to break down pollutants. So any garden made to absorb rainwater should be organic.

The best things to add to your soil are organic compost and woodchips. You can work compost into your annual/vegetable beds, but topdressing soil with two inches of compost works fine. Raking a one- to two-inch compost/sand mix into your lawn can help absorb more rainwater as well. Woodchips in perennial beds and natural areas help create an environment similar to a forest floor in the Pacific Northwest, encouraging beneficial fungi. Soils in need of nitrogen can benefit from a “mulch sandwich: two inches of compost with three to six inches of woodchips on top. Avoid bark. It repels water and resists breakdown, suppressing the fungal populations that plants need. Woodchips can be obtained from tree trimming crews working in your area.

3. Picking up pet waste

Creating a poop-free Puget Sound is more important than you might think. According to King County, there are more than 200 tons of pet waste deposited in the Puget Sound region every day, and water runoff flushes it into streams, rivers and Puget Sound. Dog poop contains things like E. coli, Giardia and Roundworms – nasty stuff that we don’t want in Puget Sound. The very best thing you can do when walking your dog outside is to bring plastic bags, pick up the poop, and dispose of it in a trash can. Do not contaminate your compost with pet waste. This is one of those rare cases where throwing something away is the best option. Or, if you have trouble managing your dog’s mess in a dog-run, you can line it with arborist woodchips 1-foot deep to allow beneficial fungi to filter pollutants.

4. Walking, biking, or riding public transit instead of driving

Each year, one-half of an Exxon Valdez oil spill worth of oil flows into Puget Sound. It’s rather hard to fathom. Leaks from cars and hydrocarbons from exhaust are responsible for a significant amount of pollution. Also, the copper in brake pads can have toxic impacts. Copper is also being linked to the disruption of salmon olfactory (smell) senses and may be disorienting them, impeding their ability to spawn. Furthermore, car tires contain zinc, another toxic heavy metal. We can all drive less to reduce pollution. When you have the option, choose to walk, bike, or ride the bus instead of driving a car.

5. Planting and protecting native evergreens

Our native forests are integral to our success in reducing polluted runoff. Native evergreen trees are stormwater-holding tanks. For example, a mature evergreen can absorb as much as 250 gallons of rainwater a day – more than a 12-foot square rain garden built to SPU specifications to mitigate a 400 square foot roof. However, we are losing our native forests not only to development, but also to invasive species like English Ivy, Holly, Laurel, Knotweed and Himalayan Blackberry.

You have a lot of options to help plant and protect our native evergreens. If you have a large yard, you may consider planting evergreen trees. If you have an evergreen that has been taken over by English Ivy or Wild Clematis, you can periodically cut the vines at the ground and at chest level to keep if from fruiting and re-infecting forest restoration work elsewhere. If you prefer getting some social time in while saving the Sound, consider joining restoration efforts.

  • Groups that run forest restoration projects include: The Nature Consortium, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, EarthCorps, or Green Seattle Partnership.
  • Good trees and shrubs to plant include Madrona, Doug Fir, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Evergreen Huckleberry, Shore Pine, Pacific Rhododendron, Salal and Sword Fern. Non-native plants (Rosemary, Thyme, fruit trees) for food or ornament are fine, as long as they’re not invasive.
  • Garden Cycles is a West-Seattle based business that removes invasive species:
  • The West Seattle Nursery has a good selection of native plants:

6. Using car wash facilities instead of washing cars on driveways

Finally, there is the car wash. Soaps can include phosphates, which can lead to low oxygen levels in our waterways, thereby killing fish through oxygen depletion. Soaps can also include phthalates that have been linked to reproductive problems and obesity. So, it’s best not to wash your car on your driveway and let soap wash down the storm drains. Going to a carwash is a much better alternative because the soapy water doesn’t go untreated into storm drains. If you are considering a high school fundraiser, ask your local carwash if they will give you discounted gift certificates for resale instead of washing cars in a school parking lot.

Why we should become stewards of Puget Sound

There is a lot at stake. Citizens are losing their rights to fish and swim in the Sound’s waters or to make their livelihoods from local fisheries and ecotourism. Warnings are posted around the Sound alerting people to the dangers of eating fish and shellfish. Over the past decade the gross revenue earned by Washington’s shellfish industry fell by two-thirds to $55 million in 2008 due in large part to pollution-related harvest closures.

We are also losing the salmon and orcas that underpin the identity of Pacific Northwest residents and help to drive tourism to our region. Puget Sound’s Coho Salmon are classified as a “Species of Concern.” Our orcas are the most PCB-contaminated marine mammals in the world and our Southern Resident Killer Whales are a federally listed “Endangered Species.”

We can reverse these trends. Exciting efforts are being implemented throughout the region to staunch the flow of polluted runoff using rain gardens. Seattle’s Street Edge Alternative Project (SEA Streets) used rain gardens and evergreen trees and shrubs to effectively reduce stormwater pollution by 99 percent. This creative use of “green stormwater infrastructure” actually beautified the community, increased its carbon sequestration capacity with lots of vegetation, and is promoting natural drainage. King County Wastewater Treatment Division now plans to implement similar “green stormwater infrastructure” in the Sunrise Heights and Westwood neighborhoods of West Seattle to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO) at the Barton Pump Station.

Together, the citizens of Puget Sound can take small steps, like picking up dog poop, volunteering in a forest restoration effort, and going to the carwash – and large steps like building rain gardens – to restore Puget Sound to health. Through collective effort, we can hope to see robust salmon and orca populations once again.

Big storm, big reminder

Big storm last night, eh?

These type of storms aren’t that unusual in West Seattle, but they’re rare enough that we sometimes forget how powerful they can be.

So while you’re picking up branches and clearing storm drains, it’s also a good time to think about emergency preparation.

  • Could you stay warm with no power in your house?
  • Do you have enough food and water on-hand for a few days?
  • Do you have a family disaster plan?
  • How about an emergency supply kit?

There is some great advice about getting prepared on Seattle’s SNAP site (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare).

Use this storm as a reminder and be prepared for the next one!