Tag Archives: Environment

OPINION: With the Right Transportation Policies, We Can Pivot to a New Climate Reality

by Ingrid Elliott, Rich Stolz, Anna Zivarts


Less than three months ago, a heatwave like we’ve never seen before gripped the Pacific Northwest killing over 1,200 people in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Black, Brown, and poor people were hit first and worst — low-income neighborhoods recorded by far the highest temperatures — but everyone suffered in one of our region’s worst natural disasters.

Scientists called the heat dome “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” An August Seattle Times piece noted that extreme heat events in the Northwest become 14 times more likely with climate change. We made this reality. How can we pivot to a different one?  

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Weekend Long Reads: What’s the Cheapest Form of Energy?

by Kevin Schofield


This week’s “long read” is light on words and heavy on charts and graphs. It’s a comparison of the cost to generate electricity from a number of different sources, both clean and dirty.

The business and finance consultant company Lazard has compiled an analysis of the “levelized cost of energy” every year since 2007. By “levelized,” they mean that they factor in all of the costs: capital costs to build out electricity generation facilities, including the materials, manufacturing, construction, installation, permitting, and property; ongoing operational and maintenance costs; fuel costs for the types of generation that require fuel; and regulatory costs. They calculate the expected operational lifetime of a power generation facility and then divide the sum of the costs by the total expected power generation over a facility’s lifetime to arrive at a cost per megawatt-hour.

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Duwamish River Cleanup Rally Challenges EPA Proposed Changes

by Ronnie Estoque


Cars honked and community members chanted while crossing the South Park Bridge on Friday, Sept. 24. They were voicing concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed changes to the cleanup of the Duwamish River. In 2001, the Duwamish River was listed as a federal Superfund site, one of the country’s most toxic hazardous-waste sites.

“We’re asking for this river to get cleaned up the way we agreed to in 2014 … to change things now makes no sense at all,” James Rasmussen, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) Superfund manager and member of the Duwamish Tribe, said. “That’s why we’re here today. We want to clean this river the best possible way we can.”

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King County Proposal Would Ban Natural Gas in New Multifamily and Commercial Buildings

by Ben Adlin


In an effort to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions, King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing rules that would sharply limit the use of natural gas in new multifamily homes and commercial developments as well as encourage wider adoption of solar power.

“These updates will save money, they’ll create jobs, and they’ll have an impact on climate change,” Constantine said at a media event Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Yesler Terrace Park. 

Constantine declined to provide a timeline for the proposal other than to call it “wildly urgent.” The changes would need approval from the King County Council to take effect.

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Recycle and Reuse

by Mark Van Streefkerk


A majority of the waste in our landfills doesn’t need to be there. According to a 2019 King County Waste Characterization and Customer Survey Report, over half of what we throw away could be redirected. “Seventy percent of the material that is going to our landfill could be recycled, composted, or reduced,” explained Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington. “The vast result of what’s going to our landfill doesn’t need to be going to our landfill.” 

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report showing that the effects of climate change are “widespread, rapid, and intensifying,” and that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.” Greenhouse gasses are responsible for raising the temperature of our planet. A warming planet is also partly responsible for increasing the severity of wildfires on the west coast in the past few decades. Extreme weather events like hurricanes or heat waves have also been linked to climate change, which also affects the most marginalized and socially vulnerable.   

Holding corporations and governments responsible to reduce greenhouse emissions is essential to limit the effects of climate change, and there are also changes we can make in our own lives that are relatively simple — and save money — to help offset our own carbon footprint. 

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Making Electricity Carbon-Neutral

by Mark Van Streefkerk


Most people probably don’t think about the fact that they’re burning fossil fuels when they flip on a light switch or plug their phone in to charge, but it’s a fact of life — unless you’re getting electricity from Seattle City Light, that is.

While 60% of electricity in the U.S. is derived from fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas, Seattle’s electricity is about 85% hydro-powered. City Light owns seven hydropower plants in Washington that provide green, renewable energy that powers our lights, computers, dishwashers, refrigerators, electric cars, and other household appliances. 

“City Light is engaged in preparing for climate change to ensure that we can continue to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and clean electrical services to our customers,” said Crista Chadwick, City Light’s energy advisor supervisor. 

“In 2005 [we were] the first carbon-neutral utility in the nation. Our power remains carbon-free, primarily because we generate about 85% of our power from hydroelectric dams,” she said. 

That’s a big win for our goal of reducing our carbon footprint. (Curious about where the other 15% of power comes from? 6% is “Unspecified,” meaning it’s not required to identify the generating source in the wholesale power marketplace, 5% is nuclear, 4% is wind, and 1% is biogas.) So if you live in Seattle or get your electricity from Seattle City Light, congrats, you already have a head start toward reducing your carbon footprint!

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Laundry Day

by Mark Van Streefkerk


Early last week a study released by the United Nations revealed the alarming state of climate change, which is accelerating at a faster rate than we previously thought. The effects of greenhouse gasses are warming up the planet, sea levels around the world are rising (about 8 inches on average between 1901 and 2018), and heat waves and wildfires are becoming increasingly more frequent in areas that historically never had these issues — as anyone living in Seattle in the last few years can attest to. 

In an NPR article, Ko Barrett, the vice chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, mentioned a couple of key takeaways from the report: “It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change,” and “[i]t is still possible to forestall most of the most dire impacts, but it really requires unprecedented, transformational change.”  

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Fighting Plastics

by Mark Van Streefkerk


Did you know that only 9% of plastic is actually recycled? That percentage even includes the wide range of plastics we put in the recycling bin. Plastic bottles are recycled consistently, but everything else — milk jugs, plastic wrappers, the clamshells that package your deli sandwich — ends up in landfills, incinerated, or shipped overseas to stagnate in heaps in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia or the Philippines. 

Worldwide, plastic invariably ends up in oceans and waterways, polluting the ecosystem, consumed by fish and other sea animals, which in turn are eaten by us. Even if you don’t eat seafood, plastics are everywhere. In fact, there is so much plastic in the world that we literally eat, drink, and breathe in microplastics. It’s estimated that we could be ingesting up to a credit card-size of microplastics a week. What that plastic consumption means for our bodies is still undetermined, although plastic chemicals can act as endocrine disruptors and could have harmful effects on hormones and reproductive systems. It’s a sobering reminder that we can’t outrun or outsource our waste. 

In this installment of our ongoing series on how to reduce our carbon footprint, we’ll take a look at what makes plastics so harmful, what the good news is, and how a group of South End youth are educating their neighbors on plastic waste. 

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South End Students Lead Push to Install Solar Panels at Highline High School

by Ben Adlin


Dozens of solar panels will eventually cover the roof of Highline High School’s new building in Burien under a student-led plan to build the largest solar-power system ever at a South King County public school.

Installation of the project would occur next year if the project meets its January 2022 fundraising deadline. Once complete, the 100-kilowatt solar array would not only produce clean electricity but also provide experiential, STEM-based learning opportunities for students, who could monitor the system’s flow of energy in real time.

In addition to seeking public grants and funds from private foundations, the students are also gathering individual donations through the Highline Schools Foundation. A related GoFundMe campaign launched earlier this year described the project as “living proof that solar energy is attainable in any neighborhood, even those with modest per capita incomes. And YOU will help us get there!”

The idea began with a question last summer from then-Highline senior Nha Khuc, who was in the midst of an environmental internship through King County. What would it take, Khuc asked one of the professionals she met in the program, to put solar panels on Highline’s new roof?

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Weekend Long Reads: The Climate Change Report

by Kevin Schofield


This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its new Sixth Assessment Report on the current scientific consensus on where things stand with regard to our changing global climate. It’s an update on its last report (the Fifth Assessment) from 2013, with hundreds of scientists from all over the world collaborating to provide both assessments of the current climate and also updated models of what is most likely to happen from here.

The new report is 3,949 pages. That is a “long read” even outside of my tolerance, so I’m not going to suggest that you read it.  Instead, I’m going to point you to three much shorter documents to read:

  • IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers;
  • IPCC’s Regional Fact Sheet for Central and North America, which focuses on the present and future impacts of climate change here in our own backyard; and
  • An excellent summary by the news site Quartz on the key findings from the full report.
Continue reading Weekend Long Reads: The Climate Change Report