It’s a Wrap: the 4th Annual Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit

On February 7th, the forecast was dire. Snow-pocolypse was imminent. Stewardship Partner’s marquee professional event of the year, the Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit, was scheduled for the next day. Food had been prepared and purchased, 250 people registered, 40 speakers confirmed, agendas printed, cars packed to the gills, but the choice was clear, we had to reschedule and let everyone know immediately to make sure none of our partners would be in harm’s way from what ended up being a multi-week winter storm across the region.

Attendees participating in one of the challenge topics. (Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy)

Flash forward six weeks as 260 people arrive at Cascadia College’s Salmon-Safe certified campus and begin to connect and reconnect with fellow Green Infrastructure leaders from the whole Puget Sound region and from each of the four sectors (connecting the dots: .com, .gov, .org, and .edu). It couldn’t have been a more uplifting contrast. The sun was out, and virtually every speaker was able to reschedule for the new date of March 22.

And what an amazing event we had! We grounded ourselves in a history of human relationships to land, water, fish, trees, and whales that dates back 10,000 years to the last ice age, and we consciously chose to create a learning and collaborative community. We applauded the ways that many redevelopment efforts are adding density and jobs while simultaneously reversing negative environmental impacts and we dove deep into the sticky issue of how we are going to retrofit a century’s worth of hardscaping to treat our wealth of rain like the vital resource it is.

Youth Voices panel participants. (Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy)

Our attendees were challenged to make this emerging and growing field a source of good jobs and education for the passionate and increasingly diverse generation entering today’s job market who don’t see themselves reflected in our ranks nor see pathways to change that fact. We laid out 16 challenge topics to network and build coalitions around, and 6 breakout sessions to dive deeper into specific hot topics related to retrofits and voluntary green stormwater infrastructure.

There is no way to summarize just how hopeful and meaningful of a day it was, but when co-chair of the Orca Task Force, Stephanie Solien, took the stage at the end of the day to call us to action, it was so great to hear her say that it was in fact she who felt called to action by the summit and the amazing group of doers who showed up and  take action every day. I think that sentiment was shared by all and is the reason that we are already looking forward to the 5th Annual Green Infrastructure Summit in 2020. And maybe we’ll stick with late March instead of February! Huge thanks to the amazing team at SP, truly all hands were on deck, plus our brilliant host committee and generous sponsors, volunteers, and all those people who adjusted their calendars to make it work.


Thank you to our 2019 Host Committee Members & Sponsors who helped make this event a huge success!

Time to Stand up for Our Beloved Orcas

by David Burger, Executive Director

With the devastating news about Tahlequah and Scarlet this summer, I found myself longing for a time when their struggles were not a common theme. I reflected on a time when I was a young boy and my grandfather took me out to his sailboat to see a pod of orcas in the San Juan Islands and was blown away by these majestic creatures.  This memorable moment gave me great respect for the natural environment and a big reason why I’ve dedicated my life empowering people to become caretakers of the environment and our native wildlife.  Our Southern Resident Killer Whale population have been in the national spotlight and it hasn’t been good news with no new calves born in the last three years.  There are many factors for the decline in the 30-year low population relating to pollution, habitat, food supply, etc., and Stewardship Partners directly worked to solve these.

Orcas rely heavily on Chinook salmon, another endangered species, making our work to restore habitat and keep our waters clean one of the most important actions we can do to help orcas.  It’s clear that we are at a critical time for our Southern Resident orcas, and we urge you to take action to protect and restore habitat. Become a Stewardship Partner today by donating, volunteering, or learning what actions you can do in your daily lives.  It’s my hope that I can show my grandkids orcas in the Puget Sound one day.

Stories of Region-Wide Environmental Success

Great ideas often start with conversations. So many environmental stewards (including Stewardship Partners), community groups, conservation districts and environmental government programs are working hard to protect and restore the ecosystems that make this place special, yet we rarely hear about all the positive impacts of that work.

However, the time has come to start celebrating the work being done and raising awareness of projects big and small. To recruit and empower all our friends and neighbors to become stewards, we need to show them that positive change through stewardship is possible, these projects are working, and they will be duly rewarded for joining the stewardship ranks.

Stewardship is dispersed across the region and is carried out by a lot of hands, working on many different projects all towards a clear and collective goal of a healthier Puget Sound. In an effort to see where we are at in reaching this collective goal, Stewardship Partners created Sound Impacts (SoundImpacts.org). After surveying dozens of partners in stewardship about what would make an impact metrics portal enticing enough to actually use, the Stewardship Partners team hired CAI (a Seattle-based impact evaluation and technology firm) to help us create and launch Sound Impacts as an easy-to-use, visually impactful, transparent, and robust tool. Version 1.0 has been online for over a year now and the result is truly transformational.

Today on SoundImpacts.org you can create a user profile, measure your positive environmental impact, and start inspiring others to join in the movement to not just protect, but actually improve the environmental health and resiliency of our region. We know this is a large feat, but we also know it can be done. With over 4,000 rain garden projects and 89 permeable pavement projects currently registered, we know that our region’s stewards are already keeping over 70 Million gallons of harmful polluted runoff out of Puget Sound. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. With project types including tree plantings, invasive plant removal, depaving, and green roofs recently added, this tool is ready and waiting for many of our fellow stewards across the region to contribute their projects and watch the impacts skyrocket.

As we begin to make plans for upgrading Sound Impacts to a 2.0 version, we will add impacts beyond stormwater managed to include the many co-benefits of nature-based efforts like carbon sequestration, air quality impacts, urban heat island impacts, and community health impacts.

Are you ready to start telling your stewardship story? Look to see if the projects you have worked on have been registered on Sound Impacts and add them if they aren’t there yet! We know our region has a lot of stewardship heroes out there and we want to help tell the story of their work, so we can continue to inspire more individuals and communities to engage in acts of stewardship, building a movement to help leave this place better than we found it.