Cate White is honored as Sustainable West Seattle's 2012 Sustainable Hero of the Year for her work to protect the waters of Puget Sound, including the creation of the Don't Feed the Tox-Ick Monster campaign. The ceremony took place at Lincoln Park on Aug. 20, where SWS also celebrated their five year anniversary.
Five years strong and a hero worthy of celebration for Sustainable West Seattle
With grass-fed beef and veggie burgers sharing the grill, refreshments in hand and layers upon layers of Puget Sound blue playing in the background, members of Sustainable West Seattle gathered at Lincoln Park on Aug. 20 for their annual potluck to celebrate five years in existence and honor their 2012 Sustainable Hero of the Year: Cate White.
Cate White, founder of Tox-Ick.org
Backed by the body of water she’s worked so hard to protect, Cate White was named Sustainable Hero of the Year for 2012 by SWS president Christina Hahs.
White took on SWS’s storm water project by, well, storm; procuring $30,000 in grants and founding/running the “Don’t Feed the Tox-Ick Monster” campaign, aimed at educating the community on ways they can reduce personal contributions to Puget Sound pollution.
“I and about 15 really motivated, awesome volunteers formed our ‘Don’t Feed the Tox-Ick Monster’ campaign to educate community members that there is actually a big problem beneath the beautiful surfaces of Puget Sound,” White explained after receiving her award to resounding applause and yips from canines in attendance. “Our salmon are currently running at eight percent of historic levels and our southern resident killer whales that live in this region are actually listed as an endangered species.”
White and her crew have taken their message far and wide, teaching people about everyday things they can do to make a difference, including proper waste disposal, leaving the car at home, and keeping rainwater in your yard with the use of rain barrels and rain gardens.
To learn more, visit www.tox-ick.org
Applause was followed by a few “Ahh’s” with White’s news that she is moving to San Francisco in a few weeks to join Earth Justice and take her Tox-Ick campaign nationwide. Good news, however, the Tox-Ick campaign will continue in our area and SWS is looking for ambassadors to carry the message forward.
SWS also received a $10,000 stimulus courtesy of environmental activist and diver Laura James (known locally as Diver Laura), who won the Cox Conserves Heroes award for Western Washington in 2012. She donated the winnings to SWS and, according to Hahs, the money will be used to produce videos about Puget Sound pollution.
Last year’s Sustainable Hero was Michael Ryan, then Dean of Hospitality and Service Occupations at South Seattle Community College.
Five years of Sustainable West Seattle
As SWS board member Chas Redmond tells the story, Sustainable West Seattle was the brainchild of founders Brian Allen and Bill Reiswig five years ago, inspired by the work of friends at Sustainable Ballard. It slowly grew to a body of 12 (Redmond was one of the first), they gained 501c3 non-profit status, wrote bylaws, formed a committee and started holding monthly meetings.
Their broad goal, Redmond said, was and is to “advocate and educate our community in the areas of sustainability, a greener earth, a more self sufficient body politic, a more caring society.”
Members took on different roles for which they had a knack – from politics to economics to public relations – and word of their work and message slowly spread as they “squatted” outside the farmer’s market on Sundays.
Today, SWS has around 40 paying members, a mailing list of over 1000, now sets up inside the farmer’s market, and has created a number of popular offshoots, including the West Seattle Tool Library (started two years ago), which has loaned over 5000 tools to date and has in-house developed rental software they hope to sell (at rock-bottom pricing) to other non-profits and, possibly, to the very large rental industry (at fair market value).
“One of the concepts is that Sustainable West Seattle is like a mothership and we spawn these things and our goal is that someday they become independent,” Redmond said, citing the tool library and Tox-Ick campaign as examples that both have separate domains and revenue strains so, one day, they can pass it to others.
“If it’s spin-offable, then that is the best thing,” he said. “That way (SWS) becomes a tight, top-level thinking organization with new membership coming in at the bottom at the same time (with new ideas).”
It’s kind of like a tech incubator, only for the sake of the planet, a “place where ideas can at least get a proper reception towards realization,” he said, giving the Whale Tales signs as another example.
“So at this point, I think we have succeeded in becoming a component for good, if you will, in West Seattle for all the things we meant to do: educate on sustainability, educate on taking care of the planet, educate on becoming more compassionate and caring, and educate about contributing or giving back.”
Another sign things are going well, Redmond said, is when SWS asks city officials to show up for presentations, they show up. “We think we have the cred now.”
Just as Sustainable West Seattle has developed a model to thrive into many more milestones, Redmond hopes their work will ensure a similar path for the planet.
“If I came back here three or four generations from now, would there still be availability and access to things like clean air?
"(Sustainability) is looking forward to, not the next generation, but multiple generations in the future and trying to imagine what your impact is.”