We experience profound interconnectedness through our environment. We affect the quality of our environment and the environment in turn affects our quality-of-life from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we use to produce our food and natural resources, to the places where we work and play. Our economy, ecosystems and bodies are reliant on our environment. While many groups act to address specific problems, others work to build knowledge and awareness through environmental education programs. Ultimately, these groups remind us that if we ignore the fact that there are limits to our consumption and activities, there will be significant consequences down the road.
Healthy food vendors, places such as grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and cooperatives that offer fresh, affordable, nutritious food are critical components of a healthy, thriving community. However, not everyone in Pierce County has access to healthy foods. In 2011, more than 108,000 people lived in an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. These areas of limited access are known as a “food dessert” and are predominantly found in lower-income neighborhoods and communities. In response, the community has started to develop its own solutions with 15 farmer’s markets, three food co-ops, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs that allow consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Similarly, a Fresh Food Program delivers natural groceries to select locations downtown for pick-up; however, rural communities in our region are still an area of high need.
Clean Air & Water:
How are we keeping our air and water clean for our current consumption and for future generations?
Pierce County has the worst wood smoke particulate matter problem in the country; however, our air quality throughout the region reads at the highest allowable level; which is good.
Our water quality is measured in many places, including the groundwater, in-stream, surface, and marine waters. There is sometimes a disconnect between the high-quality of our drinking water with our water quality in the environment. Of the three watersheds in Pierce County, only one has a low-level of concern. Unfortunately, Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed has a rating of high concern with a water-quality score of 37 out of 100.
Protected Green Space
Green spaces include parks and recreational areas as well as farm and agricultural lands. Preserving farm and agricultural land, as well as open spaces, improves our economic and social well-being. Those in urban residential areas who live adjacent to a green space have shown fewer violent and property crimes. Neighbors in these areas also tend to support and protect one another.
What are we doing to protect and promote the use of green spaces?
The Pierce County Biodiversity Network identifies 16 biologically-rich areas and connecting corridors that cover 267,784 acres of land, however the work to preserve our farmland continues. Pierce County has 6.21 acres per 1,000 people, compared to 12.89 acres per 1,000 people in King County, and 24.79 acres per 1,000 people in Kitsap County.
The issues that we’re facing as a county cannot be overcome by a single organization, and in response to the overwhelming need, partnerships have formed. In Pierce County, the Office of Sustainability has proposed 15 new goals to be met by the end of 2020. Of those 15 new goals, the ambitious work plan includes healthy foods, clean air and water, protected green space, and education. This partnership between Pierce County, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, City of Tacoma, and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is one example of what can be accomplished through collaborative partnerships.
The Russell Family Foundation’s Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) is a 10-year effort to create cleaner water in our region. This initiative is comprised of more than 100 cross-sector organizations that make up six major collaboratives that all work to break down barriers and fuel more equitable social conditions and positive environmental change. PWI is using a shared agenda that practices a “people first, then collective impact” approach, in order to foster trust and community.
Examples of Organizations Working to Improve the Environment in Pierce County:
Pierce Conservation District
Connecting communities to food systems through gardening, gleaning, and education
Agriculture Community of Interest
Supports economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture
Rotary First Harvest
Connects farmers, trucks, volunteers, and food banks for hunger relief
Clean Air & Water
Citizens for a Healthy Bay
Engages citizens to clean-up, restore and protect Commencement Bay
Active Transportation Community of Interest
Collaboration to develop and maintain transportation systems
Industrial Stormwater Community of Interest
Collaboration addressing business and personal stormwater management
Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, Septic Program
Works to prevent contaminating groundwater and surface water, and limit exposure to sewage.
Protected Green Space
PCC Farmland Trust
Works to secure, preserve, and steward prime farmland in Washington
Metro Parks Tacoma
Manages parks, recreation, and zoological spaces in Tacoma
Collaboration to conserve and enhance urban and rural forests
Nisqually Land Trust
Acquires and manages critcal lands to benefit water, wildlife, and people of Nisqually River Watershed
Puget Creek Restoration Society
Through education and advocacy, works to protect, enhance, and restore the watershed
Inspires stewardship for the Puget Sound through environmental education
Environmental Education Community of Interest
Works to expand environmental education
Tahoma Audubon Society
Connects people with nature through environmental education programs
Learn about more organizations supporting the Environment in our community with our Nonprofit Directory
Support the Environment in Pierce County
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