Friday, March 28, 2014

Bellingham Bay in Distress; Neighborhood Project Works Toward Solution

by Wendy Steffensen

The rains have returned to Whatcom County, signaling the warmer weather of spring and reminding us of what it takes to makes our region so lush and green – water. We can hear it tapping at our windows and rushing in our rivers, lapping on Lake Whatcom’s shores and trickling into storm drains. The cloudbursts of spring bring us more than flowers and seedlings; as the water falls on our roofs, lawns, and streets it carries with it all the chemicals and grime on those surfaces. Metals are eroded from our roofs, pesticides collected from our lawns, and oil and brake pad dust washed away from our streets.

For decades, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities has worked to protect the Salish Sea from the harmful contaminants in our stormwater with our North Sound Baykeeper program. The Baykeeper Team is charged with protecting and enhancing the marine and nearshore habitats of the northern Puget Sound region. At the end of last year, the Baykeeper Team conducted sampling at stormwater outfalls that drain to Bellingham Bay. Unfortunately, we have discovered high levels of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs) in our stormwater.

Why is this important? Metals, like copper and zinc, are common in stormwater but are toxic to marine life.  According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, copper is toxic to many of the organisms in the fish food web and disrupts salmon sensory systems. PAHs, also common in stormwater, are complex organic pollutants that are found in fossil fuels, and are formed by incomplete combustion of wood, coal, and diesel fuels. They are carcinogenic to laboratory animals and acutely toxic to some fish species. 

The content of our stormwater is not unique to Bellingham. Urban areas throughout the developed world struggle with similar issues. The difference for Bellingham is that our stormwater is discharged to Bellingham Bay. As we learned in January’s Bellingham Herald article, “Decline in Bellingham Bay marine life eludes quick diagnosis”, a recent study of the health of our bay showed that this water body is in serious trouble. The causes are still under speculation but the metals and PAHs in our stormwater may be contributing to a decline in diversity of species and contamination in sediment.

We all agree that the health of Bellingham Bay is important to our community. That’s why RE Sources is launching the Neighborhood Clean Water Project to coordinate the neighbors of Lower Whatcom Creek and Squalicum Harbor watersheds to identify the sources of pollution and find ways to remove contaminants from our stormwater. The kick-off meeting for this project will be Tuesday, March 18 from 6:30-8 pm at RE Sources’ Sustainable Living Center above the RE Store. This meeting is free and open to the public.

During the project’s first year, we will focus on data collected from the C Street and Broadway Street outfalls on Whatcom and I & J Waterways, respectively. These outfalls drain portions of the Lettered Streets, Columbia, and Cornwall Park neighborhoods.  RE Sources will work with watershed neighbors to identify the sources of this pollution and, where possible, attempt to fix some of these sources.  We also hope to expand this project to include other watersheds in the years to come.

Over the years, we have learned that the more people know about a water quality problem, the more empowered they are to fix it. We developed this project because there are things we can do as a community to improve water quality and we know there are people in Bellingham that want to help. We can’t control the rain falling from the sky, but we can make the stormwater it creates cleaner before it reaches Bellingham Bay.

For more information, visit


Wendy Steffensen is RE Sources’ North Sound Baykeeper, responsible for protecting and enhancing the marine and nearshore habitats of the northern Puget Sound region.  North Sound Baykeeper is a program of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. RE Sources promotes sustainable communities and protects the health of northwestern Washington’s people and ecosystems through application of science, education, advocacy, and action.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The demand-side question: Is all that coal to make stuff for us?

By Crina Hoyer & John de Graaf

If Whatcom’s proposed coal port is approved as many as 18 more trains per day will pass through Bellingham, all to feed the coal-fired power plants of Asia. In exchange for all this coal we get flat screen TVs, plastic bags, toys, and millions of other disposable products being made for the “consumers” in our “market”. But that’s not all! We also receive a growing volume of polluted air blown here from Asia, and the related toxic deposits in Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for most of Whatcom county.

An undiagnosed disease lies beneath this exchange, the single-minded pursuit of money and stuff regardless of the costs to our fellow Americans, our communities, our health, our democracy and our environment. We call that disease “affluenza”. It’s a contagious virus with symptoms ranging from “feverish expectations,” to chronic congestion, chilled communities, killer stress, resource exhaustion and industrial diarrhea, all exacerbated by our dogged pursuit of “more.”

But before we cast stones, we’d do well to examine the glass house of affluenza that America has become.  As the virus spreads among us, we pay little attention to consequences. Since World War II, Americans have consumed more resources than everyone who ever lived before then. We have reduced our fisheries, soils and fossil fuels by half, caused the extinction of countless species and dramatically changed the climate.

Already, according to the Global Footprint Network, if everyone were to suddenly consume as Americans do, we would need four more planets to provide the resources and absorb the wastes.  Technological improvements alone will not change this; we need to consume less.

To ensure our right to all the stuff we have come to expect, we are cutting off food stamps for the hungry while reducing the taxes of millionaires and subsidizing our wealthiest farmers.  To ensure the resources to continue our binge, we mine coal from the Powder River basin and poison its waters, frack recklessly for natural gas, and haul fossil fuels through our cities, leaving a trail of danger and pollution in the wake.

As a community of consumers we have a responsibility to look at the connection between the coal and oil trains we’re concerned about and the demand for products that necessitates them. We have discovered there is enough supply of carbon based fuels – enough to choke the planet. Now it’s the demand side, and our part in it, that we need to question.

The message of AFFLUENZA: HOW OVERCONSUMPTION IS KILLING US AND HOW TO FIGHT BACK is simple: we don’t need to engage in this reckless behavior in order to live well and be happy.  We don’t need to poison our drinking water in order to have a green lawn.  We don’t need to threaten Whatcom county’s environment to provide jobs.  We don’t need to compromise our parks and waterfront to transport coal.  We don’t need to strip the planet of its natural resources in order to feed the insatiable appetite for more and more stuff.
What we need most in the age of affluenza is not more stuff but more time, not more work but satisfying low-carbon leisure, not the right to get rich but the right to live securely in modest comfort and good health, with pure food, air and water, connected to community and friends and nature.

Join us Thursday, March 13, at the YWCA 1026 N. Forest in Bellingham, for a community discussion, action planning, and vaccinations against affluenza in our community.


John de Graaf is a documentary filmmaker of dozens of prime-time national PBS specials, co-author of the books Affluenza and What’s the Economy for, Anyway?, and a noted public speaker.

Crina Hoyer is the executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.  RE Sources promotes sustainable communities and protects the health of northwestern Washington’s people and ecosystems through application of science, education, advocacy, and action.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Associated Students Vote Unanimously to Urge WWU Foundation to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Student voice is clear: Get Western’s money out of fossil fuels – now.


Eddy Ury: 206-972-2001,
Jenny Godwin: 406-241-1082, 
Students for Renewable Energy
Jill MacIntryre Witt: 360-201-3093,
350 Bellingham

Student government leaders and environmental groups
joined together to urge WWU to end its endowment
holdings in coal and oil companies.
BELLINGHAM, WA – Student government leaders at Western Washington University (WWU) sent a clear message Wednesday night, agreeing unanimously to urge the WWU Foundation to cease its investments in fossil fuel companies. Among the concerns the Associated Students (AS) Board highlighted were the urgent crisis of climate change and Western’s history of being a leader on sustainability issues.

The recommendation results from nearly a year of study conducted by a committee of University administrators, WWU Foundation staff, student environmental groups, and student government leaders. The AS Board called on the Foundation to freeze new investments in fossil fuels by the end of 2014, and to sell off remaining investments within five years. 

“We are proud of our AS Board for representing student voices by adopting a strong position in favor of fossil fuel divestment,” said Eddy Ury, an organizer of the student divestment campaign and member of the divestment committee. “Together with the student vote last year to start this process, we expect the Foundation will take this recommendation as a clear indicator of where Western’s students stand.”

In May 2013, 86% of WWU students voted in favor of a ballot measure to advance the effort to divest the Foundation endowment from fossil fuels. The divestment campaign is aiming to end investments in companies that own the vast majority of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves. Some 5% of WWU’s $49 million endowment is invested in the fossil fuel sector. 

In their deliberations, AS Board members stressed the urgency of climate change and broad student support as key reasons to offer the recommendation. In addition to the national divestment campaign, heightened local awareness of major proposals like the Cherry Point coal terminal has led to increased student interest in Western’s role in financing the fossil fuel industry and its projects.

“As students who will inherit the climate crisis, we believe it’s time to stop putting money into polluting energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.” said Jenny Godwin, assistant president of the Students for Renewable Energy, a on-campus group leading the divestment campaign. “When the WWU Foundation takes into account the impacts these investments are having on our air, water, and climate, they will have a moral obligation to simply say no.”

The text of the final recommendation from the Associated Students Board of Directors follows:
“The Associated Students of Western Washington University urge the Western Washington University Foundation Board of Directors to freeze all further investments in fossil fuels by the end of 2014, and to divest within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that together own the majority of known fossil fuel reserves. The AS also requests that an amendment be made to the WWU Foundation Endowment Investment Policy under clause 2.3.8 regarding Social Responsibility, to prohibit future investments in companies that extract fossil fuels (additional to the present restrictions on alcohol and tobacco).”


The STUDENTS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY is an Associated Students chartered club of Western Washington University that works to affect the local, national and global community to move toward sustainability through the use of renewable energy, primarily by setting an example at Western Washington University.

350 BELLINGHAM is the local chapter of, a national grassroots organization building support for decisive action to combat climate change. launched the national campaign to divest major institutions from fossil fuels in late 2012, which has since expanded to over 350 college campuses nationwide.

RE SOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES is a non-profit conservation organization in Bellingham, Washington, working to support the students' divestment campaign and other efforts to stop coal exports from the West Coast of the United States. It is part of the regional Power Past Coal Coalition.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goldman Sachs Sacks Coal Terminal Investment

For Immediate Release -- January 8, 2013

Media Contacts:
Crina Hoyer: Executive Director, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities -- 360-223-8678
Kimberly Larson: Communications Director, Power Past Coal -- 206-388-8674
Amanda Starbuck: Energy Finance Program Director, Rainforest Action Network -- 415-203-9952

BELLINGHAM, WA -- Power Past Coal coalition partner reaction to news that Goldman Sachs is no longer an investor in Carrix and the coal export terminal at Cherry Point in Washington State:

Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners has sold off its remaining equity investment in Carrix, the parent company of Pacific International Terminals (PIT) and SSA Marine (they were 49% stakeholders).   PIT, SSA Marine and Peabody Energy have proposed a 48 million ton per year coal export terminal north of Bellingham, WA at Cherry Point.   If built, it would be the largest coal export terminal in North America and would mean up to 18 coal trains traveling round-trip through local communities.  The move comes after coal companies and their proponents have tabled or dropped three out of six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest in the last two years.  The new investor is Fernando Chico Pardo, a Mexican businessman.

Statement from Crina Hoyer, Executive Director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities:

“Goldman Sachs’ stepping away from coal export is yet another sign from Wall Street that coal export is a losing investment.  We already know that local Main Street businesses would feel the negative impacts from coal export, and communities across the region are saying no to this bad deal because of health, climate, environmental and economic impacts.  We can do better than coal export both in Bellingham and the Northwest.”

Recent financial records have shown several of the companies are on shaky financial ground and market analysis by Goldman Sachs, Bernstein Research, Deustche Bank, Bank of America and other market exports saying that coal demand abroad is likely on a permanent decline. Of note, Goldman Sachs wrote in an analysis in July of 2013 and “We believe thermal coal demand growth will slow down in the coming years. . . the potential for profit­able investments in new thermal coal mining capacity is becoming increasingly limited.”

POWER PAST COAL is an ever-growing alliance of health groups, businesses and environmental, clean-energy, faith and community organizations working to stop coal export off the West Coast. Visit for more information.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Introducing Our New Green Classroom Certification Program

In September, RE Sources welcomed our very first AmeriCorps member, Alex Wentz!  Alex helps out our Sustainable Schools Manager, Riley Grant, and is developing and implementing the Green Classroom Certification Program. Alex has a professional background in secondary education, and is looking forward to this opportunity to teach younger students, connect students to the world around them, and help them to see the role they play in it.

The Green Classroom Certification process, the program Alex is currently developing, involves teachers and their students focusing on a sustainability topic, hosting a classroom workshop about that topic, completing a school or community focused action project, and sharing their experience with us. One of the biggest perks of the program is that we are here to provide lots of hands-on support for teachers along the way, whether that’s conducting a school-wide waste audit or just being a sound board for ideas. The three possible topics teachers can choose from are:
  • Waste Prevention
  • Energy Efficiency and Climate Change
  • Water Conservation
Alex is really enjoying the work so far, focusing primarily on developing and structuring the program from the ground up. “The goal is to make a program that will be fun and engaging to students while at the same time addressing some curriculum requirements for the teachers,” Alex said. “While we’re still doing some fine-tuning, I’m really happy with what we’ve created and I think students and teachers alike will find this to be a very rewarding educational experience.”
The Green Classroom Certification is a pilot program for RE Sources. We are starting by focusing on Bellingham’s Public elementary schools – up to fifth grade -- and we’re launching the program in January!  If you are an elementary teacher, working for Bellingham Public Schools or any Whatcom County school district, and this sounds interesting to you, please check out the Sustainable Schools page on the RE Sources website or contact us for more information. Alex would love to hear from you!


Thank you to the following partners for making this program possible: Washington Service Corps, Alcoa Foundation, Whatcom County Solid Waste Division and City of Bellingham Public Works.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Welcome Kate Blystone!

RE Sources is delighted to announce Kate Blystone as our new Program Director! Kate has over 13 years of experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors working on various environmental and urban planning projects. She has an extensive history volunteering. Kate is a member of the Bellingham City Club board and vice president of the Northwest Section of the Washington state chapter of the American Planning Association.  Kate says, “I’m excited to use my planning and policy experience to help find creative and collaborative solutions to make our communities socially and environmentally stronger.”

Kate’s expertise, and the bulk of her experience, is in land use planning – designing the future physical arrangement and condition of a community. She is a graduate of Western Washington University and has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Eastern Washington University.  Kate’s interest in planning stems from a desire to efficiently use land in a way that preserves and protects natural resources. She is teaching Introduction to Urban Planning at Western Washington University to enthusiastic young students this quarter and loves to share her experience with the next generation of planners.

Kate is passionate about fostering a harmonious connection with earth’s natural resources. She grew up as a farm girl in eastern Washington and that experience instilled in her a deep appreciation for the land.  Kate wants to foster flourishing environmental resources for this generation, and those to come, in support of a sustainable future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Little Free libraries sprouting in Bellingham

(Courtesy of The Bellingham Herald, Published: November 4, 2013)

Eberhard Eichner can imagine the fun of browsing for books along curbsides while taking a walk in one of Bellingham's neighborhoods.

He's helping bring that dream closer to reality after introducing Bellingham, well known as a town that loves books, to the national organization Little Free Library.

His skills fit well with the Wisconsin organization founded three years ago.

Eichner, 60, was the first to serve as lead designer and builder for the REvision Division of the RE Store, using salvaged and donated materials to create furniture and other home items. The division won the 2013 Recycler of the Year Reuse Award from the Washington State Recyclers Association.

Question: How did you learn about Little Free Library?

Answer: It started when a customer came into the RE Store about a year and a half ago. He told me about the program and was looking for materials so he could install a Little Free Library.
I researched the program founded in the Midwest and I built the first (local) set of three of them. He bought one from the store. Since then, several have been created and sold in our Bellingham and Seattle stores.

Q: How well has the concept caught on?

A: Amazingly well! More than 10,000 Little Free libraries have been installed nationwide. There are more than two dozen Little Free libraries in Bellingham. If you go on their website you can click on a map for each city and find out where each Little Free Library is located.

Q: So, essentially, people leave books in small, protected bookshelves to share with their neighbors?

A: That's right. I absolutely love the idea. I'm an avid reader myself, with eclectic tastes; research books, poetry, mysteries.

Q: What are these little libraries made of?

A: The libraries currently on display and available for purchase utilize former upper kitchen cabinets. A second "outer skin" with a roof is put around the existing shape using reclaimed cedar boards, shakes, shingles or other scrap exterior siding material. They're like little "houses" for books.

Q: How do you protect them from the weather?

A: The outsides can be clear-coated with exterior oil, deck stain or paints. The doors of cabinets often can be reused after cutting an opening to allow the user to see the books. A piece of shatterproof acrylic glass is placed over the opening and salvaged weather stripping is placed around the door.

Q: What other materials can be used?

A: Big drawers, small bookcases and various wooden chests, crates and boxes. You might have the right stuff in your attic, basement or garage.
To defray the cost, neighbors can team up to purchase a box. Neighbors can take turns as curators of the box.

Q: What else do you advise?

A: Since they have to be anchored by a pole, be sure to call utilities before you do any digging.

Q: Do you encourage customers to talk with you?

A: Yes! I call myself a "repurpose coach." On Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the RE Store (2309 Meridian St.) people can come and talk with me, first come, first served. I teach demonstrations of how I can help people repurpose materials.

For details about the Little Free Library program, go to
For more about the REvision Division of the RE Store, go to and click on "RE Made Furniture."

To read the full story from The Bellingham Herald, please visit

Read more here: