A message from Ecology's Director, Maia Bellon
Our mission at the Washington Department of Ecology is to protect and restore our state’s land, air, and water. From Puget Sound to the Spokane River Basin, from spill response to nuclear waste cleanup, our work is essential to sustaining Washington’s environment. So it is only natural that we hold ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to environmental sustainability and responsibility.
As it says on the title page of this report, to be an environmental leader in Washington state, we at Ecology need to do what we are asking others to do. We need to measure our carbon footprint. We need to track how much water we use. We need to know whether our workforce reflects the communities we serve.
Ecology is a data-driven agency. We measure water quality in parts per billion, air particulates in microns, and soil contamination in micrograms. In evaluating our performance, it is only natural that we track our carbon footprint, our energy and water consumption, and how much waste we generate.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) serves as an accountability tool to track our progress toward improving the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of Washington state. By providing both quantitative and qualitative measures of our efforts, this report allows us to check in, renew our commitment, and celebrate our successes.
Ecology is not alone in pursuing this kind of reporting. We are part of a movement of governments, private businesses and nonprofits dedicated to systematically investigating, evaluating and reporting the impact our organizations have on our communities and our environment. In October of 2014, we welcomed 85 businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations at an Ecology-hosted workshop on the GRI framework.
Our efforts in this report are also driven by the charge given to all state agencies by Governor Jay Inslee to track and improve performance through Results Washington. Governor Inslee’s goal is to ensure a faster, smarter and more accountable state government. Sustainability, environmental impact, and the health of our communities are key performance areas for Results Washington, and dovetail with the purpose of this report.
This is Ecology’s second biennial Sustainability Report. In our first report, we were proud to be the first public environmental agency in North America to produce a GRI report. In this report, we have met some challenges, but also set new goals. That is why you’ll find seven additional indicators that we plan to track in the years ahead.
This report is a reflection of who we are as an organization and I am encouraged that we are on the right path. We established an agency-wide team to help define new metrics for this report and expand our ability to gauge our sustainability performance.
It can be difficult to look in the mirror and honestly reflect on yourself. To understand our performance in all of these areas, we needed to gather a wide range of metrics. You will find statistics here on how many vegetables we grew in our Lacey garden and donated to the Thurston County Food Bank (2,000 pounds!), how many trees and shrubs we planted (575,000!), and how much food waste we composted (19,578 pounds!).
And we cannot forget about our people. Ecology has approximately 1,600 employees spread across Washington state. Part of our challenge is ensuring that we are collectively being good neighbors, good stewards, and good citizens in our communities.
To be truly useful, of course, a report should not just highlight the good news, but also identify areas for improvement. So in this report, you will discover that 70 percent of our employees in the Lacey office commute to work in single occupancy vehicles. This is an example of where we have room to improve and support the use of transit, bicycles and carpools.
We carved out sections of this report to highlight a few areas of special achievement, such as the exceptional support the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) provided following the SR 530 Landslide that devastated small northwest Washington communities. Our WCC teams put in more than 18,000 hours at the slide site performing vital jobs such as constructing drainage ditches and clearing trails.
Ecology has three strategic priorities that will guide our work in the next five years: To prepare for and reduce the impacts of climate change on our region; to prevent and reduce threats from toxic chemicals; and to deliver water quality and water supply solutions for our region.
Those are significant challenges, but Ecology has a decades-long track record of successfully tackling some of the most complex environmental issues in the world. We are the right agency, the right team, the right people to find solutions to those challenges. I believe this report demonstrates that we can meet the highest standards for environmental responsibility and sustainability while we work to protect the environment.
“Sustainable practices are essential to securing our long-term quality of life. Reducing waste, conserving energy, and lowering our carbon footprint are good for the environment and good for the pocketbook... and will leave the earth a better place for future generations.”
“Ecology has a decades-long track record of successfully tackling some of the most complex environmental issues in the world. We are the right agency, the right team, the right people to find solutions to those challenges."
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