The Environmental Advocate: How does Edmonds score on the Environmental Report Card?

    Laura Spehar with her award

    By Laura Spehar

    Edmonds — population 39,709 — is beginning to be a leader along the Puget Sound shores in setting higher environmental standards. From the early days of George Brackett, who while paddling his canoe north of Seattle was hit by a gust of wind that beached him in what is now called, “Brackett’s Landing” to today’s world-renowned underwater dive park; we are continually learning how to embrace and respect the Edmonds environment.

    Edmonds appears to strive toward historical preservation and the care of its timeless art work. Did you know that Edmonds has a port with one of the highest green standards out there? In recent years, Edmonds has become home to some fantastic green living models such as the platinum-level, low impact development PCC store and the new Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative.

    In case you hadn’t seen them,the City of Edmonds now has electric vehicles for staff use and charging stations throughout the city to support its new sustainability initiatives. Some people may not have realized just yet the value of banning single-use plastic bags or the need to install dog waste dispensers at our local parks. The needs of protecting our environment change and shift just as the wind did for George Brackett’s canoe.

    Now, Edmonds needs to ask itself: “What can we do next and how can we continue to prepare ourselves for future environmental changes?” Change always happens and it is up to us to make sure we are a little more prepared so that it goes as smooth as possible.

    The environmental impacts of decisions made for this city face us every day. We can see this clearly by past choices we have made on unsustainable development practices, the effects of putting an off-leash dog park on a marine sanctuary, and choosing to ignore our storm water issues or needs. What is next for Edmonds? How do we as residents protect and preserve this town we reside in, raise our children in, and sometimes see our last sunset in?

    We start slowly; we learn as much as we can about conservation and preservation efforts. We make greener choices in our own backyards and take responsibility for our actions. We pick up the dog poop and build the outdoor cat enclosures that are needed. We ask developers and builders to use more green standards such as installing rain gardens or bioswales where needed. We use fewer chemicals on our lawns or better yet we get rid of the lawns all together. We protect our marsh and streams that flow through many, many places here.

    We encourage city officials to vote for greener programs and initiatives. We support and thank them when they do. We keep instilling preservation values in the younger residents of Edmonds by volunteering with them at local park work parties or beach clean-ups. We ask our neighbors and friends to shop locally or visit here more to promote Edmonds’ economic needs. We don’t take for granted that big 100- to 200-year-old tree that may block our view but saves our slope. Our town runs on fewer fumes than it used to thanks to current electric solutions, but does it still run on a lot of fear when it comes to change?

    Let’s keep that report card in all As and let’s be the kind of city that leads the way for more sustainable, greener standards. Remember, fellow residents: We are 39,709 strong!

    Laura Spehar is a Montessori teacher and environmental educator, and was named Edmonds’ Citizen of the Year in 2011. She is a WSU Master Gardener, Beach Watcher and Carbon Master, and holds certifications in wildlife habitat and native plant stewardships. Spehar serves on the Snohomish Conservation District’s Advisory Board, Pilchuck Audubon Society Board, Friends of the Edmonds Library Board, and the City of Edmonds Mayor’s Climate Action Committee Board and Tree Board. She was awarded the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Service Award in 2010. Spehar lives in Edmonds with her husband Paul and their two dogs Goldie and Happy on two acres of well-loved and protected wetland/stream side habitat.


    1. Thanks for writing this great article Laura. I totally agree that Edmonds has more and more things to be proud of in terms of being an environmental pioneer in our State and region, such as being the first city to pass a ban on plastic grocery bags, and hosting the first fully citizen-owed community solar project in the State.
      And there’s certainly room for improvement if we just look at these two examples in particular. I was really happy when the Edmonds City Council approved the plastic grocery bag ban a couple of years ago. However, whenever I go into a grocery store I still see most people using tons of paper bags as if there were no tomorrow. If the City Council could go one step forward and approve a 5 cent charge per paper bag (just like Bellingham and Seattle have done), that would make a huge difference in motivating shoppers to bring and use their own reusable bags and save a lot of trees out there.
      Regarding the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative, we are now up to 57 members and 100 SunSlices sold. And the first 4.2 KW solar-panel system was installed on the roof of the Frances Anderson Center last September. However, we’ve got till more or less end of April to raise $500,000 in order to install the remaining 55 KW solar system on that same roof. Residents from Edmonds and beyond are encouraged to become members of the solar co-op and purchase more SunSlices (a share of the solar system at $1,000 each, with a $100 return per year based on electric solar power generation and State and Federal rebates and incentives). This is a great opportunity to bring some of our money back into our community to generate clean renewable energy. An ideal opportunity for apartment and condo dwellers, as well as owners of shaded properties, who would love to be part of the solar energy revolution. Go to for more information.
      And as for those people who think that we should get rid of our tall and beautiful trees because they don’t allow residents to install solar panels on their own roofs or can’t grow their own vegetables because of lack of sun. There are perfect solutions: community solar projects where neighbors and residents pool their financial resources together to collectively install the solar panels in already ideal sunny sites. And community pea-patches and communal vegetable gardens. With the added advantage of people getting to know each other and building more community.

      Besides better public transportation and more and safer walking and cycling routes, I would also like to encourage Council members to consider a ban on styrofoam containers.

      Thanks Laura for continuing to be such a great advocate for the environment in our city.




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