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2023 Climate & Sustainability Highlights 

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It was a busy year for the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and we’re excited to share some of our accomplishments and highlights from 2023. From reducing buildings emissions to supporting community-led environmental justice projects, OSE is working towards a more sustainable Seattle for all.

Reducing Climate Pollution in Buildings 

Mayor Harrell Signs into Law New Building Emissions Performance Standards!

Mayor Bruce Harrell is sitting at a table signing the legislation into law. He is surrounded by advocates and community members. There are tall city buildings in the background.
Mayor Bruce Harrell signs BEPS into law.

Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a Seattle Building Performance Emission Standard into law – a bold policy to address the climate crisis and create cleaner buildings. The policy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings by approximately 325,000 metric tons by 2050 – a 27% decrease in building-related emissions from a 2008 baseline or the equivalent of taking 72,322 gasoline-powered cars off the road for a year.     

Seattle’s equity-aligned Clean Buildings Accelerator has already supported more than 30 participants in free coaching cohorts with one-on-one tailored sessions. The program will continue to grow in 2024. 

Clean Heat Program Helping Families Switch from Oil Heat to Clean Energy

The Clean Heat Program is making it easier for families to transition from oil heat to clean energy. This year, 380 households received a $2,000 instant rebate, and 94 households received a no-cost heat pump through services provided by the Office of Housing. The program has also reduced heating costs by an estimated 50% or more, with savings ranging between $800 to $1,000 per year*. This year, OSE will pursue additional funding to support and expand the program even further. 

*Based on $4.50 per gallon heating oil/$.12 per kWh  

Reducing Transportation Emissions

Seattle’s New Electric Trucks Pilot 

A battery-powered electric drayage truck

In August, Mayor Harrell announced a new Electric Trucks Pilot initiative to support local truck drivers’ transition to electric freight vehicles and improve air quality in the port-adjacent communities of the Duwamish Valley. The Electric Trucks Pilot aims to bring the first electric drayage trucks to the City by 2024.  

Seattle also won a $1.2M RAISE grant to support the development of “Low Pollution Neighborhoods” as a way to reduce transportation emissions and improve livability. These efforts are part of the city’s ongoing commitment to reduce transportation emissions and promote sustainable transportation options. 

Equitable Tree Canopy  

Mayor Harrell “Digging in” to Equitably Grow Our Tree Canopy

OSE Director Jessyn Farrell helps mulch trees at Roxhill Park.

Seattle is taking steps to grow a more equitable tree canopy. The city has signed onto a new statewide tree equity collaborative and has pledged to plant more than 8,000 trees over the next five years on public and private properties, as well as 40,000 trees in parks and natural areas. 

Mayor Harrell also issued the One Seattle Tree Plan Executive Order in April directing City Departments to accelerate efforts to expand tree canopy on public land and updated the City’s Tree Ordinance to increase tree protections and provide for more equitable distribution of tree canopy. 

Seattle was also awarded $12.8 million from USDA to fund tree planting and job training in environmental justice communities. 

Advancing Climate and Environmental Justice 

Funding Community-Led Environmental Justice Projects 

The Environmental Justice Fund (EJF) has distributed a total of $3.5 million to 70 projects. In early 2024, $1 million will be awarded to 17 organizations via the EJF. OSE will also be announcing new grants through the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund for organizations serving the Duwamish Valley. With input from their grantees, OSE has been able to design and implement new types of grants to increase organization capacity. 

Building a Greener Seattle

Clean Energy Workforce Training Program 

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell poses with Sphere Solar Energy graduates.

The Clean Energy Workforce Training Program has awarded $974,000 in contracts to Clean Energy Training Providers in 2023. The program has served 89 participants during Q1-Q3 of 2023, and the Q4 numbers are expected to be announced in early 2024. Out of the participants served during Q1-Q3 of 2023, 27 were women, while 64 identified as BIPOC. 

C40 Cities Spotlights Seattle’s Green Jobs 

C40 Cities collaborated with OSE and the Mayor’s Office to create a video about Seattle’s Green New Deal. The video features an interview with Mayor Harrell and showcases Yaharia, a construction apprentice in Seattle. 

Creating Climate Resilience 

Seattle is taking proactive steps to create climate resilience and has launched a Resilience Hub Community Engagement Cohort. The seven-member cohort consists of community leaders, artists, and technical experts. The cohort will shape and implement Resilience Hub-related community engagement strategies in 2024. 

Ensuring Everyone Has Access to Healthy, Local Foods 

As part of OSE’s Healthy Food in Schools program, all 109 Seattle Public Schools served a freshly prepared salmon alfredo pasta dish with 3,000 pounds of sustainable, local salmon purchased from Muckleshoot Seafood Products.  

The City’s Fresh Bucks program achieved a 91% utilization rate and added two new local retailers: Local Yokels and Lee’s Produce Market.   

Food Action Plan is coming! After two years of community and departmental engagement, we are preparing to release the updated plan in 2024.   

Implementing the Duwamish Valley Action Plan 

The Duwamish Valley Action Plan celebrated its 5th anniversary 

Community organizations tabling at the “One Duwamish Valley” event at the South Park Pump Station on September 30th.

From Fall 2022 to Summer 2023, the Duwamish Valley Program has been actively engaged with the community to understand their priorities and invest $500,000 in community spaces in Georgetown. The Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) has also continued to support small businesses in the Duwamish Valley through a contract with Vision 7 Advertising, where $500 mini-grants were awarded to small businesses to support their efforts in South Park and Georgetown and provide technical support. 

Climate and Sustainability in the News 

Seattle building emissions policy will bring more than climate benefits – Seattle Times Op-ed

How These Five Cities Are Leading the Way to a Greener World – Newsweek

Harrell Signs Building Emissions Standard Into Law, Queuing Up Green Retrofits – The Urbanist

City of Seattle Receives $12.9 Million Grant to Boost Tree Equity and Combat Climate Change – The Seattle Medium

For the latest news and updates from OSE, be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.