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A Year of Thriving – 2022 Environment Report

By Todd Burley

What does it mean to thrive? A look at the dictionary will bring words like prosper, flourish, bloom, healthy, progressing, expanding, and going strong. As we reflect on 2022 and look toward 2023 in Seattle Parks and Recreation’s (SPR) environmental commitments and progress, we have built upon the Healthy Environment Initiative and renamed it the Thriving Environment Initiative to better reflect this forward progress that is inclusive of elements of health and wellbeing for people and planet.

Like the growth of a tree, much of this progress can seem slow, but at times there are leaps when all the elements align for an excellent year of growth. Some things simmer then finally come to a boil. As we come out of the years of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations are not only back on track at SPR, but have new energy and funding from the second cycle of the Park District. And lessons learned from 2020-2022 are coming to fruition in our practices and policies. Here are some of the highlights from SPR’s 2022 Thriving Environment Report.

  • Park Access: One new park opened in the Lake City neighborhood and more are in design across the city. This means that our 490 parks and other public open spaces provide access to a park within a half-mile for 99% of residents in Seattle! Dive into the data at the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore website. We also improved 43,846 feet of trails in our natural areas, increasing access to nature in the city.
  • Forest Restoration: The Green Seattle Partnership added 31 new acres into restoration, increasing the total to 1,889 acres since the program began. Just last year 70,013 native plants were planted, including 8,595 trees, creating our future forest. See more of GSP’s accomplishments. Our arborists also maintained 3,182 trees and planted an additional 202 trees throughout our parks.
  • Water Conservation: SPR works to ensure our plants thrive, and we also seek ways to minimize our water use while doing so. In 2022 SPR was able to use 40% less water than estimated in our irrigated areas based on the weather conditions by using smart water systems and adapting our practices.
  • Pollution Prevention: SPR has 4,367 storm drains in our care and inspecting them to ensure they trap pollution and are unclogged is critical to the health of our watershed. In 2022, SPR inspected 3,944 drains and cleaned out 1,353 that required attention.
  • Recycling and Composting: 2022 was a great year for advancing efforts at waste reduction. SPR installed new bins, including compost for the first time, in our downtown parks that host food trucks. 60% of all our waste was recycled and composted. That’s nearly 4,000 tons that was diverted from the landfill!
  • Carbon Reduction: Reducing carbon emissions is a key goal of the City of Seattle, and SPR is moving forward on this commitment. In 2022, SPR installed electric heat pump water heaters in 11 buildings that previously used natural gas and replaced one oil furnace. These investments will remove 50 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually.
  • Environmental Education: SPR’s environmental education team works in our Environmental Learning Centers, in schools, and in the community to support the next generation of park stewards. In 2022, 13,836 people participated in our environmental education programs and over 25,000 people visited the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center!

The 2022 Report also outlines additional impacts, such as our shift to using battery-powered leaf blowers and gathering biodiversity data through community science. If you’ve noticed a positive environmental trend in SPR’s management, programs, and practices, let us know! Send a note to our Sustainability Advisor with your report.

Read the 2022 Thriving Environment Report to learn more!

Lake City Park opening
GSP forest restoration
New waste bins