At Sounders FC, we are committed to protecting our planet. As the first carbon neutral professional soccer team in North America and the first carbon neutral pro sports team in the United States, we commit to measuring, offsetting, and reducing our footprint every year. We collaborate with partners to educate youth in our region about environmental justice and empower them to be part of the effort to improve health outcomes in their communities.
Together with RAVE Foundation and EarthGen, we celebrated Earth Day by working to improve community health outcomes for King County youth furthest from environmental justice.
Meredith Lohr, Executive Director of EarthGen, describes the concept of environmental justice, saying, “The idea of climate and environmental justice is that right now, because of historic and current racism in our country, people are disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change, and they lack access to clean air, clean water, green spaces and a healthy environment. That, unfortunately, is very tied to race. In this country, it is people of color who are suffering the most because of environmental pollution and climate change.”
We teamed up with EarthGen to help restore justice in two school communities by transforming their campuses into greener, healthier spaces for students and the neighborhoods they inhabit.
Seahurst and Hilltop Elementary Schools, both part of Highline Public Schools, are racially and culturally diverse and serve a high population of low income students. The campuses function as community “park” spaces for local families, as some of the only green spaces in the area. Terry Holtgraves, Seahurst Elementary School Principal, puts it this way: “If you come here on a Friday night or a Saturday morning, you’re going to see lots of cars, because the kids needed a place to play. They’ll be on their tricycles, playing basketball…”
The spaces were lacking. At Seahurst Elementary, a coarse gravel field dominated the play yard. At Hilltop Elementary, the poor drainage system and heavy Seattle rains created a giant puddle which was not conducive to play.
Holtgraves said of Seahurst, “The campus really did lack the opportunity for our families and our kids that we really needed. If you could show a before and after of this field, it was a big square of sand that flooded.”
On April 23 and 30, over 100 volunteers from EarthGen, Sounders FC and Delta came together to bring the community’s visions to life, turning the spaces into inspiring spaces for play.
With plans rooted in student and community input, the spaces now include intentionally placed adventure playgrounds, outdoor classrooms, and rain gardens. The rain gardens are a key piece of the designs. In the case of Seahurst, they provide a stormwater management system supporting the additional investment of a soccer mini-pitch by RAVE Foundation and Delta Air Lines. “The mini-pitch will drain, in the rainy season, right into a rain garden here that EarthGen is installing, which will filter the water before it moves to Puget Sound,” said Ashley Fosberg, Executive Director of RAVE Foundation. “The mini-pitch at Seahurst is only possible because of EarthGen’s investment.”
Lohr summed it up beautifully, saying, “It’s all about coming out here in community, rolling up our sleeves, digging in the soil, planting plants, and really seeing what the power of community can do to make a change.”