Clean SHiFT Team Wins 2022 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year

The products we use to clean our spaces impact not only those who use them, but also the environments into which they are discharged. A multi-disciplinary team has been working to help with the transition to safer chemicals for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing food trucks in Washington.  

In recognition of their efforts, the Clean Safety & Health in Food Trucks (Clean SHiFT) team received a 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Image of EPA Safer Choice Award poster

The Clean SHiFT team was one of 26 teams across 14 states to receive the recognition. The EPA Safer Choice program helps consumers, businesses, and facility purchasers find products that are safer for human health and the environment.  

The Clean SHiFT team was a 2019-2020 EarthLab Innovation Grantee team that developed tools and educational materials to promote safer cleaning techniques and products in food trucks in Washington State. Many common cleaning products negatively impact the environment and human health. The resulting increases in exposures to chemicals are associated with acute and chronic health problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, women and children. With food trucks growing in popularity not only in our region, but nationally, there is a huge opportunity to help operators improve their health impacts.  

Image of food truck.

Through a collaboration between the University of Washington, the Washington State Food Truck Association, Heritage University, PopUPjustice, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Clean SHiFT team conducted a survey in English and Spanish of 49 food truck operators. 

Photo of the Clean SHiFT team members.

The team used the survey results to develop a bilingual online toolkit (English and Spanish) that includes six steps for safer cleaning to improve air quality and reduce respiratory hazards, a storytelling instructional video highlighting the selection of Safer Choice-certified products, and a fact sheet on cleaning and disinfecting. The toolkit also features a bumper sticker that can be shared with customers to access information on safer cleaning products, including Safer Choice-certified products.

“Clean SHiFT demonstrates how valuable EarthLab’s research to practice projects are for reaching small employers and their employees with innovative products that benefit both the environment and public health,” says Nancy Simcox, lead PI of the project.

Hear from Aurora Martin of popUPjustice on what this award means to the team: 2022 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year YouTube video.

The Clean SHiFT team includes staff from the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Science Continuing Education Program, UW Bothell’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, popUPjustice, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Department of Health, King and Yakima County health districts, and students from Heritage University and the University of Washington.  

This work was sponsored by an EarthLab Innovation Grant which supports projects at the intersection of climate change and social justice. To learn more about the Innovation Grants program, including how to apply for the current round of grants, click here.


Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2022

The idea to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed at the 1977 UN Conference by Indigenous advocates. Since then, more than a dozen states and hundreds of cities have adopted the day.

2014 marked the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Seattle. The recognition was a result of advocacy by local Indigenous organizers since 2009. In 2021, President Biden officially recognized the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The movement shifts the focus towards a more accurate representation of history, the resilience, and contributions of Native Americans spanning generations.

Today’s Moment

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared water of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

At EarthLab, we believe that centering equity and justice in environmental work includes honoring the knowledge and work of communities that disproportionately face environmental harms. This idea comes to bear when we consider the social and ecological harm Indigenous communities are experiencing due to large environmental events such as climate change, and we recognize the value and necessity of acknowledging multiple ways of knowing. The following are UW-related resources and events recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Watch Together

Tonight (Monday, October 10th from 6:00-8:00pm)! Head to the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center for a screening of ‘Imagining the Indian‘, a documentary that examines the movement that is ending the use of Native American names, logos, and mascots in the world of sports and beyond.

Poster for the 'Imagining the Indian' documentary viewing and panel taking place October 10, 2022.

The event is put on by the UW Center for Anti-Racism and Community Health (ARCH), UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D), wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ  Intellectual House, and the UW School of Public Health.

Explore the Indigenous Speaker Series

EarthLab is proud to co-sponsor a virtual Indigenous Speaker Series hosted by the Northwest Indian College. The series amplifies voices of Indigenous people and promotes a dialogue about Indigenous people’s culture and traditional lived experiences.

A list of past conversations including recordings can be found on our website.

Walk the Walk

Experience the UW Seattle campus from a different perspective — through the Indigenous Walking Tour.

Photo of Owen Oliver and EarthLab summer interns standing under a large tree during the Indigenous Walking Tour on the UW Seattle campus.
Sara Adams
Owen Oliver guides EarthLab summer interns through the Indigenous Walking Tour on the UW Seattle campus.

Created by recent graduate Owen L. Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo), the tour guides you through stories of place across seven locations on campus. You can pick up a copy of the walking tour booklet at the University Book Store, on the American Indian Studies website or experience the tour virtually.

Watch Gather

he EarthLab Learning Collective offered a free screening of Gather to our staff this summer. Gather is a documentary about Indigenous food sovereignty. The film beautifully captures efforts to rediscover identity through ancestral foods.

“The industrial revolution is over. Now, if we want to survive, if we want to carry on life on Earth, we need to be a part of the restorative revolution,” – Samuel Gensaw (Yurok), activist 

Learn more about the film, the stories featured, and how to watch on the Gather Film website.

Be in Community

Explore these resources for UW students, faculty and staff: 


Our Top 10 Stories of 2021

In 2021, EarthLab welcomed new partners, strengthened our commitment to equity and justice work, and continued our work to inspire and incentivize innovative, community-centered environmental and climate justice research. Explore our top stories below.

10. EarthLab statement condemning violence towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community

EarthLab staff stands with the University of Washington and Nature and Health against the racially-motivated violence and hate crimes towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

9. For tribes, climate change fight is about saving culture

Meade Krosby, a senior scientist with the UW Climate Impacts Group, is working with the Tulalips to determine the impacts on tribally important plants. The Tulalips have been leaders in organizing meetings, conferences and workshops around climate change.

8. Innovative new prizes add to competition experience

EarthLab is proud to sponsor a prize at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, presented by Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. The Community Impact Prize recognizes innovation in developing a product, solution, or demonstrated business model that mitigates or makes communities more resilient in the face of climate change while prioritizing equity and justice.

7. How to avoid cabin fever in WA’s pandemic winter

With each passing month, more and more Washingtonians are suffering under the physical, emotional and financial damages of enduring a lengthy pandemic. And as we find ourselves in the coldest, darkest days of the year during the worst-case surge yet, it can feel like a herculean task just to take a daily walk around the block. (Crosscut)

6. Project to create anti-racism education wins Mellon grant

Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, faculty advisor for EarthLab member organization Future Rivers and assistant professor in the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs, is part of a team of academics that was recently awarded $5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an interdisciplinary, multi-year project to advance anti-racist practices and pedagogy in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

5. EarthLab and Population Health co-fund pilot grant to improve communication around smoke exposure in rural and tribal communities

EarthLab and the Population Health Initiative have announced a new pilot research grant award to study how Tribal and non-Tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

A sunset

4. Burning Embers: Synthesis of the Health Risks of Climate Change

Additional climate change is projected to increase for heat-related morbidity and mortality, ozone-related mortality, dengue and Lyme disease from undetectable to severe risks as the planet continues to warm, according to new research published by the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) at the University of Washington.

3. CHanGE comes to EarthLab

New collaboration between UW Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) and EarthLab will accelerate climate research, action and resilience.

2. EarthLab equity and justice reads: Minor Feelings: An Asian American reckoning

EarthLab has selected Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong for our equity and justice book club this quarter. This book was selected from several works written by and about the Asian-American experience.

1. Announcing the 2021 EarthLab Innovation Grants RFP

The Innovation Grants Program will invest in teams of community partners and academic researchers and students at the University of Washington (UW) who are interested in developing solutions at the intersection of climate change and social justice.

EarthLab Equity and Justice Reads: Mississippi Solo (Eddy Harris)

EarthLab has selected the next book for our Equity and Justice book club: Mississippi Solo by Eddy Harris. The publisher writes about the book,


“In this exciting reissue of his classic travelogue, readers will come to treasure the rich insightful prose that is as textured as the Mississippi River itself. They will be taken by the hand by an adventurer whose lifelong dream is to canoe the length of this mighty river, from Minnesota to New Orleans. The trip’s dangers were legion for a Black man traveling alone, paddling from ‘where there ain’t no black folks to where they still don’t like us much.’

Barge waives loom large, wild dogs roam the wooded shores, and, in the Arkansas dusk, two shotgun-toting bigots nearly bring the author’s dream to a bloody nightmare. Sustaining him through the hard weeks of paddling were the hundreds of people who reached out to share a small piece of his challenge. Mississippi Solo is a big, rollicking, brilliant book, a wonderful piece of American adventure, and an unforgettable story of a man testing his own limits.”


This selection aligns with the Future Rivers summer reading. Future Rivers will host Mr. Harris at the University of Washington on Thursday, October 14 for an in-person screening of his film, River to the Heart, followed by a moderated Q&A with the author and director. This event will be in person, free and open to the public.

Save your seat here

EarthLab Equity and Justice Reads: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong)

EarthLab has selected Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong for our equity and justice book club this quarter. This book was selected from several works written by and about the Asian-American experience. EarthLab staff and member organization members will meet virtually on Tuesday, June 8 to discuss themes as part of our commitment to continuous equity and justice learning.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong)

The publisher writes:

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.

Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant—and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her.

With sly humor and a poet’s searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche—and of a writer’s search to both uncover and speak the truth.

Read more about the EarthLab Equity and Justice book club here.

EarthLab statement condemning violence towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community

EarthLab staff stands with the University of Washington and Nature and Health against the racially-motivated violence and hate crimes towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Over the past year, 3,800 anti-Asian incidents were reported in the U.S., which represents only a fraction of the increase in acts of violence, hate and discrimination towards this community. We must work to dismantle the white supremacy that undercurrents this racism and discrimination in order to create an equitable, just and sustainable world.

We all have a responsibility to call out hate and bias and to create an environment that is free from fear and is inclusive for all. We’ve included some resources below to continue this work.

Nature & Health Speaks: Beyond Inclusive Design with The Eli’s Park Project

This article was originally published by Urban@UW.

The Burke-Gilman Playground Park. Image Credit:

The Eli’s Park Project is committed to carrying on Eli’s legacy of love through a community-led renovation of the Burke-Gilman Playground Park. They are working with the community to create an accessible, inclusive, nature-based park where people of all ages and abilities can find play and peace. The reimagining and manifestation of this new, inclusive Burke-Gilman Playground Park consists of four phases: Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, and finally, construction. There are additional efforts that are taking place simultaneously including ongoing community outreach, fundraising, and coordination with the project’s partners. The current design uses a parallel pathways concept that “celebrates our togetherness, while honoring our differences”. Two pathways encircle the park, winding together in parallel experiences of places and play. One path remains easily accessible for those who need smooth surfaces to navigate the park safely, while the other meanders off and loops back to offer a variety of experiences for those seeking challenges as they explore.

On February 10th, University of Washington’s Nature and Health invited The Eli’s Park Project to share their inclusive design process through the Nature and Health Speaks series.

Nature and Health is a group of community members, scientists and practitioners who are passionate about the connections between nature and human health and well-being. They establish connections between individuals to “contribute to the design of health-care, educational and community settings that benefit all people.” The Eli’s Park Project had the opportunity to talk to, learn from and connect with over 45 individuals doing incredible work in the local community and across Washington state and the nation.

During the event, participants shared the benefits of inclusive design processes for nature-based projects, the importance of building outdoor spaces to meet the needs of a wide variety of users, the challenges of engaging community during COVID and the need for including anti-displacement strategies into projects that have green outdoor spaces.

Star Berry (she/her), Program Manager of Nature and Health, left feeling “encouraged to think about what it means to be welcoming in addition to being accessible and…allowing for relationships and needs to build.”

Check out Nature & Health Speaks: Beyond Inclusive Design: Creating a Welcoming, Accessible, Nature-Based Park event here.



EarthLab and Population Health co-fund pilot grant to improve communication around smoke exposure in rural and Tribal communities

EarthLab and the Population Health Initiative have announced a new pilot research grant award to study how Tribal and non-Tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

Due to climate change, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity across the western United States. While land managers have increasingly been proactive in “fighting fire with fire,” i.e., using prescribed fires to prevent severe wildfires, this means that people in Tribal and rural areas will be exposed to smoke outside of the traditional fire season. Therefore, this project aims to address this with effective risk communication for the potentially affected populations.

EarthLab is proud to co-fund this project with Population Health, a new center at UW that addresses the challenges that arise at the intersection of human health, environmental resilience and social and economic equity. The EarthLab Innovation Grants Program invests in interdisciplinary and community-led projects that develop innovative solutions and strategies to pressing environmental challenges. The 2021-2022 Request for Proposal (RFP) will be announced later this year.

About the Project

Project Title
Characterizing Risk Communication Around Smoke Exposure in Rural and Tribal Communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area

Ernesto Alvarado, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Savannah D’Evelyn, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (postdoctoral scholar)
Nicole Errett, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Cody Desautel, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Project abstract
Wildfires across the western United States are increasing in frequency and severity. To lessen the negative impacts of high severity wildfires on both human and forest health, fuel management strategies such as prescribed fires (Rx fires) are being utilized. Use of Rx fires results in less severe wildfires and thus less severe smoke events. However, managing fire with fire increases the frequency of smoke exposure in rural communities outside of fire season.

To address this balance, we must start with effective risk communication for potentially affected populations. The goal of this project is to describe how tribal and non-tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

Through key informant interviews and focus groups, we aim to identify the community and cultural perceptions of smoke exposure and describe its impact on the community. We will partner with representatives from the Natural Resource Division for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CNRD), the Colville Environmental Trust Air Quality Program (CETAQP), and Washington Prescribed Fire Council (WPFC) to reach communities on and off the Colville reservation.

By working with these partners, we will describe perceived risk of smoke exposure, improve real-time culturally responsive risk communication, as well as advance and evaluate each community’s outreach goals. This work will set the stage for new and continued community-academic partnerships to develop effective and relevant resources and risk communication to enhance the resilience to, and reduce the disproportionate health risks of, smoke exposure.

View the full slate of Population Health 2021 pilot research grants here

EarthLab Equity and Justice Reads: As Long as Grass Grows

EarthLab has selected As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock  by Dina Gilio-Whitaker for our equity and justice book club this quarter. EarthLab staff and member organization members will meet on Friday, March 5 to discuss approaches to activism and policy from past and current events of Indigenous environmental justice.

About As Long As Grass Grows 

The publisher writes:

Through the unique lens of “Indigenized environmental justice,” Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites, while highlighting the important leadership of Indigenous women in this centuries-long struggle. As Long As Grass Grows gives readers an accessible history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy.

Throughout 2016, the Standing Rock protest put a national spotlight on Indigenous activists, but it also underscored how little Americans know about the longtime historical tensions between Native peoples and the mainstream environmental movement. Ultimately, she argues, modern environmentalists must look to the history of Indigenous resistance for wisdom and inspiration in our common fight for a just and sustainable future.

Read more about the EarthLab Equity and Justice book club here.