Issaquah community’s ‘green’ achievers observe Earth Day

April 19, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Earth Day is observed April 22, but some Issaquah-area residents celebrate the eco-conscious holiday year-round.

As people elsewhere take initial steps to “green” vehicles, volunteer for earth-friendly activities, reduce carbon footprints and make homes and gardens more earth-friendly, the Issaquah community includes avid recyclers, car-free families and “green” homeowners.

Issaquah resident Kent Peterson, who traded his car for a bike more than 20 years ago, leads a procession of well-wishers as he departs last year for Banff, Alberta, the starting line for the 2,745 mile Tour Divide race. By Greg Farrar

Recycling to superstar status

Wayne Elson started recycling cans and bottles more than 30 years ago — long before recycling became as simple as a trip to the curb.

For long-running efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, the King County Solid Waste Division honored the Mirrormont resident as a Recycling Superstar in September.

The contest asked people to share the tips and tricks to cut the amount of waste sent to the county-run Cedar Hills Regional Landfill between Issaquah and Maple Valley. Local recycling experts judged the entries based on accuracy and level of recycling effort, creativity and detail.

Elson started recycling in the 1970s and, after settling in Issaquah in 1984, dipped into composting, too.

In addition to curbside recycling, he recycles scrap wood trim into picture frames; recycles computers and monitors, scrap copper and used motor oil; and eschews products in nonrecyclable packaging.

Elson donated proceeds from recycled aluminum cans to a water project in Uganda last year. Now, alongside other parishioners from Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church, he is collecting cans to raise funds for a school in Myanmar.

“Stuff you throw away doesn’t disappear,” Elson said. “It stays around and has to be put somewhere. King County or some other entity has to pay to keep storing it.”

Trading four wheels for two

Kent Peterson traded car keys for biking gear more than 20 years ago for reasons as much economic as environmental.

The downtown Issaquah resident lives close to work at the Bicycle Center of Issaquah and relies on mass transit for longer trips. The experience is easier nowadays due to improved mass transit systems, better bike maps, a focus on bike commuting among policymakers, and smartphone apps designed to help bikers and pedestrians find the best route.

“When we first did it, it was harder because you, by default, build your life around the car,” Peterson said.

Peterson and wife Christine had a 1-year-old son at the time the family decided to go car-free. The Peterson children learned early on to figure out transportation to sporting events and other extracurricular activities.

Nowadays, Peterson’s older son is a scientist and a bike commuter in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“The stuff that people think is hard is not,” Kent Peterson said.

Skeptics often ask how the family picks up a mattress or a TV. Just like many other people do — through home delivery, Peterson said.

“We’re not existing in a world without cars,” he added.

Still, sometimes the Pacific Northwest weather can turn into a drag for a car-free commuter.

“There are times when the rain is pouring down and you go, ‘God, this would be easier somewhere it doesn’t pour down rain,’” Peterson said.

Family rocks a ‘green’ crib

King County featured Issaquah residents David and Leigh Bangs, plus daughters Kayleigh, 13, and Laurel, 8, in October in the premiere episode of “EcoCribz” — a county-produced Web series created to highlight residents for using “green” practices and products in home improvements.

The title and format nod to “MTV Cribs” — a peek inside the walk-in closets and eight-car garages of the rich and famous.

“EcoCribz” is less about the Benjamins and more about efforts to boost energy efficiency and air quality, and to provide a more practical use of space. The changes made the Bangs’ house more inviting to them and guests.

“People hang out in the great room more,” Leigh Bangs said.

In the remodel featured on the series, the South Cove family freshened up the kitchen, pulled out a wall and a sunroom to create a great room, and turned a seldom-used sitting room and fireplace into a laundry room and a closet.

“We want to show people that ‘green’ home remodeling creates healthy, comfortable spaces that can save you money, increase your home’s value and help protect the environment,” Patti Southard, project manager for the GreenTools Program and “EcoCribz” host, said in a release announcing the series.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

Recycle batteries to help greenway

AAA is inviting all motorists to drop off used vehicle batteries through April 22 at any AAA-approved auto repair facility. For every lead-acid battery donated for recycling, AAA pledges to plant a tree in the Mountains to Sound Greenway along Interstate 90.

Find the closest approved repair facility on the AAA website,, and clicking the “Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Shop” icon in the left-hand column.

Last year, 35 AAA employees volunteered to helped the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust plant 393 trees at Squak Valley Park North along Issaquah Creek. AAA also donated 100 of the trees planted.

Earth Day events

  • Mayor Ava Frisinger plans to honor Issaquah Valley Elementary School fifth-grade environmental stewards for Earth Day. The ceremony is at 10 a.m. April 22, Earth Day, at the school, 555 N.W. Holly St.
  • King County is emphasizing easy ways to go “green” during the annual Earth Day Expo scheduled for April 22. Join King County Executive Dow Constantine, EcoConsumer Tom Watson, environmental mascot Bert the Salmon and area school children to celebrate the spirit of everyday “green” living at Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle. Find tools, resources and discounts to make easy environmental choices. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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