by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
OUT for Sustainability, the one-of-a-kind Seattle-based LGBT green organization, held its most successful Earth Gay ever on April 22. More than 300 people came out to volunteer for a trail restoration and trash pickup project on Lake Union.
This year's Earth Gay project, a continuation of last year's, entailed restoring the Cheshiahud Loop around Lake Union. The Cheshiahud is a six-mile trail named in honor of a Duwamish chief of a village that once stood on the lake.
'The lake is the heart of Seattle,' said Gerod Rody, board president and founder of OUT for Sustainability.
Unlike the Green Lake Trail, a popular recreational lake loop in Seattle, Lake Union's loop serves as a heavily traveled transportation route as well. Thus OUT for Sustainability's cleanup was not only an effort to beautify the landscape, but to encourage alternative transportation, such as cycling, as well.
'It's an area that has been historically quite sketchy. We found a lot of needles and trash,' Rody told Seattle Gay News. 'We wanted to bring healthy, safe, and beautiful access along that stretch of the lake.'
Now in its fourth year, Earth Gay, which coincides with Earth Day, offers LGBT folks a chance to volunteer together. According to Rody, this was part of his reasoning for founding the organization - it combined the two things central to him, who he was and what was important to him.
'I was looking for an organization like it to get involved with and to meet people who had the same values,' Rody told SGN. 'I didn't even find any organization that I could start a chapter of.'
Thus, Rody founded OUT for Sustainability in 2008.
'People either got it or they didn't. There were a lot of people, all over the country really, who were waiting for an organization like this,' Rody told SGN. 'Some people liked the theory and were curious about what we would do with it.'
The inaugural Earth Gay - which Rody said was 'very event-focused and experimental' - saw only 10 volunteers. But as people began to understand, the word stated to spread. In only four short years, the Seattle organization is already dealing with sustainability issues around the globe.
Companies like Starbucks, Duos Catering, and Tutta Bella Pizzeria partnered with OUT for Sustainability this year to donate $3,000 worth of food and drink to the volunteers who cleared trash, removed invasive plants and weeds, and planted more than 200 new native plants, donated by King Conservation District (KCD).
'They're [KCD] a wonderful organization, it's our second year partnering with them,' Rody told SGN. 'It's great to continue these partnerships that make Earth Gay the great, meaningful event that it is.'
Partnerships are key for the small, but up-and-coming OUT for Sustainability. It's through partnerships that they're able to do one of their biggest projects - making Gay Pride a greener event globally.
In 2009, OUT for Sustainability partnered with Seattle Out and Proud (SO&P) to distribute information at Pride. In 2010, the organization partnered with PrideFest to bring compostable cups to the widely popular beer garden.
Members and volunteers of OUT for Sustainability vote on ideas about how to make Seattle Pride greener. This year, they're striving to encourage cycling and partnering with various organizations to cut back on bottled water use at the event.
'We want to do it on a bigger scale, to make it international program. We're looking at what Prides around the world are doing,' Rody told SGN.
Pride organizations from all over the world are now talking with OUT for Sustainability, and the organization is cataloguing these stories, emails, and requests in order to put out comprehensive information and guides on making Pride greener.
Learn more about Earth Gay and Out for Sustainability at www.out4s.org.
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