My name is Maanit, and I’m the founder of MarbleWatch. If you’re on this website, you probably know a bit about us already- chances are we’ve presented directly to you, urging you to take a look at our resources. We’ve made a couple of infographics in the past, trying to educate community members on local issues, but so far, much of what we’ve been trying to do has been to test what works and what doesn’t. This, I believe, is our first real article. Consider it an introduction.

MarbleWatch: An Introduction

As most things do, we started with a problem. Last schoolyear, I’d been on the ASB board- the student board- of our school, and my promise to our school had been to make actual, concrete changes. Of course, everyone says that, because you wouldn’t get elected if you didn’t. But once you secure your position on the board, the real problem quickly becomes evident: the specific issues to tackle are unclear. While everyone was clearly aware that issues existed, nothing was laid out for us.  Nonetheless, rather than simply going back on our word and giving up, we began to think to ourselves, what if we could somehow gather a detailed, specific list of issues to tackle one by one, based on the needs of the student body? We crafted a brief but thorough survey asking for general and specific school feedback, and we sent it out to all 600-something students in the school. We got somewhere between 300 and 400 responses, each with a specific concern to tackle. We were able to analyze trends in the data, and prioritize issues based on how common each was in the responses. As we knocked them off the list, one-by-one, from the top down, we were making concrete, measurable change for the better, and it was clearly visible in the school. Our work was cut off back in March, by the pandemic, but it got me thinking- it’s such a simple yet effective system, crowdsourcing these issues and tackling them based off the concerns of the community. Why wasn’t this being applied on a larger scale? It seemed like such an obvious first step, to identify problem-spots to cover. I’ve been deeply involved in local environmental work for the past year or two, and this was my first concern. Cities in the Puget Sound region, like Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, and even Seattle, are clearly focused on addressing environmental concerns in their communities. They’ve identified this as a need, and many even have dedicated staff and/or advisory board focusing on sustainability full-time. I’ve spoken to a couple, and I’ve spoken to people from cities like Sammamish which don’t have any sustainability infrastructure at present. And while they care, one of the problems that stood out to me, not just for sustainability, but for the city administrations in full, was the clear disconnect with the community. One policymaker from Sammamish made the problem clear, stating that cities simply listened to the loudest voices, whether they be a thousand-strong or only ten, as they had nothing else to go off of. What if we could solve this problem? If we can take the crowdsourcing we did at my school last year, and scale it up to the city and even county level, imagine the impact we could have. I’ll elaborate more on our solution and the city connection in a bit, but first I want to clarify- we’ve only been talking with cities for a couple weeks now. I’d say we really ‘started’ sometime in July, though the exact transition from an idea into an initiative was, admittedly, unclear. And for the past couple of months, the MarbleWatch project has been kind of on and off, as we’ve had members come and go constantly due to personal reasons more often than not tied in with the pandemic. Everything we’ve done so far has been in the middle of a 9-month lockdown, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be easing up for a while. It’s definitely made our project a lot harder. But over the past, what, 5 months, we’ve had so much time to grow and change. We realized we were approaching this wrong. We had a solution, crowdsourcing, but we hadn’t identified a clear plan or reliable structure. Everything we were doing was based off of what I knew about other organizations and youth changemakers I’d talked to, instead of starting with a clear problem and building up from there. We’ve tried a lot of different structures, we’d been global for a couple months, but now I feel everything is sort of falling into place. Now, the problem is clear: The cities we live in, right here in the Eastside and in all of King County by extent, don’t know where to start. And we’ve decided that instead of trying to seed chapters around the globe and working on growing and molding each one until we have a worldwide network, our impact can be a lot greater right here at home, in the Puget Sound region. We’ve decided to follow the overarching steps of Locate, Educate, Regulate. To solve the issues, you first have to identify them. That’s why we’re working to build a network of passive environmental lookouts across King County, to submit any specific environmental concerns or issues they come across. We’re crowdsourcing problems, so that we can move onto step two- Educate. One of the most important things we can do with the information we intend to gather is spread awareness in our own communities. Yes, we know that can sound wishy-washy. I’ve never been much of an awareness personal- I like to focus on implementing long-term systems to make concrete changes. But we’re focusing on localized issues, which can include things as ‘small’ as local plastic waste, litter, and air pollution. And while the most effective way to solve these issues is to work from the top-down, there’s no harm in continuing to push out specific actions that people can take in order to prevent the further growth of these issues. Things like not idling if you’re going to park for more than 30 seconds, how to PROPERLY dispose of COVID-19 masks. We’re not going to tell you to take shorter showers (well, we might. But it’s not a focus…), because you already KNOW you should, even if you don’t. For me, personally? Big trouble spot. But I know it’s a problem, and someone yelling it in my face everywhere I go is not going to help me change- there, change has to come from willpower. It’s the same with a lot of issues, like driving less and all. We aim to provide NEW information, specific, feasible actions that anyone can do, that you don’t already know about. And to do so, we’re going to be pushing out articles, because these are a WHOLE LOT EASIER to read that an infographic full to the brim with statistics, we’ve realized. In fact, I’m not going to include a whole lot of statistics- only those that are necessary. Because you don’t need to know how many masks are entering our waterways every minute, as long as you know it’s a problem. And let’s be honest here, no one remembers statistics anyways. So that’s a brief overview of our so-called ‘eco-journalism’. Educate. Finally, step 3. Regulate. This step is perhaps what has changed the most since we started. In fact, our new, robust strategy was decided on just a couple days back, after I had a shower epiphany. But now, we know our goal, we have a vision, and this is a method which can make a real impact. We aim to partner with King County cities over the next year or two, to help them become more sustainable. The way we’re going to do that is crowdsource environmental concerns and specific issues through our website, analyze trends or specific issues that are seen as priorities in each city, and work directly with sustainability coordinators, subcommittees, youth boards, and city council members to decide on focus areas and approach them head-on with long-term solutions. The reason it’s so much more effective for us to do the crowdsourcing, even if they help us with outreach, is because that allows us to redirect specific problems to the appropriate parties. We’ll be directing submissions to the correct cities, and a lot of submissions may not even be something for the city to address. It might be things that have to be tackled in the private sector or by local NGOs or schools, or even submissions that aren’t exactly relevant to what we’re doing. It’s a whole lot easier for the cities to have someone else do this for them. In exchange, their youth board (when applicable) will ideally help us with outreach through public and private channels, as that’s been our main problem area so far. If you want to get involved, we’re looking for high school students to join our core team. It’s just a couple of us on the core team right now. Two, if I’m being honest- Peter and me. And we could use the help. There’s a lot of room for initiative and growth, and we want your ideas, so email us at info@marblewatch.org if you’re interested. Second, we need eco-journalists, to help write these articles! The more the merrier! Again, you can email us there- we’re still getting an application form set up. And finally, most importantly, take our pledge, and use our submit form! Thank you! We look forward to having you along for the ride, and we’ll be pushing out three articles per week at the minimum from now on. Maybe we’ll organize an email list? Hmm… we’ll see. For now… TAKE THAT PLEDGE! It lets us count you as one of our passive lookouts, and we could use your help! Best, Maanit and the MarbleWatch Team­

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