2013 Sustainability Report

Sustainability 2013 Report: Be Great at work and at home

In 2013, Pierce County saved money and limited waste while protecting the environment and human health


Pierce County government continues to save money by making better decisions about how we operate the government. Over the last four years, Pierce County employees have helped to save more than $2.54 million by using fewer natural resources and supplies in our daily operations.

The work of creating a more efficient government continues with all county departments playing a crucial role in creating a sustainable Pierce County government.
Spreadsheet clip art

Pierce County 2013 Sustainability Index2012 Sustainability Index

The Pierce County Sustainability Index tracks twenty four sustainability indicators across Pierce County Government. The 2013 Sustainability Index provides a clear picture of how the County has reduced our use of energy, water, gasoline and other natural resources.
Pat McCarthy staff photo

Looking Ahead...

In 2014, we will expand our Sustainability work with a new sustainability plan that gets us prepared for 2020. Every county employee and resident has a role to play in helping us be great at work and at home.

Pierce County Executive
Pat McCarthy
Pat McCarthy signature
Air Quality banner with mountain scenary

Pierce County Air Quality Overview

Pierce County enjoys excellent air quality most of the year, thanks to our propensity for wind and rain. Pierce County is committed to improving our wintertime air quality to improve human health and make it easier for companies to locate in our industrial areas. Our air quality problem happens from November to February during the wood heating season. Wood smoke from houses accounts for over half of our wintertime air pollution.

Air Quality 2013

Pierce County had its fourth consecutive year of improved air quality in 2013. The efforts of local governments and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency are raising awareness of the health and economic issues brought on by our wood smoke problem.

Air Quality Resources

The website Air On The Safe Side is a one-stop shop for information about Pierce County’s wood smoke problem, including financial incentives, wood burning education and burn ban alerts. Sign up now for burn bans alerts so you can avoid costly tickets.
Air On The Safe Side website logo with link to site

Air Violations and Burn Bans

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency calls burn bans so that we do not exceed the federal government’s daily Particulate Matter 2.5 standard. Burn bans were crucial to limiting our extremely bad air quality days in 2013. Burning wood illegally during burn bans can result in a major fine.

PSCAA called five burn bans over 23 days in Pierce County in 2013. We exceeded the daily PM2.5 standard (35 micrograms/cubic meter) at the Tacoma South L monitor four times:
  • January 1 (35.5 ug/m3) – Stage 1 burn ban in place
  • January 13 (41.5 ug/m3) – Stage 2 burn ban in place
  • November 24 (38.1 ug/m3) – Stage 2 burn ban in place
  • December 5 (36.7 ug/m3) – No burn ban in place
For more information about regional air quality please visit the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Energy banner with picture of snowy mountainside
Green piggy bank

Pierce County Has Reduced Energy Use by 23.1% in Our Owned Buildings Since 2009

Pierce County continues to decrease energy use in our buildings saving over $1,640,000 million over the last four years and reducing the negative impacts of energy creation. In 2013, Pierce County spent $2,112,831.58 on electricity and natural gas at our owned buildings, which is significantly less than previous years. This is a result of hard work retrofitting older facilities and Pierce County employee's using best energy practices.

Pierce County has also worked to do energy audits of our buildings to figure out where lighting and window projects will make the biggest difference. In 2013, Pierce County worked with local utilities to receive $220,007 in rebates for energy and lighting projects.

The County-City Building is the Biggest Energy Loser

The County-City Building is continuing to prove that older generation buildings can hold their own on energy efficiency performance even after 55 years. Total energy consumption in the County-City building has dropped by 15 percent since 2009 – including an annual reduction of 8 percent in 2013 over 2012.

Energy Tips

Be Great @Work

  • Using Efficient Lighting
  • Unplugging Personal Appliances
  • Placing Office Equipment in Energy Saving Mode

Be Great @Home

  • Using a Programmable Thermostat
  • Using LED Light Bulbs
  • Replacing Old Appliances with Energy Efficient Models
  • Switch out Your Old DVR for a New More Efficient One
Sustainability Education banner with employees posing with certificates

Department Sustainability Training

In 2014, the Office of Sustainability made sustainability training available to all departments. Overall the County improved to an A on the 2013 Sustainability Survey from a B+ in 2012. 94% of Pierce County employees now consider sustainability in their jobs.
Pie chart showing 94.1% of Pierce County Employees consider sustainability at work and 5.9% do not

What Can You Do to Be Great?

Please Download the new Sustainability 2020 Poster and assess your own sustainability @Work and @Home. Please take 5 minutes and see what changes it takes to save money, limit waste, protect the environment and improve human health.
Be Great at Work and At Home banner linking to Sustainability 2020 document
2013 Grade
2012 Grade
Received Training
County Executive
Economic Development
A+ A+
Risk Management
Information Technology A
Medical Examiner
A A+
Human Resources
Clerk of the Superior Court
Emergency Management
Budget and Finance
Assigned Counsel
A Partial
Facilities A
B Yes
Family Justice Center
Planning and Land Services
Public Works and Utilities
A- B- Yes
County Council
Parks and Recreation
A- A
Community Connections B+ B Yes
District Court B+ B- Partial
Superior Court
B+ B- Partial
Prosecuting Attorney
B B- Partial
Juvenile Court
B+ B- Partial
Sheriff's Department
B- C+ Partial
Pierce County Overall Grade
A B+  
Two packets of copy paper

Green Purchasing

Pierce County set a goal of having 50% of our purchased office products have recycled content by 2015. In 2013 Pierce County reached 26.7% recycled content on our purchased office supplies. On Earth day 2014, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy announced that departments will now purchase a minimum of 100% recycled printer paper. This new county policy should push us to meet our recycled content goals in the years ahead.
Piece of paper icon

Paper Use

Pierce County has reduced our printer paper use by 30.5% since 2009, meeting our 2015 Sustainability goal. This reduction in paper use saved us $65,246 over what we were spending on paper in 2009. Improved printing decisions, going paperless and double-sided printing are the main drivers of this.


Pierce County employees have increased recycling by 47.8% in our County buildings, since 2009. In 2012 we recycled 27.8 lbs per employee per month up from 18.8 lbs in 2009. We have met our 2015 goal of increasing recycling by 35%. The County did not complete a waste audit in 2013.
Understanding how landfills work will help you see the
value in recycling and composting goods. Click here for
more information about
Pierce County Solid Waste.
Bicycle next to bus - sustainable transportation

Sustainable Transportation

In 2013, Pierce County’s vehicles and ferry’s combined to burn 1,038,398 gallons of unleaded and diesel fuel, 34,241 fewer gallons than in 2012. Our various fleets and ferry have reduced fuel use by 6.6% since 2009.
Nissan Leaf electric vehicle parked

Hybrid/Electric Vehicles

Since 2009, Pierce County has increased our hybrids to 25.4% of the non-law enforcement fleet, a 66% increase. Pierce County employees took 590 electric vehicle trips in 2013. Hybrids and electric vehicles continue to be integrated into the fleet.
Gas pump icon


The non-sheriff car and light truck fleet increased to 17.1 mpg from 14.1 mpg in 2009. The Sheriff fleet averaged 13.06 mpg in 2013. Overall the general use fleet drove 5,740,193 miles on 412,748 gallons averaging 13.9 mpg in 2013.
Two ORCA cards stacked

ORCA Transit Card

In 2013 Pierce County employees used their ORCA cards for 31,647 trips an increase of 8% over 2012. Employees are now allowed to use the ORCA card for personal use to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion in Pierce County.
Bikers in the bike lane riding next to vehicles on the road

Commute Trip Reduction

Pierce County employees also tracked 26,949 other trips including carpool, vanpool, walking and riding to work. Pierce County employees’ logged 58,596 CTR trips total in 2013 or 18.6 trips per employee.
Is the bus stop too far from your home? Try biking to the bus
stop and using your ORCA card to get you to work and home
free. View more
Commute Trip Resources.
Leash & Scoop sign next to water - water quality
Rock structure filtering water into a stream
Green Infrastructure: A new rain garden installed at Spanaway Park
Metal grate with water flowing through it into Puget Sound
Old Infrastructure: Stormwater from our roads goes directly into Puget Sound untreated

Pierce County Water Quality

Pierce County monitors water quality in local streams, and assigns a letter grade based on specific parameters that indicate certain problems. The average grade for Pierce County’s streams in 2013 was a C. Pierce County also monitors public and private stormwater facilities to ensure they are functioning properly and retrofits public facilities to reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering local streams. Since 2008, the County has reduced the worst cases of violations by more than 50%.

In 2012, Pierce County began to target watersheds that have streams declining in health. We call this program "Raise the Grade" since we are seeking to improve stormwater compliance and stream health.

In early 2014, Pierce County expanded this program to target seven water bodies in the county with water quality problems. These improvements may be achieved through retrofits of existing stormwater facilities, public education, and restoration of natural areas.

The waters being targeted in the Raise the Grade area are Spanaway Creek, Clover Creek, Clear Creek, Canyon Falls Creek, Mark Dickson Creek, Swan Creek and Filucy Bay. To learn more go to the Raise the Grade page.

Water Reduction at the County

Pierce County has reduced our water use by 10.4% since 2009 meeting our 2015 Sustainability Goal of 10%.

Water conservation strategies at the county have included low-flow faucets and toilets as well as faucet aerators that reduce water use by up to 50%. Water is not very expensive but reducing the use of warm water helps save money on electricity and natural gas bills as well.
Sustainability Update banner with sailboats on the water

Sustainability 2013: A Year of Steady Improvement with a New Plan Ahead

The leadership of Pierce County remains committed to sustainability as a way to limit waste, save money, protect the environment and improve human health. 94% of Pierce County workers are on board and are doing their best to limit waste while providing critical public services. As the sustainability manager it is my job to measure and highlight the successes of Pierce County employees. The 2013 Sustainability Report is that annual opportunity to reflect on the sustainable actions we have taken and consider what we can do to improve in 2014. Since 2010, Pierce County has met 6 of our 11 original sustainability goals (two years ahead of schedule). Over the next few months we will work to create a new Sustainability Plan that will push us from good toward great by 2020 (or before).

Ryan Dicks
Sustainability Manager

A look into the rich history of Pierce County Farming

2013: A Renewed Focus on Agriculture

Pierce County government under the leadership of Executive McCarthy has taken many steps over the last two years to improve conditions for Pierce County farmers. By buying more local food Pierce County citizens can also help farmers make a better living working the soil. To learn more about the Agriculture Program click the links below.

Contact Us

  1. Ryan Dicks
    Pierce County Sustainability Manager
    (253) 798-8603

    Other Resources

    Buildings/Energy Use
    Jessica Ludwig
    Resource Conservation Program Coordinator
    (253) 798-6611

    Robert Dieckmann
    Sustainable Resources
    (253) 798-4139

    Water Quality
    Dan Wrye

    Surface Water Management
    (253) 798-4672

    Agriculture Program
    Diane Marcus-Jones
    Planning and Land Services
    (253) 798-2616

Additional Sustainability Training

Drive Green - links to Green Driver Training page
Live Clean - links to Ten Tips for Sustainable Living in Pierce County page
Eat Local - links to Puget Sound Fresh page