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Equity & Environment Agenda Released

Year-long effort a result of the Environmental Equity Initiative — a partnership between Seattle Foundation, community partners, the City of Seattle and other local funders


April 25, 2016

A year ago on Earth Day, Seattle Foundation came together with community partners, the City of Seattle and other local funders to launch the Environmental Equity Initiative (EEI). The EEI kicked off a year-long effort to strengthen Seattle’s commitment to race and social justice in our approach to the environment.  

Our region is often seen as a leader is efforts to protect the environment. We have made significant investments in efforts to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency. Yet despite our efforts to ensure a green region, many of those benefits are not felt by all. In the U.S. the most significant predictor of a person living near contaminated air, water, or soil is the color of their skin. This reality is mirrored in the Pacific Northwest. Low-income communities, particularly communities of color, are overburdened with negative health, social and economic impacts of pollution and climate change. These communities often face greater health risk and have more limited access to healthy food and open spaces. While at the same time receiving the least benefit from environmental progress, such as green jobs and greater energy efficiency.

Many of those most affected by environmental injustices have little voice in creating the solutions and ensuring their communities see the benefit. The creation of EEI was intended to address that. Upon its launch, the EEI created a Community Partners Steering Committee made up of a wide range of community leaders representing communities of color, youth, low-income, immigrant, refugee, small businesses, faith-based, and mainstream environmental communities. Over the last year, the Community Partners Steering Committee has engaged more than 800 community members to bring their perspective into the creation of an Equity & Environment Agenda.

One year later on Earth Day 2016, the Equity & Environment Agenda was released. The agenda includes four priority areas that are “long-standing priorities for communities of color in Seattle” according to Jill Mangaliman, Co-Chair of the Community Partners Steering Committee and Executive Director of Got Green.

— Healthy environments for all
—Jobs, local economies and & youth pathways
— Equity in City environmental programs
— Environmental narrative & community leadership

To see the full results of the Equity & Environment Agenda, click here

The release of the report has led to several immediate actions by the City of Seattle, including:

— A resolution to City Council adopting the four goal areas of the Agenda as priorities for all departments and core beliefs of Seattle’s approach to sustainability and the environment.
— Creation of a new Duwamish Valley program, to be coordinated by the Office of Sustainability & Environment and the Office of Community Planning & Development to specifically improve environmental, health and socio-economic conditions in partnership with the community and other government agencies.
— Extending opportunities to purchase low-cost fresh fruit and vegetable bags to all families enrolled in the Seattle Preschool Program who are below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
— Adding an environmental cohort to the Youth Employment Initiative so that young people are given the opportunity to work for environmental employers through the program.
— Establishing an Environmental Justice Steering Committee, in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods to build on existing leadership programs and support communities of color owning and shaping environmental issues.

These actions represent an encouraging start to increasing environmental equity in our region. “Community leadership in developing the goals and strategies in this Agenda created a successful and truly inclusive process,” said Dionne Foster, Co-Chair of the Community Partners Steering Committee and policy analyst at Puget Sound Sage. Yet she acknowledges “While setting this Agenda is a huge accomplishment, the real work starts now.”

To see a full list of the Community Partners Steering Committee and the organizations leading this work, click here.

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