Environmental Justice

Seattle's work to protect the climate and our environment is also a fight for social justice. Not all residents in Seattle experience our environmental progress equally. People of color in our city are more likely to live near polluted sites, suffer from environment-related health problems, and have less access to healthy fresh food, open space, and affordable housing. 

In partnership with the community, Seattle developed the Equity & Environment Agenda--a strategy to address these disparities and ensure that all Seattle residents benefit from our progress. The Agenda, along with Seattle's Race and Social Justice Initiative, are helping us ensure that we prioritize equity and center race in our environmental solutions. 

Recent Environmental Justice Highlights

Environmental Justice Fund
The Environmental Justice Fund was co-created by the Environmental Justice Committee--people with deep community roots who work closely with communities on environmental justice issues. In December of 2018, the City awarded nearly $350,000 to nine community based organizations for projects that improved local environmental conditions and responded to the impacts of climate change. Funding was awarded up to $40,000 for projects that will be led by and benefit those most affected by environmental and climate issues: communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and Native people-including people with low incomes, youth, and seniors.

King Conservation District Grants
The King Conservation District and the City of Seattle have worked together since 1995 to fund projects that support water quality, soil protection, ecosystem restoration, and urban agriculture within city boundaries. In 2017 the program guidelines and criteria were updated to reflect Seattle's commitment to environmental justice. Project proposals are now required to address the goals of the Seattle Equity & Environment Agenda as well as natural resource priorities. 

Duwamish River Opportunity Fund
The Duwamish River Opportunity Fund (DROF) is intended to support initiatives and projects that help address the challenges faced by Duwamish River communities. Neighborhood groups, community organizations, informal groups, individuals, and business groups are all eligible to apply for projects that improve the quality of life for communities living in the Duwamish River Valley.

Environmental Justice Committee
The Environmental Justice Committee (EJC) was launched in 2017. The EJC is a space for those most-affected by environmental inequities to have ownership of Equity & Environment Agenda implementation while enhancing partnerships with City departments and better connecting government to community-based solutions. The Committee builds on the model established by the multi-ethnic Community Partners Steering Committee that partnered with OSE to engage over 1000 residents to develop the Equity & Environment Agenda. 

Leaders in Equity, Environment, and Facilitation
Leaders in Equity, Environment, and Facilitation (LEEF) is an environmental leadership program for young adults coming from low-income households, ages 17-21 and living in Seattle. LEEF was created by Seattle Parks and Recreation to address the employment and access gap for youth of color, low-income youth, and LGBTQ youth in the facilitation and environmental education fields. More info here.

Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition
The Office of Housing and the Office of Planning & Community Development are providing technical assistance and funding to help support capacity building for the Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition. This is a group comprised of and lead by immigrant women of color. 

Duwamish Valley Program
The Duwamish Valley boasts a diversity of cultures and a strong sense of identity but also faces social, racial, health, environmental, and economic challenges at a magnitude far greater than the Seattle community as a whole. In 2016, the Offices of Sustainability & Environment and Planning & Development launched the Duwamish Valley Program, a robust effort to align and coordinate the work of 18 City departments to advance environmental justice and equitable development goals in the Duwamish Valley. After extensive work with the community, the City released  the Duwamish Valley Action Plan, a City-community shared vision that will guide our work and investments for the South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods for years to come. The Action Plan is organized into seven priority areas: Healthy Environment, Parks & Open Space, Community Capacity, Economic Opportunity & Jobs, Mobility & Transportation, Affordable Housing, and Public Safety.

Intentional and Inclusive Engagement in the Urban Forest Management Plan Update
Seattle's 2016 canopy cover assessment found that more people of color and with lower incomes tend to live in the census tracts with lower amounts of tree canopy. City staff are currently updating the Urban Forest Management Plan and are centering the needs of people of color in the Plan's goals and actions in addition to building ongoing relationships with underrepresented communities. To date, City staff have engaged 225 community members in conversations around how the City should manage our urban forest. Nearly 72% of those engaged were people of color, immigrants, refugees, and low-income residents. Staff also engaged eight stakeholder groups including government agencies, City partners, tree advocates, tree service providers and boards and commissions. 

Safe Routes to Schools Racial Equity Analysis
In 2017, the Safe Routes to School Team launched a comprehensive racial equity analysis to help them better understand the challenges and barriers that students of color face when walking and biking to school. Student walk and bike rates have sharply declined while youth obesity has almost quadrupled in the last four decades; this has disproportionately affected communities of color. To date, the team has partnered with 10 schools serving at least 85% students of color, attended over 50 community events catered specifically for communities of color, immigrants, and refugees, and partnered with nearly 40 community organizations to promote their racial equity survey and focused outreach. Results of this extensive analysis will be available later in 2019. 

Asthma and respiratory problems prevention in the Duwamish Valley
In 2018, the Seattle Office of Housing, Office of Sustainability & Environment, the American Lung Association, and Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition partnered on an asthma and respiratory problems prevention project. The project goal was to connect 50 households to: 1) no-/low-cost services and supplies; 2) higher-cost, higher impact supplies (vacuum cleaners); and 3) weatherization plus health improvements. The team met the racial and social justice goals established at the beginning of the project.  For example, of the 15 households that benefited from higher-cost, high impact supplies (i.e., vacuums), 70% of beneficiaries were people of color, immigrants, and refugees; 70% spoke a primary language other than English; and 75% of households had an income between 10-40% of Area Median Income. 

Helping People Eat Healthier
Running out of food is a real and growing problem for many in Seattle and it affects many communities of color disproportionately. Seattle's Fresh Bucks program -- funded by the Sweetened Beverage Tax -- helps families and individual stretch their tight food budget with two primary programs: Fresh Bucks Match and Fresh Bucks Vouchers. Fresh Bucks Match doubles the purchasing power for low-income residents who use their federal food stamp (SNAP) benefits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Every dollar spent at a Fresh Bucks retailer using food stamp benefits is matched, to purchase local produce. Eligible and enrolled participants receive monthly Fresh Bucks vouchers. Vouchers can be used like cash to buy fruits and vegetables at all Fresh Bucks retailers. Additionally, City of Seattle is working with Seattle Public Schools to provide free fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the school day at elementary schools where 50 percent or more students are eligible for free/reduced price meals.

Sustainability and Environment

Jessyn Farrell, Director
Address: 700 5th Avenue, #1868, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA, 98124-4729
Phone: (206) 256-5158

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Sustainability and Environment

We collaborate with City agencies, business groups, nonprofit organizations, and other partners to protect and enhance Seattle's distinctive environmental quality and livability.