Issue Brief

Environmental Justice



NCEL Point of Contact

Mara Herman
Environmental Health Program Manager



This issue brief provides an overview of environmental justice, key facts and terms for understanding the trends of environmental injustice, as well applicable strategies for implementing environmental justice strategies.

Key Points

Key Point 1

3 out of 5 Black Americans live in communities with uncontrolled waste sites. (National Conference for Community and Justice)

Key Point 2

A case study of The Bronx, New York, found that individuals who live close to noxious industrial facilities and waste sites were 66% more likely to be hospitalized for asthma. Significantly, these same individuals were 13% more likely to be people of color. (NCCJ)

Key Point 3

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that 11.2% of African American children and 4% of Mexican-American children are poisoned by lead, compared with 2.3% of white children. (NCCJ)

What is Environmental Justice? 

Environmental Justice occurs when all people, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or national origin have meaningful involvement and fair treatment in environmental protection laws, regulations, implementation, and enforcement. (Environmental Justice ensures that every person has the ability to live, work, and exist in a safe and clean environment.) 

What is Environmental Injustice? 

Environmental injustice is the disproportionate exposure and burden of Black, Indigenous, communities of color and low socioeconomic status to pollution and poor quality of life through unequal environmental protection laws, regulations and practices.


Community Outreach and Engagement:

Hold Working Groups with EJ Organizations: 

Take an Intersectional Approach:

Introduce Green Jobs:

Indigenous Rights:

  • Ensure freedoms to practice traditions,cosmologies and relationships with nature 
  • Support Indigenous access to healthy land, air, and water. 
  • Prevent/cease industrial development on or near Indigenous land (DAPL and NAPL)
  • Resources


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Best Practices for Meaningful Community Engagement Tip Sheet - Groundwork USA

A collection of tips for engaging historically underrepresented populations in visioning and planning

Go to resource
How to Lead Collective Impact Working Groups - FSG

This resource provides the steps and tools needed to lead an effective working group.

Go to resource
CFP: Environmental Justice & Deep Intersectionality | Discard Studies

Provides deeper context for the intersection of environmental injustices.

Go to resource
Green Jobs Report - WE ACT for Environmental Justice

This report outlines steps for bringing underrepresented groups into climate change work and the clean energy economy.

Go to resource
Indigenous Environmental Network

Go to resource
Flowing river

Empower State Environmental Champions

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