5 Environmental Justice Organizations That Are Making A Difference

The negative effects of climate change and capitalism are felt the strongest in lower income communities of color, where there are often various factors, such as the rampant extraction of fossil fuels, that contribute to poor air and water quality. Many groups across the United States have formed to fight back with grassroots organizing and campaigning. This list, presented in no particular order, highlights several of them.

Kicking off our list at #1 is Beyond Toxics, an environmental justice organization working to advance policies that will ensure meaningful participation and grassroots leadership from Oregon’s front-line and impacted communities. Established in 2001, it believes that everyone, regardless of race, income, class, gender, and citizenship status, deserves access to resources free of exposure to harmful pollution.

Beyond Toxics collaborates with other nonprofits, educators, and tribal organizations to build its movement; it advocates for policies that provide fair, inclusive, and equitable access to clean air, clean water, and safe spaces for all to live and work in. It also shares information and resources so individuals can lead more environmentally-friendly lives.

Next up, at #2, we present Front and Centered, a Washington-based, communities of color-led coalition of organizations on the front lines of economic and environmental change. Together, and with key partners, it works towards its vision for the future, which it calls a Just Transition.

The group's Just Transition requires action in four key areas. These include centering those disproportionately impacted by government, restoring community connections, creating livelihoods within a healthy environment, and shifting to renewable resources and energy.

For #3, we have the Just Transition Alliance. Founded in 1997 as a coalition of environmental justice and labor organizations, it aims to create healthy workplaces and communities. The nonprofit focuses on contaminated sites that need to be cleaned up, as well as the transition to sustainable production and economies.

Based in San Diego, California, the organization hosts numerous events throughout the year, including on-the-ground actions and trainings. It also produces infographics that explain complicated concepts such as the lifecycle of plastics for people to share on social media.

Coming in at #4 is Clean Water for North Carolina, a nonprofit organization promoting clean, safe water and empowered, just communities through community organizing, advocacy, education, and technical assistance, with offices in Durham and Asheville.

CWNC works to ensure that North Carolinians know the source of their drinking water, the threats to its safety, and their responsibility for its protection. The group believes that water service should be publicly owned and canvasses across the state to advocate for this.

Last but not least, at #5, we have WE ACT for Environmental Justice. This organization is based in New York City, specifically northern Manhattan. It acts as a community health watchdog to advocate for and advance measures to shape an environment that improves the quality of life for residents of this area.

It has research partnerships with Columbia University, Montefiore Medical Center, and Mt. Sinai Hospital. One of its collaborative projects was used to justify a fine particulate standard adopted by the EPA and upheld by the US Supreme Court.