Environmental Justice at WashU

This Spring, the Office of Sustainability introduced a new intern team and initiative: Environmental Justice. The Environmental Justice team focuses on environmental justice issues by raising awareness, bridging the conversation between environmental and social justice, and building partnerships with community members.

The environmental justice movement exists at the intersection of social justice and environmentalism, dealing with instances of environmental discrimination occurring primarily in low-income communities and communities of color (The Final Call). Examples of environmental justice issues are everywhere. For example, the water crisis in Flint, MI illustrated environmental discrimination when an entire, predominantly African American city was poisoned by lead.

Environmental justice issues occur near St. Louis, as well. East St. Louis is littered with power plants, landfills, and various manufacturers that release toxins into the surrounding environment. Due to the resulting low air quality from the toxic releases, residents of the surrounding communities, especially children, are significantly more likely to develop respiratory diseases like asthma (Climate Central).

The Environmental Justice team at the Office of Sustainability aims to address these and other issues of environmental justice by raising awareness on campus and spurring action in the St. Louis community. Currently, the Environmental Justice Team is working with the Student Union Executive Team, especially the SU President (Jordan Finkelstein), the SU Vice President of Finance (Kenneth Sng), and the SU Executive Advisor for Sustainability (Emma Searson), to plan a major fall speaker event featuring a prominent environmental justice leader. The goal of the event is to build conversations with faculty and staff at Washington University, student organizations, and community leaders surrounding environmental justice issues in St. Louis.

If you would like to get involved with any event or action above, please email the Office of Sustainability at sustainability@wustl.edu.