Issue Brief

Environmental Justice



NCEL Point of Contact



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

Three out of five Black Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic 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 with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of  environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental Justice ensures that every person has the ability to live, learn, work, and exist in a safe and clean environment. 

What is Environmental Injustice? 

Environmental injustice is the disproportionate exposure of Black, Indigenous, and 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 (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 and 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

Empower State Environmental Champions

Your donation funds the fight for equitable actions that protect the environment and our health.