The EPA is offering $1.5 million in grants to promote “environmental justice.” The Office of Environmental Justice says it is working to build “healthy, sustainable and green communities” through programs that empower local communities to “understand and address exposures to multiple environmental harms and risks.” The EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program says it is one of numerous EPA programs funding community-based action groups, schools and local government agencies that educate and lead solutions on environmental and public health issues.
How many people even knew there was an Office of Environmental Justice?
A press release went out this week from the EPA announcing it was seeking grant applicants to receive environmental justice grants of up to $30,000 each. Deadline is January 7th.
According to the program’s Fact Sheet:
The Office of Environmental Justice places emphasis on meeting the Agency’s priorities. Among the Administrator’s top seven priorities are: reducing greenhouse gas emissions; improving air quality; managing chemical risks; cleaning up hazardous waste disposal sites; protecting America’s water; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building strong state and tribal partnerships.
In 2010, for example, it gave 16 grants for projects focused on “addressing climate equity, energy efficiency, renewable energy, local green economy, and green jobs capacity.” Another 14 grants went to projects “that reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” such as building a 12-mile bus line across seven Chicago area communities.
“Green collar industry”
Highlighted as an example of a grant success story was a $25,000 grant given to a community college to open the Hawaii Green Collar Institute. The institute’s purpose was to teach students about pollution in their community and train them “to become better prepared to enter Hawaii’s green collar job industry.” The program included job counseling, career fairs and bulletins about green job openings. Thirty six students graduated from its first class.
Of course, we know how successful green jobs have proven to be.
The 2011 grant recipients included projects with goals such as:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
- promote recycling,
- educate communities about pesticides and reduce exposure to chemicals,
- create sustainable organic community gardens,
- educate children about “the various pollutants and contaminants that affect their health and ecosystem” and teach them to become environmental stewards,
- educate students on water pollution,
- teach low-income kids to “take-on” urban food deserts and adopt “environmentally sustainable behaviors and promote plant-based local foods and farmers markets,
- educate residents about dioxin and arsenic contamination in their neighborhoods and find ways to eliminate contact with potentially hazardous environmental chemicals,
- launch an initiative focused on identifying houses contaminated specifically with dioxin and brominated flame retardants.
Since 1994, the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program has given out more than $23 million.