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Urban Environmental Justice


Today’s urban challenges are embedded with critical inequities in how people and communities relate to and are affected by their surrounding environments. These inequities are often the result of entrenched policies and institutions that have protected some groups while marginalizing others to lands and situations where environmental protection and health are lacking; in the United States, this dynamic particularly disadvantages low-income communities and communities of color. Moreover, the massive pressure on cities’ infrastructure and services as people worldwide continue to move to urban areas is exacerbating these existing injustices, and often creates new ones.

Urban@UW views urban environmental justice as a key challenge to long-term societal resilience. We are tackling this issue by building a network of UW researchers and community leaders from across the region to understand the structural and situational causes of injustice, and their repercussions on communities as decisions are made about land use, energy infrastructure, transportation and more. Our aim is to support collaborative work across research fields and with local and regional communities affected by these challenges in order to inclusively develop new insights and robust solutions that allow equitable access to and just allocation of natural resources and environmental health.

Urban Environmental Justice Leadership

Active Projects Supported by Urban@UW’s Urban Environmental Justice Initiative

  • University of Washington Tacoma Parklet Design Competition – Engages students in reimagining urban public spaces inclusively and with sustainability and community in mind through the design and building of a parklet for inclusion in Tacoma’s annual Park(ing) Day Celebration.
  • Tacoma Climate Leadership Cohort – The Climate Leadership Cohort is a program organized by Tacoma Tree Foundation on behalf of the City of Tacoma Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability. Urban@UW provides expertise through its network or community-engaged urban scholars and via operational support.
  • University of Washington Tacoma Micro-forest Project – A collaboration between UW faculty, The University of Washington Tacoma Office of the Chancellor, Tacoma Tree Foundation, SiteWorkshop, and the City of Tacoma Urban Forestry Program that seeks to site a micro-forest at UWT. The project will provide for educational opportunities for students at UWT and an open public space for members of the community to enjoy; it will also offer another model for how cities may enhance an urban tree canopy that is sustainable and resilient, and which helps mitigate the adverse impacts of a changing climate.

Past Projects, Events, and Resources fostered by the Urban Environmental Justice Initiative


  • Living Landscapes Incubator – a collaborative effort to support pilot initiatives, projects, or programs focused on the understanding and/or design of livable, sustainable cities. Urban@UW folks are co-PIs in this effort
  • Nehemiah Initiative – a faith-based community development initiative. Its mission is to empower the African American community in the Seattle region and beyond to support the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by those historically Black institutions. Urban@UW supports this project through funding of student research.
  • Stay Healthy Streets – Urban@UW supported an evaluation of the equitable distribution and use of the Safe and Healthy Streets mechanism put into place by Seattle’s Department of Transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Urban Camas Meadows Project (UCMP) – a collaboration between the Burke Museum, UW Facilities, the Department of Landscape Architecture, and other stakeholders to generate and communicate knowledge of culturally significant camas meadows in the Pacific Northwest and develop ongoing maintenance and management plans for this unique landscape type on the UW campus.



Partners & Collaborators