Creating Equity in Environmental Justice

Photo Source: Jon Tyson, @jontyson, via Unsplash.

Kat Kelly and Anna Leary in partnership with Louise Palmer –  The Environmental Equity Information’s (E2I2) mission is to work in partnership with disenfranchised communities to advance environmental equity by harnessing the power of community-driven data, ideas, and innovative technologies.

We define disenfranchised communities as places where residents have higher exposure to environmental risks because of systemic discrimination due to the social identities of community members (such as race, income status, or gender) or geographic location (such as living in rural areas or Tribal lands). We recognize that these discriminatory systems often overlap. Therefore, E2I2 works at the intersection of these systems to understand how environmental and climate threats negatively impact different groups of people to generate effective, sustainable, context-specific solutions.

E2I2 fulfills their mission through five strategic areas:

  1. Environmental health data analysis, monitoring, and visualization. E2I2 develops community-driven technologies and methods for collecting and analyzing data on harmful pollutants and climate change threats and translating data into understandable visual formats.
  2. Environmental health education and data literacy trainings, and workforce development. E2I2 offers tailored trainings on environmental health education and data literacy to increase community knowledge about environmental and climate threats and the skills to develop, implement, and sustain their own initiatives to tackle these threats.
  3. Community-centered research and program evaluation. Using inter-disciplinary and community-based participatory research models, E2I2 conducts community environmental and climate impact assessments, identifies environmental and climate risks for disenfranchised communities, assesses cumulative environmental and climate impacts, and evaluates environmental programs and policies.
  4. Community partnership. Partnering with community and grassroots organizations is core to our mission. We connect community leaders and members with local, state, and federal policymakers and funders to access funding to implement community-driven solutions to environmental threats.
  5. Technology and product innovation and development. In partnership with communities, E2I2 develops clean energy, sustainable high and low-tech solutions to environmental and climate threats faced by disenfranchised communities.

We asked the team at E2I2 if they would be our inaugural piece for The Helpers and we were thrilled when they said yes. Their work is critical to our communities.

We sent #5KeyQuestions we sent their way and we were blown away by what we learned in three of them:

VXT: What are some of your biggest “wins” with E2I2?

E2I2: Our biggest wins stem from E2I2’s unique and innovative contribution in the environmental justice space. We produce actionable, community-based data with and for disenfranchised communities and provide wraparound data literacy skills training.

Our Founder, Dr. Babafemi Adesanya has been doing this work since the mid-1990s and was an early adopter of GIS mapping. His goal has always been to help communities access and understand the data they need to transform environmental problems into real world solutions.

While GIS mapping and other data visualization methods have become more common practice, we think E2I2’s process of working in collaboration with communities to produce community-specific data remains novel. For example, we are producing community-specific pollution profiles for ten parishes in New Orleans that explain each community’s comparative risk on a set of health-harming local pollutants.

Sometimes the data a community needs is not available – in these instances, we innovate. For example, with our partners Intellectual Concepts, LLC, and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, we are developing a community-specific air quality monitoring device. This device will collect real-time, continuous data on levels of three harmful pollutants (chloroprene, ethylene oxide, and PM2.5) in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. We will also provide training on how to maintain the device and interpret and use the data that they collect.

Additionally, we bridge the gap (often a chasm) between available online dashboards like EPA’s EJ Screen and their utility to people on the ground struggling with the daily repercussions of pollution and climate threats.

While the intent behind the many environmental data dashboards is commendable, without community-level training on their purpose and how to use the data for change, they risk being an academic exercise without community level impacts. E2I2’s data literacy training provides the missing data to action translation.


VXT: Is there anything that you wish more people knew about E2I2 or the issues you are trying to solve?

E2I2: We have been working in this space for a long-time but the environmental justice movement recently received an unprecedented boost from the Biden Administration via Justice40. I don’t think most people know about Justice40 or the associated major legislation. Together they provide a historic investment in our nation’s environmental future and tackle systemic environmental injustice.

Justice40 is a whole-of-governmental attempt to address racial and income inequities through funding focused on environmental pollution, climate threats, and economic instability. Justice40 was created by a Biden Administration Executive Order, which mandated that “disadvantaged communities” (the Administration’s term) must receive 40% of the benefits of certain governmental investments. These investments amount to trillions of dollars through legislation such as The Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Essentially, Justice40 applies to those federal programs that invest in climate change, clean energy/ energy efficiency, clean transportation, affordable and sustainable housing, the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, critical clean water and waste infrastructure, and training and workforce development related to any of these areas.

Importantly, Justice40 is not just about environmental and climate resiliency. It addresses racial and economic injustice to help historically underinvested communities thrive. I think this is the missing link for people to understand – environmental and climate threats will impact us all, but systemic injustice over centuries means some communities are impacted far worse than others. Uplifting these communities is not only the right thing to do, but it will benefit the entire country by improving health, social, and economic outcomes.

As Dr. Beverly Wright said at a recent Justice40 Convening in New Orleans – these are unprecedented times to bring about real change. Dr. Wright is the Founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and a founding member of the environmental justice movement.


VXT: How can people get involved, both locally and globally?

E2I2: First, I encourage people to learn more about environmental justice and Justice40 and share with their networks (see links below for more information).

Individuals can also get involved by searching for and joining local grassroots coalitions who are working on environmental justice issues. The important takeaway is that environmental justice should be driven from the ground up, not a top-down approach from federal or state government. However, grassroots organizations have been historically underfunded. Therefore, the more volunteers who join the movement, the faster communities can organize and position themselves to access these historic funding opportunities.

If you work in this arena, or an adjacent space like affordable housing, equitable transportation, or greening initiatives and are looking for a community-centered data analytics and training partner, please connect with us! We partner across the public, private, and grassroots sectors to provide data, technical, and training assistance.

Please connect with us via our platforms:





Louise Palmer, MA is the Executive Director of E2I2. Louise is a sociologist, public health leader, scholar, British American, and mother. Louise is a dedicated, passionate advocate for health for all, achieved through community-driven programs, research studies, and supportive policy change. As climate issues intensify around the world, disproportionately impacting historically disenfranchised communities, Louise believes that tackling environmental health issues are the most critical health equity issue of our time.


Photo Source: Jon Tyson, @jontyson, via Unsplash.