Environmental justice, as defined by Washington State under the 2021 HEAL Act, "means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, rules, and policies. Environmental justice includes addressing disproportionate environmental health impacts in all laws, rules, and policies with environmental impacts by prioritizing vulnerable populations and overburdened communities, the equitable distribution of resources and benefits, and eliminating harm."
This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Frontline communities, according to King County, are "those that will be disproportionately impacted by climate change – these are the populations that often experience the earliest and most acute impacts of climate change, face historic and current inequities, and have limited resources and/or capacity to adapt."
How is the City addressing environmental justice?
Through goals and actions in the Sustainability Master Plan
The Sustainability Master Plan, adopted in 2020, integrates environmental justice throughout each focus area's goals and actions. The plan takes a holistic approach to sustainability, addressing the environment, economy, and equity, since building an inclusive and healthy community for all is vital for a sustainable community. It prioritizes actions that will serve people in our community whose voices have traditionally not been heard in government. As part of the plan's implementation, the City will complete a gap analysis of environmental justice inequities and incorporate a plan addressing them into the Sustainability Master Plan prior to the 2024 Comprehensive Plan Update.
Through the Sustainable Decision-Making Tool
The Sustainable Decision Making Tool incorporates environmental justice into scoring actions, and encourages users to identify ways to improve environmental justice by refining or adjusting the action.
What are some City programs and initiatives that improve environmental equity?
- Access to fresh produce - the City hosts a summer farmer's market, and provides community gardens where residents can grow food
- Access to green spaces and parks - currently 92% of Kirkland's residents live within a 10-minute walk of a neighborhood park
- Access to safe places to walk and bike - the neighborhood safety program offers all neighborhoods opportunity for funding to complete small projects that will make their neighborhoods safer for people getting around - the Active Transportation Plan identifies and prioritizes projects to improve connectivity for cyclists and sidewalk and crosswalk conditions for people walking or rolling
- Access to affordable housing - when people who work in Kirkland cannot afford to live here, they are forced to commute, sometimes long distances - increasing housing stock through "missing middle" housing measures and affordable unit requirements can help improve access to housing