Green Door Initiative (GDI) envisions a world where everyone irrespective of racial background, zip code and income bracket thrive in a healthy environment free from pollution which impacts the air, water, natural resources, and the built environment. Where environmental racism is a distant memory for generations to come and environmental justice is a reality for all.
If Environmental Justice were achieved in Detroit, what would it look like?
This question put us on the road of discovery. After having worked to fight for and demand environmental justice for more than two decades, founder Donele Wilkins, was confronted with this conundrum. The search for authentic justice in the environment for the underrepresented, overburdened communities represented throughout Detroit and beyond became a challenge to find.
Thoughtfully, the mission began to take shape: To ensure that everyone can live and promote a sustainable lifestyle. Not to oversimplify but the truth is that every human being deserves to breathe clean air, drink safe and healthy water, learn in toxic free school buildings, and play safely in parks free from poisons. No one should be denied the ability to earn a life affirming, family supporting income. Environmental Justice embodies the right to enjoy life to its fullest. It is attainable and the Green Door Initiative has set its sight on this very achievable goal.
We launched in 2010 to offer the realizable goal of good paying jobs with a strong career path; advocating for equal protection under the law for environmental protection, opening doors for young people to find their place in the effort, seeking policy options in a diminishing climate which regulate African Americans and others to the bottom.
Environmental Justice affirms that we speak for ourselves. We are the champions we have been waiting on!
Environmental Justice Leader Spotlight
Donele Wilkins has dedicated her life’s work towards improving the quality of life for Detroiters and others through environmental and social justice. She is the founding director of the Green Door Initiative, a non- profit organization promoting environmental justice in Michigan. She is sought after as a public speaker. Recipient of many awards most recently received the Life-Time Achievement Award by the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force. Serves as the Detroit City Councils Appointee to the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, served on the Environmental Protection Agency- National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and served as former Governor Granholm’s Appointee to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality- Advisory Council. Donele has played a key role in developing Michigan’s Environmental Justice Policy, launched the city’s first green jobs training program, advocated for citizen involvement in public policies, citizen science and contributed to many scholarly articles on environmental justice and public health.
Why is Green Door Initiative excited for WE ACT’s Justice40rward Community Tour to come to your community?
We’re excited to inform the community on the Justice40 resources and opportunities that address legacy EJ issues in Detroit. This tour helps to highlight the resources that Justice40 has established to address legacy EJ issues in Detroit.
What are 3 projects you are working on with your community?
- Environmental careers and workforce training for people with barriers to employment
- Air quality monitoring
- Developing leadership among youth in the climate justice space
What should others know about environmental justice in your community?
Detroit suffers from legacy environmental justice issues. We’re home to 5 out of 25 of the most polluted zip codes in Michigan. Detroiters pay two times more of their household income on energy than other Michigan residents. Adults in Detroit have a 29% higher chance of suffering from asthma than anywhere else in the state, and three times higher hospitalization rate. It’s difficult to find a section of our city not impacted by some form of environmental racism. In a lot of ways, Detroit can be the poster-child for how Justice40 can truly benefit a community subject to strategic underdevelopment, environmental racism, and selective gentrification.
What is a previous project or program that your organization is proud of achieving for your community?
We trained and provided career opportunities to over 1000 people with a 92% job placement rate. We developed a process that will collect real-time air quality data where child care providers operate to reduce asthma. We provided and cerated a program for Detroit youth to better engage in climate related citizen science.
Why is Green Door Initiative excited about the Justice40 Initiative?
Our hope is that Justice40 creates jobs, opportunity for healing our community, and serves as a mechanism to address environmental justice issues.