Crosscut got it right: Pollution disproportionally impacts BIPOC communities. Here’s what we’re doing about it.

Crosscut recently produced a powerful 7-minute video that shows how the impacts of pollution – both historic and current – are disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities in King County, echoing our own data analysis. Climate change is exacerbating those inequities, widening gaps in health and well-being outcomes that already existed.

That’s why our work centers on racial justice. Not only does it reflect our values as the nation’s only county named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King – it produces the best outcomes by creating a more just, equitable community where all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

We demonstrate our commitment to breaking systemic racism not just through our words but through our actions. Here are just a few of the ways we are working with other King County departments, community-based organizations, cities, scientific researchers, and businesses to create community-led solutions.

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan leads with racial justice, adding a new section to advance sustainable and resilient frontline communities and climate equity.

We’re conducting a heat mapping study along with the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment to determine which areas are experiencing the harmful effects of rising temperatures. This scientific research will guide community-based solutions.  

KING 5 coverage: King County, Seattle launch heat mapping project to identify effects of rising temperatures

We surpassed our goal to plant one million trees throughout King County nearly one year early. Executive Constantine’s proposal for next five-year Strategic Climate Action Plan includes a 3 Million Trees initiative, which will prioritize tree canopy in communities where there is greatest need for shade.

We’re strengthening the local food economy with the Local Food Initiative, increasing access to healthy, culturally relevant food, and supporting BIPOC farmers and restaurants.

We’ve accelerated land conservation, creating more equitable access to greenspace in communities that experience past and present systemic racism. The new urban park we’re creating with the local community in unincorporated North Highline is the latest example of our progress.

KNKX coverage: Health and equity initiatives clear the way for new forest park in unincorporated King County

The Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station we’re building now will treat up to 70 million gallons of combined rain and wastewater a day that would otherwise have washed directly in the Duwamish River during storm events. The major infrastructure has earned a platinum rating from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Envision and is one of three King County construction projects that are part of a pilot program that requires contractors to train and hire construction workers living in local ZIP codes with high levels of poverty and employment.

King County Metro is reducing air and noise pollution by leading the nation in the transition to fleets powered by clean energy, rolling out the first battery-powered buses in south King County based on an equity analysis of air quality.  

Learn more about King County Metro transitioning to a zero-emissions bus fleet.

The King County Department of Community and Human Services and the Green Building Team are working with partners create more green affordable housing that is connected to high-capacity transit. One new example is Willowcrest Townhomes in Renton, which received Transit Oriented Development grant funding and technical assistance from our Solid Waste Division’s Green Tools program to help finance the Net Zero certification for the construction project.

These collective actions and others are producing measurable results, but we have a long way to go to dismantle the systemic racism that still contributes to inequitable impacts of pollution.

We can’t succeed alone, but when we elevate the expertise of BIPOC communities and unify our region’s efforts, we can create a more just, equitable King County where all people can thrive.

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