California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Green Zones

Imagine a state made up of thriving communities. Each urban neighborhood and every rural community across California has the means to generate healthy jobs, reduce and prevent industrial pollution, provide open space and organic food, develop affordable housing, preserve local culture, and conduct community-led planning to sustain this vibrant future.

This vision can become a reality through the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA)’s Green Zones Initiative. The Green Zones Initiative is cultivating thriving communities in California and beyond. We believe that by improving conditions for those most impacted by pollution and poor planning, we can improve conditions for all of California. With overburdened communities leading the way, communities, government, and businesses can collaborate to transition toxic hotspots into thriving Green Zones. Together, we can cultivate dozens of vibrant communities and advance visionary policies, so Green Zones can become a model for strengthening local economies, environments, and democracies across California and the country.

What is a Green Zone?

A Green Zone is a community undergoing an organized transition from a toxic hotspot to a vibrant and healthy place to live, work and play. This transition is led by the community itself, and achieved through an innovative model of collaboration among community leaders, government allies, and green businesses.

By identifying Green Zones – communities that need to transition from toxic hotspots into healthy neighborhoods – we can direct a whole range of resources and programs into these areas. CEJA’s Green Zones Initiative is a transformative approach to improving conditions in overburdened communities. Our initiative consists of three components:

1. Identifying overburdened communities

Low-income communities and communities of color have been bearing the brunt of pollution for too long — too many of our communities suffer from asthma, cancers, and other illnesses borne from heavy industrial pollution. While the residents in these communities are the first-hand “experts” in what is an environmental justice community, policy-makers often need more data and research. CEJA has worked with agencies such as the California Environmental Protection Agency and academics such as Manuel Pastor and Rachel Morello-Frosch to develop tools that can scientifically identify overburdened communities. With these tools, such as the Environmental Justice Screening Methodology and the CalEnviroScreen, we can link identified communities to visionary policies that can transform overburdened areas into thriving Green Zones.

2. Advancing visionary Green Zones policy

Green Zones Initiative is about policy that follows community priorities. Grounded in the local organizing of our anchor campaigns, we have developed a comprehensive, statewide Green Zones program that will finally move our state away from environmental siloes and towards transformation of toxic hotspots. Our program starts by identifying highly impacted communities, and then directs a range of benefits and programs into our communities. Our program puts Green Zones first in line for resources, regulatory attention, and green business development, and tackles critical environmental justice issues. The Green Zones program has the potential to benefit hundreds of environmental justice communities throughout California.

3. Demonstrating the model on-the-ground with seven anchor campaigns

The CEJA Green Zones Initiative offers a way for communities take their health into their own hands. CEJA members have pinpointed seven overburdened areas that serve as local anchor campaigns for the Green Zones Initiative. From San Diego to the Inland and Central Valleys, and from Los Angeles to San Francisco, these campaigns are demonstrating how toxic hotspots can be transformed into healthy communities through our unique approach. Through these campaigns, residents are creating plans for pollution reduction, healthy jobs, affordable housing, clean energy and more to transform overburdened neighborhoods into vibrant and healthy communities. The CEJA Green Zones Initiative connects our seven local campaigns so that Green Zones can become a model for reducing industrial pollution and cultivating thriving communities across California.

Read the Green Zones overview and see the map of our seven anchor campaigns!

2013 Health Hoods & Green Zones Congreso

Community members, CEJA and activists from across California gathered in Sacramento, on August 28-29, 2013, for workshops, networking, sharing stories, and talking with legislators about transforming toxic hotspots into healthy hoods.