Communities of color experience outsized impacts from environmental pollution and the daily realities of climate change. These communities are less likely to benefit from green infrastructure like street trees, adequate stormwater management, and proximity to clean and safe natural spaces. In addition, they suffer from high chronic unemployment rates and inequitable access to living-wage employment.
We don’t need to look further than our own backyard — Portland, Oregon — for evidence of these inequities reported through research and lived experience. And ongoing gentrification in metropolitan areas like ours is exacerbating the issue. Yet at the same time, growth is creating significant demand for new infrastructure that minimizes environmental impacts and ensures climate resilience.
Ecotrust deploys our resources to build a regenerative economy, one that repairs the health of our planet and our communities. Directly addressing economic inequity — and the institutional racism that drives it — is central to this work, not only as a critical community response, but as a critical climate response.
Being a Collaborative member is an opportunity to join, support, and enable our partners as they confront systemic inequities, including barriers to obtaining financial philanthropic support through donations and grants. It is also our chance to learn from and work more closely with communities of color experiencing economic and environmental injustice.
In 2018, Ecotrust joined together with a powerful collective of partners — The Blueprint Foundation, Native American Youth and Family Center, Self Enhancement, Inc., ReBuilding Center, and Wisdom of the Elders — to ask the question: Can targeted green workforce development alleviate chronic unemployment and residential displacement in urban communities of color while also addressing environmental injustice?
What resulted from the Collaborative’s work together was the launch of the Green Workforce Academy, a six-week workforce development program designed to deliver tools and training to help young adults ages 18 to 25 access green job opportunities in the growing Portland market.
“There are so many different jobs, so many different pathways, out in the field or behind the scenes doing the research. I feel it’s really important that we’re a part of that. I’m really grateful for the Green Workforce Academy. I’m happy to get certified and ready to see what’s next.”
— Selena Gutierrez, 2018 Academy graduate
The Green Workforce Academy curriculum is culturally responsive to Black and Native American communities, who experience the highest unemployment rates and lowest labor force participation of all racial or ethnic groups in the area.
The pilot cohort of the Academy kicked off in fall 2018 with six participants. We are now proud to report that the success of the pilot has inspired philanthropic support for an additional three cohorts, allowing the Collaborative to serve 50 to 75 participants in 2019.
For more information on upcoming Academy sessions, being a part of the Collaborative, or to share green workforce employment opportunities, contact Brody Abbott.
Foundational research & resources
2017, Ecotrust and Policy Link
An examination of the economic, ecological, and social impacts of existing community based urban forestry investments designed to benefit low-income communities and communities of color.
June 7, 2017, Washington Post
Examining the little-known history of Oregon’s racial exclusion laws, including the 1844 “Peter Burnett Lash Law.”
2010, Coalition of Communities of Color
A report that aims to make the experiences of communities of color widely available to policy makers, advocates, researchers, and educators.
Green Workforce Collaborative Members