Green Zones

CBE Takes the Lead in Creating Green Zones

Picture a Green Zone as a community transformed–from a highly polluted, economically depressed neighborhood into a vibrant area with green business practices, a healthier environment and a stronger economic future.

CBE is taking the lead in California–in Los Angeles and in Richmond–to create Green Zones locally, and in partnership with the California Environmental Justice Alliance to identify and create Green Zones throughout the state. These can be models for efforts across the United States.

The environmental justice battle has traditionally been fought “smokestack by smokestack”—community activists fighting to block a new power plant in a neighborhood already overwhelmed by pollution, or to shut down a chrome-plating plant adjacent to a school.

The fight against individual polluters will go on, of course, but the Green Zone concept is an affirmative approach to reduce and prevent pollution—one that looks at the overall environmental and economic health of a community.

The definition of a Green Zone varies from community to community, but there is a common concept: a Green Zone designation provides a local framework to protect the environmental and economic health of a community heavily affected by local pollution.  Read more about Green Zones in this LA Times article.

An entire city could be designated as a Green Zone; or, a Green Zone’s boundaries could be defined by those of a particular area within a city where residents live with heavy concentrations of pollution.

In a Green Zone, you’d find:

  • Stepped up regulation and enforcement to hold polluting industries accountable;
  • A community voice in making land-use decisions;
  • Land use policies that prevent new pollution projects from locating in these communities;
  • Focused private and public investment in local economic development;
  • Support for businesses in the Green Zone that want to “green up” operations;
  • Greening these communities by creating more parks, community gardens and urban farms, and developing green businesses and jobs.

The Environmental Protection Agency endorsed the Green Zone concept at a forum at the White House in December 2010. CBE was there, along with other environmental justice and indigenous groups from around the country. The EPA expressed support for the Green Zone model to protect environmental and economic health, one that represents a new direction for the environmental justice movement.

This opens the door to more effective work in creating Green Zones in communities around the country to protect the environmental and economic health of low-income residents and communities of color.