Creating a Digital Environmental Justice Toolkit
With the help of University of Connecticut (UConn) students, staff and faculty members, and local and national rights-based organizations, I created an environmental justice toolkit. This novel toolkit addresses what environmental and climate justice is, a brief history of the movement, university, community, national, and international case environmental injustice case studies, action items for people to advocate and support environmental justice at the local to national level, and a list of environmental justice educational resources and interesting readings. The toolkit can be found at https://spark.adobe.com/page/xNgukWjyqEnYi/. This toolkit is unique because it draws upon content from other reputable resources but presents information in a more simplified, visually-engaging manner that utilizes multiple medias (text, photos/artwork, and video). This allows the toolkit to be used by a variety of people of all ages and varying degrees of prior knowledge in environmental justice.
I was inspired to do this project for my 1-credit independent study with a professor at the School of Business in partial fulfillment of the requirements of being a UConn undergraduate student representative for the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. As a three-degree Physiology and Neurobiology, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Sociology student with a double minor in Chemistry and Bioinformatics, I was initially drawn to attending events at COP that were focused on the scientific consensus on climate change. However, I also challenged myself to attend more rights-focused discussions and through this, gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of understanding the intersections of social justice and the environment. Coming back to campus, I realized that I wanted to create a project that highlighted these intersectionalities, providing people easy-to-understand information on what environmental justice is, why it is relevant to but affects each and every one of us differently, and how we can take concrete and meaningful action at all levels to address environmental justice. What started off as a seemingly simple project developed into a robust multi-disciplinary effort informed by and engaging a variety of UConn students, faculty and staff members, and human and environmental rights organizations from the local to the national level.
The goal of this project was to create a digital environmental justice toolkit as part of a campus-wide semester-long series of environmental action initiatives being implemented at UConn . The goal was for the toolkit to: (1) Define environmental justice and key terms (such as Climate Justice and Environmental Racism), (2) Provide a brief history of the environmental justice movement, (3) Describe examples of university, community (urban and rural), and international case studies of environmental injustice that disproportionately affect marginalized groups of people, (4) Describe environmental justice at local, state, national, and global (with the UN Sustainable Development Goals) levels, (5) Provide action items that for people to support environmental justice in their communities, and (6) Provide additional readings and online resources
This project was undertaken as part of a 1-credit independent study in the Spring 2020 semester with Professor Heidi Bailey at the UConn School of Business. I decided to work with Professor Bailey because she had many connections with environmental student advocates through UConn Extension that I had the chance to work with on this project! Furthermore, while I had the resources, knowledge, and a network of students that I could reach out to to inform the creation of the toolkit, I needed help with creating a marketing strategy to effectively share the toolkit locally and nationally. Professor Bailey helped me a lot with this effort and I learned so much by working with her and her Honors Marketing (MKTG 4779W) students! The other individuals and organizations that I worked with as part of this project are listed below.
I started working on this project after getting back from COP and winter break in late January. Below is a more detailed timeline of the structure of my 1-credit independent project to create an Environmental Justice toolkit and market it.
February 10th- Submitted a marketing partnership proposal to address mutual climate action goals Met with students in UConn Extension, the UConn Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Environmental Justice planning committee, the Connecticut Environmental Action Day planning committee, UConn PIRG representatives for the Zero Waste campaign, the Office of Sustainability’s (OS) SOLVE Climate by 2030 committee, the BOLD Women’s Leadership program scholars, MKTG 4779W students, and National Office members at the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) to put together a proposal outlining partnership and marketing objectives. Reviewed and discussed content and resources that can be used to create thel toolkit and to support partner events.
February 17th- Recommended tactical marketing strategy- co-created a test marketing plan with partners to cross-promote the UConn USG Environmental Conference by identifying: A detailed marketing activity plan (including scheduled in-person presentations at meetings and classes and digital marketing strategies). Rationale for these activities Metrics by which to assess success April 1st- Finished the development of the Environmental Justice digital toolkit The toolkit content was informed by the student partners listed above as well as professors and staff at the School of Business, Institute of the Environment, UConn Extension, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR), and the OS. April 17th - Interviewed by UNA-USA to promote the toolkit to their 20,000 members as part of their online Earth Day programming. April 27th- Completed the final draft of the marketing results and future recommendations by summarizing the Environmental Justice Toolkit engagement results achieved with partners. This included: An introduction with summary of the marketing challenging, marketing strategy and metrics designed to gauge results Results and Conclusions Recommendations to continue promoting the toolkit and other Environmental Justice programming on campus
No costs associated with this project! I used the free version of Adobe Spark to make the toolkit.
In order to create and effectively market a robust toolkit, I worked with a group of undergraduate students to market the environmental justice toolkit at a local, state, and national level through different avenues.
Local/State: Worked with many undergraduate students to promote the toolkit at UConn, primarily through social media, environmental rights groups on campus, and to professors via connections with the President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment. Other friends and my fellow BOLD Scholars also helped to promote the toolkit. In addition, I shared the toolkit with MKTG 4779W students and UConn Extension, who were able to help me share the toolkit to UConn’s satellite campuses including UConn Hartford and Avery Point. I presented the toolkit at the UConn Climate Change Café on April 22nd since this toolkit was made as part of a 1-credit independent study that I undertook as a COP25 fellow this year. The webinar had over 80 participants and included faculty members, staff members in the administration, UConn students, and donors who helped support the COP25 trip for us. The link to the webinar is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MItHtKScp4 Worked with the members at the Connecticut Leave of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) to spread the word of this toolkit to environmental advocates across the state of Connecticut. Collaborated on the toolkit with a group of Yale graduate student researchers who are working with the CT DEEP to create an environmental injustice mapping tool specific to Connecticut. * Worked with Rich Miller to spread the news about the toolkit to his colleagues at the AASHE and the NECSC. The affiliate institutions of people who sent positive responses and agreed to distribute the toolkit through their own professional and academic channels include: Middlebury College, Connecticut College, Boston University, Brown University (who will be using the toolkit as an example for their environmental leadership course at Brown Pre-College), and Horace Mann High School (we will be doing a guest lecture for one of their high school classes via Zoom).
National: The toolkit was promoted on UNA-USA’s website as part of their new online Passport series. The webpage also includes an interview I did with this year’s UNA-USA intern, in honor of Earth Day. In addition, I was able to use my position as a National Council representative to spread the word of the toolkit to UNA-USA Campus Chapters members and Young Professionals, UNA-Women members, and the monthly UNA-USA online newsletters that goes out to all our membership. UNA-USA is an organization with over 20,000 active members nationwide, so promoting the toolkit through UNA-USA allowed us to reach our target audience on a larger scale. Here is the link to the toolkit on UNA-USA’s website: https://unausa.org/environmental-justice-toolkit/
As of May 15th, 2020, the toolkit has over 1,800 views!
Collaboration is key! One issue that I ran into when researching concepts of Environmental Justice was that there were so many biased sources online and it was hard to identify the most unbiased, comprehensive, and accurate sources for which to base the content of my toolkit on. By working with students from different environmental and human rights backgrounds who had a stronger understanding of environmental and social justice issues, I learned how to navigate this and find the resources I needed to create a toolkit that was more thoughtful and accurate. For example, a common misconception is that the Environmental Justice movement began due to the Warren County protests in the 1980s. While this was when the issue drew the attention of the mainstream US, history shows us that minority groups have been fighting for environmental justice even before the beginning of our nation. My goal was to create a resource that was mindful of the extraordinary work of minority leaders and groups of people that contributed to the strong environmental justice movement we see today, even though they are less recognized in most history articles on the movement. Working with other students and faculty members helped me do this! This is but one example that highlights why collaborating with others was instrumental to the creation of this toolkit!
Similarly, I learned the value of creating partnerships! Now that I am leaving UConn and heading to graduate school at Harvard for Environmental Health Epidemiology in the fall, it is good to know that the promotion of this toolkit and other Environmental Justice programming will continue after I am gone through the efforts of students and professors that I had the chance to work with this year!