What’s Working & Who’s Missing?

Conversations of equity and youth pathways for green infrastructure

“I was shy, I was quiet, I would never be able to [speak to an audience like this]… Paulina gave me a voice… gave me a sense of purpose, gave me a safe place to do what I love to do which is to be an environmental activist for my community… in South Park and Georgetown.” These were the words of Daniella, a youth leader from the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, speaking about her mentor, Paulina Lopez (who later received an award for youth mentorship from the City Habitats network). Voices and stories like Daniella’s took center stage at this year’s 3rd Annual Green Infrastructure Summit as we continued the quest to turn green infrastructure into a force for equity and environmental justice. A big part of that quest involves ensuring that as the green infrastructure sector grows, new jobs and career pathways are accessible and attractive to brilliant, diverse minds in communities disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation.

On February 9th, Stewardship Partners reached another landmark in our leadership role of turning our region’s cities and towns from #GrayToGreen. As we convened the Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit, a City Habitats event, it was amazing to hear different perspectives from innovators across the region and sectors. Being mindful to “connect the dots” (.com, .org, .gov, and .edu), we are seeing more and more collaboration between public and private sectors, evident through the case studies and breakouts that day as well as research and implementation. The vision that inspired us to create this event in 2016 is beginning to turn into reality: the Puget Sound region is taking flight as a “Silicon Valley of Green Infrastructure.” 

Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy/Courtney Baxter

As with the two previous summits, we intentionally centered and highlighted equity within the agenda and speakers throughout the day. The main theme of this year’s summit was green infrastructure jobs and youth pathways. With the understanding that host committee members and summit attendees are not youth in the community, we held a companion event, The Youth Forum on Green Infrastructure Jobs and Youth of Color, to ensure the youth voice was accurately represented. Held in January, this event brought together 20 young people of color together to discuss what they saw as barriers to entry into the green infrastructure field. This eye-opening discussion allowed us to bring new voices and faces into the conversation, informing workforce decision-makers who were in attendance at the summit.

To see the presentations, Youth Forum video, and other resources shared at the summit visit the summit webpage at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit

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