Detroiters Have the Right to Clean Air, Safe Water and Healthy Neighborhoods

Decades of environmental racism have placed our communities at risk. Join Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice as we fight for the health and well-being of all residents.

“Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice came into the community and informed the people about the environment and what we can do to help protect ourselves… We are continuing with educating the community in regards to the rain gardens and rain barrels. DWEJ came in and showed us how, and now we’ve learned how to do it ourselves and can show others.”

– Minnie and Eddie Lester, Residents of the Detroit Southeast Waterfront Neighborhood
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Powerful Change Begins When We Work Together

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice —or DWEJ for short —is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the environmental and economic health of our community. We champion a healthy environment for all people through innovative, thoughtful community and policy actions that put people first. We have grown from a group of grassroots activists that formed in 1991 and went on to become a major voice recognized locally, statewide, and nationally, for our visionary programs and projects that stimulate economic growth, while also creating sustainable, livable communities.

As Michigan’s first environmental justice organization, our work is woven into the fabric of every Detroit neighborhood. Our far-reaching initiatives, programs, and collaborations touch the lives of all Detroit residents and provide lasting benefits to our communities, improving quality of life now and for generations to come.

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Environmental Justice and Injustice: How are Race and Class Related?

Environmental injustice is the reality that some communities or groups are unequally subjected to more environmental risk and pollution than others. Go into almost any urban or low-income area and look around—it’s plain to see. The most polluted zip code in Michigan is 84 percent black. Many communities of color that encounter toxic work conditions, environmental hazards, or polluted neighborhoods are also low-income.

Environmental justice is a solution to these systemic problems. It is the idea that all people and communities have the right to equal environmental protection under the law, and the right to live, work and play in communities that are safe, healthy and free of life-threatening conditions.

Learn more about Environmental Justice

Video courtesy of Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali


Spirit of Detroit sculpture

Leading the Way

Environmental justice requires cooperation to succeed. DWEJ shares our expertise with others across Michigan and beyond. We partner with and advise business leaders, universities, lawmakers and more. Our leadership creates real, meaningful results. We convened the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative in 2011. Soon after, we brought together the influential team of ten local organizations that created the Detroit Environmental Agenda in 2013, a collaboration that is still active to this day. In 2019, we were honored with creating and leading the implementation of the community engagement strategy for the Detroit Sustainability Action Agenda. In that same year, we co-authored the MI-Environmental Project, an online interactive mapping tool that helps identify areas at risk of harmful environmental conditions.

Spirit of Detroit sculpture

Green Jobs

While Detroit continues to rebuild, DWEJ continues to fight for and create employment opportunities for income insecure and minority residents. We’ve conducted career training programs since 2008, beginning with our Build Up Detroit program, which gave Detroiters the tools they needed to reclaim and repair their environment. The program catapulted us into a full-fledged Green Jobs Training Program. Since then, close to 500 program graduates have gained the skills and abilities needed to get meaningful jobs to help transform and improve their own communities. Future Build Construction Group, our most recent green jobs social enterprise, ensures that environmental stewardship goes hand-in-hand with construction work and quality craftsmanship.

Spirit of Detroit sculpture

Taking Action

Creating real, meaningful change is at the heart of our mission. Talking and raising awareness is not enough. We fearlessly shine a light on environmental burdens and their impacts. We are tireless advocates and trusted partners for people on the front lines fighting environmental hazards. After decades of constantly speaking out, standing up, “rocking the boat”, and pushing for meaningful policy and government changes, we are now a valued partner in a new beginning for Detroit. DWEJ has a long history of programs and accomplishments that have transformed communities and improved lives across Detroit and Michigan.

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Detroit’s resurgence is an opportunity to build a vibrant urban center where all thrive in social, economic, and environmental health.

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice is helping make Detroit and Michigan clean and safe. Will you join us?

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