Our Timeline

Detroit native and long-time environmental activist, Sandra Turner-Handy, joins DWEJ board.

COVID-19 and staff change push DWEJ to temporarily slow down operations and re-envision its goals as an organization for the coming decade

Guy Williams, DWEJ’s CEO, retired from the organization


Opening of LaSalle House, a project of Future Build Construction Group for Focus: HOPE


Co-author of MI-Environmental Project, an online interactive mapping tool

ipad with tool

View the tool.

Detroit City Council enacts its first Greenhouse Gas Ordinance, for which DWEJ has been advocating for 20 years


DWEJ and AECOM, EcoWorks, SAGA Marketing and coUrbanize lead the community engagement strategy for the Detroit Sustainability Action Agenda

Read the report.

DWEJ and LINC Up publish the Neighborhood Environmental Action Report: Health, Environment, and Race in Grand Rapids

Read the report.

Closure of the Detroit Renewable Power incinerator after a decades-long battle by the Environmental Justice community



Commissions/publishes Economic Impact of the Detroit Climate Action Plan

Read the report.

DWEJ contributes to the Michigan Environmental Justice Workgroup Report, commissioned by Governor Snyder following the Flint Water Crisis

Read the report.


Mayor Duggan establishes the Detroit Office of Sustainability after much advocacy from DWEJ and other community partners

Contributes to the publication of the Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments' (CA-PHE) Detroit Public Health Action Plan, a University of Michigan School of Public Health partnership

Read the report.

Launches Future Build Construction Group after spending over 10 years training the workforce to access the Green Jobs market

Heather Barnes

Publishes the Detroit Climate Action Plan, one of the few community-driven climate action plans in the country

Detroit Climate Action Plan

Read the report.


Incubates WaterRising Institute

Commissions/publishes the Detroit Climatology Study

Read the report.


DWEJ celebrates its 20-year anniversary

Launches the Climate Ambassadors program in neighborhoods across the city

Climate Ambassadors


Detroit launches its first citywide curbside pickup program for single family homes. Detroit is the last top 30 metropolitan areas in the US to endorse curbside recycling.

DWEJ and EcoWorks organize the first of three Detroit Youth Summits, bringing together 200+ high school students to learn about climate change and sends a youth representative to COP21 in Paris

DWEJ, along with other local organizations, was awarded a Sustainable Communities Champion Award.

Commissions/publishes the City of Detroit Greenhouse Gas Inventory: An Analysis of Citywide and Municipal Emissions for 2011 and 2012

Read the report.


Convenes the Detroit Environmental Agenda (DEA) and publishes the DEA Report, followed by the DEA Voter Guide, enabling voters to know the environmental positions of all candidates

Read the report.


Commissions/publishes Foundations for Community Climate Action: Defining Climate Change Vulnerability in Detroit

Read the report.


Incubates FoodLab, a diverse community of food businesses and allies working to make good food available for all Detroiters

Convenes the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, 40+ community, business, governmental, and educational organizations working to create a Detroit Climate Action Plan


The Eastside Community Network (formerly, Warren Connor Community Network) wanted to create an area-wide vision. DWEJ and ECN teamed up to create a vision for greener neighborhoods. They baptized it the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP).


Develops Environmental Justice Bus Tours highlighting positive and negative sites for city councilors, community leaders, businesses, and institutions, including the University of Michigan


Continues working for the enactment of a greenhouse gas ordinance, creation of an office of sustainability

Develops a framework for a pre-apprenticeship training program, one of few inviting returning citizens

The University of Michigan capstone project, during which graduate students Alycia Hillman, Sheila Somashekhar, Carmen Violich, and Natalie Zappella published a body of work to help DWEJ launch its Build Up Detroit Vision. Their publication was called Catalyzing a Sustainable Detroit: A Community-Directed Strategic Plan”.

Read the report.

Build Up Detroit vision sets strategic course for the next decade, catalyzing a new paradigm for green job education and workforce development, including fully enactable plans for a Detroit Sustainability Center

Read the report.


Creation of the Detroit Green Task Force by Kenneth Cockrel, City Councilman. DWEJ was one of the original members of this historic Task Force.

Read the report.


Closure of the Henry Ford Medical Waste Incinerator as a result of the efforts of a Coalition of Environmental Justice activists led by DWEJ


Over the next decade, DWEJ’s work includes shutting down incinerators; adding a grassroots voice to transportation decisions; ensuring the revitalization of brownfield sites; instigating challenges for policy reform at the state and local level; participating in community-based participatory research to address air quality and public health impacts; and more.


Some other examples of our campaigns were to successfully work toward:

  • Stopping “Illegal Dumping” through the Don’t Dump on Detroit campaign
  • Raising citizen awareness of regional water quality issues through our Water For Life campaign.
  • Promoting access to quality food with the Detroit Agriculture Network and the Black Food Security Network.


DWEJ convenes Take a Stand for the Land in the ‘Hood conference, pulling together groups from different communities across Detroit to address lead, access to healthy food, and the need for clean air. What started as a conference turned into a campaign that increased community participation in land-use decisions.


DWEJ joins the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice and the NCAAP - Flint Chapter in a lawsuit to block lead-contaminated building demolition debris from being sent to a power plant/incinerator in Flint with no pollution controls located across from an elementary school

DWEJ helped with the creation of Detroit’s Environmental Affairs Department, known today as the Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department (BSEED)

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) launches as a nonprofit 501(c)3, mobilizing to fight “toxic terror” in Black community


Convenes Detroit’s First Environmental Justice Gathering

DWEJ established as a grassroots volunteer organization following the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice adopted at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit

Read the Principles.

First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (Washington, D.C.)


The Detroit’s People of Color Environmental Justice Organization was formed in 1991, as the City’s original group to work on environmental justice issues in Detroit.

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