Joyce S. Lee, LEED Fellow, FAIA, WELL AP 

The Philadelphia Environmental Justice Advisory Commission (PEJAC), established by Executive Order 2-23, advises the Mayor and City Council to foster a clean and sustainable Philadelphia. The legislation was passed in 2019 and the Commission was launched 2022. PEJAC envisions a Philadelphia in which equity, civil rights, environmental justice, and climate justice collectively inform City policymaking and sustainability practices, and where City government, stakeholders, and communities work collaboratively to eliminate environmental racism, and improve and ensure the health, well-being, and prosperity of Philadelphians. It is our mission to empower and resource Philadelphia communities experiencing significant and inequitable environmental burdens, especially poor, working class, and communities of color. 

The PEJAC Dialogue Series Working Group supported the Office of Sustainability in using data from the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to screen Philadelphia neighborhoods to assess the cumulative burden of environmental justice impacts, selecting Grays Ferry and Strawberry Mansion for a first round of community dialogue sessions. In collaboration with PEJAC, the Office of Sustainability, the Office of Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and joined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Environmental Justice, consultants Social Contract LLC facilitated in-person and virtual dialogue sessions in Grays Ferry and Strawberry Mansion focused on Listening, Visioning, and Resourcing. A Summary Report with conclusions is available here. 

The PEJAC Grant Fund Working Group selected fifteen (15) community organizations with awards of $10,000 each, for a total of $150,000 distributed in the initial round of the Community Resilience & Environmental Justice (CREJ) Grant Fund. The response to this request for proposal was tremendous with 73 applications submitted. This response reflects the need across the city to support communities’ environmental issues. This Fund will provide 12-month grants to organizations and projects working towards long-term environmental justice in Philadelphia. The next grant cycle will open early this summer.  The 2023 winning organizations are:

Blog Map

  1. Center in the Park 
  2. Cloud 9 Community Farms
  3. Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center
  4. Fair Amount Food Forest
  5. Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together
  6. Hunting Park Green
  7. Jubilee School
  8. Norris Community Resident Council, Inc.
  9. Strawberry Mansion CDC
  10. The Common Place
  11. The U School Inc.
  12. UC Green
  13. Neighborhood Land Power Project (Previously Urban Tree Connection)
  14. VietLead   

In addition, the Commission has supported the following projects and programs for federal funding in 2023: $1.8 million planning grant award from the US Department of Transportation for the Reconnecting Our Chinatown: Reclaiming Philadelphia’s Vine Street Expressway (I-676) project; $1 million award to advance the Office of Sustainability’s and partner organization Eastwick United’s work from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Government to Government Program; and $12 million award to advance implementation of the Philly Tree Plan from the US Department of Agriculture’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. 

With Greenbuild International conference happening this year (November 12-15) in Philadelphia, there is ample opportunity to explore the climate and environmental justice topic to build on annual USGBC conference legacy projects as well as to advance equity in this city.  Philadelphia is an early adopter to create such a Commission: something we can be both proud of and be grateful for.

Joyce S. Lee, LEED Fellow, FAIA, WELL AP, is an inaugural commissioner of the Philadelphia Environmental Justice Advisory CommissionShe is also the President of IndigoJLD Green + Health.