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Environmental Justice

Protecting marginalized communities from environmental harms

All communities have the right to live, work, and raise families in an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of industrial pollution.

Unfortunately, marginalized communities (often low-income or people of color) are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards where they live—such as contaminated air, water, or soil. Those fighting to create environmental equity and justice are giving voice to the historically disenfranchised.

We’re saying enough is enough, and we’re standing up for a better, cleaner future for ourselves and our children.

United States, 2021
Sharon Lavigne

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Goldman Prize Winners awarded for Environmental Justice

Sharon Lavigne

2021 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
North America
United States

In September 2019, Sharon Lavigne, a special education teacher turned environmental justice advocate, successfully stopped the construction of a US$1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant alongside the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Lavigne mobilized grassroots opposition to the project, educated community members, and organized peaceful protests to defend her predominantly African American community. The plant would have generated one million pounds of liquid hazardous waste annually, in a region already contending with known carcinogens and toxic air pollution.


LeeAnne Walters

2018 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
North America
United States

LeeAnne Walters led a citizens’ movement that tested the tap water in Flint, Michigan, and exposed the Flint water crisis. The results showed that one in six homes had lead levels in water that exceeded the EPA’s safety threshold. Walters’ persistence compelled the local, state, and federal governments to take action and ensure that residents of Flint have access to clean water.


Mark Lopez

mark! Lopez

2017 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
North America
United States

Born and raised in a family of community activists, mark! Lopez persuaded the state of California to provide comprehensive lead testing and cleanup of East Los Angeles homes contaminated by a battery smelter that had polluted the community for over three decades.


Destiny Watford

2016 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
North America
United States

In a community whose environmental rights had long been sidelined to make room for heavy industry, Destiny Watford inspired residents of a Baltimore neighborhood to defeat plans to build the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from her high school.


Phyllis-Omido

Phyllis Omido

2015 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
Africa
Kenya

After learning her own breast milk was making her baby sick—and realizing her child wasn’t the only one suffering from lead poisoning—Phyllis Omido galvanized the community in Mombasa, Kenya, to shut down the smelter that was exposing people to dangerous chemicals.


Desmond D'Sa

Desmond D'Sa

2014 Goldman Prize Winner
Environmental Justice
Africa
South Africa

Desmond D’Sa rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities and successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals and robbing them of their constitutionally protected right to a safe and clean environment.


Partners in Environmental Justice

The Goldman Prize is honored to partner with a variety of environmental organizations around the world, each of them united in the goal of protecting our planet. From our nominating partners to global organizations to grassroots NGOs led by Prize winners, they are all essential parts of the environmental community.