According to environmental experts, climate change has hit communities of color especially hard, from higher rates of pollution to less access to green space. Montgomery County is working to change that with a garden soon to be filled with greenery.
The garden is a passion project in Wheaton put on by the group One Montgomery Green and its executive director Wendy Howard, who is part of a growing movement in the county to focus on social justice and saving the environment.
"I love the environment, I love being outdoors,” Howard said. “ I mean, I want to keep it like this.”
Adam Ortiz, director of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said the department is making sure to start projects in underserved areas.
“We know that the United States has a history marred by racial division and oppression,” Ortiz said. “Folks who are in poor and working class communities tend to be areas that are more dense, tend to be areas that are older, so they don’t have the environmental protections or the tree cover.”
That’s why some of the DEP’s latest efforts include a green construction code, which requires buildings to be environmentally friendly. They're also working on installing solar panels, planting more trees and encouraging the switch to more electric vehicles.
A new climate ambassadors program also allows people to give feedback on what changes they’d like to see in their communities.
"We want to hear from you, we want to know what your concerns are and we want to try and help you address them,” Howard said.
The county said it wanted to make being green more affordable for all, and are providing incentives for individuals. For instance, if people plant rainscape gardens, which the county defines as “a landscape or design technique that helps reduce stormwater runoff from individual properties,” at home, they can apply for cash rebates to help.
“We want to make sure that going forward, we’re correcting historical injustices and not blindly perpetuating them because we’re not aware,” Ortiz said.
It's all part of the effort to create a healthy environment for all.