Local Detroiter Launches Firm to Advocate for Environmental Justice   

The pandemic has helped to expose injustices across many aspects of life. From race and ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation, issues surrounding equality have come to the surface and are now boiling over. Environmental injustice, a lesser mentioned but equally important injustice, is happening every day and affects every community and demographic. Low-income communities and communities of color are especially at risk. A local Detroiter has devoted her career to the environment and has just opened a business to help other companies work to protect the environment.  


Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, born and raised in Detroit, launched Empowering a Green Economy and Environment, LLC, in February on her mission to create environmental protection for low income and communities of color. The company serves as a consultation firm guiding other companies to find solutions for climate change, environmental justice and executing equitable solutions to foster healthy communities.  


As a child exhibiting an early love for nature and the environment, the young prodigy quickly found her life’s work and set on a path that would lead her to many avenues in environmental justice.  


“My crush with the environment started in elementary school. At that time, most people had to do Science Fair Projects and all of my projects in elementary school had to do with grass and air pollution and water quality,” says White-Newsome.  


While attending Renaissance High School, she had the opportunity to immerse herself in a program that would help to deepen her love for the environment. Dow Chemical provided her the chance to learn how pollution and waste affects communities firsthand.  


“When I was at Dow Chemical, this corporation had a responsibility to the communities that they were in and traveled through with trucks of chemicals — and most accidents happened in low-income communities and communities of color. That got me thinking,” says White-Newsome.  


Moving through college receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University, it was her home state where the scholar earned a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. With expertise in the areas of climate change, public health and racial equity, White-Newsome has used her career to create a healthier environment for generations to come.  


“I quickly learned and appreciated, while working for over 20 years in different organizations, that I have perspective and experiences that position me to effectively work on projects that will create equitable outcomes when it comes to climate change, environmental justice and public health,” says White-Newsome. 


The business idea was originally hatched in the early 2000s and shelved. Life changes caused the business to not see the light of day until much later.  


“Back in April 2009 was when the business first got registered with the state of Michigan. Due to life changes, having a baby, changing jobs and relocating with my spouse, we didn’t have a chance to do anything with the business to grow it,” says White-Newsome.  


Now, White-Newsome has started the very personal journey of making her mark in the fight for environmental justice. Just two months after opening Empowering a Green Economy and Environment along with a booked set of clients, White-Newsome was certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. 


Impacting low-income communities and communities of color at large, environmental disparities, including dumping waste, access to clean water and pollution, are causing a lower quality of life and can be tied to ongoing or chronic and acute health challenges.  


“If we’re going to really see the change we need to see in our society and even beyond environmental, if we’re really going to achieve equity, then it starts with our institutions; companies deploying our electricity, the company that’s giving water. If we don’t arm that leadership with the proper tools and knowledge to change the institutional stuff that has got us in this position, then we’re going to have this same conversation ten years from now,” says White-Newsome.  


Before launching her consulting business, the entrepreneur worked as the senior program officer at The Kresge Foundation, heading the Environment Program’s grant portfolio on Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems.  


In addition to the business, the environmental warrior works with the State of Michigan’s Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Department’s Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate to facilitate conversations across Michigan to understand environmental justice concerns and opportunities to build stronger partnerships and improve human health. 

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