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    Meet PA’s New Director of Environmental Justice

    Allison Acevedo is Pennsylvania’s new Director of Environmental Justice — and she’s ready to work.

    Allison Acevedo

    Courtesy of the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle

    Though born and raised in Pittsburgh, Acevedo went to Swarthmore College and has been working in Philly for 30 years since. She has plenty of experience giving back to the community, consulting various non-profits on education, program development, policy, and strategic planning. One of her clients was Overbrook Environmental Education Center (a friend of Green Philly’s)! She also co-founded the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle and is a member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Early Childhood Coalition.

    In her role, Acevedo will be heading the Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) environmental justice program. It was founded in 2002 to support communities that don’t always have a voice in environmental issues — specifically, those where 20% or more of residents live in poverty and/or 30% or more of the population belongs to a racial minority group, according to the state.

    Acevedo recently chatted with us about her new position and why all of us should care about environmental justice.

    A CONVERSATION WITH ALLISON ACEVEDO

    Green Philly: First of all, congratulations on your appointment! How do you feel?

    Allison Acevedo: Oh, I’m just excited. I’m excited for the opportunity to engage around issues about the environment, so I’m happy to be here and just to be engaged with the community as well as the government.

    GP: How has your time living and working in Philadelphia influenced you as a public servant?

    AA: One of the things that I’ve seen from the city is the grit, passion and determination of people in Philadelphia and how they’re really focused on improving and strengthening their neighborhoods and other situations in their life. That’s motivated me to do the same thing and just take the lead from the work that everybody else is doing.

    GP: How long have you been interested in environmental justice?

    AA: So actually I’m rather new to the environmental justice space. Social justice, I would say, I’ve been interested in probably since college when I was exposed to engagement around different social issues that hadn’t been when I was younger.

    GP: What draws you to it now?

    AA: I saw that the environment impacts all of us in all aspects of our lives. It’s such a critical component of our everyday existence and wellbeing, and I realized that we need to work collectively to ensure that everybody has access to a quality environment and that there needs to be equity in how we build and care for and sustain the environment and push forward environmental issues.

    I’ve just seen people over time not being able to have the access that they need to maintain their environment, but face more challenges than others because of race or class. And those factors adversely impact how laws, policies, and benefits come to them.

    GP: You have an extensive background in education: you worked as a School Coordinator at Pennsylvania Academies and Director of Education at United Way. How does environmental justice intersect with education?

    AA: Environmental data is really technical, and it’s critical to be able to translate the science of the environment to people in a way that they can understand it. And that’s true for me as well, because my background is not science or environmental science and policy. We need to think about how we message and give information to people.

     GP: What are your goals while in office?

    AA: My initial goal is to really understand what the issues are from the communities that we engage in across the state and, because we have such a diverse demographic population in Pennsylvania and diverse geography, to understand what the issues are from the different communities that we serve and in Pennsylvania.”

    GP: What about more long-term?

    AA: Beyond that, having opportunities for education. The secretary [of DEP] started listening tours a couple of years ago. We want to continue to really firm up an active schedule for roundtables where we hear from the community and get feedback about environmental issues and see where we can take action. Also in the education space, to think about how we get continuous information out to the communities that we serve, either through social media or some other source.

    GP: Anything exciting in store for Philly in particular?

    AA: I started all of like maybe, not quite two weeks ago. So I really want to get more time to establish what the issues are. But come back, and we can really talk about it at some point. Hold me to that.

     

    We will, and on’s post -we look forward to seeing what Allison does next.

    Brianna Baker

    About Brianna Baker

    Brianna is a senior journalism major Temple University. While studying abroad in Fall 2017, she interned at WHERE Rome magazine, and has also worked for Baltimore STYLE, QWERTY Philly, and student publications like Templar, The Temple News and 14th Street. In addition to writing, she loves re-watching her favorite sitcoms, going to concerts, and doing yoga (when she’s not feeling too lazy).

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