Protecting the Environment is deeply engrained in every aspect of Jemae Hoffman’s life—at work she helps cities plan for better transit; at home her family makes sustainability a priority; and she volunteers to help lead a Seattle-based non-profit, CoolMom.
For two decades, Jemae has been passionate about livable, walkable, transit-friendly communities. In the 1990’s, she learned Mt. Rainier was 1/3 as visible as it had been eight years before, largely because of auto emissions. That started a career transition and passion to reduce those emissions. She helped start a non-profit advocating for better transportation choices. Then she joined the City of Seattle where she focused on policy and planning for transit, walking, biking, parking management and freight. Now, she helps transit agencies and cities plan for light rail, livable station areas, and sustainable business practices.
“It’s been more than twenty years, and I still believe transportation is the Gordian Knot—it’s the link to all our issues.” she says. For example, how we build our communities determines if seniors have independent mobility to get to healthcare appointments and if low income residents have affordable housing and access to jobs.
In 2007 Jemae had her son, which deepened her concern about climate change. “As a mom you really start looking beyond the current situation and to what’s coming for your kids, and their kids. We need to take action now so our kids have a better future,” says Hoffman.
And she is taking action! Hoffman’s family makes very conscious choices, like biking to school and work all year round. Since her son was three he’s been peddling to school behind her on a trail-a-bike and he’s recently graduated to a tandem bike. It’s rare that it’s raining hard during the commute hours, but pulling her son up the Fremont hill became a barrier… so, she’s tackling those with an e-bike.
As a CoolMom board member— she was also President for five years—Jemae loves working with other moms to tackle climate change. CoolMom has two approaches. It asks what we can do in our own lives to reduce our impact on the environment, and it harnesses the moral authority of moms to influence businesses and politicians. “Moms make over 80% of buying decisions in a household and that’s a lot of power; so is giving moms and kids a voice in how we take action on climate protection” she says. Jemae’s own son Mason wrote a letter to the legislature supporting a pollution accountability tax. “He wasn’t quite ready at age eight to testify in person, but he is worried about how slowly we are taking action on climate change, and wanted his voice heard.”
Hoffman is seeing change locally and globally and that makes her hopeful. She says over the past decade street design in Seattle has become more focused on moving people, not just cars. Around the world, people are taking action to spur their government to greater climate action. There have been lawsuits by citizens in the Netherlands, and by teenagers here in King County. They are winning, with the courts ruling that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from harm, including the looming danger of Climate Change. “Just like parents have an obligation to protect their children”, observes Jemae. “Citizens are saying we’ve been talking about this long enough. We are taking action in our own lives to reduce emissions, and are coming together to advocate for change. That keeps me optimistic that we can slow climate change and create better communities for everyone.”