Sarra Tekola is on a mission. The Environmental Sciences student at the University of Washington has been an activist and climate change evangelist her whole life. Now, her sights are set on achieving climate justice in Washington State.

A lot of the time we look at sustainability as having the right trash cans, recycling, solar panels and green roofs. But it’s more than that.

Alongside her studies Tekola works as a legislative assistant with the Seattle City Council. She believes people-led climate advocacy is the way to make Washington State truly sustainable–not just for the environment but for the health and well-being of all residents.

“A lot of the time we look at sustainability as having the right trash cans, recycling, solar panels and green roofs. But it’s more than that.” she says. “We’ve got to sustain people. If we don’t make a living wage, healthy food and clean air and water accessible to everyone, then people are not being sustained. And that’s not real ‘sustainability.’”

In her work as a volunteer at Got Green, a Seattle environmental justice organization, Tekola is surveying people of color in South Seattle where communities live with some of the dirtiest air and highest asthma rates in the Puget Sound. They’re learning what these communities want to see in upcoming climate policies. “Often, the people who are most impacted by climate change don’t get heard and that’s not right.”

Tekola has a lot of hope for climate justice in Washington State. When working class communities, communities of color, environmentalists, businesses and social justice organizations build an alliance, like the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, “we build a climate justice movement that will sustain both the environment and people.”

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