THE WISCONSIN ENVIRONMENTAL EQUITY TOOL
What is the Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool (WEET)?
The Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool (WEET) is a comprehensive environmental and public health equity—or environmental justice—screening and mapping tool that is being developed by four state agencies in consultation with other partners and community members. The tool will analyze and visualize data online so government and tribal agencies, community-based organizations and the public can pinpoint Wisconsin’s most impacted communities and better understand the challenges they face from pollution, a changing climate, socioeconomic factors, and other environmental and health hazards.
We want to hear from you!
We want to ensure that the mapping tool reflects your real-world experiences—especially those of Wisconsin’s communities of color, low-income communities, rural communities, tribal nations and immigrant communities, who are often burdened with the greatest environmental and health consequences and inequities. You are the expert on your experiences, and we want to learn about your successes, challenges and needs, as well as what you hope to see in the new tool. Send written comments or questions to EnvEquity@wedc.org. In-person listening sessions may be scheduled in the future when it is safer to gather indoors.
WEET project purpose:
The purpose of the Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool is to provide a state-specific environmental equity screening and mapping tool using more detailed local and state data to better characterize local conditions in order to help policy-makers, service providers, communities and stakeholders:
- better understand areas of environmental, public health and climate vulnerability;
- focus local and state programs and policies to advance environmental equity; and
- inform funding priorities and awareness activities.
A wide range of stakeholders—from community members, government officials and elected officials to public health professionals and nonprofits—can use WEET to build community awareness and education campaigns, inform policy and program planning, prioritize funding for investment and interventions, conduct community health assessments, write data-driven grant proposals, strengthen community organizing efforts and more.
WEET will help Wisconsin meet its commitment to reduce health inequities and advance environmental equity. The primary Wisconsin state agencies leading the development of WEET include:
- Department of Administration (DOA)
- Department of Health Services (DHS)
- Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
- Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
The project team will be inviting additional partners to join a project advisory committee to seek ongoing advice and recommendations from a wide range of community members and professionals.
Examples of environmental equity screening and mapping tools
Experts in the field of environmental justice or environmental equity have evaluated data-driven geospatial tools developed by several states and the federal government to identify and learn about communities’ environmental and climate change burdens, which often exacerbate other systemic inequities. Washington state, California and Maryland use the most comprehensive approaches to environmental justice screening, taking into consideration disproportionate cumulative impacts and the reality that communities of color, low-income communities, rural communities, tribal nations and other indigenous communities are often burdened with multiple environmental problems that also impact people’s health.
A methodology for environmental justice screening that creates a transparent scoring or index procedure to examine cumulative impacts and social vulnerability holistically enables organizations to make informed, strategic decisions to confront these problems head-on to improve the health, resilience and sustainability of overburdened communities.
Here are links to select environmental justice screening and mapping tools:
- Environmental Protection Agency, EJSCREEN: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool | US EPA
- Washington, Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map: Washington State Department of Health
- California, CalEnviroScreen | OEHHA
- Maryland, MD EJScreen — Community Engagement, Environmental Justice & Health (ceejh.center)
WEET is still in the early planning stages. Public input throughout the project will help shape the tool design and identify data needs and analysis solutions, as well as necessary future upgrades and ongoing maintenance needs.
One of the first steps in the development process is to evaluate available data. Similar tools developed in other states included economic, social, environmental, climate change, health and other relevant data that is easily accessed. Categories of Wisconsin data currently available through state and federal databases are listed below, and they may be included in WEET if they meet data quality and compatibility standards.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Low birth-weight infants
- Asthma emergency room visits
- Isolation of non-English speakers due to language barriers
- Level of education
- Housing burden
- Transportation expense
- Health insurance
- Tribal land
- Risk Management Plan Sites
- Proximity to National Priority List contaminated sites (called Superfund)
- Proximity to facilities that store, treat, transport or dispose of hazardous waste
- Impaired water bodies
- Solid waste sites and facilities (landfills etc.)
- Ozone concentrations in the air
- Particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations in the air
- Diesel air emissions
- Traffic density/proximity
- National assessment that estimates cancer and noncancer risks from breathing air toxics (NATA)
- Wastewater discharges
- Childhood lead poisoning
- Public drinking water index
- Pesticide use
- Respiratory hazard index
Climate change category
- Social Vulnerability Index – housing type and transportation index
- Average percent of developed surfaces that cannot absorb water
- Proximity to flood zones
- Tree canopy