When it comes to community organizing, it doesn't get much more grassroots than Got Green. Based in Seattle, WA, Got Green mobilizes members of the community around public policy advocacy and job training to ensure that low income communities of color are able to benefit from the burgeoning “green economy.”
Their work in the community addresses issues of social justice through their focus on “environment, equity, and opportunity.” Got Green chose those three words to guide their efforts because of the connection between healthy environments and livable communities. They strive to ensure that all communities benefit from the green movement, and that no one is left behind.
Tammy Nguyen, Community Organizer for Got Green, says that “regardless of what race you are, what income level you are, regardless if you are straight, gay, bi, lesbian, or transgender, the green movement should be for you too. You shouldn't be left behind or left out of it.”
Staff members regularly survey community members to ensure that their work stays true to the grassroots. “Got Green is very intentional at making sure that the solutions come from the people, “says Jill Mangaliman, a board member for Got Green,” not from some think tank somewhere, and that’s why we’re doing another survey—because we are doing what the people who are directly impacted want.”
One such survey was completed in 2011 and resulted in a report on Women in the Green Economy. This report featured responses from 212 women to questions about neighborhood concerns and the green economy. From the survey, Got Green determined priority issues to focus on, including: access to healthy foods, family health, green homes, green jobs, and public transportation. These issues were paired with action items to address the problems, mostly targeted at changing city policies and institutions.
A crucial part of Got Green’s effort is lobbying legislative leaders to make policy changes that affect the community long-term. This piece is critical, says Tammy, because lawmakers often do not think of the side effects their actions will have on communities. “I tell legislative leaders this all the time—to stop making those discussions for me,” she says. “Come and live in my house, come and live in my community, wear my shoes, taste the flavor before you make those decisions.”
Tammy’s involvement with Got Green started with her involvement in her own neighborhood. As an active member of the New Holly community she was asked to fill in for a friend at a meeting where Michael Woo, Director of Got Green, happened to be speaking about green jobs, renewable energy, and climate change. Tammy was hooked. She offered to volunteer for an eight-week project and never looked back; she was now a part of the Got Green family.
Jill has a similar story. Through her work with Seattle Climate Action Now!, she too was introduced to Michael. Seattle CAN! was involved in efforts to install energy efficient light bulbs in local households, which led them to collaborate with Got Green. Soon, Jill was asked to join the board, cementing her relationship with the Got Green family.
And it truly is a family, as both Jill and Tammy can attest. “Got Green is a place where they take care of their members,” Tammy says. Two or Three years ago Tammy was scheduled to have brain surgery. Her colleagues at Got Green organized a meal collective, offered childcare and helped fundraise to help cover her costs.
A true sense of love and passion seem to permeate the Got Green community. Their collective action and reciprocity create a sense of solidarity and power as they work toward an equitable future for the people of South Seattle. It just doesn’t get much more grassroots than that.