Justin Onwenu
Environmental Justice Organizer, Sierra Club
Justin is a 4th generation Detroiter and environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club where he fights for clean air, clean water and a just economy for all communities. This has included advocating for city ordinances that protect drinking water, securing funds for communities in need of air filtration systems, and building broad based coalitions to bring together residents in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally interested in practicing medicine to address health disparities, he changed career paths following Hurricane Harvey, one of the most destructive natural disasters in US history. During his time as Rice University Student Body President in fall of 2017, he developed a deeper appreciation for the relationship between health and environment as he organized thousands to help rebuild in some of Houston’s hardest hit areas. After graduating, he continued working on these issues on behalf of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, where he helped lead outreach efforts to bring light to the long-term environmental exposures, housing, mental health, and physical health impacts of the hurricane. After this work, he moved back to Michigan to work for the Sierra Club. He currently serves as the youngest member of the Inaugural Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice under the direction of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy. He also serves as an appointee to the Democratic National Committee’s Environment and Climate Crisis Council Platform Committee where he was one of 12 nationwide members responsible for helping develop recommendations for the climate, environment and energy planks of the 2020 Democratic Party Platform. He has published opinion pieces for The New York Times, The Hill, The Guardian and The Detroit News on a variety of social justice topics.