Earth Day Wins for Washingtonians

Between the new executive order that President Biden signed on his Earth Day visit to Seattle, and a momentous decision from a Washington state agency, Washingtonians have a lot to celebrate coming out of Earth Day 2022. Here is a breakdown of the highlights:   

President Biden order protection for forests to fight climate change

On Earth Day 2022 at Seattle’s Seward Park, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) to take the first steps toward protecting mature and old-growth trees and forests on America’s public lands. Within one year, the USDA and the DOI will complete an inventory of old-growth and mature stands on forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 

 Old growth forests are an essential component of healthy ecosystems and our efforts to address climate change, and contribute to our quality of life. Old growth trees store vast amounts of carbon and continue to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than younger trees. Additionally, mature trees limit the impacts of climate change on ecosystems by preventing soil erosion and moderating temperatures, which is of particular importance in riparian areas. Furthermore, our forests are home to Washington’s incredible wildlife, from elk to owls, and provide recreational opportunities, such as hiking, camping and fishing, that so many of us enjoy year round.

Washington state adopts most climate-friendly building codes for large buildings in the country

The Washington State Building Code Council voted 11-3 on Friday, April 22 to adopt the strongest clean electric building standards in the country for commercial and large multi-family buildings. Starting in July of 2023, new commercial buildings and multi-family residential buildings that are four or more stories high will be built with energy efficient electric heat pumps for water and space heating. 

This is incredibly exciting. Heat pumps are two to four times more energy efficient than gas burning appliances, and don’t contribute to harmful indoor air pollution that negatively impacts our health. Furthermore, as we transition our grid to clean energy following Washington’s 2019 commitment to power the state with 100% clean and carbon-free electricity by 2045, we will be able to more fully reap the benefits of cleaner air, cleaner water and a more liveable climate by ensuring that we power our homes with efficient, clean energy appliances. 

While there is much left to do to transition our society to be powered by clean energy and many more actions we can take to address climate change, we must celebrate the progress we’re making along the way. Let’s move forward together in our efforts to create a cleaner, greener future.


Pam Clough

Advocate, Environment Washington Research & Policy Center

As an advocate with Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, Pam develops and runs campaigns to protect Washington's environment. Pam has worked on issues ranging from wildlife restoration, clean energy and climate solutions, plastic pollution, and clean water. Pam's organizing has helped reduce kid's exposure to lead in drinking water in Washington public schools, ban polystyrene foam packaging peanuts and food containers statewide, and win advances in clean building energy standards to advance climate solutions. Pam lives in Steilacoom, Washington, where she enjoys recreating on Puget Sound, skiing and hiking all year, and gardening.

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