Three things the Washington legislature can do to help our planet in 2021

2020 was a challenging year for the environment. Wildfires raged across the west coast; we continued to fill our oceans with long-lasting single-use plastics; and our clean air, clean water, and open spaces faced harm from policy rollbacks and reduced protections.

But with the dawn of 2021 comes the opportunity to make substantial progress here in Washington and ensure the protection of our clean air, clean water, and wild places.

Here are three things the Washington state legislature can do in 2021 to help our planet:

  1. Reduce our plastic waste and improve our state’s recycling program. Our oceans and waterways are increasingly flooded with single-use plastics that are mistaken for food by marine animals, harming or killing wildlife. With some types lasting for over 500 years, this is a problem we’ll be stuck with for generations to come if we don’t act soon. A plastics bill would reduce waste by banning polystyrene foam, one of the worst types of single use plastics, making single-use foodware like straws, utensils, and condiments available upon request only, and more.
  2. Get the lead out of school drinking water. In Washington, 97% of 199 schools tested had at least one tap where lead was detected at 1ppb or greater in the water. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that’s especially dangerous for kids–it can negatively affect learning, growth, and IQ. Legislators will have the opportunity to approve OSPI’s $3 million capital budget request for the Healthy Kids-Healthy Schools grant program for lead fixture replacement/remediation costs to invest in our kid’s health and fund the replacement of lead-bearing fountains, faucets, and other sources of contamination. Additionally, a proposed bill would put systems in place to test for unhealthy levels of lead, require that contaminated fixtures are remediated, and alert parents, communities, and school personnel when lead is discovered in their school.
  3. Speed the transition to clean, renewable energy by reducing climate change-causing emissions from transportation. Transportation is the number one source of our state and country’s carbon pollution, as well as contributing to air and water pollution which has significant health impacts. To slow global warming and reduce this pollution, we need to change how Washingtonians get around. That means electrifying cars, establishing a clean fuel standard, and generally making it easier for people to walk, bike, or take public transportation. A proposed bill will require that all new vehicles beginning with model year 2030 must be electric to be registered in the state of Washington. This, along with a bill that reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, are two important ways that we can act on climate here in Washington.


Pam Clough

Advocate, Environment Washington

As an advocate with Environment Washington, Pam develops and runs campaigns to protect Washington's air, water, and special places. She has worked on issues ranging from clean energy climate solutions, preventing plastic pollution, defending clean water, and protecting our special natural spaces. Pam lives in Steilacoom, Washington, where she enjoys kayaking on the Puget Sound, gardening and hiking in the surrounding mountains.

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