Give Feedback On A Student’s Guide To Environmental Justice

by Kari Spiegelhalter, Tess Ruswick, and Patricia Noto, ASLA Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives

The cover page of A Student’s Guide to Environmental Justice

What is environmental justice? How does it relate to social justice, environmental racism, community health, and equitable design? As designers of places and cities, what is our responsibility to work towards greater equity? As students of landscape architecture, and the student representatives of the Environmental Justice PPN, we found that these questions that weren’t always being addressed in our coursework or studio projects in school. We had a hunch that other students felt the same way, so in spring of 2017, we attended LABash at the University of Maryland, the annual gathering of landscape architecture students from all over the country. Through surveys and conversations with students, we found that many students were concerned, if a bit confused, about environmental justice. Read more about our experiences at LABash in The Field article “Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives At LABash.”

Students frequently interpreted design for environmental justice as ecological design rather than design that addresses the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on minorities and marginalized groups and the unequal distribution of and access to environmental benefits.

After LABash, we brainstormed ways to communicate an understanding of environmental justice to students and decided to write A Student’s Guide to Environmental Justice, a resource compendium and overview of how students can integrate questions about environmental justice into their studio work. The guide leads students through the steps in a studio class design process – research, outreach, design, build, and stewardship, and prompts them to integrate questions of environmental justice into their process and design work.

Each step of the design process includes an activity, key questions for the students to consider, case studies, and interviews with practitioners, academics, students, and leaders in the field of environmental justice. While we can’t provide a comprehensive overview of environmental justice, we have filled the document with links to online resources and suggestions for further reading on the foundations of the environmental justice movement. We see the guide as a launching pad for students to learn more about designing for equitable places.

The activity for the Research section of the guide asks students to use the EPA’s online Environmental Justice Screening tool to identify correlations between demographic data, such as race and education level, and environmental health hazards at their project site.


The guide will be released to students April 5-7th at LABash, hosted by Pennsylvania State University. In our presentation on April 7th, we’ll discuss the guide and how students can integrate design for environmental justice into their studio projects and design work.

In the meantime, we have completed a first draft of the guide and are interested in getting feedback on further resources, case studies, and activities to include! If you’re interested in providing feedback, please take the time to read the document here and answer the Survey Monkey questions here. Or, you can email Kari Spiegelhalter at, Tess Ruswick at, or Patricia Noto at with any questions or comments.

A Landscape Architecture Student’s Guide to Environmental Justice

Survey Monkey link for submitting feedback and reviews

by the ASLA Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives

Kari Spiegelhalter

Kari Spiegelhalter is a third year Masters of Landscape Architecture student at Cornell University. She is focused on how participatory design processes build social and ecological resilience of cities and communities. Kari holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Lawrence University in Wisconsin. She was recently nominated as Cornell University’s 2018 Graduate Olmsted Scholar.

Tess Ruswick

Tess Ruswick is a third year Master of Landscape Architecture student at Cornell University.  After completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Vermont, she spent several years working in environmental education. Tess has served three years with Design Connect, a student-run community design organization, as project manager and board member.

Patricia Noto

Patricia Noto is a third year Master of Landscape Architecture student at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is interested in the role of the designer in creating more equitable spaces, specifically working to understand our potential to make change in urban food systems at multiple scales. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from Bates College, where she was the recipient of the Otis Environmental Fellowship.

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