Advisory: WA activists to hold Earth Day protests against Target’s role in climate change

April 21, 2022

Events in Bellingham, Seattle will draw attention to company’s outsized role in ocean shipping pollution

BELLINGHAM AND SEATTLE — On Earth Day, climate activists with the Ship It Zero coalition will hold two protests in Washington state to draw attention to the role that retail companies like Target play in port pollution worldwide. In Bellingham, local youth leaders plan to protest retail giant Target with a “die in” outside Target’s Bellingham store. And in Seattle, climate activists plan to meet U.S. President Joe Biden’s motorcade while he is in town for Earth Day with signs of the president wearing a Ship It Zero pilot’s hat and citing his statement that “climate change is the existential threat to humanity.” Both protests aim to draw attention to the company’s outsized role in ocean shipping pollution and the impacts on climate, oceans, and the health of port communities locally and worldwide. 

A similar protest led by the Ship It Zero coalition is happening outside a Target store in Long Beach, CA, on the same day. Also on Earth Day, the Long Beach City Council plans to introduce a resolution calling on major retail companies to adopt zero-emissions shipping by 2030, following in the footsteps of a similar move by the Los Angeles City Council last year.

According to Ship It Zero coalition reports, Shady Ships and Shady Routes, Target is a top retail importer into the U.S. and a top contributor to the port pollution crisis at the Port of Seattle. From 2018-2020, Target’s fossil fueled ships emitted 6.4 million tons of carbon dioxide to ship an estimated 1.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with 403,686 TEUs passing through the Port of Seattle during that time. Overall, 95% of Target’s imports pass through the West Coast.

The international ocean cargo shipping industry currently relies on the dirtiest option on the market to fuel their ships. Heavy fuel oil, a tar-like substance containing asthma and cancer-causing air pollutants, is so dirty that sometimes melted car tires and chemical waste are added to it.

WHO: Climate activists with the Ship It Zero coalition, which is led by environmental advocacy organizations Pacific Environment and

PHOTOS & VIDEO: Photos and video from the events, as well as corresponding events in other cities, will be posted here: 

SPOKESPEOPLE: In Bellingham: Ship It Zero spokesperson Virginia Cleaveland, U.S. Media Director at, as well as local youth leaders and their parents, will be available on site for interviews.

SPOKESPEOPLE: In Seattle: Ship It Zero spokesperson Kendra Ulrich, Shipping Campaigns Director at, will be in Seattle and available for interviews.

WHAT: In Bellingham: March and “die in” against retail giant Target over its outsized role in ocean shipping pollution, and the impacts on climate, oceans, and the health of port communities locally and worldwide. The “die in” will last 8 minutes to symbolize the 8 years of lower life expectancy for people living near the Port of Long Beach. The local youth leaders will also attempt to deliver a “Dear Manager” letter inside the store.

WHAT: In Seattle: Climate activists plan to meet U.S. President Joe Biden’s motorcade while he is in town for Earth Day with signs of the president wearing a Ship It Zero pilot’s hat and citing his statement that “climate change is the existential threat to humanity.”

WHY: According to a 2019 study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the ports of Seattle/Tacoma and San Francisco have the highest rates in the U.S. of early deaths per 100,000 residents from port pollution, more than double the global average. A 2013 study by Just Health Action and Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition found that life expectancy in Seattle’s port-adjacent neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park is up to 13 years shorter than wealthier and less diverse parts of the city.

The Los Angeles area receives 40% of all containerized cargo imports to the U.S., which come through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, making nearby communities particularly vulnerable to harmful pollutants. Port-adjacent communities experience up to eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average, and have the highest risk of cancer regionally.

During the pandemic, port pollution has skyrocketed. According to the California Air Resources Board, in 2021, fossil-fueled cargo ship congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach caused an increase in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions equivalent to adding 5.8 million passenger cars to the region, and an increase in particulate matter (PM) emissions equivalent to 100,000 big rig trucks per day. Both pollutants are associated with higher risk of asthma, cancer, and premature death.  

WHEN: In Bellingham: 4:30 to 5 p.m. PT, Friday, April 22, Earth Day

WHERE: In Bellingham: Bellingham Target store, 30 Bellis Fair Pkwy, Bellingham, WA 98226

WHEN & WHERE: In Seattle: TBD. Likely along Biden’s route to his speaking engagement at Green River College, 12401 SE 320th St, Auburn, WA 98092.

MORE INFO: The Ship It Zero campaign is calling on some of the nation’s largest maritime importers — including Amazon, Target, IKEA, and Walmart — to transition to 100% zero-emissions cargo shipping vessels by 2030. This goal will ensure the shipping industry does its fair share in helping to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Target has been notably missing from other industry initiatives joined by retail giants like Amazon, including the coZEV coalition and U.S. President Biden’s First Movers Coalition

The science shows that zero-emissions solutions are within grasp. According to a 2020 International Council on Clean Transportation study, Transpacific voyages could be powered by green hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, with only minor changes to ship fuel capacity or operations. 


Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, U.S. Media Director,, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)