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The Color of Sustainability: Part One

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Well hello darlings! Welcome back to another blog post and thank you for tuning in! Today’s theme is sustainability and the contributions of the gorgeous black/brown communities that influenced it! Let’s be clear, anyone can stand up for the environment and make the planet a better place despite what your skin color is, but if you measured today’s most seen community when it came to the face of eco-friendly living, you’d think otherwise (Instagram influencers, I’m talking to all of you!) Anyways, the main thing your introduced to when wandering pages for all things eco-friendly is lily white women! Why didn’t I find out about the stellar black/brown men and women that fought and continue to fight for the planet until my early 20’s! One word: Disgraceful. There are so many people of color at the forefront of our neighborhoods who are living happy, healthy, sustainable lives without the audience they deserve. Why don’t we talk about them? One word: Do better!

In today’s post I’m going to be giving you a rather brief history on sustainability in the brown/black community, what sustainability is as a whole, and how I ventured into the sustainable world! This post will actually consist of two parts! In part one, I will be discussing the history and how it’s aligns with my history so that you guys can have a clear understanding. Later this month, part two will be hitting your screens! In part two will be talking everything from tips and tricks for easy, affordable ways to be eco-friendly, a few Pinterest ideas that I’ve gathered on the topic, and so much more!

Before we begin, I’d like to give credit to the blogs, websites, and social media accounts that inspired this post! I’ve been passionate about this subject for a while now and have been eager to discuss it, but had it not been for inspiration this post probably would’ve been stuck in the dusty archives of my blog forever! So yeah, thank you so much for reading today, leave a comment or like if you thought it was rad, and remember we’re all in this together so the more we share, the farther the message will go! Okay, let’s get started!

What does sustainability mean?

Answer:

Sustainability is the avoidance of toxic, harmful, single-use materials that can potentially lead to the depletion of natural resources and bring harm to the Earth.

The History Behind the Movement:

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People of color have been at the forefront of the environmental movement for decades! Landfills, waste sites, industrial factories, and air pollution have plagued lower income communities where the residences are predominantly black and brown without repercussions, and they keep getting worse! In order to protect their community and kids from pollution and toxic waste these communities came together and began having sit in’s and protesting these companies, especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s during the Civil Rights Movement. Thus, birthed organizations like Environment Justice which was established in 1982 to further bring awareness to the dangers of harmful factories in their community. Also, in hopes of bringing change black women led organizations were established like We Act for Environmental Justice, which was established in New York City with the goal of spreading awareness for climate change and fighting against policies that could harm the environment. Furthermore black and brown men and women’s involvement and knowledge of the planet stem all the way back to famous historical figures like Harriet Tubman who freed hundreds of slaves through her intuition and connection to the Earth and even further back to ancient civilizations. A modern world strong black woman who is doing her part is Dominique Drakeford, a well-known, intersectional influencer who is making her mark in the sustainability world. She enlightens the mind with her fashion and beauty website MelaninASS.com and is the co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn, a bridge for the fashion and sustainability world to connect and realize they have more in common. All of these people are equally as amazing as the faces that are blasted on our timelines and deserve to be talked about!

My History with Mother Nature:

So how did I turn on this corner? I’ve been into sustainability for years now, but I didn’t even know it! I remember keeping “useless” plastic bottles for recycling and unused jars since I was a teenager. I’d use these jars, containers, and bottles to hold all my DIY creations! I’d stalk Pinterest to find different ways of making face masks so I wouldn’t have to buy them! Honestly, as a teenage anything that didn’t cost money was usually the way I went seeing how I was a semi-broke babysitter who put everything in savings. All that money had been saved for a rainy day, and I had more of a fun time making skincare, accessories, and different kinds of room decor than buying it. So, I guess you could say that my cheap ways propelled me to the front steps of sustainability!

Anyways, it wasn’t until 2017 when I opened my eyes to the eco crisis, and this scary thing called CLIMATE CHANGE! We all know about climate change and how it’s changing the very fabric of our planet as we speak, and whether or not you believe in it, you can’t tell me you don’t see a difference somewhere. From the animals changing their migration patterns after thousands of years walking the same steps as their ancestors, to the sweltering days in the summer, and the soul crushing sight of the glaciers splitting into the ocean in front of our very eyes rising sea levels as your reading this. Yes, it’s overwhelming once you realize it but you can’t stay in a state of shock to the point it paralyzes you. Yes, of course, it shook my bones and the fact that scared me the most is that the mass destruction has occurred over centuries with no end in sight! Que my first drastic need for changed once I realized that we were all sitting on a ticking time bomb!

Thus began my research on how I could make a difference. Guys, trust me at first I was reading nothing but horror stories about the end of the planet I’d known for nearly nineteen years at the time. But it wasn’t until I turned over a new rock and found a positive way to look at this situation. Understanding sustainability has given me a sense of hope where there looked to be none, belonging in a space of people that weren’t in it for the money but to spread awareness, and a loose sense of control over how I stepped in the world. Now, my consciousness has heightened from simple research to action!

How have I gone about this? In my opinion, the first and easiest thing to start with is getting rid of single-use plastic. Single-use plastic is possibly the easiest idea to wrap your head around. Simply put, its plastic that can only be used once! Examples of these are everyday house items like toothbrushes, fruit baggies that you use to pack your fruit in the store, plastic utensils, plastic shopping bags, plastic water bottles, and styrofoam and plastic takeout containers! Any of these products can take years to decompose in the numerous landfills and are harmful choking hazards for animals like sharks, sea turtles, birds, and other ocean life.

Another thing I’ve been doing is collecting jars, and I mean LOTS JARS! I have become that person in real life who can’t stop talking about her love of jars. Now, let me be real with you guys about the sheer capability of stocking up on the jars you’d normally throw into the recycling bin. Believe me when I say you can use jars for pretty much ANYTHING, I mean anything! Storing leftovers is probably my favorite other than keeping my coffee hot or water nice and cold. But enough about my love of jars, trust me, you’ll get a lot more in the second part of this post so I’ll spare you the torture! Anyways, back to my journey with sustainability. After deciding to officially become apart of the community I was fully prepared to find other women, especially young black women who shared the same passion but when I went looking for them I was met with the opposite. Instead, what was recommended to me was the farthest thing from black and brown, and recommended sustainable products that were realistically too expensive for any college student to actually buy.

The Problems We Face: What is the Color of Sustainability?

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We’re all aware of YouTube’s lack of advertisement when it comes to black channels unless you actively go searching for them or your as famous as someone like the beloved Jackie Aina. And don’t even get me started on the awesome smaller channels that don’t get have the recognition they deserve! Social media platforms don’t necessarily cater their explore pages to those who don’t fit the calculated look of their brand, of course, we are all yet again aware of this but turning a blind eye to it isn’t helping anyone! I guess what I’m trying to say is that I shouldn’t have to look for other black people in the sustainable community when they are as much apart of it as everyone else.

Let me challenge you. If you were to ask a person of color about sustainability and if they have ever considered changing some of their everyday tasks toward a more planet-friendly side, what do you think they’d say? By ‘a person of color’, I am talking mostly from the perspective of someone who still has family in the deep South who still live on dirt roads because it brings them the joy they seek in life. It is a simple lack of education when it comes to the topic and that’s okay! Now, what if you were to ask them to close their eyes and think of who would be providing them with that education about the planet, better ways to live, and something like single-use plastic? I can guarantee you that the majority would see someone who looked the complete opposite from them, and if you have other opinions I’d be happy to debate with you in the comments. Don’t think I’m simply coming only from a subjective corner of the internet, but you can’t disagree with the fact that there isn’t at least a little truth in what I’m implying here.

This idea that true knowledge on a topic can only be found in the mindset of an entirely different demographic based on preconceived notions of higher intelligence on a topic that doesn’t stem from one particular place, culture, or person but rather the population as a whole is ludicrous! Caring for your environment is not some race as to who can spread the most information based on the desire for personal gain alone, but the acknowledgment of the other countless pieces in a puzzle we are all trying to solve. Research, information, and words without the pursuit of action are simply research, information, and words.

The goal is to spread the message of healing the planet through awareness, action, and knowledge not about the individual growth of one person! There should never be a power or equality struggle if we are all rallying around a similar goal that is bigger than all of us combined. That is to say, we’ve seen the ramifications of less human interaction with nature opening the gateway for spectacular healing to go about around the planet in the recent months we’ve all been inside. Animals are wandering town streets wondering where all the people have gone, parts of sea life are finally able to come to the surface without fear of being hunted or harmed by the likes of human beings, and yet there is an underlying sickness looming over the surface of the sustainability community that reeks of attention seeking strategies. On a positive note, the one important thing that has stuck with me the most is one final thing that requires a bit of background before I close out so indulge me for a bit longer if you will.

With the given circumstances that I won’t get into but that we’ve all found ourselves in for these last few months, you could say when it’s all over outside interaction might be a bit strange at first. One of the few things my family has done in order to stay “sane” is take car rides around our local spots we wouldn’t normally go. We do not leave the car during these drives for all you who’ve already made up your mind otherwise-HA! When my little sister and I were younger our parent’s used to just ride around in random neighborhoods and look at the houses being built or sometimes walk through them without any desire to actually buy the houses being shown. Instead, it was more like a day trip that they still go about doing to this day! Of course, they passed that weird love of “house hunting” to their kids and it’s what we’ve been doing on these car rides when the walls of the house are closing in on everyone. We simply ride around the sprawling hills of California, the woody horse communities with their gravely dirt roads, and enjoy the sights around us. What’s my point in all this? With everything circling back to the environment the one thing this whole experience has taught me is to have a greater appreciation for the beautiful planet around me. The silly birds who run across the street when a car is coming like their playing a twisted game of Russian Roulette with their lives until spreading their wings and flying off, the way the sky is equally as jaw dropping during a cloudless day or cascading endlessly with water droplets disguised like white fluffy cotton candy, and the smell of blooming wild flowers is all so breathtaking when you aren’t seeing it everyday.

This all leads me to my final thought: Don’t let the fear paralyze you into a place of endless doom when it comes to the future of the planet. I’m not going to lie to you and say that everything is going to be fine, but I also won’t fill you with such a sense of dread that it stops you from taking action!

With that said, I wish you all a wonderful day! Thanks again for stopping by and reading my post! I hope all of you are doing well, staying safe and healthy, and finding at least an inch of joy in such a difficult time. If not, don’t hesitate because you’ve can always leave a message in the comments and I’d be happy to shine some sunshine your way! Alright, I’ll catch all of you next Friday!

By Gabrielle Lewis

Hi there! Welcome to The Freed Sparrow! I am a lifestyle and travel blog determined to spread body advocacy, sustainability, and the power of a positive voice! I am an aspiring children's and YA novelist, an adventure seeker by nature, and the biggest bookworm you'll ever meet!

Thank you so much for stopping by! Happy writing!

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