Fighting systemic racism is not limited to ending police brutality and voter suppression; an often overlooked aspect of racial inequality is environmental injustice. Environmental injustice, defined as “the fact that some communities or human groups are disproportionately subjected to higher levels of environmental risk than other segments of society,” often goes unnoticed because environmental activists have feared for some time that “concerns about racial justice would distract from efforts to reduce emissions.” This is a problem, because this mentality has allowed for the shunning of the very group who is impacted most by environmental problems.
I spoke with sustainability consultant, blogger and video creator Jhanneu Roberts to learn more about the unjust factors that contribute to environmental racism and why we should care about it. Here are the top five.
1. Race Is The Number One Contributor To Whether Or Not You Live Near Toxic Waste
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According to one horrifying statistic, each person dumps seven pounds of material in the trash every single day. While some of us never come face-to-face with America’s trash problem, not everyone has that luxury… or should I say, privilege.
“A landfill would never be in a rich white neighborhood,” explains Roberts. “You’ll never find a whole bunch of trash or dirty streets there, but you’ll find that on the south side of Chicago, because certain things are just unacceptable in certain areas. So when it’s acceptable in low-income communities of color, but not in rich, white areas, I think it’s just very clear that there’s injustice there.”
A study published in Environmental Research Letters found “a consistent pattern over a 30-year period of placing hazardous waste facilities in neighborhoods where poor people and people of color live.” Take West Jefferson, Alabama; LaPlace, Louisiana (an area otherwise known as “Cancer Alley”); and Chester, Pennsylvania as examples, though there are many more low-income cities and towns being impacted by toxic waste sites. “Cancer Alley is an 85-mile mile stretch of pollution that runs along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge that’s made up of a bunch of oil refineries and petrochemical plants producing plastic,” says Roberts. Ingesting these toxins and being surrounded by polluted air can lead to an array of health problems (shocker!), and in the worst case, death. “The cancer rate there is 50 times higher than the national average. So when we talk about plastic, we have to tell the whole story of it, and not leave out the fact that it’s polluting certain environments more than others.”
2. Black Communities Typically Don’t Have Proper Waste Systems
Unlike in affluent neighborhoods where you have the pleasure of throwing out your trash and not having to think about where it goes afterward, low-income communities don’t have the same waste systems. “All of this just goes back to segregation, where Black people lived in one area, white people lived in another, and of course they’re going to put these toxic facilities in the low-income Black minority area,” explains Roberts. A 1990s regulation created to limit the number of local landfills “led to a rise in private companies transporting commercial waste across state lines.” And we can guess which group carries the burden of this transported waste from various states.
Ingesting toxins from leftover trash can lead to a multitude of health problems including air/water pollution, respiratory diseases, infections, and much more. An even more glamorous result of all of this excess trash is vermin. “If you go to the projects, you’ll see mice and roaches and rats all around,” explains Roberts. “And these critters are carrying all these toxic things in them. That impacts your health.” Besides being undesirable to look at, these critters can indirectly transmit diseases through the transportation of parasites like mites and ticks, according to the CDC. Rat problems are also linked to depressive symptoms, as found in a Johns Hopkins study.
3. Black Americans Living In Low-Income Communities Don’t Have The Same Access To Nutritious Food, Which Has Broad Negative Implications
Affordable, easy access to nutritious meals—which are important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and some cancers—is unfortunately not a convenient or affordable option for everyone. For example, as Roberts explains, “If I wanted to go to a good, healthy grocery store as a kid living on the south side of Chicago, I’d have to take an hour and a half bus ride.” Traveling so far via public transportation is completely unrealistic for working people with families.
“It shouldn’t take that long to get healthy food,” she continues. “I did a post on people not having access to grocery stores in food deserts and someone was like, ‘I don’t get why they can’t just take public transportation!’ But imagine if you’re a single mom, working two jobs—you shouldn’t have to be on the bus for an hour with your three kids trying to get groceries. No one should have to do that.” In these areas which are often referred to as food deserts, many families rely on convenient and affordable fast food and cheaper grocery options that tend to be more processed.
4. There Is Unequal Representation In The Sustainability Movement—Which Leads People To Think You Have To Be A Certain Type Of Person To Practice Sustainability
Only until recently did sustainable brands and people passionate about sustainability start posting about environmental justice. “Everyone that talks about sustainability is white. It’s important to have diverse faces talking about these issues if we want to actually solve the problem,” says Roberts.
The proof is in the pudding: after being called out for racist practices, a well-known sustainable clothing brand reached out to Roberts to do a post on their IG page on environmental justice. “But that’s just putting a Band-aid on it if you just want me to come on for one video and call it a day,” says Roberts. “If you’re going to work with me, or any other person of color, it has to be some sort of contract, because then that tells your audience, Okay, we’re trying to earn your trust back and not just put Black faces to seem like we’re inclusive.” Roberts suggested a few different ongoing ways for her and the brand to work together (such as consulting and becoming a part of their diversity board). And not a word was to be heard from them ever again! Where’s the actual behind-the-scenes effort from brands in creating equal representation? “All these brands are under scrutiny because of racism and not including any Black people at the table,” continues Roberts. “These issues wouldn’t have happened if the people making these decisions had been a diverse group in the first place.”
What Can I Do?
“I think a lot of people just don’t know these things even exist, and how can people help if they don’t even know it’s a problem?” says Roberts. “Make sure you bring these into conversations with your other white friends. And if they’re ever saying something that’s ignorant, take the time to educate them on why what they’re saying is wrong. I feel like the conversations have to start at home, because if you’re not having them with your family members or friends, then how are we really going to shift the broader conversation?” So have those difficult discussions, educate yourself online, and make an effort to shift the mentality in your day-to-day.
As far as more tangible actions we can take, see below for a list of people to follow, organizations to donate to, bills to support and black-owned sustainable brands to shop from.
People To Follow:
Organizations To Donate To:
– Intersectional Environmentalist – A platform for resources, information and action steps to support intersectional environmentalism and dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, led by environmental activists and sustainability advocates.
– Energy Justice Network – A grassroots energy agenda, supporting communities threatened by polluting energy and waste technologies.
– WE ACT – An organization created to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.
– Stop Formosa – A collection of resources and organizations fighting against Formosa Plastics, which wants to build a massive plastic factory in the region known as “Cancer Alley”.
– Ocean Collectiv – A collaborative of experts supporting clients in advancing ocean sustainability, grounded in social justice.
– The Power Shift Network – A network mobilizing the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future and resilient, thriving communities for all.
Bills To Support:
– The Environmental Justice COVID-19 Act (under the HEROES Act) – This bill would provide $50 million for environmental justice grant programs to monitor pollution and investigate COVID-19’s impact in frontline communities. It has not yet been approved by the Senate.
Brands To Purchase From:
– Golde – Superfood health and beauty products.
– Brother Vellies – Handcrafted shoes and handbags from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya & Morocco.
– Galerie.LA – Curated selection of ethical and eco-friendly women’s clothing and accessories from emerging brands worldwide.
– KINTU New York – Handbags designed in New York, co-developed with global artisans, and made in Italy.
– SOKO – Innovative, ethical jewelry and accessories from sustainable materials in Nairobi, Kenya.
– The Narativ – Sustainable, ethical, social-good house of artisan brands from around the world.
Image: AndriiKoval / Shutterstock
I’m almost 30, so I’m basically a wedding attendee expert at this point. With attending so many weddings (seriously, why is my life becoming more and more like Noah’s Ark with everyone pairing up?!), and being part of the bridal party in a few of them, I’ve often looked to The Knot for guidance. They know everything about weddings and wedding etiquette. It’s nice to have some reference for what is considered an acceptable wedding gift when you already had to buy a $300 tulle dress you’ll never wear again. Being the expert on weddings, The Knot has their 2019 Real Weddings Study ready to tell us how generations are changing their wedding habits, and it actually seems to be more for good than evil. According to The Knot, couples care more about “inclusivity, sustainability, community and purpose-driven details” than ever before. Here are just a few things changing in our generation’s wedding planning:
Weddings are now “fusing a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds”, because 51% of couples are marrying someone of a different background, according to The Knot. This means couples are doing much more diverse ceremonies that aren’t necessarily religious, or combining two religious ceremonies to reflect both partners’ beliefs. I think this is really cool that couples are taking charge of what’s important to them. I’ve even been to a wedding where they did a medieval sword ceremony instead of a religious one, and it was awesome. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t feel like you have to stick to tradition if it doesn’t fit in with your values (or you like, just don’t want to).
As a society, most of us care about the environment and are trying to go green everywhere we can. From sustainable fashion to travel to those damn paper straws, millennials and Gen-Z are big on not f*cking up the planet, and The Knot says, “weddings are no exception”. According to their 2019 Real Wedding Study, one-quarter of couples now source locally and repurpose wedding details instead of just throwing their decor out after one use. 14% even do eco-friendly alternatives, like chalkboard seating charts, bamboo place settings, and digital RSVPs. Couples are also spending less on their weddings and considering budget to be important. On average, couples are now covering half of their wedding costs, so they are more aware of budget now that we don’t just charge everything to Bank Of Daddy.
Standing Up For Themselves
Couples are finally ignoring what their families want and are doing what they actually want to do for their weddings. I’m sure it helps that they’re footing their own bills now, which means they can’t be bullied into inviting their dad’s fourth cousins they’ve never even met. The Knot says this includes, “making intentional vendor choices, like choosing a venue with meaning (think, an art gallery that supports female artists or town hall that has made strides for the LGBTQ+ community) or making a statement about gender equality by walking down the aisle together.” Couples now even donate decor or have a charity donation as their registry! You love to see it.
Couples now are saying f*ck gender roles and are having their bridal parties include all their best friends—regardless of gender. I have seen this in so many weddings recently, and I LOVE IT. Why do we segregate our friends based on their genitals anyway? The Knot says, “nearly 4 in 10 couples (37%) embrace coed wedding parties”, with groomswomen and bridesmen! I mean really, why was gender ever a consideration for who gets to stand up there with you on your wedding day? It should just be about standing up at the altar with the people you care about.
Wedding traditions may be changing, but it’s definitely for the better. These stats from The Knot just show that you can do whatever the f*ck you want on your big day and everyone else can shove it. See more findings from the Real Weddings Study at The Knot.
Images: @alvarocvg / Unsplash, Kumar Saurabh / Pexels, @clemono2 / Unsplash, Michael Morse / Pexels; irbis pictures / Shutterstock.com
Hey! Global warming is real! ICYMI, it’s January, and it was literally just 70 degrees one day then 40 degrees and snowing the next over here on the east coast. IDK, I just feel like I shouldn’t be able to wear a crop top and ripped jeans without freezing my ass off in the dead of winter in New York? This is just one of many obvious signs of climate change. travelhorizons™ is travel marketing brand MMGY Global’s quarterly national survey designed to learn more about American travelers’ habits and intentions with current events in mind. Their newest report, which explored the travel habits of American adults in the global warming age, shows a TON of us are hesitant to travel because we fear adding more fuel to this metaphorical (but also literal?) fire. Time for us to discuss WTF our Instagrammable vacays are doing to our planet and how we can act more responsibly so we can continue bragging about our trips on social media 20 years from now!
How Traveling Impacts Our Planet
Let’s cover the bad news first: your Instagram vacations are definitely f*cking up the planet. “Over-tourism, climate strikes, and global warming are major issues with serious ramifications for the global travel sector,” says Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, adding, “plastic and food waste from the tourism industry is another major concern.” Basically, we’re being careless and reckless by overcrowding tourist spots, littering, and not acting mindfully when we travel… and we need to f*cking stop.
On the bright side (there’s always a bright side, right?), MMGY’s study shows that travelers are down to change their behaviors when traveling to benefit the planet. Yay! According to the study, 34% of travelers believe traveling plays an important role in understanding the impact of climate change on the world, and 32% say travel increases their desire to help people in other parts of the country or the world. I feel like Googling is a way cheaper method for learning how to save the world, but all the power to you if you can afford to learn about Japan in Japan instead.
Anyway, sounds like traveling is a problem AND a solution to fighting against global warming? Kinda confusing, but OK. Moving right along.
WTF Is Sustainable Travel?
“Sustainable travel means that locals and visitors of a destination are ensuring the protection of the environment for generations to come,” explains Asjoe-Croes. “In order to achieve long-term sustainability, it requires an investment from all parties (government, hotel properties, tourism board, etc.) in order to shift the cultural mindset, which takes time.” Fortunately, a bunch of countries are already ahead of the sustainability game and have implemented really awesome programs to reduce waste, rely on renewable resources, and educate visitors on how to save our planet, one town at a time.
Aruba is just one of many places at the forefront of sustainable travel, but they’re ranked 4/10 (right after Bhutan, England, and North Macedonia?!) on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 list which highlighted destinations that are progressive in terms of sustainability. “We hope to introduce visitors to the greater community, immerse them in our culture, and help them understand that the island’s nature, beautiful beaches, and culture need to be preserved,” says Asjoe-Croes. Before I visited Aruba last year, I personally volunteered to e-sign the Aruba Promise to pledge I’d be responsible and preserve the island during my stay. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m like, such an eco-friendly traveler.
Costa Rica also ranks #8 on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 countries leading in sustainable travel. Depending on where you go, you can visit local organic farms, go fishing, and hop in on tours of the island to learn about their green programs. “We want our guests to connect with nature and experience first hand the quality, smell, and flavors of organic and sustainable farming. We want to educate and inspire everyone that visits La Senda the importance of sustainable farming,” says Federico Pilurzu, general manager of Costa Rica-based luxury hotel Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas that offers farm-to-table dinners.
One more place worthy of a shout-out as far as sustainability goes: Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC), the two busiest airports that see over 90 MILLION people passing through every year, recently announced that they’re instituting a ban on all single-use plastic starting in 2020. This effort alone will reduce tens of thousands of single-use plastics every day.
As awesome as these nationwide programs are, though, sustainable travel is also on you and me—the travelers. So what can us little people do to pitch in and do our part?
Tips For How To Travel More Eco-Friendly
Time for us to step TF up and travel more responsibly! Here’s what you can do to be a sustainable traveler, whether you’re heading to California, flying to Switzerland, or thousands of miles away to sip piña coladas in the tropics:
1. Avoid using single-use plastics
Not to bring it back to elementary school, but in case you forgot: reduce, reuse, recycle. According to that MMGY study, 54% of travelers are willing to use less single-use plastics. That means using reusable straws and utensil kits and BYOB (B as in bottle)! Most hotels have free water stations where you can fill up your old bottle so you don’t have to go buying new plastic bottles every day. Nomader and que bottle are two of my favorite reusable bottles that I bring along with me every day and whenever I travel. They literally collapse into themselves so you can pack them in your carry-on or your purse (do people even call bags purses anymore?).
2. Wear reef-safe sunscreen
Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two of the (unfortunately) popular chemicals found in most sunscreens, and they harm coral reefs. STOP USING PRODUCTS WITH THOSE INGREDIENTS. A quick Google search for “reef-safe sunscreens” will give you a bunch of alternatives from popular brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Drunk Elephant that are good for your body and the environment. Just make sure to read full ingredient lists and check labels before you buy.
3. Walk or rent bikes wherever possible
27% of travelers will either rent bicycles or walk more instead of taking automobile transportation. Be more like them. Save your $$$ and the world by skipping an Uber and enjoying the fresh air on your trip… aka stop being a lazy bitch and walk one mile to the bars or rent a complimentary bike from your hotel. I promise you’ll be fine (as long as you’re staying in a safe location, obv).
4. Stay at environmentally-friendly hotels
Almost one-third of people will intentionally avoid booking stays at non-sustainable resorts and opt for environmentally-friendly hotels and tour companies instead. Depending on where you’re going, dig around online to find which sustainable hotels are in the area… then stay there. Some use solar energy, treat and reuse sink and shower water, feature local, organic products in the resort, and even host beach clean-up programs. I know, cleaning beaches on your vacation sounds like a bummer. But you know what else is a bummer? Beaches filled with litter that eventually float out to sea and kill cute sea turtles. Yeah. So think about that next time you’re chugging White Claw on the sand.
5. Travel during off-season to avoid overcrowding
Around 4/10 American travelers agree that tourism overcrowding is a serious issue. That same amount of travelers will consciously visit destinations in the off-season to reduce overcrowding. Hate crowds? Perfect! Not only is it eco-friendly to visit hotspots in the slower season, but it’s prob cheaper to travel then, too (especially if you book on a Tuesday or Wednesday). Sooo… win-win.
6. Learn about green travel programs where you’re going
You know how you check to make sure there are good bars and brunch spots where you’re headed? Spend that same amount of time researching how you can be an eco-conscious visitor wherever the hell you’re staying. If you’re heading out of the country, at least visit a tourist center and ask questions about what you can do to help while you’re there. Again, I know. BORING. Grow up. It’s 2020. It feels good to be a good human.
7. Don’t Fly If You Can Help It
Last but certainly not least (probably foremost, actually), try to limit air travel. Even though we’ve all been taught that cars are the devil, traveling by car (provided you’re not driving just yourself), train, or bus are more sustainable options than hopping on a flight. We all know planes are f*cking terrible for the environment, but okay, let’s say your next flight is unavoidable—there are still ways to fly smarter. Fly direct, don’t fly business or first class (who even are you if this is an option), and pack light (it makes it easier on both you and the plane’s fuel expenditure).
These tips might sound like NBD, but they’re a good start—much like I tell myself when I go to the gym just to spend five minutes walking on the treadmill, something is better than nothing. And although traveling more sustainably is important, that’s not the only thing we can do to make sure the planet is like, inhabitable for our grandkids. “Beyond just travel, there’s pressure for all of us as humans to look at our footprint and preserve our planet,” reminds Asjoe-Croes. So don’t just take the bus one time and pack it in. We all better start making moves and going green before it’s too late.
Images: Giphy (6)
Look guys, I totally care about the environment. I use my own bags at grocery stores. I seriously debate getting my own reusable straws. But also, I used to spend a lot of money on single-use products. It is super annoying and I burn through things like makeup remover wipes soooo quickly because I am almost always too tired to wash my face like a proper adult. I’ve been carefully curating my beauty arsenal for years, and I’ve found some reusable beauty products that work super well and are a one-time (more or less) purchase kind of deal. So, if you use any of these products, swap them out so you aren’t contributing to the demise of our planet, plus more money for happy hour. It’s a win-win.
1. Makeup Eraser
I know. You’re all, “Holly, wtf, I’m not buying a $20 washcloth.” BUT IT IS A SPECIAL WASHCLOTH. Seriously, this thing is straight-up witchcraft. I never thought it would work as well as it does. It’s literally just, like, a microfiber washcloth that you add water to—nothing else—and it removes all your makeup without pulling or leaving residue, and it even removes waterproof makeup! It makes no sense. It’s also awesome if you have super sensitive skin, because you’re not using any irritating products. Wash them weekly and reuse. You’ll never need makeup remover again, so it saves you money long-term.
The Original Makeup Eraser m,akeup remover cloth
2. Blotting Sponge
I don’t understand why this isn’t talked about everywhere, but I’m going to assume it’s because people just don’t know about it. I got this free at some point in a gift set from Sephora, and it has changed my life. My skin is extremely oily, and instead of buying 200 packs of oil blotting sheets or piling on powder every couple hours, I now just use this. It’s a reusable sponge that you blot your face with, and it absorbs the oil, just like a blotting sheet. Except, you can use it endlessly until it basically falls apart (my first one is still going strong, and I’ve had it for ages). You just wash it whenever you wash your makeup brushes, let it dry, and it’s good to go again. The best part is that it doesn’t remove or smudge your makeup, so no need to reapply.
3. Exfoliating Gloves
Where have these been my entire life? Exfoliating gloves are completely life-changing. These gloves work better than any scrub you can buy. They easily slough off dead skin and prep your skin for shaving, and the best part is, you can use them with any soap or body wash you already use. You can reuse them literally until they fall apart in pieces, and save so much money in the long-run, with better results to boot.
SmitCo LLC exfoliating gloves
4. Hair Ring
These are those super weird hair ties that look like telephone cords (if you were alive in the ’90s), and they are everywhere. But despite being kind of ugly, they are worth the price. These hair ties are invincible. They don’t break, stretch out, or leave creases, and they have insane holding power. It would take three normal hair ties to hold my bun up at the gym (assuming one doesn’t snap in the process). But now, I just use one of these and my hair does not budge. They’re also kind of bulky, so I don’t have any issues with losing them. Instead of having 100 hair ties that I lose or break until I end up with four, I only own two packs of Invisibobbles (six rings total).
Invisibobble hair ring
5. Wet Brush
I’m just going to be up front with you: I don’t know why this brush works so well. It’s the cheapest brush I’ve ever owned, and I cannot explain to you how it manages to detangle my hair so easily. I have the worst hair texture ever. Sometimes it’s curly, but it’s straight in other places, and no matter what, I end up with basically dreadlocks underneath it every single day. I used to own f0ur different detanglers and leave-in conditioners to try to manage it, just so I wouldn’t cry when I tried to brush it out. I bought super expensive brushes from GHD, Chi, and even a $150 Mason Pearson—which made my hair shiny, sure, but could not even penetrate the barrier that is attached to my head to even get to the knots underneath. Nothing, and I mean nothing, got my knots out without pain. And then someone told me to buy this cheap plastic $7 brush. So I did. And without any product at all, even brushing when wet (which I would never, ever do before, because it would rip my hair out), all the knots come out painlessly and easily. The only hair product I buy now is a heat protectant for when I actually style my hair.
The Wet Brush
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