An eco-sista who says be patient and take small steps
How long have you been eco-friendly? Since 2004
Why did you choose to be eco-friendly? Well, I was lucky enough to do my graduate work research in Kenya through the Rotary Foundation. There in addition to my research I also did community service project. Some were creative like "Art for AIDS" where we made clothing out of condoms but others were focused on creating solutions. For example, we planted trees in the Karura Forest. The forest in Nairobi that the late Nobelaurate Wangari Maathai saved.
We worked on famine relief projects. I said to the Rotarians in Kenya "There is food in all the stores here, where is the famine?" They said the rural communities agricultural seasonal shifts due to climate change have devastated harvesting and farming, people are literally dying of starvation.
Finally, I met a traditional cotton farmer who was changing to organic. He said there were not only his family but the families of his employees depending on this radical shift, it had to work. He asked me, "Who will buy my organic cotton?" I told him that I would. Then and there I knew that if I was going to make any new product that it had to be sustainable. Especially in fashion which is the second most polluting industry in the world.
What do you like about it? I like the immediate impact- using less water, recycling, buying less, solar charging, walking more, public transportation, more natural beauty products. I love that it is more in balance with the way we should live. I love that it opens door to understanding and culture that is more global in thinking. It feels more like a love filled way to live.
Did you face any challenges? If so, what was/is the biggest obstacle(s)? I think living in different parts of the world makes shifts what being sustainable means. So for example when I was living in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, there was no formal recycling program. But I was told that people collect and sell recyclables as a way to earn money. But it felt like I was more or less using faith in that to make it okay that I was not actively recycling. Also, when I lived there you say "transitioning to organic" products in the food markets, but very little truly organic.
But then it meant looking at what I could do on a personal level to be more sustainable. So that meant a lot of walking, public transportation, reducing use of air conditioning- and Malaysia is hot, hot, hot. I also began my move to all natural and organic personal care products while living in Asia because I found the drug store brands available there were too harsh. So, I started looking at using more organic oils and doing DIY things for my own use.
Any tips/advice for someone looking to be more eco-friendly? Don't look at it as a wholesale change. Be patient with yourself and take small steps. I think about eco-friendly as being on sustainability continuum- so think about what continuum looks like to you and how to push yourself one step further along. So is it more recycling, less water usage-simple as shorter showers or turning off the water while you soap up. Also, looking at what you buy.
Can you re-purpose something before you buy something new? Buy a refurbished item rather than a brand new version? Can you swap, trade, share an item rather than consume. Add work/ride share to work days. I make eco-fashion products and I encourage people to buy less but buy better.
Also, knowing who made your clothes is important. So for example there is a reason that new dress is only $14. It is made with really toxic materials and/or someone in the production process is not getting paid a fair wage. All too often this is women of color around the world.
Another area I have made changes in my life is the personal care products. I am close to a "if I can eat it I will put it on my face/hair/skin" I am not there yet but I am working on it. I love products like M Botanicals on Etsy which is run by a woman of color in London. I also make my own conditioner out of avocado, honey, and olive oil. But everyone has to find her own path but just do something, even if it is just one small thing. Like buying organic milk once a month. If everyone took one step at a time it would be a global revolution toward saving the planet. I love that idea. We can do it.
Going green can be complex. This discourages a lot of people. There's really no "right" way it's basically trying to do something than nothing at all. I sometimes feel like a green hypocrite. Do you feel that way sometimes? I understand what you mean, but I would say that again it is about the continuum. Going green is easy because you just do one thing today maybe add another thing tomorrow, next month, next year.
Hopefully we all can just get on that train and start making changes that are greener on a personal basis. That can encourage larger change, policy change, global change. But it sounds cliche but it is true. Any journey long or short starts with one step.
You know I gotta ask, How long have you been natural and how do you keep it so FLY? I have been natural since 2004 right before going to graduate school. I didn't want to add getting a relaxer on my crazy schedule. It has been 12 years and I am just now learning how to take care of it. For real! I am so happy there are more products out there for naturals.
I learn from them and blogs like yours about what to do. For me, I am trying to do the "if I can eat it model" so I make my own conditioner- avocado, honey, and olive oil. I use a conditioning co-wash but only every 2-3 weeks. But I condition every week. I also use massage oils- olive, coconut, castor, and avocado. It depends every morning and night on my scalp. I have also love Oyin Handmade products and Nubian Heritage Family products.
You'll notice not all products are totally organic, again I am on this journey working this process. I may never reach 100% organic or green and I think that's fine. I am just trying to live the greenest life I can. Oh and sleep with a silk scarf, you know it!
Is there anything you like to add? Black America and other communities of color are disproportionately effected by environmental devastation, so I think we need to get more active in the leadership and influence of green movements on a global scale.