We are living during a historical time, where people are collectively recognizing the negative impacts humans have made on the environment and that we can no longer wait for the next generation to fix it. Environmentalists have long discussed the importance of nature conservation and transitioning to eco-conscious living but have failed to recognize the disproportionate ways that climate change impacts communities of color who experience intersectional oppression.
According to the National Black Environmental Justice Network, “African Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods with toxic industrial pollution that poses the greatest health dangers.” How does a movement that claims to value all forms of life by prioritizing the health of the planet, allow the most vulnerable communities to still suffer? In light of the continued physical and environmental violence against Black and brown folx, sustainable activists are taking matters into their own hands.
These five Black women are part of the larger movement to diversify sustainability. By centering the needs of their communities while also tackling environmental issues, their work shows the potential of applying intersectional solutions to deeply rooted social justice and environmental problems.
The New Faces of the Sustainability Movement
Leah Thomas is quickly becoming a household name. The activist and eco-communicator has been unpacking the relationship between social justice and environmentalism to protect people and the planet. She channeled this passion into, Intersectional Environmentalist, a platform led by environmental activists and advocates. The Intersectional Environmentalist provides resources to not only learn more about the importance of intersectional environmentalism but also how to dismantle systems of oppression within and outside of the environmental movement.
Corinna & Theresa Williams
Two sisters with backgrounds in fashion and design mixed their two loves (the environment and cleanliness) to create Celsious, a business that puts the environment first. This sounds like the plot of a movie, but it’s real. The Brooklyn-based laundromat helps people make more sustainable laundry choices while also centering community through collaborations and projects.
Brittany Sierra is the ultimate boundary breaker. As a Black woman, she founded a community-driven sustainable fashion conference that celebrates diversity in a place (Portland, Oregon) and sector that has a deep-rooted history of exclusion. Annually, the Sustainable Fashion Forum brings “highly curated programming and speakers from major players in the fashion industry to discuss the future of sustainable fashion.
Both Dominique and Whitney are ambassadors of sustainable style (coined by Dominique). Through both their platforms Melaninass (Melanin And Sustainable Style) and Sustainable Brooklyn they celebrate, champion and provide access to the sustainability movement to folx within the African diaspora and beyond. By recognizing the limits of the current sustainability movement, they have been able to create a space that prioritizes the needs of Black and brown folx.