In March, New York City banned singular plastic bags. “These bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Living without plastic bags may be a new experience for many. Black folks tend to have an abundant supply of plastic bags in their households — it’s almost like tradition, with many uses, not just for groceries but a variety of reasons, including shower caps. Plastic though is far more harmful to humankind than most people know. Plastic releases harmful chemicals into the soil, which can seep into the ocean, and therefore the ecosystem of the world. Humans make 288 million tons of plastic a year, and unlike paper, metal, glass, or wood, it does not oxidise or biodegrade. This means that plastic never actually goes away. Now plastic is found in rivers, oceans, and soil, pervasively contaminating the environment. Therefore, it should come as no shock that New York has banned plastic bags (scheduled to begin in 2020), as they’ve been banned in other states, and in over 120 countries throughout the world.
Environmental Wellness is an important element in radical self-care. Producer and recording artist Pharrell Williams referenced the effects of plastic a few years ago when he became art director of Bionic Yarn, a material engineering company that takes recycled plastic bottles and turns them into high quality fabric. Merging wellness, activism, and fashion, Pharrell, and many other celebrities, have created a positive impact on the environment with different zero-waste practices and environmental wellness.
So, how can you begin to live a more sustainable life without plastic and waste? The popularity of a zero-waste lifestyle has grown faster than anyone could have predicted. Zero-waste is a philosophy and mode of living that encourages us to redesign our habits to reduce (and eventually eliminate) the amount of waste we create in our daily lives. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need to send trash items to the landfill, the oceans, and other places where waste is dumped. Zero-Waste encourages us to be mindful of the amount of trash and waste we create by making changes in our daily lives that prevent waste production.
Here are five zero-waste tips:
Article originally written for Afropunk
The Women Of Color Healing Retreats is an ever-evolving company, and we are ecstatic with where we are. Our consciousness has shifted; rather than freedom for just the black race, we want freedom for humanity. We love being able to share our own narratives, so check out this interview in Mind Body Green. In this interview, I discuss the Women Of Color Healing Retreat and our newest retreat, the Women Of Color Self-Care Retreat. I also share my personal journey! Click here!
Cardi B has made a lot of dreams come true for many by launching an affordable vegan clothing line which emphasizes classic boudoir attire with corsets, latex, and a lot of vegan leather. Last year, Cardi announced to her 26-million Instagram followers, that she was trying plant-based foods in an effort to be healthier during her pregnancy. Although we think Cardi B is a genius when it comes to entrepreneurship, we are not here to judge the lifestyle of any human being, we are here to highlight the positives in women globally. We're happy that people are moving towards a healthier lifestyle and are able to wear affordable clothes that are cruelty free!
Wellness is the best! The benefits of taking care of yourself on a daily basis are endless.Last year I made some huge changes. These changes have benefited my highest self. So far I have met all of my short term goals this year and a few long term goals. I’ve devoted a lot of time balancing wellness with work which has yielded success in meeting my long and short-term goals. Here are some self-care tips that can help you achieve peace and clarity.
We tend to focus on self-care being for just a day or a week, but the key to wellness is consistency. The only way to see results from anything is to practice discipline. Set a time each day, whether 15 minutes or an hour, to solely focus on wellness. If you are unable to find any time, then this a red flag that you need to start taking care of yourself. Whether you are a busy entrepreneur, a working woman, or a student, in order to achieve optimum success you must take mindful steps to take care of yourself. Remember that you are the most important person in your life!
I am a firm believer that the way women of color are treated within society is a reflection of the way we treat our precious home, the earth. This observation makes it important that we formulate a clear image on how women are treated within society then compare to the treatment of Mother Earth.The very ideology of women being viewed as just bodies, therefore, being exploited in countless of ways, entirely reflects how Mother Earth is viewed and treated as replaceable. Mother Earth is too seen as "just another body” or object that can be mined, drained, polluted, and exploited.
Like our Great Mother, Women of color are exploited, abused and oppressed. We receive the low and unfair wages and as we experience habitual sexual exploitation via media representation, sex trafficking, rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence. Although black women are mothers, healers, nurturers in all societies, we are treated in the similar way that society tends to treats the Earth. The Earth, like women and their bodies, is traded, tormented and killed off for food, reproductive purposes, and sport; we tear apart and destroy the land through deforestation for animal agriculture, and quite ironically, it is the leading cause of species extinction, oceanic dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction, and overall climate change/global warming. Habitat and land destruction exploits the homes of indigenous peoples across the globe, further misusing their resources. We deplete and over extract resources that took billions of years to form (Oil) and use that to kill off the planet even more; and we do not share vital resources that are necessary for LIFE and we waste them and tax them to where it is nearly impossible for the majority of beings on this planet to [rightfully] have (i.e. Healthy, nutritious food and clean water).
Given the clarity on how women and Mother Earth are exploited in similar ways, how can we practice more compassion and take care of both people who inhabit this planet and the planet itself? how can we practice more ways of being compassionate and of taking care of not just the people who inhabit this planet but the planet itself?
Both Women and Mother Earth give life, give birth to creation. Both women and Earth provide space, home, and shelter. Within the womb of a woman and across the terrestrial landscape of Mother Earth, both women and Earth provide nurturance and support for growth. For a woman bares and raises a child and Mother Earth's soil provides nutrients for everyone on earth to eat. Both women and Mother Earth are resilient, strong, and both experience unbelieveable exploitation, and yet, are still living on and going strong.
The earth offers beautiful diversity. As such, black women are born of Earth's riches, representing varying shades of color as Mother Earth is bountiful in color. Earth have protective layers as black women have melanin that is the very color of Earth, absorbing the light and warmth of the Sun, while it illuminates our skin, and Mother Earth has layers within her atmosphere that helps keep our planet warm and with varying weather pattern both black women and Mother Earth are ancient vessels, rooted and connected to divine structure and wisdom; and both women and Earth have innate and natural cycles, for women bleed out of the womb in alignment with the cycle of the moon as Mother Earth experiences changes in seasons. The more we are able to recognize that women and Mother Earth are inseparable, the more we can start behaving in ways that honor and respect the relationships we have with women and Mother Earth.
Furthermore, we must discipline our own egos into realizing that Mother Earth does not need us as we need her. We must accept that we need and depend on Her, for She provides us, freely all that we could EVER need to survive and thrive. Lastly, start being conscious about the decisions you make and contemplate if those decisions are either helping to perpetuate the ecological genocide of modern life. Ask yourself if your decisions are bettering and empowering your community? If not, listed below are some suggestions that we, as women of color, could begin practicing within our lives to encourage healing for ourselves, our sisters, and Mother Earth.
Let us engage in more self-loving and self-care practices. Self-care must be recognized as actions that tends to our NEEDS first and foremost, for as women, we often times feel we must put everyone else's needs/wants over our own:
Ever thought about volunteering at an urban farm? Maybe caring for the animals of tropical rain forests? How about gardening and food sustainability?
Travel! As women of color, this is vital. A change in environment and scenery, away from the constant exploitation of our bodies and our peoples, provides solace and rejuvenation for our souls.
Try engaging in more health-conscious practices, like plant based life styles or veganism. It may not be for everyone, however, becoming more health conscious -- that is, maintaining awareness about what it is we are allowing into our systems and the personal and even global effects of our wellness practices, generates more self-love and love for other beings and the environment. Whether or not one decides to practice veganism, becoming more health conscious activates higher consciousness of self: Veganism are not only better health wise, but are culturally connected to the ways in which our ancestors lived. There is a stigma attaches to these practices that they are solely for white folk, but vegetarianism and veganism is tied within OUR roots, as women of color, providing nurturance for our vessels.
Even further, veganism pushes against anti-racism and activates the process of decolonization and eco-sustainability. Try engaging in more literature produced by people and women of color that shows the connections between these practices and overall self and eco-sustainability (i.e. "Sistah Vegan" by A. Breeze Harper; " Sacred Woman: A guide to Healing the Feminine Mind, Body and Spirit" by Queen Afua; "The Inspired Vegan" by Bryant Terry; etc.)
Mother Earth is exactly that -- a mother, to all of us, for she nurtures our beings and protects the power in our melanin. Therefore, we are her daughters, which makes us sistahs of the soil, and it is in our nature, our duty, to protect and honor ourselves, one another and our gracious Mother Earth.
to be frank, in any form of oppression black women and people exist as the socially constructed "animal."
this is why thousands of people - unfortunately black folx included - find it acceptable to treat us as items of consumption or mules that provide a means to an end. oftentimes we are expected to labor emotionally, physically, and intellectually for the benefit of another without receiving any form of compensation.
though the severity of this depends on your appearance, class, ability, and sexuality, we are treated as inherently inferior; distinctly… different.
in other words, an animal.
animals are thought to be the opposite of human - another social invention. in the eyes of the oppressor, those imposed differences justifies said abuse. whether we're speaking in terms of racism, sexism, or cissexism, that same power dynamic exists within every system of domination.
let's backtrack for a second.
during the chattel enslavement of African people, our ancestors did an incredible job of turning literal scraps into meals. the sheer creativity it took to transform the waste from the (barbaric) slave masters into cuisine is astonishing.
fast forward to 2017 and those same meals have grown to be a cultural tradition; soul food.
i grew up in the midwest of Ameriakkka, where no family gathering was complete without greens, deep fried chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, ham, sometimes duck, and whatever else the elders felt like cooking. get-togethers where a time to rejoice and escape the trauma of existing while black in this country. the preparation of food was just as much of an outlet as eating it.
here's the problem, excess consumption of foods like meat, dairy, and eggs wreak havoc on the body mind and spirit. especially for those of us dealing with an unhealthy amount of stress due to our intersecting oppressions. i don't know about you, but neither me or the other women/femmes in my family were given space to decompress, recharge, and rebuild ourselves once broken down from the pressures of the world. contrarily, most of the elderly femmes in my family were expected to manage the housework, parenting, cooking, and their baby ass husbands in addition to working full-time jobs. shit, they had to sit quietly while their husbands used them figuratively (and sometimes not) as punching bags to process the trauma of racism. they themselves were granted absolutely no time to breathe.
this, to me, sounds a whole lot like the denial of someone's personhood. not to mention the perfect environment for disease to flourish.
in case you were wondering, this is where veganism comes into play.
transitioning into a whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds will improve one's health. in fact, many people who transition from a traditional American diet - where meat, dairy, and eggs are the main components - to a vegan lifestyle describe experiencing immediate mental clarity. when i first became a vegan, i couldn't believe how my diet affected my thought process and overall mood. i'm a person who struggles with chronic depression and while veganism did not "cure" me of this, it most definitely alleviated certain symptoms such as extreme sluggishness. now when i'm experiencing a depressive low, i at least have the energy to cook for myself. this may seem small to neurotypical folx, but for people like me? it's huge. *btw, i am not suggesting the effects veganism has had on my depression is universal. this is simply my experience.*
you may be thinking to yourself, "this is nice and all, but veganism is white people shit; it ain't for us."
let's unpack why veganism is thought to be a "white" thing. whether you've been told bluntly or shown indirectly, people with access to money and wealth are typically white. with the unearned advantages white folx have acquired from the enslavement of our people, linked with the continued racialized law enforcement - from the school-to-prison pipeline to the war on drugs - things that are thought to be expensive aren't seen as accessible to us. especially when you tack on the additional obstacles from being both black and woman/person in this country. it's...a lot.
learning to navigate a system that literally separates you from health with the design of food deserts can be daunting. according to this article, "food deserts are defined as neighborhoods that are considered high-poverty, where at least a third of the resident live a mile or greater from the nearest grocery store.” the article goes on to say, "people who live in these food deserts are more likely to have diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, along with other health conditions.”
yeah, that's not a coincidence.
this is why as soon as you get to the hood, grocery stores are replaced with mcdonald's, kfc, burger king, pizza hut, and a plethora of other fast food chains. restricted access to health is one of the most obvious forms of systematic racism.
so, why should you consider veganism? in short, to combat this racist tradition of weaponizing illness to keep us in a state of lethargy.
plus, in regards to our bodies being commodified, enslaved, and itemized (think the prison industrial complex), we have a hell of a lot in common with the mistreatment of nonhuman animals. i'm not suggesting that the responsibility of disrupting this system that justifies the mass exploitation that is factory farming falls solely on our shoulders, but i am imploring you to see the similarities between our abuse and theirs. not that commonality is a requirement to condemn oppression, but i think it is a starting point.
let's say you're now contemplating the transition to a vegan lifestyle, where do you start?
first, yay you! for most people, that's a huge step that shows a massive shift in mindset, so that deserves some recognition. second, before you even think about food, get clear on your reasons.
once you are clear on your why, make it a point to gradually eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet. if you can go vegan cold turkey, big ups to you! but don't feel bad if you need to transition little by little. start by simply adding more fruits, veggies, beans, and grains to your plate. periodically increase the size of each, until eventually you crowd out everything else.
ultimately, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes go vegan for a multitude of reasons. for me, it was the progression of my politics as an intersectional feminist. i needed my diet to match the mindset that every living person - human and non - deserves a life without domination. your reasons may be completely different from mine, and that's fine! veganism doesn't have to be a cult where everyone thinks and acts exactly the same. do whatever works best for you and remember to challenge yourself daily.
also, don't judge others who aren't vegan; all of us got our start somewhere.
hopefully, yours is here.
Women of Color Healing Retreats is looking for writers who are creative, political, and who are able to engage an audience. We are looking for writers that specialize in writing articles and essays that speak directly to women of color.
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