Clean, Green, and Fair for Everyone

>> Sunday, February 8, 2009

This post is my submission for the Green Moms Blog Carnival. The topic is "I believe...." Check out the musings of all the great Green Moms on February 9 at The Smart Mama.

Last August, Slow Food USA held a festival in San Francisco to celebrate and promote their belief in local and sustainable food. The slogan of the Slow Food movement is "good, clean, and fair food," but over and over when I read media reports describing the event, it was labeled as an elitist gathering for wealthy yuppies. Admission to the various pavilions and panels was expensive, and the many displays of high-priced artisinal foods made slow food seem out of reach for the average American, used to Walmart and McDonalds prices.

Sadly, the stereotype of the 21st century environmentalist is a white college graduate driving a Prius, shopping at Whole Foods, wearing over-priced organic cotton clothing, and reprimanding everyone for not doing the same. The stereotypical image of environmentalism from the last century was a poorly dressed, Birkenstock-wearing, treehugging hippy...but still white.

But is environmentalism really just a movement of the white and affluent, who have the time and the means to enjoy a green lifestyle while the poor and minority populations are left behind?

I don't think it has to be that way. I believe there is a green hat to fit every head, blonde or brunette, buzzcut or dreadlocks, black or white (or as First Son would say...peachy or browny.) I believe in clean, green, and fair for everyone.

But how do we make going green accessible and desirable for everyone?

Here are some possibilities:

Promote Energy Savings

The media has done a good job of selling compact flourescent lightbulbs as energy and money savers. But I recently learned that an energy efficient home retrofit can shave as much as 30% off of the average home energy bill. Why isn't the media advertising that? For low-income families who can't afford to retrofit their homes, the U.S. government has created a Weatherization Assistance Program. But let's face it. Government sponsored programs are slow and often ineffective. If we're going to have clean, green, and fair for everyone, we need more programs, perhaps sponsored by charities and non-profits, that help low-income people make their homes energy efficient.

Promote Green Jobs

If the future of America is clean, renewable energy, we are going to need lots of people to make that happen. Instead of bailing out companies that have already demonstrated bad business practices, we should be investing in future jobs: installing and maintaining solar panels, building wind farms, retrofitting houses, and rebuilding America's infrastructure. We will also need people to develop these new green technologies. Going green will provide thousands and thousands of people with a new reliable source of income.

Promote Affordable Public Transportation

As energy prices rise, it's going to be more and more important to improve public transportation options in our cities. Besides reducing energy consumption and pollution, a good transit system can stimulate economic development by revitalizing aging downtowns and urban neighborhoods. Clean and affordable public transportation will be especially beneficial to poor and minority populations, the majority of which live in cities.

Promote Health Benefits

Huge numbers of low-income people live near oil refineries, garbage dumps. waste treatment plants, polluted waterways, and other sources of pollution, leading to higher incidents of cancer, asthma, and other illnesses among the poor. A cleaner, greener world would lead to fewer health problems among the poor, as well as less money spent treating those health problems.

Promote Urban Gardening

Organizations such as Urban Farming, Food from the Hood, and The Garden Project teach urban gardening techniques to low-income people, at-risk youth, and former offenders, providing educational opportunities, skills, and food for people in need. Additionally, urban gardening can provide independence and self-sufficiency, important qualities in hard times.

I believe that if we don't show environmentalism in a way that will attract more diversity, we will fail. Our green umbrella must cover a broader group of people or we will never build up the momentum to have a long term impact. If we are going to succeed, we need to declare, "Clean, green, and fair for everyone!"


Maren Hansen February 9, 2009 at 8:36 PM  

Erin, an extremely well-thought out post. I especially liked the idea that going green is also being economical. As usual, your research is stellar as well. I hope you are submitting all this stuff somewhere that will give you an award with which to fulfill all your green dreams... :)

Anonymous,  February 10, 2009 at 4:48 AM  

Wow. I love this post. Down to earth and inspirational. Van Jones would be proud.

Green Bean February 10, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

Awesome! Have you read Van Jones' Green Collar Economy? If not, you should! You two are on the same page. I wholeheartedly agree with you. This will never work unless it is a movement for EVERYONE.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan February 10, 2009 at 1:42 PM  

very grass roots and inspirational post - the way I believe forward actions occur - not because it's popular

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 10, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

Maren, I'm hoping Michael will be amazingly successful in his career so I never have to get a job and can spend all my time saving the world (and spending his money to do it). He says that plan is fine by him. :)

Fake Plastic Fish and Green Bean, Thanks! I just started the Green Collar Economy, and so far I just keep saying, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Diane MacEachern February 10, 2009 at 11:10 PM  

I love the image of a green hat for every head. Maybe that will be the new trend -- right after big green purses, that is! :-)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 11, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

Diane, I tried to find a picture on Flickr of a green hat to go with this post, but was not successful, and unfortunately I am a lousy photographer. But I agree - green hats and green purses for everyone!

Katy Farber February 11, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

I've often spoke on my blog about the great divide. Those that can afford to eat organic,and those who can't. Those who buy natural toys and those who can't. Those whose chemical exposures are greatly increased just because of their economic staus. The divide just perpetuates, and it is not right. We need a level playing field. Your suggestion start to do just that.

Katy at Non-Toxic Kids

Eco Yogini October 26, 2009 at 11:52 AM  

I LOVE this post- you are right Erin, an Oldie but a Goodie.

We need to hear more about this :)

thank you for posting your favs!

Anonymous,  February 2, 2010 at 6:55 AM  

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Generic Viagra March 31, 2011 at 4:31 PM  

this was a excellent activity for a good reason, back to the earth, if you are owner of your own house, and you have a little space in your house, take and plant some vegetables, why not? you don't know if the day of tomorrow you could be a great farmer.

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