Saturday, August 30, 2008

Can Blacks Afford to Go Green?

With the economy being in a recession and rising food and energy prices worldwide, I find myself wondering about the viability of living an eco-friendly or green lifestyle for people living on tight budgets, which includes about 98% of African Americans. A constant complaint that I hear is that it is too expensive to live an eco-conscious lifestyle. A fellow brown blogger, Queen Esther, in a blog post titled "how do you go green in the ghetto?", questions the ability of struggling black families to go green. My argument to this is that it is too expensive for us not to! Growing up in Los Angeles as a poor black child and then in Cleveland and being raised by my grandmother who was always one step away from struggling, taught me that eating consciously and reducing, reusing and recycling was the natural order of things. Living a green lifestyle is not about shopping at Whole Foods, buying a hybrid vehicle, wearing bamboo clothes or living in a LEED certified "McMansion". It is about being more conscious of how you live and the impact of how you live on your body, your family, your community and the your world. It is being more careful of what kinds of foods you put in your body, even if it is as simple as avoiding processed foods and eating more of a plant based diet (beans and meat free spaghetti were a mainstay of my diet as a teen). It's making an attempt to find programs in your area that provide fresh produce or growing your garden on your balcony or in the neighborhood. Being aware of foods that contain more pesticides and speaking up to grocers in your area and demanding more locally grown foods. Cutting back on garbage sweets, snacks and crappy, happy meals that are killing us. It is much cheaper to use filtered tap water than to buy tap water pumped into petroleum based plastic bottles and it helps our environment. Living green is about "get that man's hand out of my pocket-turn off the lights". Blacks pay more for energy than any other group, we can go green and save money by better insulating our homes from the elements. Back in the day, a regular part of my fall routine was putting plastic up on the windows, thus realizing an instant savings and reduction in our carbon footprint. Being environmentally sensitive is reducing the number of chemicals we use in our homes and on our bodies. Spraying Windex was only a fantasy to me as a child, because vinegar was the cleaner of choice in our home, and baking soda was used to whiten teeth and deodorize the armpits! Miracle Grow-what was that? We used eggshell water to fertilize our indoor jungle. Going green means that you appreciate and use and reuse what you have. Clothes were worn until they didn't fit and then recycled as rags for cleaning or polishing shoes and pillow cases to decorate the sofa. I didn't learn how to drive until I was 25 because, for most of my life, public transportation took me anywhere I needed to go (I did carpool with my girls to get to clubs!). This is because, throughout our many moves, we made sure we lived on a bus line. Even when I graduated from Ohio State, I caught the bus to work and got in a good workout running and biking down the streets of Columbus, Ohio. Those weren't things that I did intentionally to be eco-conscious, they were natural behaviors tied to my upbringing. As my income grew, I actually became less "green". I moved to the suburbs, drove most of the time, had chicken or fish with every meal, used name brand cleaners in my home and purchased all kinds of knick knacks and clothes. It is only since I started to get a better understanding of the affects of chemicals, pollution and excessive energy use on myself, my family and my world that I have gone back to many of the eco-friendly behaviors of my youth, this time with a greater sense of consciousness. The hope is that as the world gains greater consciousness in this area, we ensure that our folks are not forgotten and that their needs, concerns and interests are represented in the green economy. So as Queen Esther later highlights in her post, you can go green in the ghetto, but with a different approach and mindset. Though I do feel you Queen Esther- it's a black thing and Ed Begley (bless his heart) wouldn't understand.

1 comment:

ElleX said...

Great post. I agree with you. I moved away from my frugal upbringing as I made more money. Not so smart though - LOL.