Environmental racism has been affecting communities for decades and has left them even more vulnerable during a global pandemic.

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Photo by JuniperPhoton on Unsplash

“Masks are required” signs have seemingly taken a permanent post in front of establishments across the world. For many, 2020 has brought about a new lifestyle that is premised on maintaining good health and caring for thy neighbor through hand-washing, mask-wearing and saying “these are unprecedented times” whenever possible.

In a world that is still adapting to life in a pandemic where it seems that the air we breathe and surfaces we touch can betray us at any moment, what happens to the communities that were already living in a toxic zone?

We know that our planet is polluted. We also know that this pollution is not evenly distributed across neighborhoods, communities, and even countries. The reasons for these disproportions vary, but it has been found that communities of color (particularly poor communities) have increased exposure to hazardous and polluting facilities. …


Not all ‘green’ initiatives are made equal

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Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

What’s the deal with everyone seeming to care about the environment all of a sudden? Energy companies are talking about ‘clean’ energy, clothing brands are producing ‘eco’ lines, and every other ad talks about making deliveries with electric vans or how products are made of recycled plastic bottles.

Is this what we’ve all been wanting? Companies finally taking ownership in the massive part that they play in polluting our planet, and changing their processes to do something about it.

Well, yes. But that’s not what’s going on.

It’s great that companies are realising that their environmental impact is important (to consumers at the very least) and are cleaning up their image, but if more resources goes into telling us how great and sustainable they are rather than actually making them great and sustainable, that’s a bit deceptive. …


This is a public health issue.

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Photo by Peter Albanese on Unsplash

In my days of commuting it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to blow my nose and see black dust left behind. After the first couple of times, I have to admit that I was no longer phased. Living in London, my daily routine included walking by busy roads and taking the underground several times a day — air pollution was an unavoidable part of my life.

Like many people, I understand that air pollution is ‘bad for us’, but the extent of its toxicity is often understated. …


Sometimes.

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Wrapping presents can be a creative outlet for some and a last minute chore for others. A well wrapped gift can take time, effort and a good grasp of colour coordination — but it’s not always eco-friendly.

Wrapping paper — despite the name — is not always made out of just paper and as such it is not always easy to recycle. Here are some things to look out for to know which bin to your gift wrap should go in.

Boring might be best

Paper with more decorative and flamboyant features, such as glitter, foiling and embellishments are less likely to be recyclable. Wrapping paper goes through a process of dying, lamination and can contain non-paper elements including plastics which unfortunately cannot be recycled. …


Here’s what you should think about before filling out the returns form

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Photo by Wicked Monday on Unsplash

We are in the midst of the giving season, and thanks to lockdown regulations and laziness, many people are turning to online shopping to get their gifts. The choice, convenience and speed that shopping online offers has made it a tough competitor to brick and mortar shops.

Many of the larger companies are offering free returns, which is likely incentivising people to buy items that they don’t need with the security that they can return them at a later date if things don’t work out. One survey found that 51% of shoppers consciously overbuy with the plan to return the unwanted items; people order the same item in different sizes or colors so that they can choose what they want in the comfort of their home. …


‘Tis the season for saving (the planet)

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Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Black Friday, for many, marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Whether you’re buying gifts or just want a new appliance, these sales offer people an opportunity to buy at a discount the small and large items that they’ve had an eye on all year.

Retailers send notifications and email newsletters about their Black Friday sale weeks in advance, and some stores even have pre-Black Friday sales to kick off the shopping spirit in early November. However, the appeal of saving some money should not outweigh making ethical and sustainable purchases. …


It’s time to be honest, paper straws are not saving the oceans.

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Photo by Meghan Rodgers on Unsplash

Let’s just cut to the chase — we have all had disappointing experiences with paper straws. Some hold up better than others, but most of the time it’s a small miracle if one lasts long enough to finish a beverage. It seems counterintuitive that a device that was designed to transport a drink from point A to point B begins to dissolve when immersed in liquid, but alas, this is the world we live in.

Many have had the misfortune of seeing the (not so slow) unravelling of their paper straw, until it has lost so much structural integrity that the straw must either be replaced or the drinker decides to sip straight from the cup — so why are we still putting up with it? …


As many offices remain closed and remote working becomes the new normal, how will sustainability monitoring adapt and expand beyond ‘the office’?

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Photo by kate.sade on Unsplash

My last trip into the office was a week after the UK’s national lockdown in March 2020. At that point, the world was entering a pandemic and I needed 10 minutes to collect some items to help smooth my transition to working remotely. Little did I know that 7 months later I would still be working from home without a return date.

Working from home has had its ups and downs, and although I do miss being able to socialise in person with coworkers, I also can’t deny the advantages of saving time and money. While individuals may have gained some extra cash and flexible working, having a workforce that is based at home has provided new challenges and benefits for employers. …


The birth of a black-owned, women-owned city named ‘Freedom’ could be a game-changer for intersectional environmentalism.

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Photo by Nechirwan Kavian on Unsplash

Imagine a fresh start. Actually — imagine a fresh start in a place that is anti-racist. A place where like-minded people pool together time, resources, and knowledge to create a community that is intentional in uplifting those who might be downtrodden elsewhere. Somewhere that aspires to be Freedom in name and in experience, as around the country people of color continue to miss out on the true meaning of the word.

In a time where it feels that we keep losing — jobs, health, people — this might be more appealing than ever before.

This seemingly unreal place is currently in the works. The Freedom Georgia Initiative was the brainchild of two Black women: Ashley Scott and Renee Walters. Like many things created by Black women (caller ID, the home security system, the ironing board, etc) the initiative was born out of a frustration with the current system and a need for change. …


A lot of the clothes we wear release microplastics that are polluting our oceans.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

When we hear about the issue of plastic in our oceans, it’s easy to picture plastic bottles floating past ships and sea turtles mistakenly eating plastic bags. In reality, we often can’t see a lot of the plastic in the ocean and around 35 percent of it has come from our closets.

As we enter the colder months in the year, changes in temperature leads to changes in outfits, and jumpers, cardigans and all the knitwear in between are coming out of the wardrobe. The materials that your clothes are more commonly made out of — polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fibers — are actually made of plastic and are all derived from crude oil. …

About

Shola Powell

Thinking about how ‘sustainability’ intersects with various aspects of life

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