Why the Zero Waste Community Needs More Inclusivity

Why The Zero Waste Community Needs More Inclusivity

 

        By now, most of us have heard the term “zero waste”, which one of the simple ways to put it, means to send little to no items to landfill. Zero waste living is about consuming less, being more conscious about our purchasing habits, supporting eco-friendly companies, and overall reducing our environmental impact. We’ve seen the zero waste community grow immensely over the past decade, especially as the Climate Crisis continues to rise.

 

        But the issue with this community, is the lack of inclusion for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Big advocates tend to be White, seemingly middle-classed women. A typical day for them consists of them making their weekly batch of almond milk and placing it in their perfectly labeled jars, putting on their $350 dollar dress that was made completely out of plastic bottles, and the plastic free produce they just purchased from their local Farmer’s Market (which of course was only a five-minute bicycle ride from their house). For some, it comes off as an unattainable lifestyle if you are not White and not in the middle-upper class, but that simply is not true. 

 

 

BIPOC communities have been living zero waste lifestyles for thousands of years. Most cultures live this way without even identifying themselves as “zero waste”, as it’s just something they have always done; repurposing empty containers to store leftovers, hand-me-down clothing, using every part of an animal they just harvested, etc. Thrifting was once only for low-income communities and was only for “poor people” because it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or “cool”. Now that it has become trendy, everyone is doing it.

Zero waste community members have a responsibility to ensure their environmental sustainability is working towards:

  1. Ending Fossil Fuel extractions and Fossil-Fuel based products like plastic.
  2. Getting commitment from agencies and local governments to stop funding false or short-term solutions like waste-to-energy.
  3. Addressing Food Insecurity and Food Deserts in BIPOC communities.
  4. Addressing Environmental Racism.
  •  While Indigenous people comprise 5% of the world population, Indigenous People protect about 80% of the Earth’s Biodiversity in the Forests, Deserts, Grasslands, and Marine Environments in which they have lived for centuries.
  • Studies have shown that White neighborhoods have at least 4 times as many grocery stores as predominately Black neighborhoods.

   These are just some of the many reasons      why this community has to be more             inclusive if it is to survive and achieve its     end goal in protecting Mother Earth.

The movement needs to better reflect more diverse experiences to broaden its audience. BIPOC struggle to resonate with the zero-waste movement when they do not see their own personal environmentalism experiences in conversations. It must go beyond the conversations of what zero waste products you are purchasing and consuming.         

To create a more inclusive Zero Waste community, we must follow/spotlight more BIPOC leaders, broaden the topics/issues within the Zero Waste Community, & have current advocates acknowledge how their portrayal of their lifestyle comes off as inaccessible to most people, especially within the BIPOC Community, and change the narrative of what it means to be Zero Waste.   

More Resources available here:

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Food Deserts

Environmental Justice for PFJ: BIPOC Communities Bear The Burden Of Plastic Pollution

65+ BIPOC Influencers and Creators in the Sustainable and Environmentalism Movement 

Environmental Justice Organizations

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Recognizing and Appreciating Farmworkers in the Field

The Davis Food Co-op would like to recognize and appreciate all of the Farmworkers at Local Farms and beyond for the valuable role that they play in maintaining our food system and making the items that can be found at the Co-op so easily accessible. Through a pandemic, heat wave, wildfires and more, they are still out there working hard every day so that we can all have food on our tables. It is incumbent upon us all to show gratitude for the people that make every meal of ours possible throughout the entire year by recognizing the challenges that they face and advocating for protections for these workers

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Issues Farmworkers Face

Modern accessibility to food combined with a fast pace lifestyle can make it easy to overlook the importance of what is happening behind the scenes of the services we utilize on a daily basis. For many of us, we throw away our trash without any thought of the garbage collector that wakes up before the sun to take it away for us, we wear clothing without consideration for the person whose hands stitched it all together and all too often, we purchase and consume our food with no appreciation for the farmworker who picked that food for us, even in the harshest of conditions. Farmworkers keep the entire world fed by working in sometimes dangerous conditions, and yet they are often not protected by the same laws that protect other workers.

Often, the first step towards positive change is through acknowledgement of the issues at hand. We believe that pushing for this positive change is the best way that we can truly show appreciation for our farmworkers. The most recent data that we have on farmworkers in the U.S. comes from a 2015-16 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers (NAW) Survey. Among many findings, the NAW reported that:

  • There are an estimated 2.4 million farmworkers laboring on our nation’s farms and ranches, cultivating and harvesting crops and raising and tending to livestock.
  • The farm labor workforce is a predominantly immigrant workforce. According to the NAWS, approximately 75% of farmworkers are immigrants. Approximately 49% of farmworkers are immigrants who lack work authorization.
  • Due to the seasonal nature of the work on many crop farms, the large majority of crop workers do not work year round, even if they work for more than one farm in a single year. Farmworkers averaged 33 weeks of farm work over the course of a year and worked an average of 45 hours per week.
  • 57% of farmworkers are married, and 55% of farmworkers have children
  • Farmworkers averaged $10.60 per hour in wages. The average annual individual income of farmworkers was in the range of $17,500 – $19,999.
  • 33% of farmworker families had incomes below the poverty line. However, because the survey results did not include dependents living outside of the United States, this number may not completely reflect the full number of families living in poverty.
  • Despite the high level of poverty, most farmworkers do not receive any public benefits. At the time of this study, only 18% of farmworkers received food stamps, 17% received WIC (a supplemental nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and 43% received health insurance through a government program, like Medicaid.
  • Most farmworkers (53%) have no health insurance, and limited access to health care, making them particularly vulnerable to environmental and occupational health hazards. It was found that 71% of workers reported that their employer did not provide health insurance or pay for medical treatment for injuries or illnesses suffered outside of work. Only 18% of employers offer health insurance to their workers.

 

Organizations to Support

There are many great organizations that are actively advocating for farmworkers, both locally and nationally. We encourage you to check them out to learn more about the work that they are doing and how you can get involved and let us know of any other organizations we may have missed by emailing [email protected]

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF): www.crlaf.org/

“CRLAF is a statewide non-profit civil legal aid organization providing free legal services and policy advocacy for California’s rural poor. We focus on some of the most marginalized communities: the unrepresented, the unorganized and the undocumented.  We engage in community education and outreach, impact litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, and public policy leadership at the state and local level. We seek to bring about social justice to rural poor communities by working to address the most pressing needs of our community: Labor, Housing, Education Equity, Health Care Access, Worker Safety, Citizenship, Immigration, and Environmental Justice.”

 

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF): www.caff.org

“Founded in 1978, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and The Farmers Guild is a California-based nonprofit that builds sustainable food and farming systems through local and statewide policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs in an effort to initiate institutionalized change. Our programs address current problems and challenges in food and farming systems, creating more resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems. We work to support family farmers and serve community members throughout the state, including consumers, food service directors, schoolchildren and low-income populations with the aim of growing a more resilient, just and abundant food system for all Californians.”

The National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH): www.ncfh.org/

“The National Center for Farmworker Health is a private, not-for-profit corporation located in Buda, Texas dedicated to improving the health status of farmworker families.  We provide information services, training and technical assistance, and a variety of products to community and migrant health centers nationwide, as well as organizations, universities, researchers and individuals involved in farmworker health.”

Farmworker Justice: farmworkerjustice.org/
“Farmworker Justice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice. We work with farmworkers and their organizations throughout the nation. Based in Washington, D.C., Farmworker Justice was founded in 1981. In 1996, Farmworker Justice became a subsidiary corporation of UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest constituency-based Hispanic civil rights organization.”

United Farm Workers: ufw.org
“The UFW continues organizing in major agricultural sectors, chiefly in California. Recent years have witnessed dozens of UFW union contract victories protecting thousands of farm workers, among them agreements with the some of the largest berry, winery, tomato, dairy and mushroom companies in California and the nation. More than 75 percent of California’s fresh mushroom industry is now under union contract. Many recent UFW-sponsored laws and regulations protect all farm workers in California, especially those at non-union ranches. They include the first state standards in the U.S. to prevent further deaths and illnesses from extreme heat and in 2016 the first law in the country providing farm workers in California with overtime pay after eight hours a day. The UFW continues to actively champion legislative and regulatory reforms for farm workers covering issues such as worker protections, pesticides and immigration reform.”

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