“Green” is the buzz word of the moment in everything from business to food to government policies. However, from the general media standpoint, it seems as if African Americans aren’t proportionally represented in the Green movement. So, are they going green? And with so many immediate threats to their community, why should they?
According to the 2003 University of Michigan study entitled "Dispelling Old Myths: African American Concern for the Environment," African Americans are going green and do show they are knowledgeable and concerned with the environment they live in and the foods they eat.
Paul Mohai, associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment, is the author of the study published in Environment Magazine, and in the report said, "The conventional wisdom is that, due to greater concerns about jobs, crime, education and other 'survival' issues, African Americans are unconcerned about the environment. This study provides clear evidence that conventional wisdom is wrong."
In an interview for this article, green lifestyle expert, Chris-Tia Donaldson of Thank God I'm Natural says that Blacks have adopted “green” behaviors as a matter of economic necessity rather than purely out of care for the environment.
She explains, “Historically, Blacks farmed and cultivated their lands with vegetables, fruits and the foods they needed to feed their families and make a living. In the kitchen, they developed traditions, including reusing plastic bags and jelly jars and creating new dishes from a hodge podge of leftover items. For many 'environmentalists' riding a bike or taking the train to work is a way of reducing their carbon footprint, but for African-Americans living in low income communities without access to a car, public transportation is a matter of necessity for providing for their families.”
It seems as if African Americans may not be chanting “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle” at local Earth Day rallies, but rather they are quietly living a green lifestyle. And, for those who do not see the benefit to going “green”, in an interview for this article, Ms. Donaldson gives four specific reasons African Americans should care about the environment:
1. Health is at risk. African American communities are at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. Greater access to organic fruits and vegetables and locally grown food either through farmer’s markets, community gardens, or grocery stores could help to improve the diets of African-Americans and reduce health related ailments.
2. Communities are at risk. Chemical plants and toxic waste sites are disproportionately located in African-American communities, thereby subjecting this population to greater health risk such as asthma, premature births, infant death and adverse birth outcomes.
3. Going green saves money. Little things like turning down the thermostat during the winter to 68 degrees, turning off your computer when not in use, and cleaning your refrigerator coils can help to save energy, as well as money. Pay your bills online (and shutting off paper billing) can help to reduce paper usage and postage costs.
4. Green collar jobs are growing. As America moves along the path to a cleaner, more energy efficient future, there will be a growing demand for skilled labor trained in green building and energy efficiency. By jumping on the proverbial “green wagon”, African-Americans could better position themselves to take advantage of some of these opportunities.
2003 University of Michigan study entitled "Dispelling Old Myths: African American Concern for the Environment." (http://ns.umich.edu/Releases/2003/May03/r052903.html
Chris-Tia Donaldson, Green lifestyle expert
Reviewed August 2, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle