Sustainability In Da Hood

Sustainability. Going Green. Reducing our carbon footprint. These phrases and others seem to be trendy or causing a buzz lately. But what the heck does it really mean to go green? In general, sustainability refers to: “meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (You can check out the source for that definition here.) Are you living a lifestyle rooted in sustainability? There are a lot of ways to act in the present to ensure the best possible future. The intention of this week’s particular blog post is to look at accessible ways we in the hood can handle sustainability and incorporate it into our lifestyles. 

Latinos and Sustainability

Let’s be honest. Our raza has beeeeen into sustainability. I think to my mother’s childhood in El Salvador. I recall stories of her family using almost every piece of the animal on the farm she grew up on. They had a million and one brilliant ways to use banana leaves. I also think of our indigenous ancestors, and how wise they must have been to live off the land and honor it as they did so. How many of us had abuelitas and mothers who made miracles out of the few items they possessed? Somehow, siempre abundaban everything they touched. With the ingenuity of matriarchs, they stretched everything in their reach to provide for anyone and everyone. Even when unexpected guests arrived, they had something to offer. 

I am convinced that our raza has been going green for generations. The foundations of sustainability– reduce, recycle and reuse– can be seen all around us.

Reducing Waste, y Nuestra Cultura

Reducing means using less in the first place. You reduce the amount of waste you could have produced. I think our gente are ahead of the curve on this whole reduce thing (yes, I am being biased).  Think of the regañadas our parents would give us when we were wasteful. It was seen as a disrespect to be wasteful. Was being wasteful a falta de respeto to Mother Earth? To our ancestors? To The Lord who provides? To all of the above? Somehow, the intuition of our elders guided us to not be wasteful. 

For instance, disposable plates are tempting to use nowadays. But, I recall from my childhood señoras bragging to each other that “real hosts” use fine china and cloth napkins. Were they being classicist and snooty? Perhaps. But maybe they are onto something. Hear me out. By reducing the amount of disposable items we use, we can reduce the amount of waste we may have produced.

The holidays are coming up. No one likes washing dishes. (Myself included). Disposable plates sound like a modern home-cook/host’s dream come true. However, those may sit in a landfill long after the holidays have come and gone. What’s a holiday host to do? One option is to encourage everyone to wash their own plato this holiday season. (I can hear the abuelitas collectively gasping now.)  For extra fun, you can ironically tell your guests “Mira no mas. Ya estan listos para casarsen” while they wash. They may chuckle. They may mad-dawg you. Either way, it will make the holidays more memorable in one way or another. While you’re at it, use that dish washer! It’s not just to store pots and pans. You can run a cycle the next day. Or, you can run a load later on after Christmas Eve Dinner, while everyone is sipping their late night coffee, waiting for midnight to hit. Work smarter not harder. 

Another option is to reduce the waste of buying napkins.You can feel extra fancy this holiday season and use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.  Go ahead and bust out that china that you are saving for a special occasion. Having everyone together under one roof is the most special occasion of all.

Another way you can reduce all year long is by bringing your own containers when you shop. A colleague of mine goes to a salad bar that is Chipotle style in that your pick your ingredients, etc. He brings his own glass container every time to reduce waste that a disposable to-go container would have created.  In that same way, when you come to Compton Health Bar to purchase yo’ formulas, you get a discount if you bring your own container. Say whaaat? Compton Health Bar is about your personal health and the health of this planet which nourishes us, nourished our ancestors and will nourish our generations to come. You can do something good for your body and the planet when you shop with your own container. Try it out– by bringing your own container, you reduce waste.  


Here are some more tips on how to reduce, according to this website :

  • Print on both sides of the paper to reduce paper wastage.
  • Remove your name from the mailing lists that you no longer want to receive.
  • Avoid buying items that are over-packaged with foil, paper, and plastic. This excess packaging goes to waste. 


Reuse – Tips Your Abue’ Would Love

When it comes to reusing, most of us are familiar with that concept. I mean, we’ve all got that drawer in the house full of plastic bags, ready to be reused. Also, I think we can all agree that abuelitas are masters of reusing items.  You know what I’m talking about! You open the fridge, and you see the Country Crock Butter container. It’s like a game of roulette. Will it have beans? Salsa? Actual butter?? Our abuelitas have perfected the art of reusing any containers. “No mija! Don’t throw that away.” Elders would tell me que les daba lastima tirar eso. Or that it was a pecado to throw something like that away. 

There’s lots of ways to reuse. Maybe you buy a fancy green juice in a glass bottle. Save the glass bottle to store your homemade jugos. Another example I can think of is my favorite restaurant in my dad’s hometown in Sonora, Mexico. (Where my norteños at?)The restaurant made their own salt shakers out of glass baby food containers. And the hot sauce bottles are made from re-purposed glass soda bottles. Crafty and eco friendly. 

You do not have to be crafty to exercise your reusing muscles. You can be ready to reuse at all times with a Full Zero Waste Kit. It contains stainless steel straws, a fork, knife and spoon. It is made by a homie CHB is proud to support. So, if you decide to invest in this kit, you are doing something for the planet and supporting a Latina-owned business. Win/Win all around.  I particularly like the concept of this because it is packaged in its own travel case. When you bust it out, it can be a great way to start a conversation about sustainability. 


Recycling, a Tried and True Hustle

My 11 year old nephew is an entrepreneur. No. I am not talking child labor. His hustle is this: he collects bottles from his grandparents, his tias, his tio, and his parents. Then, (while accompanied by a responsible adult) he takes the bottles to the recycling plant. He exchanges them for money. He’s got the whole family excited about recycling. Now, I commit to save any bottles both to ensure I recycle them, and to ensure my lil homie’s business stays popping. He started his hustle when a Go Green type of group came to talk at his school. Over his Spring Break, when we hung out, and he shared with me the principals he newly learned: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse. He reminded me that while recycling is important, reducing and reusing will have a more long term impact. Lil Homie is more woke that I am, that’s for sure.  I admire him for motivating me to do better.

Inside the home, you can have one container for trash and one can for recyclables. Accountability is key. The easier it is, the more inclined we will be to stick with it. It’s just human nature.


Other Ways To Practice Sustainability 

I went over the Three Rs because it seemed like something a lot of us are familiar with and can relate to. These are practical ways to exercise sustainability in our day to day lives. Other things to consider if you would like to read more about this would be Veganism/Vegetarianism and how it reduces your carbon footprint.  Biking or Public Transportation, instead of driving, is something else to consider if it is accessible to you.  Even making a habit to hang clothes to dry, instead of using your dryer every time can make a difference. Check out the EPA’s website so all sorts of educational info and tips. Whatever it is that works for you that can help the future is what it is all about.

Latinx and Sustainability- Tying it all together

Whatever you wanna call it, when you reduce your carbon foot, go green, or implement the three R’s into your life, you do something for the future. Our abuelitas prayed for our future since the time we were born. Some prayed for us even before we were conceived. It is in our blood to want the best for our future generations. Let’s leave a legacy we can be proud of. Let’s look to our future by being the best we can be in the present. 


Did any of these tips or anecdotes stand out to you? What are some ways you practice sustainability in your day to day life? How do you inspire others? Or how have others inspired you? We would absolutely love to read your tips in the comments. We are a community here at CHB, so let’s start collective dialogue in the comments so we can all learn from each other, homies!