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Going Back to Our Roots: How Our Ancestors Lived in Harmony with the Environment

By Maliyah Womack

Photo Credit: Teodora Pascanu for

Happy Earth Month, Earthlings! While we all do our best year round to be environmental baddies, this month we want to highlight significant ways we can make a positive impact on our people + planet, starting at home.

Incorporating sustainable practices in your everyday life doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem, small steps can equate to a huge impact. Our ancestors have been the original environmental baddies teaching us sustainability from the very beginning! Teaching us to conserve our air, our water, and our energy! Growing up, I’m sure we all knew after hitting the grocery store, we were saving those grocery bags; reusing them to deep condition our hair, using them in our bathroom trash cans, and even to put food scraps in after cooking. It’s the small ways that really impacted us the most. From grocery bags to saving water bottles, and jars, reduce, reuse, and recycle are and have been common practices in our community for decades. Leaving out of a room and hearing your grandma tell you to “turn that light off behind you” is probably something we remind ourselves mentally to this day. Dating back to the transatlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans were only given a small quantity of food components which, generally, were the scraps of meat and other food items. Even then, we were reducing food waste by barbecuing the scraps and using the fat to make side dishes. We’ve always made something shake!

Continuing the practices embedded in us by our ancestors and teaching them to our siblings, children, and friends will help us make a positive impact on our communities. You’ll feel better and so will your pockets.💸 You can find many more ways to be sustainable at home through this article by with Sustainable Harvest International. As climate baddies here to make change, it starts with us.

When thinking of environmental justice, most people automatically think of the planet, nature, the earth environment around us but it is so much more than that. It is our homes, our communities, our parks, our friends, our family, our access to proper education, sustainable products, clean air, and much much more. Black people have been at the root of the environmental justice movement from the absolute beginning, dating all the way back to the 1980s in a small town of Warren County, North Carolina.

As we’ve heard time and time again, the government is constantly choosing unused land near Black communities to host hazardous waste, harmful chemical plants, and much more. When the government juggled through a multitude of unused land for a hazardous waste landfill and landed on this small community of African Americans, just like us today, they had enough.

With the support of the NAACP, protests were put together to put a stop to the government implementing hazardous landfills near our communities. While this protest may have been unsuccessful, it sparked a fire in the environmental justice movement that will never be forgotten. It is a reminder to us that in order to enact the change and equality we rightfully deserve, we need to work together, speak up, and show up for ourselves, our communities, and each other. Read more about the history of the environmental justice movement here .


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