Let's rewind back to 8 years ago with founder, Diamond Spratling.
Let me just start off by saying, I absolutely love what I do. Environmental justice is something that I have been passionate about since I was 18. Growing up, I always felt like I had to protect others, especially friends who didn't quite have the confidence to stand up for themselves. That characteristic of mine somehow translated into my education and my career path. I studied environmental policy in undergrad because I felt like the earth couldn't stand up for itself. It needed advocates like to me speak for it.
After my second year in college, I landed an amazing internship at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. This internship experience was different and special in every way. I was introduced to environmental justice. I was enlightened about how people are impacted by the environment. But not just any people-- my people, people who looked like me. As you can imagine, this didn't sit well with me.
Being the outspoken person that I am, I headed to Facebook and began to write long posts about environmental justice. I asked my friends and family if they knew what it was, but unfortunately, they didn't seem to know much about it nor care. At the time, I'll admit, I was a little upset. But looking back as an adult and as someone who now has a few more years in the sector, I am not surprised. In fact, I don't blame them.
How could I expect someone to care about something that had been normalized and hidden from us for so many years? How do you expect us to add yet another thing to our list to worry about? We're tired. But also, environmental racism impacts so much of our daily lives from our health, access to foods, to education and income. I couldn't just let that go.
"How could I expect someone to care about something that had been normalized and hidden from us for so many years? How do you expect us to add yet another thing to our list to worry about? We're tired."
So, I then decided I would go to grad school immediately after undergrad to study public health so I could learn more about the human impacts of the environment. This was a great chapter of my life. It was very fulfilling. But I knew I had to some how go back to my friends and family to share about everything I had learned about how our environments are harming us.
This was the inception of Millennials 4 Environmental Justice (now renamed as Girl + Environment). I wanted to create a space for people who were not already in the environmental justice space. People who had no idea about what was going on. But people who were most impacted.
I've evolved. I really have. I used to want to be the voice for others. I used to want to stand up for people who couldn't stand up for themselves. But now, I've learned that the most impactful thing that I can do is pass the mic. Support my community by giving them the tools, the resources and information, the encouragement, and empowerment to stand up for themselves and to take what they learned and share it with others.
That is my purpose. That is why I started Girl + Environment.