This March, I launched this eco-blog (as well as youtube channel) and while I was doing my research on other eco bloggers, I came across the video “Being Black And Zero Waste-Ish” with Dominique Drakeford. She was talking about how zero waste & eco-community here in America was lacking diversity and inclusion. I was baffled to realized, that I never noticed it myself, and that indeed, a huge lack of diverse creators in sustainability. I realized that most bloggers I was following, were predominantly white, middle class, mostly females.

In a wake of all the racial injustice conversations happening right now, it was time for me to admit that there are so many things I hadn’t understand about the lack of diversity in our society. So I started to educate myself. In this article, I will be sharing what I learned so far. I am a Russian person, quite FOB, living in California and I am not well-versed in English. If there is anything that I got wrong, please correct me.

I also want to give a shout-out to all the BIPOC creators that helped me better understand what is going on. Below you can find a list of all the youtube & Instagram BIPOC sustainability bloggers I discovered. Please feel free to recommend more creators.

What is Diversity?

So I decided to start from the very beginning. What exactly is diversity? What exactly is inclusion? And how it all translates into sustainability issues? As well as how did we end up with not having diversity in something as important as the future of the planet?

Diversity is when a group of people includes individuals from different backgrounds, no matter of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical abilities, political views, religious beliefs, education, and national origin. Diversity is about tolerance to differences. Diversity is about celebrating different appearances, different beliefs, and different lifestyles existing in one space peacefully, as well as being represented equally.

And here comes the first myth I lived in. A truly believed that America is a very diverse country. How come it can lack diversity?

Let me tell you how I came up with this myth. It’s gonna be a little story about myself, so bear with me, or skip few paragraphs.

I was born & raised in Russia (actually, I was born in USSR, witnessed its collapse and how it got split into several countries, one of which is now Russia). I lived in Russia for 29 years, then for almost 10 years abroad. Only when I left Russia, I could truly see how intolerant its society is. In Russia, it’s hard to be a non-white citizen (I am white, so I am speaking from other people’s experiences). In Russia, it’s dangerous to be openly LGBTQ+. In Russia, you are laughed at if you announce yourself as a feminist. In Russia, you are expected to be conformed to certain social norms and are openly judged for being different. So I was living in the illusion it is as bad as it gets.

When I had moved to America a couple of years ago I felt like oh it’s so different here! It’s so much better here! Especially here in California I instantly felt comfortable being myself.

At that point, I didn’t understand much of my own white cis-woman privilege and how my comfort of ‘I am so free being myself’ is actually my privilege and actually hinders me from seeing other people’s struggles.

So when I praised California as ‘such a beautiful melting pot of ethnic and other differences’ it was hard for me to see past the surface and understand that it wasn’t always a REAL DIVERSITY. And how lots of people still struggle from racial injustice and other intolerances.

Inclusion over Diversity

So I asked myself many times, how is it possible that having so many different people living in America, we lack diversity here? And is it enough for us to coexist as a mix of differences to pretend we have diversity?

Then I came across this video on TEDx from Kenyona Sunny Matthews and this video made me find some of my answers. Sunny is a motivational speaker focusing on issues of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Please watch this video before you continue reading further.

Diversity is like a fruit plate. The mix is there, but individual fruits are still separated. (Sunny Matthews)

In her TEDx speech, she talks about how diversity is nothing without inclusion. She explains how diversity is a fruit plate. The mix is there, but individual fruits are still separated. It’s not enough for us just to have a mix of people coexisting in one space. We should constantly ask ourselves: Are all of those voices heard? Are all the voices represented equally and included in the conversation? Basically are we only diverse, or are we truly inclusive? And what is true inclusion? And what is my role in it?

But how inclusion is my problem, if I consider myself as ‘I am a good person, I am good to everyone’?

When the first time I had heard about ‘lack of diversity and inclusion in the youtube sustainable community’ I was baffled. So here comes another myth that I had lived most of my life by. The myth of “Oh, but the internet is there for everyone”

As many other (white) people still probably do, I as well struggled to understand how it can be my fault that there are not enough BIPOC bloggers in sustainability? I was naive to think, that if people have access to the internet, who would stop them from creating their own blogs on sustainability?

And that is how I came across another TEDx video “On Diversity: Access Ain’t Inclusion” and an important understanding of how inclusion works.

It’s a speech from Anthony Abraham Jack, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he explains how just giving some groups access to something (or assuming they have access to the same things everyone has) is not enough to call it inclusion. And how true inclusion is to actively including people into the conversation and encouraging them. Anthony also wrote the book “The Privileged Poor” where he talks on how and why disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges, and explains what schools can do differently if these students are to thrive.

Access ain’t Inclusion

Based on the definition, inclusion is a sense of belonging. Inclusive communities make people feel respected and valued for who they are as an individual or group. Their opinions are heard and listened to. Their experiences are taken into consideration a valued. They are giving a spotlight to talk.

Understanding the concept of ‘access isn’t inclusion’ was one of the biggest steps for me to re-think everything I had thought before about why we lack diversity in so many areas. It’s easy to jump to conclusions that if there is no diversity, that means somebody else didn’t do their part on being included in the conversation. If I didn’t need an invitation to start my youtube eco channel, why somebody else needs?

Well, If you go to youtube and search for zero waste, eco or sustainable topics, you wouldn’t come across many BIPOC creators. Which might make you think that ‘maybe those BIPOC folks are just not interested in questions of sustainability’.

But in a wake of recent events, I started actively looking for BIPOC environmentalists. And oh boy I found so many. For me, it was almost like discovering another universe. Why haven’t I ever heard about any of them? I guess inclusion wasn’t really working for the sustainability bloggers community.

Ugandan Climate Activist Cropped Out Of Photo Taken With Other White Climate Activists. Source: libertywritersglobal.com

So if you still doubt that there is no way somebody is actively NOT INCLUDED in the conversation, let me tell you the story of Vanessa Nakate. She is a climate change activist from Uganda. And during the world economic conference in Davos, Switzerland she was part of the photo with other activists. But guess what, when the final photo was published in the press she was completely cropped out from the photo. Tell me about inclusivity. You can read the whole story here.

It’s hard to believe that something like this is true in the 21st century. But this is not a one-time unusual situation. Where you hear stories from BIPOC activists that is what they have to deal with every day. But unless we actively listen to their stories, we will think that something like couldn’t be true. And that everyone has equal access to the conversation. Apparently not.

Our racial prejudices or our refusal to believe in racial and other injustice makes us blind about the fact that some people get less chances to get heard and seen.

Is a Sustainable Community inclusive?

And there are many other issues in how people speaking on zero waste, eco-habits and sustainability fail to include everyone in the conversation.

Watch this video from Teanna Empowers, where she talks how Zero Waste movement is elitest.

Teanna talks about how most popular zero-waste YouTubers are white middle-class people living in big cities, so when you watch their eco-tips they not gonna be applicable for lots of people. For example, some eco bloggers (me guilty for that too) would tell you to shop in bulk stores or farmers’ markets. While 10% of the American population lives in a food desert. We, eco bloggers, tell people to invest in high-quality sustainable brands, that are usually more expensive. But what about the fact that 14% of people in the US live in low-income families. The percentage gets even higher, if you take BIPOC families. The number of low-income people will be from 20 to 35% depends on the state. (And that is another issue for racial injustice when there are almost twice less low-income white families in America).

How can we include all those people into sustainability conversation? By actively including BIPOC activists and bloggers into eco blogging space and letting them advocate for their communities. As well as for us “white” creators to actively walking out of our white bubble. For example, when I did my research and found some awesome BIPOC creators, whom I added them to my youtube feed, the youtube suggesting algorithm completely changed and started recommending me more diverse creators.

Watch another video, it’s from JHÁNNEU, she talks about lack of diversity in sustainability. (That is where I learned about the story with cropped out Ugandan activist Vanessa. I haven’t heard from it from a white sustainable blogger, unfortunately ;(

Jhanneu talks how sustainable brands are non-inclusive for so many people. Makeup brands forget to include color pallets that will fit non-white people. Skincare or haircare brands are not inclusive in terms of different needs for different skins and hair types. Furthermore, still until this day, so many sustainable brands (or any fashion brands) are not very inclusive in terms of skin color, body shape, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Again, if we don’t have diversity in the sustainability community, who is gonna call out these brands and as well as call out other activists and remind them that white cis-men and white cis-woman with model looks are not the only people that exist in this world?

How to become inclusive?

So I started to think, what do I do as a blogger? How can I make my content more inclusive? How can I create videos that will be not only relatable but also useful for people from different backgrounds? And where do I even begin?

I am not claiming I know the answer, but this is what I am doing right now.

1. Actively educating myself.

Not waiting for somebody to come to me and explain why and where exactly racial injustice is happening of proving me of lack of diversity. I assume that it all there and I go and listen to people and their stories. As soon as you are willing to listen, you will find lots of people talking about that.

Learn about lack of diversity in our societies:

Learn about racial injustice:

2. Follow diverse creators.

When we talk about diversity and inclusion it’s important to ask myself how DIVERSE is my own subscription feed? To be honest, I realized my own list of eco-bloggers I was following wasn’t very diverse. Time to fix that.

(Check below the list of some of the creators you can follow).

3. Amplify the voices of other creators

Making sure my blogging platforms represent diversity and I give voice to creators from different backgrounds.

4. Actively promote inclusion, diversity, tolerance

As well as actively block and fight any intolerance.

Reminder to all of us: Diversity is not only about including people of other ethnicities. These differences could be self-evident, such as national origin, age, race and ethnicity, religion/belief, gender, marital status, and socioeconomic status or they could be more inherent, such as educational background, training, sector experience, organizational tenure, even personality, such as introverts and extroverts.

BIPOC Bloggers to follow in the areas of sustainability, simple living, zero waste, minimalism, outdoors etc:

There is who i am following at the moment on Youtube:
Sustainable bloggers to follow on Instagram

Please feel free to recommend all bloggers in the comments. Not only American or BIPOC but also other not-yet-popular sustainable bloggers from all over the world, that are worth being heard.