Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Today on #WorldWaterDay we celebrate women environmentalists who saw a problem, spoke up, and changed the world.

Women are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity.1 Harmful stereotypes and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations that impact them, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy decision-making.

Despite these challenges, environmentalists of color and women continue to be on the front lines of creating change. Get to know these 5 women environmentalists who have created an inspiring and bold legacy of activism.

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nobel Prize (@nobelprize_org) on

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores (1971 – 2016), Honduras

Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by GAME CHANGERS – (@theunsungheroines) on

Isatou Ceesay (b. 1972), The Gambia

Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by realkarenabercrombie (@realkarenabercrombie) on

Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation

Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Winona LaDuke (@winonaladuke) on

Dorothy Green (1929 – 2008), Los Angeles

Founder of Heal the Bay, the late Dorothy Green was a celebrated environmental and grassroots activist in California who stopped millions of gallons of sewage from being dumped into the Pacific Ocean and changed water policy in California. She also created the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council (now the Council of Watershed Health). Her goal was to restore and preserve the ecological health of the ocean and watersheds and advocate for better water quality in the Los Angeles region. Her legacy lives on today in our organization’s mission.

In honor of National Women’s History Month, we thank these women environmentalists, from around the world, who fought for what was right despite facing strong opposition for simply being who they were. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet for generations to come.

 


About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254496452_Gender_and_climate_change-induced_migration_Proposing_a_framework_for_analysis
2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/



Sustainable shopping is not just a trend – it may help save the world. However, the biggest impact we can make is creating comprehensive environmental policy that ensures equitable access to sustainable choices. One person can make a difference. One business can make a difference. And, so can we, as one community. For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting two businesses run by women of color who are proving that it’s possible to be successful, sustainable, and make a positive social impact.

Shopping can be therapeutic for most. The instant gratification of hitting the “Buy Now” button or the bliss of un-bagging all the items purchased at the mall is irresistible. Though these experiences can gift us temporary relief, collectively they are extremely harmful to our environment.

From the abundance of unnecessary plastic packaging that winds up in landfills, communities, and ecosystems to the spewing of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during production and transportation, we need to see clearly that consumerism in the United States has contributed negatively to the health of our natural environment as well as our own health.

So how do we solve this issue — and quickly?

We all should hold ourselves responsible for making the right choice to safeguard the places we call home. It’s hard to imagine one’s individual impact from switching to an electric car, when fuel efficiency standards are threatened by the White House, or switching to be vegan to reduce their water and carbon footprints when farms aren’t required to reduce methane emissions.

Our individual decisions do cumulatively make a big impact. So it is especially important for consumers to shop ethically and sustainably while simultaneously demanding environmentally-responsible policies.

Our Power in Choice

As consumers, we have the power to choose companies that make a difference. And this is something worth acknowledging and celebrating. What’s exciting is that thousands of companies are actively developing innovative solutions. Meet these two company leaders in the beverage industry who are making a positive impact.


(Photo of Sashee Chandran, Founder and CEO of Tea Drops)

Tea Drops is a tea company created by Sashee Chandran, a Chinese-Sri Lankan American woman, that offers customers a locally-sourced, quality bag less tea that cuts out unnecessary waste. This process is markedly different than other tea products where polypropylene is used to make the tea bags.


(Photo of bag less tea by Tea Drops)

Sales of Tea Drops products support the Los Angeles-based, Thirst Project, by funding one year of clean water for someone in need – so choosing Tea Drops over other options not only reduces one’s waste footprint, but also contributes to water justice.

Another company promoting ethical production is Grosche, started by Helmi Ansari and Mehreen Sait, Pakistani Canadian partners. The company was built on the idea of ‘profit for change’ as opposed to profit for personal gain. They commit to funding 50-days of safe water for every product sold, including their adorable Shark Tea Infuser.


(Photo of Helmi Ansari and Mehreen Sait, Founders of Grosche)

Grosche has diverted 91% of landfill waste, uses 100% renewable energy, maintains a zero-carbon footprint, and has planted 10,000 trees in Africa and Haiti, while running a banana plantation in South Sudan to help grow food and create income for the local community. Biosand filters that purify water for 10 people, up to 25-30 years, are also offered to communities and families in need.


(Photo of the Shark Tea Infuser by Grosche)

Tea Drops and Grosche are incredible businesses moving in the right direction toward a sustainable future. We can’t stop there. We need to take their lead and advocate for policies that hold all companies and institutions accountable for their environmental impact. And we can’t afford to wait. The recent IPCC report reveals drastic change is needed within the next 12 years to protect our food and water supplies.

When we work together, we will see real change.

Check out HOVE Social Good’s Water Power Box, which features the products listed above. Every box sold gives $1 back to Heal the Bay! And also check out the box dedicated to HER Power to celebrate Women’s History Month.

www.socialgoodboxes.com


About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.