Intersectional Environmentalism & Sustainable Black-Owned Businesses

Sustainability and ethical living include more than your purchases; it is a philosophy and a mindset. This mindset includes how we treat people in this world. Intersectional environmentalism has rapidly become one of my top priorities. Let's dive into what this means.


What is Intersectional Environmentalism?

Intersectional environmentalism is an "inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet" (@greengirlleah, IG).

What has my commitment to Intersectional Environmentalism looked like?

This summer, as injustices are being filmed and talked about on social media, I have made a commitment to vote with my dollar and do more to protect the earth and the people who occupy it. That said, I have had to do some hard reconciling myself. Reconciling with the privilege that comes with my skin color, my socioeconomic status, my education level, my gender, and my sexuality.

I have stopped shopping from unethical brands immediately (something I never fully committed to), brands who have a gaping hole in their sustainability initiatives and racial equality initiatives, and brands that not fail to own their mistakes. This is hard. I love new clothes and good deals! I have rarely been known to turn down a J.Crew Factory or an Old Navy sale. One of the saddest things about my personal journey is that I knew shopping from these brands meant voting for child labor with my dollar, unfair wages for workers, dangerous work environments, exploitation for monetary gain, and overproduction of products that would likely land up in the landfill. I have found tons of resources that I am excited to share for finding ethical and sustainable brands, as well as living more eco-conscious.

I have worked to eradicate more and more single-use plastic out of my daily routine by decreasing my trips to the coffee shop, buying products packaged in glass jars when I can, and shopping in bulk or buying things in minimal plastic packaging. I live in a town where there are no bulk stores and I really only shop at Aldi and Walmart because that is what's available. I'm currently interning near a co-op, so I stop in to find local produce and meats. I also bring my own reusable shopping and produce bags. Since I began packing my lunch for work, I started utilizing my reusable sandwich bags. I prefer Stasher, but I have been using these bags from Grove that were gifted to me.

I started composting food scraps in a tub that I set outside my patio door. This increases the rate at which food breaks down, decreases methane emissions from food rot in landfills, and makes fertile soil for a garden (not that I have one). I have wanted to start one ever since I learned that food scraps don't break down in a landfill. Landfills are made for storage and not composting. Your food scraps actually do more harm than good. When rotting in a landfill, food can't breathe and products more methane than it does when you compost it. Mine was a simple DIY. I used a leftover Rubbermaid container that I had from moving, poked holes all around the bottom with a knife, and poured a half bag of (cheap) soil into the container. I then took the fresh food scraps that I had sitting in the freezer and dumped them in. I added water to speed up the decomposition and I stir what is in the container with a shovel frequently.


Why shop from sustainable businesses?

I am beginning to understand that supporting Black-owned businesses makes a huge difference. As consumers, we vote with our dollar. Voting with our dollar means that where we choose to spend our money matters. Company's produce products based on where there is demand. When we vote with our dollar, we control where the demand is. So, if consumers spend more money on sustainable products, then there is more demand for sustainable products. This is why there are big-name brands that are putting organic products into the market. The big-name brands see that there is demand and money are being funneled towards organic products and away from their non-organic products. Sustainable products are created with the environment in mind. Often, these products are created from ethically sourced materials and are sewn by individuals who are provided a safe workplace and a liveable wage.

Why shop from Black-owned businesses?

Black individuals own 2.6 million businesses in the United States, which sounds like a lot, but only equates to roughly 9.5 percent***. Several of the brands that I found in my research were Black-owned businesses with sustainable business practices. Some were upcycled shirts, markets that sold African goods, and sustainable undergarments made for all skin colors. It is time we (white individuals) start supporting Black-owned businesses because it is important to encourage POC and vote with our dollar. White entrepreneurs have easy access to loans and face less discrimination on social media which can allow them to easily promote their business.

***side note: this data was difficult to find from a credible source. Most of the data presented about minority-owned businesses in America was clouded in statistics like: "Receipts of all minority-owned firms (excluding C corporations) rose 60 percent to $335.3 billion in 1997, compared with a 40 percent increase for all U.S. firms over the same period" and "Men were owners of about 55 percent of the firms owned by each of the four minority groups. African Americans had the largest percentage of firms owned by women -- 38 percent" (source here). This was an extensive report, but not once did it state the percent of Latin-American or Black-owned businesses in America.

Black-Owned Sustainable Businesses Buyers Guide

$ - $20 to $50

$$ - $50 - $100

$$$ - $100+



Maw Supply | $ | Clothing and Accessories

Photo | Maw Supply

In Brief |

Maw Supply sells reclaimed vintage apparel, and accessories

Not So Brief |

Also known as Man and Woman, is a reclaimed, vintage apparel and accessories company founded in 2012 by creative couple Norman and Rachelle Clark. We specialize in providing our clientele with an array of unique, beautifully aged, one-of-one pieces suitable for the style-driven male and female. Essentially, we do the dirty work​ so you won't have to.

Style |

street, vintage, eclectic, gamer vintage

AAKS | $-$$$ | Handbags

In Brief |

handmade bags made in Ghana from safely sourced materials that create sustainable jobs within Africa

Not So Brief |

A A K S was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of introducing the world to her favorite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, A A K S creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts characterized by bright exuberant colors.  The essence of A A K S design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts, design element which comes from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in their production; while having a strong sense of identity and quality. Each collection silhouette is unique and tells a different story through detail, color, and shape. Akosua is connected to every stage of the design and production process to oversee and ensure that the end result is imbued with the spirit and soul worthy of the A A K S stamp. 

Style |

bohemian, chic, street, boutique

Photo | AAKS

ALYIA WANEK | $$ - $$$ | Clothing


In Brief |

clothing made from natural fibers for the minimalist queen

Not So Brief |

Founded in 2016, ALIYA WANEK is an eponymous womenswear label that focuses on exploring the connection between one’s identity and style. Our mission is to create comfortable, stylish clothing ethically and sustainably as an extension of the wearer’s individuality. If not sewing the garments herself, Aliya works with a production sewer and other local contractors in the Bay Area to produce and dye her garments, always taking into consideration ways to reduce the brand’s environmental impact.

Style |

minimalist, simple, natural

GRANT blvd | $-$$$ | Clothing

Photo | GRANT blvd

In Brief |

remixed and reclaimed thrift finds paired with screen-printed reclaimed tees made in Philly

Not So Brief |

In a word, Grant Blvd is a response to slavery, to leased labor, to Jim Crow, to persistent economic injustice and marginalization. We need to completely reimagine our response to poverty and the criminalization of it, and we also have to radically change how we create pathways to self-sufficient living for black & brown people who’ve been incarcerated. Our work to use fashion to create employment opportunities and points of exposure to the skills we all need to find long term peace isn’t about supporting the othered “them” that have been incarcerated (mind you, too often due to poverty and trauma and untreated emotional or mental health struggles).

Style |

street, thrift chic, unique

Washington AVE | $$ | CLothing and Accessories

Photo | Washington AVE

In Brief |

curated upcycled and vintage finds

Not So Brief |

Mix a lil Pimp C, Badu, Yonce', Otis, Mahalia and you get the flava of The Ave! We are based in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where founder, Lakeitha Washington has been UpCycling Vintage since 2010. Our goal is to continue to bring exclusiveness to the vintage game, while adding Southern Funk to everything we touch!

Style |

colorful, bold, street, statement

Small needs | $$ | Clothing and Accessories

Photo | small needs

In Brief |

curated vintage clothing and accessories

Not So Brief |

If you have ever dreamed of gallivanting through a field of wildflowers in a vintage high-end designer dress, then you ought to check this Etsy shop out.

Style |

classic princess vintage, high end, Parisian, classy

Zou xou shoes | $$$ | Shoes

Photo | zou xou shoes

In Brief |

slow fashion shoes produced in small batches

Not So Brief |

Zou Xou aims to create a shoe wardrobe of modern essentials that are well-made, unfussy, and minimal. The collection is a narrative of elegant and simple designs made visible through refined contours, subtle detailing, and exceptional quality.<