Feminism, or the advocacy of equality for all sexes, has been growing to encompass more and more ideals and aspects about young girls and women’s lives; each day it becomes more inclusive of a variety of lenses the emphasize the importance of intersectionality. One such branch is ecofeminism, a movement that connects the domination of nature to the exploitation women. Although it is not explicitly a feminist movement, the Zero-Waste Movement is an example of a consciousness-raising movement that reacquaints consumers with the amount of waste they produce and the impact of that waste on the environment. It is part of an ongoing dialogue surrounding the consequences of consumerism on a global scale. In documentaries like Plastic Paradise and The True Cost, we learn about the interconnectedness of production, waste, the environment, and the places where our trash ends up. The movement has inspired movements among many young people to make a positive impact on the earth, and young women are at the forefront. This comes as no surprise to Kate Bailey, program manager at Eco-Cycle Solutions. In an interview with The Guardian, she says, “It’s no coincidence that young women are leading the movement. Women everywhere are deeply concerned about the health effects of the growing amount of chemicals and toxins in our everyday lives.”
The True Cost movie, available on Netflix as of 2016/12/1, emphasizes the
increased its investment of the West in “fast-fashion,” or the production of quickly made, cheap clothing, which promotes industries that disenfranchise girls and young women. These industries are often less regulated than companies in the U.S.A., which means girls, who are largely employed by these industries, do not receive any job-training, the work long hours for a non-livable wage, and are exposed daily to harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer. When we talk about ecofeminism and the zero-waste movement we are looking at the environment through an intersectional lens.
This concern marks the growing movement, especially online and in global communities. Young women, like Lauren Singer and Kathryn Kellogg, run lifestyle blogs about their efforts to maintain a zero-waste lifestyle, while encouraging ethical consumer practices. These include actions like composting, using reusable bags and containers, buying secondhand clothing, and even making household cleaning items and beauty products by hand. This visibility is helps raise awareness for the cause and values girls as environmental leaders.
It is important to encourage girls to be conscious consumers, as their purchasing power has been gaining recognition from companies since the 1950s. Girls in Western nations are now targets of relentless advertising, fast-fashion, and convenient, plastic-based products. As girls become more involved in environmental movements, such as zero-waste, they become aware how their individual purchasing power contributes to a system that disenfranchises girls and women globally. People Tree, a sustainable and fair trade fashion brand certified by the World Fair Trade Organization, and its founder Safia Minney are trying to change the conversation about fashion, advocating that producing sustainable, fair trade clothing while providing safe, skill-building workspaces for girls.
Environmentalism is a also a space for women to be entrepreneurs and leaders within their communities. Lauren Singer, zero-waste blogger, founded the Simply Co. which supports others who are looking to reduce their environmental impact by producing a line of “toxic free, sustainable cleaning and housing products.” There are also programs throughout the United States like ECO Girls in southeast Michigan is a program that uses an environmental humanities framework to connect girls in urban centers to their communities through environmental work. Ecofeminism is an international movement. Small villages in India are using principles of ecofeminism to redefine social values about girlhood by connecting them to environmental movements.
Ecofeminism teaches us about impact of waste on the environment and about how to be ethical consumers. These movements focus on the importance of community and grassroots organizations because at the root of the movement is our relationships with others and the accountability we feel when we work collectively. When girls work to reduce their waste, even the small impact they create is encouraging others to do the same and helping to create a sustainable future for the planet. The movement is helping girls and young women all over the world positively sustain their own future.
Featured Image: Photo captured by Moyan Brenn Titled “Earth” from Flickr’s creative commons with permission to reuse with credit