Here at The Alliance Center, we view sustainability as a holistic endeavor: a mission that necessitates the participation of both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. We are honored to collaborate with dozens of organizations in our Best for Colorado program who work in the environmental sector or are dedicated to evaluating and improving their environmental impact. We also run the Regenerative Recovery Coalition, which is in part dedicated to fostering regenerative and sustainable business practices across Colorado.

But how do you demonstrate your business’s commitment to sustainability? With few regulations on the labeling of sustainable business practices, and with rampant public misinformation about ethical consumption, many businesses either knowingly or unknowingly resort to a strategy called “greenwashing”. Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that deceives consumers with unsubstantiated claims or with misleading or false information about the environmentally friendly nature of a product or process. Greenwashing degrades consumer trust and can even result in further damage to the environment.

 Here are a few guidelines for avoiding greenwashing as a socially responsible business owner:

    • Avoid using buzz words or offering vague claims about your product or your business like “natural”, “green”, “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable”. Instead, be honest and specific about how your product or your process is sustainable—and even how it isn’t. For example, instead of stamping “eco-friendly” on your packaging and calling it a day, create a page on your website dedicated to explaining the materials, ingredients and/or sourcing of your product. Reveal the steps required to create your product and the areas of your process that could be improved. Honesty and transparency from a corporation can go a long way for an ethical consumer.
    • Don’t expect consumers to take you at your word. Instead, if possible, offer evidence from a reliable third party that your product is or does what you claim. Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, but there are other green business certifications available as well.
    • Avoid using irrelevant terms. Instead, only use specific terms that genuinely apply to your product and make sense for your audience. For example, there is no need to call your product organic if it does not make use of ingredients that are grown organically.
    • Don’t create fake labels or certifications. Trust that your honest explanations of your product or process will mean more to your consumers than unverifiable accolades.
    • Don’t only focus on advertising your consumer-facing products as green or sustainable. Instead, try to practice sustainability and social responsibility behind closed doors as well. This might manifest in multiple ways: implementing diversity and inclusivity trainings, giving back to your community through charitable donations or even networking and collaborating with other sustainability-minded businesses and organizations in The Alliance Center’s coworking space or as an Alliance Member.

Sustainable business practices and products have never been more important, more relevant or more sought out than they are today. For example, a recent survey conducted by GreenPrint found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products! Companies who successfully navigate the demand for environmentally friendly products will increase their resilience and improve their reputation. We are proud to partner with so many socially responsible businesses—and look forward to the day that all for-profit organizations are committed to “doing business better”!

Happy Pride Month, Alliance community! Pride Month takes place each June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a milestone for the queer liberation movement. It offers us a chance to honor LGBTQ+ folks who are no longer with us and to celebrate the love, joy, diversity and affirmation of queer and trans communities.

Here at The Alliance Center, we envision a future that is sustainable, equitable and provides all communities the opportunity to thrive. To accomplish this, our work must be intersectional, recognizing how our various identities influence our interactions with the world and how systems of oppression affect each of us in differing ways. Indeed, the environmentalist movement and the queer liberation movement are irrevocably connected—many of the same unjust power dynamics that perpetuate inequality and intolerance against queer and trans people also perpetuate unsustainable practices that are harmful to our environments, our communities and our futures. 

For this year’s Pride Month, we’ve assembled a list of some of the changemakers that are working at the intersection of queer liberation and environmentalism. We hope you’ll take some time—throughout the rest of June and beyond—to reflect on your own identity and how your unique voice might contribute to the environmentalist movement, the queer liberation movement and their intersection.

A person in a floral button-up shirt with a green hat on, holding a flower next to their face with other flowers in the background.

Vanessa Raditz is an environmental health researcher and youth educator dedicated to community healing, land and resource accessibility and the creation of thriving local economies based on human and ecological resilience. They are part of the founding collective of the Queer Ecojustice Project, which hosts events and workshops about queer ecojustice theory and strategy and offers a curated selection of multimedia resources for self-organized learning nodes. Raditz is working on a grassroots film project, Fire and Flood: Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change, rooted in their lived experience of the 2017 fires in Northern California. They also co-organized the Queers4ClimateJustice contingent to the RISE March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice in fall of 2018 and continue to manage the #Queers4ClimateJustice instagram.

A woman wearing ski goggles and a ski jacket stands on a snowy mountain.

Lindi von Mutius is an attorney, an educator, the Director of Board Operations and Strategy at The Trust for Public Land and a Board member for OUT for Sustainability, a platform for co-creating climate resilience and environmental justice by and for LGBTQ+ communities. Her work centers on bringing diversity to the environmental movement and highlighting the necessity of representation in outdoor spaces. In her article “The Look We Give”, von Mutius writes: “There’s a human need to find people like you doing the things you love; a yearning not just for acceptance, but for owning a shared experience. A biracial, bisexual, immigrant is still an oddity in the outdoor space. I once dated someone (for far too long) just because he was the only black man kayaking on Match.com. My bisexual pride flag is pinned to the outside of my backpacking pack, so that other queer folks know I’m there. I feel that this land—taken and colonized by white men; but shaped by the work of slaves, immigrants and people who look like me—is there for me to enjoy and protect.”

A person with dark hair, blue and pink highlights and a septum piercing sitting next to a dog with plants in the background.

Pinar Sinopoulos-Lloyd is a queer indigenous activitist and co-founder of Queer Nature, a nature education and ancestral skills program serving the LGBTQ2+ community. Although it is now permanently based out of Washington state, Queer Nature originally began in Colorado, right here in the Front Range! Along with their partner and co-founder, Sinopoulos-Lloyd works to increase cultural access to outdoor pursuits, especially survival skills like bushcraft, tactical skills and ethical hunting. They are dedicated to building interspecies alliances and an enduring sense of belonging for marginalized communities while maintaining awareness of impact and good land stewardship practices. 

A drag queen with long red hair wearing backpacking clothes stands in a forest holding a cardboard sign above her head that says "Mother nature is a lesbian" in all caps.

Wyn Wiley, also known as his backpacking drag queen alter ego Pattie Gonia, uses humor and entertainment to raise awareness about climate change and to bring attention to intersectional environmentalism. With her high heels, sustainably sourced outfits and heartfelt captions, Pattie Gonia works to make outdoor spaces safer and more accessible to marginalized communities. “Intersectional environmentalism lets us weave in our humanity, our culture, our queerness and our color into environmental work. We tell ourselves that all these issues are separate, but I think the magic happens when you intersect one thing with another. If you look at any space where people are making change, you will find queer people, you will find people of color, you will find indigenous people—and you’ll find women,” explains Wyn.

Once again, happy Pride Month, Alliance community! We love, appreciate and stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ colleagues and friends.

This March, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we are featuring four women leading the intersectional environmentalism movement. Climate change disproportionately affects communities of color. These women are leading the charge to change the way we think about environmental and climate solutions!

1. Dr. Carolyn Finney

Carolyn Finney

Dr. Carolyn Finney authored the book Black Faces White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. In her book, Finney explores the histories of slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence in the United States and their continued relationship to present day perceptions of who should and can have access to the “great outdoors”. Finney utilizes her unique perspective as a cultural geographer and storyteller to address how privilege affects the course of environmental action, policy and leadership. Check out her 2020 TEDx talk at Middlebury College and her continued work in the environmental movement.

2. Sonrisa Lucero

Sonrisa Lucero is a Sustainability Engineer and expert with experience in the public and private sector, committed to climate justice. She works as the Sustainability Strategist in the Office of Sustainability for the City of Denver and owns and operates a sustainability firm Sustainnovations, LLC. Locally, Sonrisa serves as a board member for The Alliance Center and Conservation Colorado. Previously, she served as a board member with Groundwork Denver. Learn more about her climate justice work in her 2020 TEDx talk, “Stopping Climate Change Starts with Heart and Latinx Communities” and listen to her discuss the Paris Climate Agreement on our latest Climate Bridges podcast episode.

3. Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an environmentalist and the founder of the Intersectional Environmentalist Platform. The Intersectional Environmentalist platforms shares resources, information and actions to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement. In her 2020 Vogue article entitled “Why Every Environmentalist Should be Antiracist” she explained, “The systems of oppression that have led to the deaths of so many Black people were the same systems that perpetuated environmental injustice. This realization pointed me to the term ‘intersectional environmentalism,’ and compelled me to introduce it into environmentalist dialogue—to spark conversation and mobilize the environmental community to be anti-racist and not complicit.” Learn more about Leah here.

4. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson speaks during the Unplugged Session at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 - 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, author and policy expert. She founded the think tank, Urban Ocean Lab and OceanCollectiv, a conservation consulting firm rooted in social justice. Johnson’s work centers on building community to create climate solutions. Her diverse body of work includes her podcast How to Save a Planet, academic publications, editorials and public speaking.

This blog post was written by JennaLee and Devani, who interned with The Alliance Center this summer through the Girls Inc. Eureka! program. The Alliance Center recently hosted the Colorado Emergence Series to develop solutions to some of the biggest issues in Colorado, and the interns conducted interviews with Fatuma Emmad, a series participant, and Hunter Lovins, who helped lead the series. To implement the series’ proposed solutions, The Alliance Center is leading the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. Learn more and find out how you can be part of the solution here

On the farm with Fatuma Emmad

With many world issues such as human rights violations, racism and sexism, local leader Fatuma Ammad, co-founder of Front Line Farming, takes on farming as a path to building a better Colorado. 

Front Line Farming is a community that runs a multi-plot farm and is committed to growing and providing healthy food and food education to all people no matter their income level. Fatuma is always pushing for change and bringing attention to farmers and food security. Front Line Farming is currently based in the Denver metro area, but they’re always looking for opportunities to expand throughout Colorado. 

During our time with Fatuma, we asked her about being the co-founder of Front Line Farming and the many other organizations she leads. We asked, “as a leader of so many organizations, does it ever become really stressful, if so how do you manage?” Fatuma said that it all comes down to how she and her team work together and love each other. She pointed something out that really stood out to us, “there’s a lot of different types of racism you have to deal with, even when you get to the top… I knew this before I started my organization…so I’ve really built my team and our organization with resiliency.” We weren’t aware that racism can still take place at high levels of leadership, like the position she’s in. She also explained that her team doesn’t operate with white supremacy either. Fatuma’s really broad and outside of the box perspectives on these topics were amazing! 

Fatuma also talked about the working environment for farmers. To continue to make change and make sure her workers are in the best care, she brings safety supplies, money, and policy work to communities. She describes, “the environment for farmers is crucial, farming labour is done by immigrant and undocumented people in conditions that are completely unacceptable, and it’s not about justice issues but human rights issues.” These hard workers are called illegal and aren’t welcomed, yet they are still essential workers during this time, risking their own safety. She wants people to recognize all the hard labor that people of color are doing for this country.

With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, one of Fatuma’s strongest opinions that stood out to us was when she talked about the Black community in farming. She says, “Black people owned more land in the United States in the 20th century than they do now.” This issue has been going on for so long that people choose to ignore the issue because it serves them. The government wants to act like they’re not in the wrong, that we have solved the problem and it’s gone. That is why Fatuma chooses to use her voice in policy and legislation spaces. She wants to represent young people, people of color and women.

Another major topic that Fatuma talked about was women in the field and women empowerment, one of the main focuses of Girls Inc. and Eureka. She started the conversation by saying, “you know I’m a woman and I farm, I’m not like some big strong guy.” Many believe that women aren’t strong enough for farm work and hard labor. Over the years, female operated farm percentages haven’t really gone up, although in many countries women are the ones in the field doing all the hard labor. This is a problem that stands out to us because women need to work twice as hard to get recognized in a leadership role. That is what Fatuma tries to advocate for change and why she is such a great role model. 

Having Fatuma as our second interview was a great experience! This opportunity was definitely a success for developing our skills, and it was so great to hear the amazing thoughts and opinions that take place in Fatuma Emmad’s mind. 

Economic Sustainability Mission with Hunter Lovins

Hunter Lovins is a major influence in the field of sustainability in Colorado. She is the founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS). NCS has only the best in class sustainability professionals who work together to help develop pragmatic ways to bring efficiency and sustainability to government and corporate clients. Ms. Lovins has over forty years of experience with change management and sustainability. 

We asked Ms. Lovins where sustainability is needed most, and she answered, “everywhere.” She explains that in the U.S, the measure of success is dependent on wealth and that this is the reason why the world is crashing. Hunter sees our current world as having the greatest amount of inequality due to the false narrative that was made to believe true. She states, “…economists like Thomas Piketty, who wrote the book Capital In the Twenty-First Century, show that high levels of inequality is causative of collapse.” Ms. Lovins has a very passionate and broad perspective on changing that narrative in order to create sustainability. 

Ms. Lovins goes more into depth about inequality in the world, when she speaks about people who have always been discriminated against. She recognizes that being white, having plenty to eat, living on a beautiful ranch, doing well for herself, are all a great privilege. She even went into depth about police brutality, saying it’s just not right, “If I were black and stopped by a policeman, my life would be at risk. I’m white, I’m elderly, if I get stopped by a policeman, I’ll hear “Ma’am how can I be of service to you?” She has committed her life to ensuring that everyone on the planet has the same privilege. She wants to have conversations about institutionalized racism, empowerment and giving voice to people who have not had one. 

Hunter’s perfect vision of a sustainable world was so wide, with so many ideas. In her book, A Finer Future, the narrative was that it’s 2050 and we made it, we have solved the problems facing humanity. Ideas such as a sustainable palm oil that stops the loss of rainforest or a cohousing community in Indonesia that has cleaned the air, and even that the main street of Broadway, New York, is now a massive urban garden, all things that would make the world a better place. Hunter said, “We have the technologies that we need to solve the problems, and the question now…is will we do it, will we do it on time?” 

There is no doubt that Ms. Lovins has great expectations for change and sustainability in the world. Since she was a child her whole life has similarly evolved around the field she is in now. From our interview or from getting the amazing opportunity to talk with Hunter, you will see how knowledgeable, inspirational and passionate she is about her life’s work. 

Written by: Devani Dominguez and Jennalee Casias

Plastic Free July is upon us, yet it seems to be shoved to a backburner this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and social unrest occurring across the nation, my time and mental energy have been spent for 2020. I feel like a rag being rung out without a single drop to spare for other causes, including being plastic free.

The last two Julys, I have challenged myself, along with millions around the world, to avoid any and all single-use plastic for the good of our planet. Our society does not make going plastic free easy, so this effort requires time, determination and dedication to make it a reality. COVID-19 has also made this nearly impossible with limitations on reusables at restaurants and grocery stores for public health purposes. This July I had to give myself permission to not take on this challenge with the vigor I usually do, and I’m confident many of my fellow environmentalists had to do the same. 

Instead of laying on the green guilt upon ourselves, we must adapt with the curveballs 2020 has given us and find other ways to have a positive impact on our environment in regards to waste. I have continued to maintain as many of my plastic free habits as possible including wearing reusable masks, bringing my grocery bags to the store when allowed, taking a water bottle anywhere and everywhere, using bamboo toothbrushes and more. Whatever habits you’re able to maintain are important contributions to the Plastic Free July effort.

If you have time, energy and available resources, you can take it one step further and support local businesses while starting a new plastic-free habit this month. The Alliance Center’s Best for Colorado program has several incredible companies that make waste reduction simpler while also valuing people over profit. Some of our mission-driven businesses you can support while expanding your plastic-free efforts include:

EarthHero

As an eco-friendly online marketplace, EarthHero has done the in-depth research on products so you don’t have to. In their online store you pick from products that are sourced, manufactured and shipped in a way that protects our planet’s future. Each brand they’ve partnered with has been chosen because they’re taking the right steps and helping to create a more sustainable future.

Infinity Goods

Ditching plastic is difficult and daunting, but Infinity Goods does the hard work for you with their zero-waste grocery service. They deliver a wide selection of food and household goods in reusable containers. Then, like the milkman, they retrieve, clean and reuse the containers for future deliveries, taking plastic packaging waste out of the grocery experience.

JOY FILL

JOY FILL is a store full of refillable, natural and sustainable household cleaners, soaps, personal care and beauty products in Northwest Denver. Their mission is to enhance your eco-friendly lifestyle and fill you with joy in the process! 

Simple Switch

Every item sold at Simple Switch has a quantifiable positive impact on our world and the people in it.  Their store is filled with products you actually need or want. Every purchase from Simple Switch reduces the likelihood of a child dying from preventable disease, provides employment for a woman recently freed from sexual slavery or helps a company use innovative techniques to reduce waste and pollution.

I know many of us feel stretched thin this July, but I just want to say thank you for every waste reduction effort you take this month. You are remaining resilient in the face of hard times, and our world needs every ounce of good you have to offer. Remember, together we are greater.

A firestorm of protests has swept the United States. In their wake, government leaders have implemented curfews and law enforcement has carried out riot control efforts. The widespread use of tear gas as a crowd-control tactic has raised significant health and safety concerns–not only for those protesting but for the environment as well.

Effects on Individuals

Tear gas quells riots by temporarily making people unable to function by irritating their eyes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that those exposed to tear gas may experience excessive tearing, burning sensations, blurred vision, a runny nose, difficulty swallowing, coughing, rashes, vomiting and redness in the eyes. These symptoms will usually disappear within a short time if the exposure to tear gas ceases. Long-lasting exposure or exposure to a large dose, especially in a closed setting, may result in more severe health effects, such as blindness, glaucoma, chemical burns to the throat and lungs or respiratory failure.

Using tear gas during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially worrisome because it increases a person’s susceptibility to the virus. A study conducted in 2014 found that US military recruits who were exposed to tear gas as part of a training exercise were more likely to develop respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and the flu. One of the immediate health effects of exposure to tear gas is coughing, which facilitates the spread of COVID by increasing the number of infectious droplets in the air. Moreover, tear gas can compromise the body’s ability to fight off the infection by causing injury and inflammation to the lining of the airways.

Effects on the Environment

Tear gas is actually not a gas. It is a chemical powder that is mixed with liquid in order to be dispersed as a spray. Because of its powdered nature, chemical residue is left behind after every spray. In addition tear gas may contain silicon, which allows it to last longer in the environment and not disintegrate as quickly.

Studies about tear gas tend to focus on its health effects on humans, so the environmental impact on wildlife, plants and water, is not well known. However, because its residue settles on surfaces and stays there for days before breaking down, tear gas can contaminate agriculture, local wildlife and groundwater. This puts Black and Latinx communities who live in urban or poor areas especially at risk since they face disproportionately high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses because of their proximity to factories and industrial sites. The air quality in these communities is often low; therefore, there is a legitimate concern about the potential of tear gas as a harmful contaminant. 

The question, then, is how do we ensure a more discriminate use of tear gas and other chemical weapons, especially during a respiratory illness pandemic? Other cities such as Seattle have temporarily halted its use, but many have yet to reconsider. 
To accelerate reform, individual actions can be taken, such as calling local police departments and demanding a review of their rules and norms regarding tear gas usage or attending city council meetings and raising community awareness of the issue. House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Takano and Chuy Garcia have announced that they will be introducing a bill that forces local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to dispose of all chemical weapons. We must call our local elected officials to amass support for bans on tear gas at the city level. Banning chemical weapons is one of the many steps we must take in this moment to prevent a new wave of COVID-19 and any unforeseen environmental impacts that may disproportionately affect communities of color.

Written by Maria Reyes, Programs Intern

By Anne Behlouli | Program Manager, The Alliance Center

As we learn how to navigate the far reaching impacts of COVID-19 and work to get to the “other side” of this crisis, we have the chance to ensure things don’t necessarily go back to business as usual. While there are many activities we aren’t able to participate in currently, there are still actions we can do from home to build a more sustainable future. 

Last month, the Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club and several other nonprofits released the latest version of Banking on Climate Change 2020: a report focused on global banks’ fossil fuel financing. One of the major takeaways is the financing of fossil fuels by banks is on the rise. Since the Paris Agreement in 2016, 35 international banks have not only been sustaining their investments in fossil fuel companies, they have actively expanded it with $2.7 trillion invested. 

To be part of the solution, what actions can we take to relocate our money and support banks that focus on the wellbeing of people and the planet?

Step 1: Check How Your Bank Stacks Up

The annual Banking on Climate Change Report Card ranks banks in order of how much they lend to fossil fuel companies. You can get key insights on what financial institutions to avoid without having to read the entire report!

Step 2: Take Action

There are other banking options worth considering for your checking and saving accounts. Local credit unions are member-owned nonprofits focused on serving the needs of their community. You can actively look for a socially responsible bank utilizing Global Alliance for Banking on Values as a resource. This is an independent network of banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development.

Finally, if you have a portfolio to invest in, specialized impact investing companies are a valuable resource.You make smarter choices to support innovative companies that are addressing systemic problems and leading long-term economic growth. Oil and gas companies were already facing structural problems even before COVID-19. The recent crash of the oil price demonstrates how volatile the market is and how divesting from fossil fuels is both an ethical and financially-wise decision for the future of your savings.

It’s Up to Each of Us

We each have the opportunity and available resources to evaluate where our money is and which industries it’s currently supporting. If you are looking for a way to take action to support a more resilient future during the time of quarantining, please consider researching your bank and discovering more sustainability-minded options. This small step can make a big difference in reducing the funding of fossil fuels and instead investing in a more equitable future for all.

The Best for Colorado community has demonstrated immense resilience and care during this difficult time and we couldn’t be more appreciative. Here are five Best for Colorado companies that we’d like to highlight:

1.  Montanya Distillers

To help support frontline institutions like, hospital, senior care centers and doctors’ offices, Montanya Distillers, an American rum company, has pivoted their production to make an antiviral surface sanitizer! The distillery is collaborating with the Gunnison County Incident Command Center to distribute the sanitizer to those most in need in their community. In a recent blog post on their webpage they explained, “we believe it’s our duty and responsibility to do what we can to help our community navigate this challenging and uncertain time.”

2.    Ship Sunshine

Every month Ship Sunshine picks a cause to support, and next month’s will be nurses and teachers! Sending these critical workers care packages and giveaways is their way of showing their appreciation and spreading a little sunshine to those who need it most during this difficult time. Ship Sunshine offers a carefully curated collection of gift boxes designed to brighten anyone’s day and you can also build your own gift box on their website. With so many of us needing a little extra care and thought during this turbulent time, Ship Sunshine is definitely helping spread some joy.

3.  Simple Switch

During this time the world has scrambled to online shopping platforms.What makes Simple Switch different from other platforms is their commitment to ethics, labor laws and environmental impact. Their collection of ethical products ensures that your purchase directly makes a positive impact, spanning from environmental innovations to supporting development projects. Lately, they’ve been offering discounts to encourage people to shop online rather than leave their homes. If you’re looking for an alternative to Amazon, for an ecologically and socially conscious e-commerce website, consider Switch Switch. 

4.  Phunkshun Wear

Phunkshun Wear normally manufactures ski masks out of plastic water bottles. Right now, they’re committed to doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus by donating a mask to the Colorado Mask Project for every mask purchased. Using a mask like theirs can help Colorado communities protect themselves against the spread of the virus, while simultaneously helping ensure that medical workers face no shortage of N95 masks. Governor Jared Polis even appeared on television, wearing a Phunkshun Wear Colorado branded personal hygiene mask, encouraging all Coloradans to wear non-medical protective masks outdoors. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about our daily lives, but it hasn’t altered the love we have for this planet. We’re still committed to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! The Alliance Center is working with a team of partners across the Denver metro region to create a week of celebrations. Once it became clear that it was no longer safe to hold in-person events, we quickly made the shift to virtual engagements. Our idea is to replace gatherings we initially planned with online resources and calls to action so people can remain involved and connected. We are calling this virtual week of engagement Denver Earth Week 2020: Inside Edition. 

Part of this digital transition includes launching a brandnew Climate Bridges podcast! The podcast will premiere on Earth Day, April 22. Our goal is to create an intergenerational bridge – to encourage conversations between leaders of all ages and to learn how civic and climate action can translate to real results during this time of social distancing and beyond. We’ll pair youth climate leaders with veteran climate activists to discuss what drives them, the challenges they face and how they think we can best solve our most pressing problems. The conversations will range from food security to the circular economy, from what we each can do in our own backyards to our global impact as citizens of this earth. Each podcast will end with a call to action – steps you can take after listening to celebrate Earth Day every day. Our first interview will feature Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day, and Liliana Flanigan, a high school senior and youth climate activist from Grand Junction, Colorado.

Amid, and in spite of, present challenges please join us in celebrating Earth Week and the 50th Earth Day celebration! Share how you’re celebrating Earth Week with #DenverEarthWeek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! To learn more, check out Denver Earth Week 2020: Inside Edition to explore various ways you can celebrate our incredible planet.

Happy Women’s History Month! My name is Esperanza, and I recently joined the Alliance Center as the Programs and Communications Intern. I was born and raised in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico. I graduated from Amherst College last year, where I studied Environmental studies and Latin American studies and became especially interested in environmental justice issues. After graduating, I worked abroad for a summer as a research assistant studying Peru’s forest conservation program. After that, I moved to Colorado to be close to family. I found The Alliance Center because of my interest in exploring an environmental career, and because the organization’s holistic view of sustainability especially resonated with me.

Because March is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements, I’d like to spend some time this month reflecting on the environmental accomplishments made by women around the world.

Climate change will affect all of us, but the poorest and most vulnerable people in our societies will experience especially acute consequences. On a global level, the majority of the world’s poor (70 percent) are women, and poor women continue to face unequal representation in climate-related decision-making processes (IUCN). Despite this, women everywhere are some of the most persevering and effective climate leaders in the world and in their communities.

Today, I would like to honor the work of five incredible women environmentalists and climate leaders who inspire me to believe in and fight for an equitable and sustainable future:   

1.  Wangari Maathai (1940- 2011)

“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!”

Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts in establishing The  Green Belt Movement in Kenya. The Green Belt Movement began in 1977 as a way to improve rural Kenyan women’s livelihoods, while simultaneously combating environmental degradation, deforestation and food in security. The idea for the movement started off simply – engage women in tree planting – but evolved into a powerful, multi-pronged approach to address issues of equity, democracy and government accountability.

Wangari Maathai’s legacy lives on today as The Green Belt Movement continues to plant trees and work on issues related to climate change, advocacy and gender livelihood issues.

2. Terri Swearingen (born 1956)

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”

Terri Swearingen, a nurse, led her community and the United States to take action against toxic waste incinerators. When Waste Technology Industries began attempting to construct a waste incinerator in her hometown of Chester, West Virginia, Swearingen became extremely concerned about the health effects this construction would have on her family and community. By 1991 she organized over a thousand residents to protest the construction of the incinerator in West Virginia and went on a nationwide-tour protesting similar constructions around the country. She was arrested in front of the White House for a demonstration in 1992. The day after her arrest, the Clinton administration announced the decision to improve the EPA’s regulations overseeing hazardous waste incinerators, which is what Swearingen had proposed a year earlier. She was awarded the 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize for her achievements as a grassroots environmental hero.

3. Liz Chicaje Churay (born 1982)

“We, the indigenous peoples, are the guardians of Yaguas.” 

Liz Chicaje Churay, an indigenous woman belonging to the Bora community of Pucaurquillo in Peru’s Loreto region, was awarded the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights in 2018 for her contributions to the creation of the Yaguas National Park. Covering over 2 million acres of tropical rainforest, this national park is an amazing global conservation achievement that also uniquely includes a Communal Reserve and acknowledges native peoples. The year before that, in 2017, Liz Chicaje Churay was invited to represent her region’s Federation of Native Communities in the COP 23 in Bonn Germany. In the summer of 2019, I had the immense privilege of visiting her home in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest and listening to her first-hand discuss the critical importance of meaningfully including indigenous peoples’ in conservation and global climate change efforts. Her humility, passion and dedication to the future of her community and our planet inspires me every day.

4.  Ridhima Pandey (born 2008)

“I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations.”

Ridhima Pandey is a 12-year-old climate activist from Haridwar, India who, alongside Greta Thunberg and 14 other youth activists, filed a petition to protest the lack of international government action on climate change. In addition to being passionate about pushing governments around the world to take meaningful action on the climate crisis, she is also passionate about speaking out against the pervasive use of plastics. Young, outspoken leaders like Ridhima Pnadey, give me immense hope in our future.

5. Kimberly Wasserman- (born 1977)

“My community is my family. They are my boss, my co-worker, my inspiration, my drive, my fight, and I will do my damnedest for them.”

Kimberly Wasserman was the recipient for the 2013 Goldman Prize for her successful leadership in closing two of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the United States. Born and raised in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, this Chicana joined Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) after her 3-month-year-old baby suffered an asthma attack. The doctors told her it was related to environmental pollution, which made her determined to stand up for her community’s health. After 12 years of ongoing negotiations with the local government, the coal power plants finally closed in 2012. After this closure, LVEJO and other partner organizations created the Community Benefits Agreements, which prohibits the fossil fuel industry from operating on the newly closed property and ensures residents have a say in how the property develops in the future. Today, Wasserman continues her leadership by training young people in her community to transform old industrial areas in Little Village into public, recreational spaces.

These five incredible women, geographically spanning the globe and coming from very different cultures and backgrounds, all share a common vision: a more equitable and sustainable future. They inspire me this month, and every month, to continue fighting for a world I know is possible. Once again, Happy Women’s History Month!

 

This blog post was written by our Communications Intern, Esperanza Chairez Uriarte.