Meet 5 Black Women At The Forefront Of The Green Movement
Conversations being green and Eco-friendly have continued to expand, and Black women in the green space are leading the charge to reach Black communities.
From the recycling hustle and Eco-advice gigs to rocking natural hair vibes and farming, these green queens are showing the world that, yeah, Black girls are all about that green life, too.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with five women at the forefront of the green movement.
Brandi Harleaux: Sustainability In Houston
More than a decade after leaving the corporate world to take over her family’s Houston-based business, South Post Oak Recycling Center, Brandi Harleaux is uplifting and empowering her community through sustainability and job creation. Her Fortune 500 corporate knowledge has helped her to not only level up her family’s legacy but to also create positive and measurable impact. When Brandi isn’t serving as director-at-large for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), she is using her unique platform to support and advocate for more women in STEM, sustainability, and the recycled materials industry.
“I’m proud of the contributions that my company makes to the community, specifically regarding the local economy,” Harleux told BE. “We are directly a part of the over 40,000 jobs that are created within Texas and the economic impact, which is $9.77 billion in this state.”
She added, “When people come and recycle their materials with us, they get money, and that money is then recycled right back into this community at gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. We’re also local tax contributors who serve and give back to schools and churches, all with the hope of making the community more economically and socially sound.”
Chrystal Beasley: Helping Protect Global Ecosystems
The daughter of a chemical manufacturing employee, Chrystal Beasley was informed at an early age about the effects that toxic exposure and poor air quality have on minority neighborhoods like the one where she grew up. That’s why she centered her education around engineering, sustainability and environmentalism. Just over a decade into her career, she had already helped to mitigate sediments going into the Chesapeake Bay with the Maryland Department of the Environment, helped develop state permits and guidance documents for the discharge of oil and gas wastewater with the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, worked on the BP Oil Spill Emergency Response team in Washington, D.C. and helped to reduce and recycle hazardous materials at Dow Chemical.
These days, Beasley is going back to the basics in order to prioritize sustainability. She is a farmer and beekeeper who assists with her family’s cattle ranching operations and timber trading on their heritage land. Learning from her own family’s challenges and triumphs, she was inspired to create BeAspire Enviro Consulting firm, where she uses her corporate expertise to empower Black businesses and landowners. Beasley exclusively serves Black families, many of whom are multi-generational heirs of land and property but need help generating income to clear property titles, finding resources to work the land, maintaining compliance, preserving safety and sustainability, and practicing conservation.
“I have a corporate, government, and consulting background. That just helped me to build an understanding of what Black people are unknowingly being exposed to and the knowledge on how to go about advocating for policies for change. Somebody’s got to be there to help mitigate some of these issues and figure out solutions that are beneficial to all parties,” Beasley told BE.
Karena Poke: Serving Marginalized Communities
According to Karena Poke, despite the perceived absence of Black women in environmentalism, she is part of a thriving movement of African-American women serving marginalized communities through urban farming and community gardens. In 2014, she decided to open Lettuce Live: An Urban Farm Project, which does more than simply provide fresh produce in an area with limited access to healthy food. Poke told BE that urban farm projects like hers are meant to strengthen communities and build engagement.
Lettuce Live sells various herbs, produce, and fresh-cut flowers to customers onsite, local grocers, and restaurants. The organization also helps high school students to earn community service hours for college admissions requirements, provides free food for any patron diagnosed with cancer, organizes community workshops, hosts supply drives and distribution, and facilitates Dudes and Donuts, a monthly male mentoring event where sons of single mothers learn how to use common tools.
“When I consult with people who are building community gardens, I say, find out what the needs are and figure out the different ways that you can serve that community,” Poke said. “The vision is bigger than food. Talk to the people. Who are you serving? What does that look like? For me, that’s what a community garden is; we don’t focus so much on growing food as we do growing people.”
Tamika Fletcher and Monique Mack: Clean Beauty, Natural Hair Care
Natural hairstylists Tamika Fletcher and Monique Mack noticed a void in the Black community and filled it with award-winning Earth’s Nectar Hair Care Products. Fifteen years ago, during the rebirth of the natural hair movement, the duo opened their first full-service natural hair salon in Houston. Not only did Fletcher and Mack want to improve the health and appearance of their clients’ hair, but they wanted to do so without the use of ingredients that were harmful to people and the planet. So, they launched Earth’s Nectar to advocate for healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable beauty options for all hair types.
Committed to the promotion of environmental sustainability, they have opened their first zero-waste beauty refillery, retail store, and natural hair care salon. Earth’s Nectar Hair Care Products sold in refillable, Eco-friendly packaging. The salon also features a DIY beauty bar where customers can purchase raw beauty ingredients by the ounce.
“Being a Black woman has influenced my journey, driving me to challenge norms and fight for inclusion in spaces where our voices and beauty are still striving to be heard,” Fletcher shared with BE. “The strength and inspiration of Black women, especially my late mother, have shaped my professional journey. Their trailblazing spirit fuels my determination to overcome obstacles. Representation means more than just having a seat at the table; we deserve to (eat) actively participate and make an impact that benefits ourselves and our community.”
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