10 Black Influencers and Brands Transforming the Sustainability Niche
By Taiwo Balogun
The words “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” have become more popular over the years, and we are thankful for it. As more people are adopting a lifestyle that is environmentally conscious and low impact, we can’t help but notice that the sustainability industry still looks very white, with little representation from Black people and people of colour. The fight for climate justice and racial justice are intersectional, and we simply cannot have one without the other.
To effectively build a better world for everyone, we must be prepared to listen to the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour who are advocating for environmental justice and support their brands – especially the ones that put the environment, ethics, and sustainability at the forefront of their business. Here are 10 Black influencers and brands who are transforming the sustainability niche. We hope you follow, learn, and support them – now and forever – in your journey to a sustainable life.
1. Dominique Drakeford
Dominique is a Black and Indigenous influencer who aims to decolonise the sustainability sphere. She is the chief curator of Melanin and Sustainable Style, a digital platform that celebrates and amplifies the voices of BIPOC communities in sustainable living. She is also the co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn, which works to bridge the gap between the sustainability movement and targeted communities through education and events.
2. Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas is a writer, environmental activist, and the founder of Intersectional Environmentalist (IE), which promotes an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for the protection of both the people and the planet. Leah is also the founder of The Green Girls Co., an e-commerce resource dedicated to an intersectional and more equitable approach to the cannabis industry.
3. A A K S
A A K S is a Ghanaian-based brand that introduces the world to their favorite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana, while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs across Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, A A K S creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts, characterised by bright and exuberant colours.
4. Aja Barber
Aja Barber is a writer, personal stylist, and style consultant. Her work focuses on sustainability, ethics, intersectional feminism & environmentalism, racism and all the ways systems of power affect our buying habits. On her Patreon page, she writes, “Whether or not you believe it, the two (race/intersectional feminism and sustainable fashion) are connected because if you care about all the things which fall under the umbrella of intersectional feminism then you should also care about who makes your clothes, whether they're making a fair wage and what effects fast fashion is having on developing nations.”
5. Omi Woods
Omi Woods makes contemporary heirloom jewelry that celebrates their connections to ‘Africa and her diaspora’. The jewelry pieces are individually and ethically handmade, using fair trade African gold and conflict-free fine metals. The gold is sourced from small-scale artisanal mines that support the wellbeing of miners and their communities. Some of their pieces were worn by queen Rihanna herself on the cover of the May 2020 issue of British Vogue.
6. Addie Fisher
Addie Fisher is a sustainable living content creator and the founder of Old World New, an online blog where she shares sustainable living tips and how to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly one step at a time. On her blog, she covers a variety of topics from creating a paperless kitchen, to the best plastic bag alternatives to greenwashing, and the lack of diversity in sustainability.
7. Earth Toned Collective
Earth Toned Collective (ETC) is a Black-owned sustainable and ethical women’s apparel brand designing with the Earth in mind, via eco-friendly and revived materials. Their approach to sustainability is reflected in their garments, which are manufactured from raw and organic textiles, as well as recycled and deadstock textiles. Earth Toned Collective’s goal is to reduce environmental and social impact by relying on local production and responsibly sourced/recycled materials to produce the garments.
8. Vanessa Nakate
Vanessa Nakate is a climate activist from Uganda and founder of the Rise Up Movement which aims at amplifying the voices of activists from Africa, and 1MILLION Activist Stories, to project stories of climate activists around the world. Vanessa campaigns internationally to highlight the impacts of climate change already occurring in Africa. She was recently named one of BBC’s 100 Women of 2020 for her work as a climate activist.
9. Mikaela Loach
Mikaela Loach is a climate justice activist, podcast co-host, writer, sustainability advocate, and fourth-year medical student. She’s also a prominent figure on Instagram where she promotes sustainable living and ethical fashion, reaching more than 85.5k followers, on issues ranging from climate action, antiracism, migrant rights to intersectional environmentalism.
10. Arami Essentials
Based in Nigeria, Arami Essentials is a natural, cruelty-free beauty brand that is rooted in simple, natural ingredients and wellness traditions from Africa. Arami’s beauty essentials are free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, mineral oil, fragrances, and other harmful ingredients. All products are sourced locally in small batches and in the shortest possible time from harvest to jar, ensuring little waste.