What’s The Connection?
When groups faced with struggle are prompted to examine the systemic issues of the world around them, the scope of one effort can become interconnected with another. When we lack a stable connection to the environment, oftentimes that surfaces in our relationships with one another. To isolate oneself from their ecological environment in turn can blind them from the systemic issues at hand as the many movements merge into one of the same.
There is a beautiful connection between the ways in which the people who choose to stand up for the rights of the people around them are inherently more aware of their direct and conceptual surroundings, therefore the environment. While there has to be a total paradigm shift in the ways that the LGBTQ+ community is treated as well as the way the environment is treated, it only makes sense that the two happen simultaneously with members of each movement hand in hand. Manuela Ladu, Branding Director at Terra Thread, argues that “our lack of connection to the environment and in turn towards each other strengthens the notions of ‘othering' both nature and people. LGBTQ+ are confronted with the restrictions set upon us by society in a manner which brings about an understanding and consciousness of our disconnection.”
Green Washing and Rainbow Washing
At the forefront of these matters are environmental educators like Isaias Hernandez (@queerbrownvegan) who is an advocate for human, animal, and environmental rights while highlighting their interconnectedness that is inherent in each of the separate movements. Hernandez creates informative content on instagram that elaborates on issues of environmental injustice alongside various human rights movements such as cultural displacement, the biodiversity crisis, and sustainable choices.
By now, many of us are familiar with the term ‘Green Washing’ as it is a plague to the innocent and well-intentioned beginners of mindful consumerism. Green Washing, also known as “green sheen”, is when a company alludes to conveying a false impression of environmental consciousness as a marketing tactic. A prime example of this would be the “cruelty free bunny” placed on the label of many cleaning and cosmetic products. There are three official cruelty free logos (Leaping Bunny, Caring Consumer and CCF Rabbit according to Cruelty Free Kitty) meanwhile the others are used to lure morally driven consumers who may have not done the full background check on the product. This happens often with products that are labeled with words such as “clean” or “natural” when there are no standards for putting this name on a product and, oftentimes, when you turn the product around and read the ingredients list, both the toxicologist and environmentalist are sorely disappointed.
Hernandez defines ‘Rainbow Washing’ also known as ‘Pink Capitalism’ as a strategy that brands use to “market their intent to be allies to the Queer communities in the hope of gaining monetary sales for June” (What Is Rainbow Washing?). It is disheartening to see that Pride is generating a large profit for cities and businesses alike meanwhile the turnover the Queer community is minimal in comparison - this reminds us to be conscious consumers and demand more transparency from brands.
Through the years, especially as Pride celebrations have grown, Rainbow Washing has taken on new heights. We are seeing both small and big businesses alike attempting to use rainbows and glitter to gain monetary advancements during the month of June. While some of the top offenders show support for Pride month on their social media platforms and content creation, these deeds have been overshadowed by the fact that they have made generous donations to anti-LGBTQ+ legislators. According to Human Rights Campaign, 2021 is setting out to be the worst year for LGBTQ+ legislature (2021 Slated To Become Worst Year for LGBTQ).
Human Rights Campaign President, Alphonso David, stated that, “hundreds of bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country that attempt to erase transgender people and make LGBTQ people second class citizens. In order to achieve equality, we need those in positions of power at the largest businesses in the country to rise up against injustice and discrimination”(David). David notes that businesses need to embrace a certain social responsibility for contributing to these legislative actions that are systemically and socially hindering the LGBTQ community.
This is not to say that all Pride products are made with an ulterior motive other than a genuine celebration, though it is important to look at the receipts - who is really making an effort to support the queer community long term?
@WhoMadeMyPrideMerch - a campaign founded by Izzy McLeod (@muccycloud) - is already on this wavelength. #WhoMadeMyPrideMerch is calling out major players in the industry for making Pride Merchandise and ‘Rainbow Washing’ products for the month of June without making a proper longstanding commitment to supporting the queer community. These companies are attempting to utilize the power of the pink pound - whether their intentions are fair or not will be revealed by which companies decide to make a change towards a more sustainable product.
While some of these companies are donating proceeds to benefiting LGBTQ+ charities, they are lacking the transparency a consumer needs to make a conscious choice about the product. Consider the means of production, the people involved, and the environmental impact every step of the way. This lack of transparency with who is involved in the production of these products as well as the general supply chain is causing for a stir within the queer and environmental justice communities.
This brings us to the notion of ‘The Pink Pound’, which @WhoMadeMyPrideMerch defines as “the collective purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community” (The Pink Pound). The Pink Pound was initially a term created to define the relationship between the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community and political swing though it has transformed into an all encompassing way to describe the consumer power of the LGBTQ+ community. Dr. Justin Bengry, MA Queer History, of The British Academy wants us to know that “it’s a lot more than you think it is”(The pink pound’s hidden history).
The Pink Pound and A Green World
While mass marketing schemes have sought to deploy the use of the pink pound, especially during the month of June, there will be a set-back as the ideals of #WhoMadeMyPrideMerch and overall mindful consumerism rightfully gate-keep the precious purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community. Businesses have been unmistakably aware of this buying power for decades now - by refusing to allow funds to be funnelled into these half-hearted measures to support the LGBTQ+ community, businesses are forced to make timely and necessary change.
Call For Change
With activists like Isaias Hernandez and Izzy McLeod, there is no telling what weight the pink pound can have. For big businesses that have used Pride month as a marketing tool, the pressure is on to make morally just and sustainably informed decisions in their company practices. As the market continues to reflect the demands of the people, the companies who choose to sweep unsustainable practices under the rug will soon fall behind. While we are dependent on large corporations to make sustainable decisions in our efforts to alleviate the detrimental effects of climate change, this will never undermine the powerful effects of our purchasing power in our daily lives.
It is ineffective to elaborate on the powerful effects of purchasing power and sustainable production without emphasizing the fact that marginalized communities, including BIPOC queer individuals around the world, are disproportinally effected by the climate crisis. While this is discussion worth more than a few words, it is crucial to note that by supporting these initiatives that are sustainable and actually committed to supporting the queer community, we are in turn alleviating some of the detrimental effects of climate change that can hit our beloved BIPOC queer individuals the hardest.
“How About A Pride Collaboration That Actually Supports The Queer Community?”
All this is not to say that all companies who celebrate Pride are doing so in a way that is harmful to the environment. In the words of intersectional environmentalist and drag queen, Pattie Gonia (@pattiegonia), “how about a pride collaboration that actually supports the Queer community?”
Pattie Gonia teamed up with Pela Case, creators of the world’s first 100% compostable phone case, to make 4 Pride-themed phone cases and pledged to donate $25,000 to Brave Trails (@bravetrails) - a summer camp for LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and AAPI youth. Alongside a product and a promise, Pattie and Pela encouraged people to celebrate pride by getting into nature and celebrating Earth, promoting a waste-free pride, and loving yourself for exactly who you are.
This is how you celebrate Pride in a way that is driven by a love for all the interconnected ecosystems on our planet. Not only has the queer community seeing direct and transparent contributions towards their efforts, but there is care being taken for the other systemic issues of the world. If we lack a proper connection with the natural world around us, the absence may be reflected in our relationships with the people around us.
Here at Terra Thread, we have created a limited design in celebration of all love, gender expression and identity to honor our LGBTQ+ families and communities. Each purchase will contribute to a direct donation in support of the LGBTQ+ community in India, where our products are produced. Terra Thread has pledged to donate this sum to a well-founded organization working to support, empower and uplift the LGBTQ+ community in India.
Terra Thread is dedicated to providing conscious consumers who care about their impact on the world, with the best sustainable bags. Ethically and sustainably made, our limited Pride design is available on our sustainable toiletry bag, makeup pouch, and a large canvas tote bag. All products are made with certified Fairtrade organic cotton, improving the lives of cotton farmers and producers in India as well as their natural environment. All our products are processed in line with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), in a Fair Trade certified factory, with the highest social and environmental standards. They are also carbon neutral and support Feeding America by helping donate meals to kids and families in need.
Not only are these limited-edition designs supporting the queer community, but each product is created with the purpose of making a difference in the world, for people and the environment.
Towards A Green Future, Together
We can support the community beyond abiding by the traditional purchasing habits of Pride month. We can commit ourselves to using our purchasing power for good - to ensuring that these pink pounds and dollars are being put towards companies and initiatives that support a green future. By ensuring that we are mindful of the impact our choices have, we are working towards a more harmonious future - one that sustainably supports our LGBTQ+ family and the Earth we live on.