Our Commitment to Racial and Environmental Justice
When we started The Denim Gene in July of 2019, we committed to donating 5% of our profits to an organization that fights plastic pollution in our oceans. Recently, it has come to our attention that environmental and racial justice are tightly intertwined. We will be shifting our focus to environmental racism. As of June 2020, we will be donating 5% of our profits to the ENRICH (Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health) Project at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.
The ENRICH project addresses environmental racism faced by Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities. Their mission is to support these communities through community-based research and engagement. Currently, there is limited Canadian-based research on health risks associated with environmental racism.
When we started The Denim Gene, we learned about the toxic effects of fast fashion on the planet, but with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we have now come to learn that fast fashion can only exist through racial oppression. We also recognize that the effects of pollution weigh more heavily on marginalized communities. Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada are far more likely to live in polluted areas, and we cannot ignore the role that the garment industry has played in this reality. The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry next to oil (Sweeny, 2015). Twenty per-cent of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dying of textiles (United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashion), and about 85% of clothing ends up in landfills (World Wear Project). The reality of environmental racism is this: Black and Indigenous people are more likely to live near landfills and industrial plants that pollute their water and air and are thus at a higher risk for developing cancer and respiratory illnesses compared to their white counterparts.
We speak about making an environmental impact through shopping second hand, but we also need to address environmental racism, and the inequities that exist in fashion, sustainability, and the vintage community. Racism, discrimination, cultural appropriation and tokenization of marginalized people are still prevalent in the fashion industry. The murder of #SayTheirNames George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin Salau, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Bothman Jean, and countless others have changed our understanding of just how prevalent racism is; even today, even in Canada. We are privileged to be educating ourselves about these issues rather than experiencing the violence firsthand. Donating 5% of our profits to The ENRICH Project is our way of maintaining our commitment to #BlackLivesMatter. We will continue to put in our effort to share and uplift Black, Indigenous, Trans, Queer and marginalized voices. We believe that it is important to voice these issues.
If you would like to learn more about the ENRICH project run by Dr. Ingrid Waldron at Dalhousie University, you can watch her documentary on Netflix (co-produced with Ellen Page): There’s Something in The Water. We highly recommend it! You can also visit the website to learn more at https://www.enrichproject.org/
Sweeny G (2015). It’s the Second Dirtiest Thing in the World and You’re Wearing it. AlterNet. Accessed from <https://www.alternet.org/2015/08/its-second-dirtiest-thing-world-and-youre-wearing-it/>
The Enrich Project. Accessed from <https://www.enrichproject.org/>
United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashion and The SDG. Accessed from <https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/timber/meetings/2018/20180716/UN_Partnership_on_Sustainable_Fashion_programme_as_of_6-7-2018.pdf>
World Wear Project. Accessed from <http://worldwearproject.com/about-us/global-responsibility>