More content creators are taking to social media to address the need for eco-friendly practices at home.
I spoke with Latino TikTok content creators who are teaching their audiences daily eco-habits that are simple and inexpensive to develop, while also sharing in-depth knowledge about the science behind climate change on their account pages.
“I hope to spread awareness about issues involving the climate crisis and inspire people to take action,” said Alex (@ecofreako), a Mexican-Colombian in college studying environmental science. “There’s a lot of pessimism on the news and social media, and I want to provide a hopeful outlook.”
Alex’s videos mainly focus on environmental legislation and why more environmental advocacy is needed.
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“Corporate companies can be held accountable when groups get together to demand change for sustainable and ethical practices This can be done through boycotts and petitions,” he said.
He hopes conservationists turn their daily green practices into legislation.
Pulaso (@pulasu.co), a Colombian immigrant content creator and business owner, advises the introduction of sustainability to relatives first: “It starts with talking to your family about what climate change is or starting a movement with your younger siblings.”
The use of plastic containers, clothing and furniture fabrics made from microplastics, and the frequent purchase of non-recyclable goods are common practices that are harmful to the ecosystem and contribute to the growth of landfills and polluted water.
Isaias Hernandez (@queerbrownvegan), is a content creator whose favorite topic is showing users how to repurpose home products. For example, he filled empty bottles and cans with soil for planting herbs, reused them for food storage or composting, and turned old t-shirts into dish rags.
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In one video he takes viewers to a refill store where shoppers bring their own containers and fill them with goods such as beans, lentils, deodorants, moisturizer, and shampoo to prevent packaging waste.
Isaias credits his parents, who are Mexican immigrants, for inspiring his interest in sustainability. “They were big on emphasizing the concept of maximizing, which is upcycling natural materials,” he explained.
His mother taught him how to pickle hot chili peppers, a skill he later applied to other vegetables like cucumbers to extend their shelf life. Like many immigrants, they learned how to cut costs in a new country by finding ways to make products last longer.
His parents initially taught him these frugal habits to save money—until he realized they were also helpful in fighting climate change.
“My goal is to provide a beginners environmental education to people from low-income backgrounds that may not see themselves as modern day environmentalists,” he said.
Isaias wants users to know they do not need to purchase costly eco-friendly projects or be experts on climate change to participate. “It’s not so much about buying products, but creatively redesigning your relationship with how you use them,” he explained.
He traces the zero-waste lifestyle to the Aztecs, who made products that were not harmful to the environment, such as clothing made from organic fiber. They also locally sourced their food.
“Indigenous people set examples for how to use natural resources instead of depending on manufactured products,” he said.
Other recommendations from Alex, Sally Garcia (@callmeflowerchild), and Jessica (@plantawhisperer) included reusable menstrual cups and sanitary pads, mattresses made from cotton and wool, and thrifting for a new wardrobe. Energy-saving mini solar panels can be hung on a window and be used to recharge electronic items. Soap and shampoo bars that save packaging waste are examples of inexpensive products to purchase.
Sally, who works at a National Park nonprofit, says her favorite activity is thrifting. Her account features outfits she has repurposed for new wear.
Once she read about garment worker rights and fast fashion’s detrimental effects on the environment, she realized thrifting was a better alternative to purchasing new clothing. Like Isaias, she also grew up in a Latinx immigrant household where her parents found ways to cut costs and make the most of what they had.
The fast fashion industry has grown rapidly during the last decade. The average number of times clothing is worn has decreased in comparison to the numbers of clothing produced annually. Over 90 million tons of clothing go to waste per year, and microplastics in fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, pollute sewage systems and waterways. Rayon, viscose, and modal fabrics have wood-based fibers responsible for wood depletion.
Clothing made from green materials, certified with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and researching brands that treat wastewater are methods to find non-polluting clothing.
“I know that brand-new ethical clothing comes with a price,” Sally admitted. “It is expensive and can be out of people’s budget.”
Sally says thrifting is an affordable way to practice sustainable fashion. She modifies clothes she thrifts or has in her closet for new wear.
“As long as you keep your clothing in circular motion, you can recycle it and keep wearing it. You don’t have to afford a $300 shirt to be sustainable,” she explained.
Sally learned about hemming, button-sewing, and cloth-dyeing from online video tutorials. Her latest interests are natural dyeing methods from onion skins and avocados.
Another suggestion Sally gives is organizing a clothing swap with friends. “You can have snacks and connect with others who also share common interests,” she said.
She hand-washed her clothes to extend their wear and chose air drying over using a dryer, both fuel-efficient methods which reduce the amount of plastic microfilaments that enter sewage systems. When these fabrics are washed, they release microplastic pollutants into the laundry water that make their way to the ocean. An estimated half a million tons are thrown into the ocean each year according to recent stats.
Pulasu’s interest in environmental conservation began after her grandfather was displaced from a reservation. On her TikTok account, she talks about the Wayuu, a Latinx indigenous people: “I’ve seen it in every Indigenous culture that I’ve been around in Colombia. Their life is simple, in tune with nature, and they use the resources they have.”
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To help her community, she purchased hand-woven handbags from Indigenous women and sold them on her website. The profits were then donated back to their communities.
These content creators are aware of the urgency for environmental preservation. They use their knowledge as Latinx immigrants and their Indigenous ancestry to teach users of all ages and backgrounds about the importance of eco-friendly products and practices, believing that sustainability begins at home.
“I feel like Indigenous people all over the world are the real caretakers of the planet,” said Pulasu. “They’ve known Mother Earth for a long time. Their ancestors have passed down the knowledge of how to take care of her.”
Yesica Balderrama is a journalist and writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on WNYC, NPR, Latino USA, PEN America, Mental Floss, and others. Twitter: @yesica_bald