This month, we sat down with Olivia Lapierre to talk about representation within the zero waste movement. Olivia moved to Vermont from Ethiopia, and has become a fierce advocate for representation in the environmental movement. Her culture is partially what sparked her interest in the zero waste movement "many non-Western countries share a spiritual connection to the land. It guides their behaviors and treatment of the planet." Living zero waste provides her with a context to harness this connection while learning to coexist with our environment, simultaneously meeting her needs and the planet's needs.
Olivia is an ambassador for Be Zero in Vermont, focused on connecting with populations and communities that are not actively engaged in climate activism in order to create a space for everyone to be involved in sustainability. She teaches workshops and tables at community events where she talks about action steps people can take to reduce their waste and teaches people how to make products themselves with less wasteful ingredients.
When she's not out in the community, you can find her writing about representation in the movement. She's written a few pieces for Loam Magazine and is curating a series on Instagram called Representation Matters, a movement-building series centered on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color's (BIPOC) voices and work within the realm of sustainability. Representation Matters highlights the work of BIPOC: who they are, what they do, and what they want people to get out of the work they're doing. "[I want to] inspire and encourage black and brown people who are not already engaged that there is space for them in this movement. [I also want to] pressure white people that the work BIPOC are doing is important and worthy of acknowledgement."
Through this work, she's pushing those of us involved in the zero waste movement to be more vocal about denouncing white supremacy and systems of suppression and to actively work to dismantle them. She'd like to see more intentionality around creating spaces for BIPOC without tokenizing or fetishizing them, or expecting them to educate others on how to be more inclusive and representative.
To learn more about her work and to see her Representation Matters series, check out Olivia's Instagram. Want to read about more folks doing awesome work in our community? Check out past Community Member Spotlight stories here.