• Ariel Green

How to Travel Sustainably and Live Green with Smart Home Technology featuring Ashley Renne

Updated: Oct 18, 2020


Although long distance travel is off the table for many Americans for the foreseeable future, Travel is an important part of so many people's lives. Being able to explore a new place is one of life's greatest pleasures. However, for those of us interested in sustainability, we understand the environmental impacts that travel may bring. I'm so excited to speak to our guest today to learn more about this topic. 


Today's featured sustainable brown girl is Ashley Renne, a photographer, creative director, blogger, and on-camera host with a passion for travel and green living. Ashley's content centers around eco travel, vegan lifestyle, and smart tech. We'll be talking to Ashley about how to travel sustainably (once it's safe to do so), how smart tech ties into sustainability, and her new role as Creative Counsel Board Member for Climate Power 2020.  


Also, I want to let all of the podcast listeners know that we recorded this episode as a video chat, so if you want to watch the video version, find us on Instagram @sustainablebrowngirl and look for the IGTV segment.


Follow Ashley on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heyashleyrenne

Subscribe to Ashley's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/heyashleyrenne

Visit Ashley's website: https://www.heyashleyrenne.com

Check out Rebrand and Reinvent Yourself: https://www.rebrandandreinventyourself.com

Learn more about Climate Power 2020: https://www.climatepower2020.org/


LISTEN HERE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play

Transcription:


Ariel: 

Hello and welcome back to The Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. This show exists to connect black, brown and indigenous women who are interested in sustainability. Our goal is to inspire, encourage and educate each other. From gardening to thrifting to minimalism to veganism, and everywhere in between, we're all on a journey to taking care of our bodies and our planet. I'm your host, Ariel Green. 


Although long-distance travel is off the table for many Americans for the foreseeable future, travel is an important part of so many people's lives. Being able to explore a new place is one of life's greatest pleasures. However, for those of us interested in sustainability, we understand the environmental impacts that travel may bring. I'm so excited to speak to our guests today to learn more about this topic. Also, before we get started, I want to let all of the podcast listeners know that we recorded this episode as a video chat. If you want to watch the video version, you can find us on Instagram @sustainablebrowngirl. Now let's get into it. 


Today's featured sustainable brown girl is Ashley Rene. A photographer, creative director, blogger, and on-camera host with a passion for travel and green living. Ashley's content centers around eco-travel, vegan lifestyle, and smart technology. We'll be talking to Ashley about how to travel sustainably once it's safe to do so. How smart tech ties into sustainability and her new role as Creative Council Board Member for climate power 2020. 


Thanks, so much for joining us today, Ashley.

 

Ashley: 

Thank you for having me. I'm really excited. It's funny when I first started this journey, I felt so alone because I feel like there were other people in my community who were into this kind of thing. And then I discovered people like you and others, and I am just excited so to have a community that understands that this is so important.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, exactly. I'm fangirling because I've been following you for a few years. I found your YouTube channel around the time that you traveled to India and I just love your travel videos so much.

 

Ashley: 

Oh, thank you.

 

Ariel: 

So, yeah. And since then, of course, there's been a few changes in your brand, mainly the name change from travel luscious to your namesake, Ashley Renne. And of course, you've transitioned from more travel-centric content to sustainability content. Can you talk about that transition and what inspired it?

 

Ashley: 

It was definitely scary. Just put that out there. So I started a travel blog, I want to say back in 2014 and traveling was my passion. I've been obsessed with traveling since I was... I want to say 20 when I studied abroad in Egypt. And it wasn't until almost a decade later that I started this little entrepreneur group and we're trying to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives outside of corporate. And we were just going around in circles saying what our interests were and my two interests were travel and video production. My professional background is in video production and my passion was traveling. Everybody was like, "You should start a travel vlog and make travel videos." And I was like, "Oh, that would make sense." That's how I became a travel blogger. Literally born out of this one little entrepreneur group that I was in. And it was so much fun. Even though I was in corporate, every single time I would travel I would bring my camera equipment with me and then I would try to make travel videos out of the destinations that I would visit. 



And it was going really well for a while and then in 2015, I went to Bali in particular and it was the first time I became aware of environmentalism. I was on a beach and it was just littered with trash. And it just never dawned on me before that, that we have such a big pollution problem because most of time when you travel, you visit these beautiful places and they're super clean, of course, because people always want touristic destinations that rely on tourism dollars to look their best. But this particular beach was a more local beach and so it didn't have the same level of scrutiny that say, a resort beach would have. And so, I had a friend with me who was really into sustainability and she started explaining to me all the problems on the planet and just how we are the cause of a lot of it. And that's when it really dawned on me that I wanted to live better and not contribute to the pollution problem because that was really what I had a scope of at that moment. And I just realized that wow! what I do in the United States can affect a country all the way on the other side of the world. She was like, "Yeah," she was like, "Literally every time you litter, every time you buy plastic and just throw it away, it affects the planet, not just in your state, not just in your city, not just in your town, but all around the world." And so that's when it got me thinking and I became really passionate about sustainability. 



But the problem was, over the years, travel was my safe space. I knew it like the back of my hand, it was an industry I understood. People love to travel, people love my travel videos. I was really afraid to start talking about sustainability because I wasn't sure how people would react or respond to me talking about environmentalism. And so for a long time, my personal life really wasn't lining up with my professional life. And then, at some point I finally had the courage to just say, you know what, I want the two to align. I want to start talking about what I'm passionate about. I don't want to just talk about travel, that's not the only thing that interests me. I'm passionate about sustainability, I'm passionate about environmentalism, I'm passionate about plant-based living and I want people to learn about this stuff so, eventually I just completely transitioned and it was a slow transition. I was trying to slowly warm people up to the change because it is a drastic change from what I was doing before but I'm really happy that I did it because I'm speaking my truth and owning what I really want to do and so it's it makes me happy.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, that's awesome. So how do you feel like the response has been to the change?

 

Ashley: 

It was interesting. I remember the very first time I decided to write about what I saw in Bali, this was back in 2015, I wrote my first article for Huff Post. I got dragged online, I got hate mail, I got people commenting on my Facebook page and they were sending me these really mean messages, people found my blog. People did not like me talking about pollution in Bali because I was talking about it from the tourism aspect and saying, "Oh, we as tourists need to do better." And I wasn't covering the whole angle, of course, pollution problems are a result of government, local populations, and tourism. But because I was a travel blogger, I wanted to specifically address how tourists can do better, but people didn't want to hear that. Nobody ever wants to hear that it’s their fault that things are the way they are. It scared me, I was like, "I'm not touching this anymore, I'm going to go back to just posting travel content and playing it safe and being happy and pretending like everything's just beautiful and perfect in the world."



For a while, that's what my content was. It was happy-go-lucky travel content. But then, at some point, I was like, "I can't do this anymore, this isn't what I want to do with my life. I don't want to keep talking about travel and taking pretty travel photos. It's just not me." Around 2019 is when I decided to take the plunge and I said I'm doing a complete overhaul, I'm changing my name, I'm not going to be travel luscious, I'm going to be Ashley Renne, I want people to know my name. At first, it was very slow, trying to get my audience to acclimate to this new content. I definitely lost a lot of people, but it was worth it because any time you go through a transition, any time you go through like an awakening or an evolution of yourself, you're going to lose people because people aren't meant to be with you for every chapter of your life. Some people are only meant to be with you for a season, and that's okay. And you have to be okay with that. And that's why I tell people, anybody who's trying to rebrand themselves or reinvent themselves or change in any way, you have to own it. Because if this is who you are, if you're being true to who you are and you're speaking the truth, you're going to lose people. It's only natural. But the people that you gain who are interested in this new you or this new platform, this new message that you have to share, that's all that matters. You speak to those people and you keep speaking to those people and you just keep on putting out the content and doing the work until you build the new community that you desire. That's what happened over the course of the year. I just really worked on finding my new community and speaking to those people. And I'm really proud of what I built because I feel like I'm finally embodying what it is that I really wanted to to be and I'm really excited about it.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, I can tell how excited you are about it and your content is really exciting too. I'm sure you've gained a lot of new followers in the past few months and whatnot. Even before the whole Amplify Black Voices happened, I could tell that there's been a really big influx of black and brown people interested in sustainability. It's a really exciting time.

 

Ashley: 

Exciting. I do feel like our community is growing that. I love that.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, absolutely. You were talking about rebranding and reinventing yourself. You have a new course that you're going to be launching soon about that. Can you tell us more about it?

 

Ashley: 

Yeah, I'm really excited about it. It's called Rebrand and Reinvent Yourself; rebrandandreinventyourself.com and I was inspired by my own personal journey and just knowing how difficult it can be to make that switch, to make that pivot. And especially being in the middle of this pandemic, I really saw so many people struggling with it, especially in the travel space. I noticed that when all of a sudden, the threat of not being able to travel happened, they felt like their livelihoods were now threatened. And I really wanted people to understand that you are more than just travel, you are not what you do in life, who you are not what you do. I really wanted to come up with a course to teach people to explore beyond what it is they do for a living and learn how to share other parts of themselves. I put together this course to teach people how to rebrand and reinvent themselves so that they don't get stuck in any kind of boxes ever again. I really hope that this helps people learn, all my secrets and all my tricks to building a really solid brand that doesn't necessarily tie you down to one specific topic, but allows people to fall in love with you as a person and not just what you do.

 

Ariel: 

Yes, that is so important, especially because you never know what's going to happen so it's important to be able to pivot at any time.

 

Ashley: 

Yeah, I have a quote, it's my favorite quote. I've always lived by this since I was a little girl, and it was, "It's not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent, it's those who are able to adapt to change." If you can adapt to change, you can do anything.

 

Ariel: 

Absolutely. So true. Going back to travel, we were just saying that travel is off the table for most people right now, especially considering that Americans are banned from most of the world, but...

 

Ashley: 

Right.

 

Ariel: 

Of course, that won't always be the case. And I hear so much about how traveling is not eco-friendly, mainly because of the carbon emissions transmitted by planes and cars. But you're all about sustainable travel and tourism, can you explain what that is?

 

Ashley: 

Yes. So sustainable travel and tourism, it's a lot of different things combined. You can look at it from the transportation angle, how you travel, and yes, of course, planes, the airline industry, they are one of the biggest culprits in the travel sector for pollution and just environmental damage. But you don't always have to travel by plane. There has been this big travel boom in recent years where now everybody wants to travel. Everybody wants to visit the [inaudible 13:32]. I remember seeing this article that said that one of the biggest influences of where people travel; Instagram photos, so people are using Instagram photos and they want to take these Instagram worthy pictures to share with all their friends. And so, there's just been a really big boom and people going to the same places. And now you have an issue of over-tourism and over crowdedness in certain areas. 



There's also the issue of local populations being exploited. There are so many different levels to sustainable travel. There is transportation, there's the damage that it has on local populations, there's the damaging effects on the environment. There are the issues of what you bring into certain countries. For example, our different products even. I remember I went to Hong Kong and they were talking about how the dolphin population is starting to diminish in certain areas because of all of the boat transportation and then the amount of people using like these skincare products that now get into the water and they damage the marine life and the different life and aquatic life inside these rivers. Everything you do has an effect and that's why I always tell people that there is no such thing as zero waste, there's no such thing as zero-impact. Just living, breathing air, we're going to have some sort of impact, but we can do things to minimize that impact. 



In the area of transportation, maybe instead of taking a plane and traveling internationally so much, we cut down on our international travel and we do train travel around our own countries. We get an electric car, we take electric car road trips, we learn to use public transportation more. We get out and we see our own cities and our own towns, our own local beaches. We get out and explore the mountains in our countries. We don't have to necessarily travel to another country to experience exoticism. I think a lot of us are just really drawn to the idea of having this exotic experience or this authentic cultural experience. What does that even mean? There's this phrase or this term. It's called the "tourist gaze." And the tourist gaze basically is a set of expectations that we place on local populations to fit the stereotype of what we think that they should be. So that can be damaging in itself and that's an aspect of sustainability. Imagine like all these tourists going to these different places abroad because they want to have this authentic local experience and it puts pressure on local populations to not advance maybe in ways that they want to, because they have to keep up this image of keeping their ancient cultural traditions when maybe they don't want to, maybe they want to progress forward, but they can't because there's so much money in appeasing these tourists. There's a lot of different layers to sustainability when we travel and it just means paying close attention to the way we travel, how we do it, and just kind of tweaking our habits a little bit, because that's really what sustainability is all about. It's about tweaking your everyday habits and your outlook on life so that we do everything we can to preserve our resources and preserve local populations on the planet.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah. Wow. I never thought about that from the standpoint of preventing a certain culture from advancing because they want to keep that. That is so interesting because sometimes when I look at videos of Mount Everest and everyone goes through that town and you see it and it looks like it really hasn't progressed. It looks like they're still in their own little time frame so that's very interesting to look at it that way.

 

Ashley: 

Yeah, you have a lot of cases of that where cultures are even continuing to do practices that might not even be healthy for them, but because every tourist wants to go there and experience it or see them doing it, they have to because they're pressured to by their governments because it brings in money. And that's a shame we're doing this to people because we want to have an authentic experience, so what does that even mean?

 

Ariel: 

Right. So true. Take more local trips and try to avoid planes. Anything else people can do if they do want to actually go and take that international trip? Are there any other ways that they can be more sustainable?

 

Ashley: Yeah, like I said, in the products that you bring, and it actually mixes in with everyday lifestyle habits. So, for example, instead of bringing in... or so a lot of times when I go to certain countries, I'll bring like a reusable bags, because think about how often you might go to a local market and you want to do like a lot of souvenir shopping. Think about how often you're going to be handed a plastic bag. And so, anything that you can do to cut down on your carbon footprint or your impact on a country, whenever you're traveling through it, bring those good sustainable habits that you have back home with you whenever you travel because, you also want to make sure that you're doing your part to preserve these countries and these local cities that you're visiting, just like you're trying to protect the environment in your own area, make sure you bring those same habits with you when you travel because they deserve to be treated with as much care as you would do your own local town or your own country.

 

Ariel: 

Absolutely. Yeah. Developing those habits, like you said at home and then carrying them with you is definitely a good choice.

 

Ashley: 

Yeah.

 

Ariel: So on your Instagram and YouTube, you make a lot of vegan related content. How long have you been vegan and what made you make the switch?

 

Ashley: 

I've been vegan for 4 years and it was really interesting because I didn't even know veganism was at first, I had no clue. I accidentally went vegan. It was like this natural thing because I started out one day just randomly saying, "I'm cutting out red meat, just for health reasons, I want to be a healthy eater." And then one day I was on Facebook and you know like when you're scrolling through Facebook, videos automatically play and you just can't even stop it from happening. Somebody posted this three-second video and I couldn't stop it even if I wanted to, of these baby chicks being thrown into a grinder alive and I was traumatized and I thought, “That’s it, I'm giving up, all animals and not just red meat. I'm giving up chicken, turkey, all of that. I will be a pescatarian." Because I didn't think of fish as animals, I guess. I was like, "I'll be a pescatarian." I went about a year being a pescatarian and then one day I was just like, "Oh, well, fish have feelings too. If I'm going to stop eating animals, why am I eating fish?" I was like, "Maybe I'm going to be vegetarian. I'm going to give this vegetarian thing a try." I was in Peru at the time and in Peru, they have all these really delicious fruits and vegetables and for protein, they have quinoa. And so, I gave it a try and I realized I didn't miss fish, I didn't miss meat. I had plenty of protein options on a vegetarian diet. And then what happened was, I got home from Peru and somehow, I still don't know how this happened, I accidentally ended up following some vegan person on Instagram. Again, didn't know what it was, because I thought vegans were extremist and hippie and I was like, "Why would you not eat dairy, I don't understand. You're not killing cows or anything." But then when I followed her account and I saw her post, it immediately clicked with me and I understood, I got it. I was like, "Oh, I see why people do it because you're still exploiting animals, even if you're not "eating" them, they're still subjected to these conditions that they didn't ask to be in. And so, when I saw it that way and I saw her explaining veganism from a standpoint of exploitation, that's when it clicked with me. And I said, "Well, you know what, if I'm not going to eat animals, I should stand for no exploitation of any kind." And I was like, "That's it. It makes sense, I'm just not going to stand for it at all and I'm going to go vegan," and I never looked back. 



And for a long time... I was vegan, for the animals, about a year later in 2016, I watched a documentary I think it was Cowspiracy and that's the first time I learned about veganism and the connection to sustainability and I was like, "Oh my God! This aligns with all my beliefs in terms of trying to preserve the earth. I didn't realize animal agriculture was one of the biggest environmental disruptors there were. I feel so proud of myself, I'm glad I went vegan, I'm helping the planet." Yay! And so that's why I started learning about the connection between veganism and the environment and it was so eye-opening, learning about that. And then, fast forward to 2018, that's when I started paying attention to the health aspects of veganism because over time, I realized just how I was benefiting personally. I wasn't really paying attention to it before, but I was like, "Oh wow, my skin is better. I have so much energy." And there are just so many benefits that I was starting to notice and so, that's when I realized if I want to get people to understand veganism, because a lot of people, they don't care about the animal aspect but if you can... because my husband told me this, he's like, "If you want people to care about veganism, you have to talk about it from an angle that people will understand and health is something that people can understand because it affects all of us." He was like, "If you can find an angle to veganism where people can care about it because it affects them directly, you might have something." So that's when I decided to start studying the health aspects of veganism. And this year, I won a scholarship to study plant-based nutrition at Cornell University and I just finished the program this week. 

 

Ariel: 

Wow! Congrats!

 

Ashley: 

Thank you! It's really exciting because now I can educate people, especially in our community, like in the black community, because that's when I really started learning about all the food-related illnesses and diseases that our community specifically suffers from. And I realized that I could help people in my community by talking to them about vegan diets.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah. Like you said, there are so many different reasons that people can become vegan. My family was vegan from the time I was like five for religious reasons. But since then, I've started eating meat and stuff. I'm flexible with it. I try not to eat it too much, but I still do sometimes.

 

Ashley: 

A little bit goes a long way. You don't have to go all the way. Even if you just give it a try and reducing your meat intake, it helps, it helps in a lot of ways. It helps animals, it helps the environment and it helps improve your health as well so that's great.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, absolutely. So now I want to talk about smart technology. That's another big part of your brand and you have videos and posts about your home building process and your electric car. Can you talk to us a little bit about how smart tech ties into your green lifestyle?

 

Ashley: 

Absolutely. When it comes to technology, I feel like if you really want to make an impact on this world, you have to start learning about green technology because technology is what's going to help transition the world overall into a more sustainable future. You're talking electric cars, you're talking solar energy, you're talking energy-efficient homes; these are things we have to start understanding, especially because technology can sometimes be very hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around, especially depending on what generation you come from. My mom, for example, she might struggle with the concept of green technology because there's this whole new thing that she has to learn that she didn't grow up learning. But here's the thing, throughout all of the years that human beings have existed, there has always been some kind of evolutionary period that we've had to go through in terms of enlightenment and transitioning, for example, the industrial revolution, that happened and it required a lot of people to get on board with a really major change. And the same thing, I think with the embracing of green technology, a lot of us are going to have to eventually get on board like this is happening. Electric cars are soon going to outnumber gas-powered vehicles. The sooner we start learning about it, the quicker we can hop on board and be ahead of the game so that when it actually becomes forth and it becomes a normal thing, it won't catch us off guard. 

Right now, I'm not sponsored by Tesla in any way, but I genuinely love the Tesla brand because I see them as one of the most innovative technology companies there is. They're not a car company and everybody thinks that they're a car company, but they're really a technology company. And what they did was just so revolutionary because before Tesla came along, car companies were not trying to make electric cars. They didn't think that there was any money in it, they didn't think that people would get on board with it, they didn't see the opportunity in designing electric vehicles. But when Tesla came on the market and now, we're seeing that Tesla is worth more than some of the top money-making automobile countries there are, car companies are now seeing "Okay, there is money to be made in electric vehicles, we have to get on board. I need to come out with an electric Hummer, I need to come out with an electric luxury vehicle," because they're seeing how well Tesla is doing and how people are responding to it. They're seeing the Tesla stocks go up and Tesla, thankfully, has created an entire network. They are so far ahead of the game; it's going to take the automobile industry a while to catch up because what Tesla has that other car companies don't have is an entire network of supercharging. And so, superchargers are basically charging stations that will charge your car very fast because a lot of people, their hesitation with electric cars is, "Well how will I charge as I go? What do I do on a road trip? There aren't gas stations." There aren't gas stations, but if you have a Tesla, there are what are called superchargers stops where you can stop and supercharge your car. 

I drove my car, I did a road trip from Atlanta to L.A. and it took two days. But yeah, we did it and we did it in an electric car. And what happens with a Tesla, it has an internal navigation system that will route your entire trip through the supercharger network because these superchargers are everywhere. They're not as prevalent as gas stations, gas stations are on every corner. But there are enough supercharger stops located throughout the entire nation so that you'll never run out of electric power. You'll be able to get to your destination as long as you follow that supercharger route. And so, in order for the other car companies to catch up there, probably what's going to happen is start their own charging network. They're probably going to band together, create their own charging network to kind of create something that is kind of along the lines of gas stations but they're for electric cars and they're probably going to build them throughout the country. 

At some point, this is happening, at some point, it's going to be prevalent, it's going to be all over the country and people are going to have electric cars. You're going to have more options, there won't just be Tesla. There will be tons of car companies that sell electric cars and more and more people are going to start doing this. So if we can all start getting on board now, it won't be such a shock to our systems. But green technology is definitely... it's happening, so the quicker you can get on board with EVs and solar, the less of a shock it'll be once it actually starts becoming more and more common. Solar, it's getting cheaper and cheaper with every year. It used to be super expensive, now we've got a seven thousand or eight thousand tax credit because we did solar so we got $8,000 back from the government for implementing solar last year but people should hop on it now because every year that credit starts getting lower and lower and lower. And once more people have solar, that credit is going to completely go away. It's like all the people who are hopping on now in the beginning, they're getting rewarded for that because the government... maybe not our current administration, but the government that was in place before our administration put in these incentives for people to transition to green technology. And so, we're still riding that wave from that era. But I definitely think that if people can get on board with green technology now, it'll be very helpful for the future because eventually, the whole world is going to have to transition.


Ariel: 

Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned earlier that depending on your generation, you may be a little bit slower to transition to green technology, and also too, I feel like depending on your region, you are a little bit slower. So being in Atlanta in Georgia in the South, people are resistant to stuff like that. What have you noticed?

 

Ashley: 

My [inaudible 31:52] neighborhood, for example? And my sister had to laugh because she's from California and she was like, that would never happen here. When I first moved into my neighborhood, we put in a request with our H.O.A. to get it approved for us to get solar panels and they denied us. The only reason why we were able to get away with installing our solar panels was because my husband read that handbook through and through and he found one little loophole that allowed us to get away with it.

 

Ariel: 

Wow!

 

Ashley: 

There was a loophole that that if the H.O.A does not respond within a certain amount of time, it's automatically approved. And it just so happened, that they didn't get back to us in time, so we went ahead and move forward with our plans and we even had a lawyer and everything to double-check that it was okay. But it shouldn't even be that difficult. Why am I being penalized for wanting to be eco-friendly? That is such a backward way of thinking. I really need for certain regions like the South to adjust their mindset and get on board with a more forward-thinking model, because this isn't sustainable. It is not sustainable to keep thinking with archaic mindsets. It's just it's not going to work and it's not going to help our planet in any way, shape or form or fashion.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, absolutely. We really need to get on board, especially in the South.

 

Ashley: 

But our country, in general, is way far behind.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah. I know that there's a lot of different initiatives that have been started, one of which you recently joined, Climate Power 2020. You've joined the advisory board as an environmental activist and sustainability expert. This is an initiative that includes other brown girls, sustainable brown girls, such as Georgia Governor Candidate Stacey Abrams, Rihanna Gunn-Wright the co-author of The Green New Deal and Leah Thomas, who's an intersectional environmental activist who's really active on Instagram.

 

Ashley: 

Yes.

 

Ariel:

Can you tell us more about your role with Climate Power 2020?

 

Ashley:

Yes. Oh my gosh! I remember when they first reached out to me, I was just so excited. I think I just all I saw was Stacey's name and I was like, "Yes, I'm on board. I want to meet her. Can I be her?"

 

Ariel: 

Right?

 

Ashley: 

So excited to see her name on the list I was like, "Yes this is so cool!" And then, that was all I saw,  I just saw of the National Advisory Board member, all the politicians, the political leaders and then they got back to me with the specific board that I was going to be on, which is the Entertainment Board, the Creative Council. And that's when I saw the other names, other climate activists and singers, actresses - Zooey Deschanel. I was like, "Sign me up!" I'm on board. I'm good. I love her. I was a huge New Girl fan.

 

Ariel: Same.

 

Ashley: 

Yes! I was so excited, but even more so, it was just the prospect of being able to join an organization that just aligned so much with my beliefs. And ironically, I remember in the beginning of this year, my husband and I were talking about where I saw myself going down the line and I was like, "Well I want to take this beyond social media. I really want to become an ambassador for sustainability." And I said, "I don't know what that means I have to get involved in politics somehow, I don't know the first thing about politics." But that just goes to show that it doesn't matter what you have experience in, it doesn't matter what you do, if you have a vision for yourself, all you need to do is say it out loud and then work towards it. You can get there. I didn't think at all that anybody would ever take a former travel blogger seriously in this kind of space. 



Because let's be honest, the environment, it can get very political. It is a very political topic given its nature and how it affects so many businesses and how it affects the government and different people who don't want us to transition to a more sustainable future, it can get very political. And so, once I realized that politics might be a part of what I have to get into moving forward, I just accept it. And I said, "I don't care what my background is, I don't care what my experience has been, this is what I want to do, this is what I want to get into and I'm not going to let anybody stop me. I'm not going to let limited beliefs stop me from pursuing that." And so, it just so happened that several months after I made that statement out loud to my husband and myself, I got this opportunity. It was just so incredible to be invited to be on this board. I felt like it was a sign that I was I was really walking the path that I'm supposed to be on and owning it. 



To be on a climate aboard the climate organization, that means that I get to help make decisions. And especially as a black person, I get to help influence decisions about the creative ways in which we talk about climate, who we target, our messaging for climate and make sure that we and our communities are included because that's very important. One of the main things that we've been seeing during the Black Lives Matter movement is, we've been wanting a bigger push for companies, including black voices as a part of their companies, because if you are making decisions about how your company is going to be run, but there are no people of color on your board, there are no people of color who you have employed in your companies, how are you going to ensure that your messaging is reaching communities of color? How are you going to ensure that your messaging is not controversial? Because we've seen time and time again, companies completely messing up with controversial ads that are very offensive towards people of color. But imagine if they had black people working on their boards or on their teams, maybe that wouldn't have happened because they would have had somebody say, "Hold up, that's not a good idea." Maybe don't put a monkey on a T-shirt, that's probably not a good idea, you know what I mean? If you have people who actually understand the culture, working for you then, you have people who can speak up for our communities. But a lot of these companies, they don't hire black people, or they don't hire people of color. I think it's very important what they did, including the voices of brown girls who can make sure that our community's interests are represented for such a very important topic, which is climate action.

 

Ariel: 

Yes, absolutely. So well said. I'm so excited for you to see how all the things you're going to do with that. I guess with the shutdown and COVID, you haven't really been able to do any events. Do you know of anything that's being planned or any things they have planned?

 

Ashley: Oh, yeah, that's the thing. I think this pandemic has really caused a lot of people to shift their ideas of events. Basically, what I'm seeing now is just more events happening virtually versus in person. Yeah, I can't think of anything specifically coming up that I can recommend that people join. I've just been invited to do a lot of lives and a lot of podcasts, keynote speaking and joint panels and stuff, discussing sustainability. I was very honored. I just did a panel with Mashable and it was about sustainable transportation and sustainable tourism, so that was really big to have that access to such a big audience to talk about a topic like this. I definitely feel like sustainability is becoming almost like a buzz word in a sense. Every company wants to be able to say they're sustainable. Every outlet wants to be able to cover the topic. I'm seeing sustainability becoming a much bigger topic for people to discuss and address more and more, so I definitely think you're going to see a lot more events around sustainability and even veganism happening going forward.

 

Ariel: 

Yeah, and like you said, too, it's so important to have the diversity of voices. So being able to have you to serve on those boards and be a part of those talks and whatnot is really important because it's so nice to see people that look like you who are also interested in it.

 

Ashley: 

Yes, exactly. It definitely is and I'll just share a brief story of why this is so important. I was invited to attend it was an EV event and with the electric car community, you tend to see a lot of white faces in the electric community, the electric vehicle community. And so, there's an organization called EVHybridnoire that got started. I'm so proud of what they did because they specifically created this group and this organization to target communities of color and teach them about EV's. They put on this big event in Georgia and I was invited to it and I remember walking into the event and this girl, her name is Brittney. She saw me and she said, "Oh, my God, I'm fangirling right now." And I'm like, "Why?" She said, "You're Ashely Renee." She was like, "You don't understand, I don't see people like you talking about this stuff. You're one of the first people that I've ever come across that actually understands electric cars and talks about sustainability. None of my friends are into this, none of my family members are into this, so I feel like you're just somebody who I can relate to, who actually understands the things that I love." 



And she was so excited, and it made me realize how important it is to have these communities, to have podcasts like yours so that people who look like us don't feel alone. Because it's very easy for us to feel alone when this kind of topic tends to not be targeted towards us. Which is really interesting, because when it comes to climate activism and just climate action in general, I think there's this stigma where people think that it's a white thing, that only white people are interested in climate change or interested in sustainability when that can be further from the truth. In fact, I think one of the fastest-growing demographics of people in the United States who are interested in climate action are black teens because black teens recognize that climate change is happening, and their communities are the ones who are going to be affected first. They are being affected before everyone else is. And it's having the biggest impact on black communities, especially when you think about like weather-related climate change activities. It's happening in the black community. They recognize that it's not just a white thing and so I want black people and brown people and people of color, in general, to know that they're not alone. There are lots of us out there advocating for change and we're providing the resources to help them do that and make that happen.

 

Ariel: 

Yes, I love it! Alright, Ashley, one question before we get to our last question. Where can everyone find you online?

 

Ashley: I am heyashleyrenne everywhere. Say hey! You can find me on Instagram, YouTube. Those are the two platforms where I'm the most active. On YouTube I upload plenty of videos about electric cars, sustainability in general, I also share plant-based recipes to help you on your vegan journey. And on Instagram, it's the same, heyashleyrenne. I post the same topics on there as well.

 

Ariel: 

Perfect. Please go follow her. Her aesthetic is just so beautiful, and she has the best personality, as you can see, so you will not be disappointed. Alright now, last question. What is one way that anyone can be more environmentally sustainable?

 

Ashley: 

One way is to adjust your mindset. Adjust your mindset from a disposable mindset to a reusable mindset. I find once you can start thinking things in terms of a long-term viewpoint versus a short-term viewpoint, you'll start paying more and more attention to how you buy things and how you live your life. Because, for example, even the clothes that I wear, I just have a closet filled with stuff that I've had since college in my early twenties and I'm 34 now by the way and I just have a bunch of classic pieces that don't go out of style and I rent the rest of my clothes. If I want a rotating wardrobe, if I want new clothes, I just use Rent the Runway or NYMC closet. That's a reusable mindset versus a disposable one. Because if you think about it, sustainable fashion, it's a topic that a lot of us need to start thinking about because one of the biggest polluters outside of the agriculture industry is the fast fashion industry. You see a lot of people buying clothes that they're only wearing once or twice and then ends up in a landfill. When you can start thinking about things in a more long-term way instead of short term, convenient and disposable, it will have this domino effect in almost everything that you do and you'll find yourself living a more sustainable lifestyle naturally.

 

Ariel: Yes absolutely. Adjust your mindset. That's a great first step. Alright, thanks so much, Ashley. It was so great having you on here.

 

Ashley: Thank you for having me I'm so excited to be on your podcast. I'm a big fan of yours as well. And I love your videos, too.

 

Ariel: Thank you.

 

Ashley: You're welcome.

 

Ariel: 

Thank you so much for listening to The Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. Be sure to subscribe and share it if you loved it and leave a review. You can find us on Instagram @sustainablebrowngirl and check out our Facebook community, we would love to have you there. Until next time, let's continue to make healthy choices for the health of our planet and the health of our bodies. Thanks for listening.

 


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