Green Is the New Black

City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for civil rights for all American people.

He believed that everyone should have equal rights. As a result of Dr. King’s passion and perseverance, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 were signed into law. Both the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. They ended unequal application of voter registration requirements, housing discrimination and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the public.

Dr. King’s unwavering fight for equal rights laid the foundation for many other movements. One that is especially important today is the environmental justice movement. Dr. King’s work paved the way for environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. In 2019, before taking office, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called fighting climate change “the civil rights movement of our generation.” With studies showing climate change affecting communities of color and lower-income areas at a disproportionate rate, whether it be natural disasters or chronic illness, her statement could not be more true.

Luckily, we all can take small steps to combat climate change and promote environmental justice for all. Three simple actions that you can implement immediately are:


  1. Upcycle, reuse, compost and recycle. Simple actions such as upcycling (aka DIY projects), reusing and composting can go a long way. Upcycling can give new life and charm to your living space. Examples include using metal trash cans as planters, using wooden pallets as shelving units or using old shutters as a headboard.


Not sure if composting is worth the hassle? Did you know that food waste is the number one item in household trash in America? Simply composting your leftover food scraps lowers your carbon footprint and reduces methane gas emissions.


  1. Reduce the use of environmentally harmful products, such as single-use plastics and Styrofoam. Plastic debris clogs street drains, litters the ground and even ends up in our water system, soil and eventually the food we eat. It is predicted that by 2050, the mass of plastic in the world’s oceans will exceed the mass of all the fish that live there. Switching from plastic water bottles and bags to reusable thermal bottles and cloth bags are easy swaps that can make a big impact.


Another commonly used and extremely harmful material is Styrofoam. Styrofoam takes more than 500 years to break down, is not recyclable and is likely unable to be reused. There are many alternatives that can be used instead of Styrofoam, such as glass/metal storage containers and cardboard. Just say no to Styrofoam!


  1. Dispose of all items properly. Making sure your unwanted items are disposed of properly is the first step to going green. For instance, throwing a non-recyclable item in your recycling bin could result in an entire load being contaminated and ending up in the landfill. With recycling regulations constantly changing, it is understandable that you might be unsure about where items should go. The City of Charlotte Solid Waste Service has a tool to answer your questions. The Waste Wizard is a web-based application that allows you to search any item and find out how to dispose of it properly. The Waste Wizard can be found at

What Dr. King’s fight taught us is that civil rights are involved in not only racial inequity, poverty and politics, but also human rights such as health. A clean environment is a human right. Every person deserves clean air, soil and water. We all must do our part to ensure this.