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Opinion: Every Day is ‘Earth Day’ When You Are Latino

7:31 AM PDT on April 22, 2022

tacos-el-toro tupper

It was a chill Saturday night as I made my way to Tacos El Toro in Montebello, excited to grub on some tacos al vapor. I roll up to their stand, greeted by a small crowd waiting for their order and the delicious smell of the meat being steamed up. I walk up to the taqueros and put in my order, but I ask them for a favor in Spanish. “¿Puede poner los tacos en mi tupper?/Can you put the tacos in my tupperware?” 

I still remember the raised eyebrows and looks of WTF I got from those around me as I pulled out my Tupper from my tote bag and handed it to the taquero. “Claro que si/Of course,” replied the vendor as I paid and stepped back to wait for my order. It was one of my proudest moments of señorismo, putting into practice all those lessons I was taught as a kid to be resourceful and not wasteful, not because we were climate-conscious, but because we were trying to save money. Or, in this case, saving the taquero money, even if just a few cents. Algo es algo (something is something). 

For some of us, those skills and lessons in cultural frugality have become part of our everyday lives. But what is seen as being resourceful by one community is called “environmentalism” by others. Latino communities, along with Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the U.S., don’t get the respect they deserve for being stewards of the environment, especially given that most of the time, we’re the ones living next to some of the most toxic and polluted neighborhoods in the country. Labeling it “environmentalism” and flaunting it is about privilege.  

It's OK to bring your own reusuable containers for lunch, too.
It's OK to bring your own reusable containers for work lunch, too. Photo by Erick Huerta for L.A. TACO.

On the flip side of that coin, people's social shaming and humiliation for practicing their señorismo in our own communities also contribute to wastefulness in a capitalist society. For example, the viral video of a señora pouring mole into their Tupper at a party. I was laughing when I first watched it, but as I kept sharing it with friends, I realized how I could relate to them and have no shame in being that person that takes their Tupper with them to pack leftovers. People are already in the habit of taking their own pots and trays when picking up birria, menudo, and carnitas for the family, so why not practice that anytime you can? 

It isn’t easy to bridge our disconnection with the waste that we create because we don’t interact with it directly. The same goes for understanding how recycling works. Decades of lobbying and propaganda campaigns from industries and oil companies have conditioned us to think that we're doing our part for the environment by simply separating our trash into different bins. 

...if a minor inconvenience today means a couple of fewer pieces of trash tomorrow, I’m down.

Will taking my Tupper to a taco truck make a significant impact? Probably not. Taking shorter showers to conserve water may help reduce the water bill. Still, it’s a literal drop in the bucket compared to the industries growing crops, raising cattle, and bottling water for purchase at our grocery stores. Climate scientists are literally getting arrested for trying to raise the alarm as the doomsday clock to our man-made extinction inches closer to midnight. It may feel like alarmism, but the time for conscious consumerism and recycling has come and gone. The prioritization of profits over people and the environment have caused irreversible harm to the planet and fucked over future generations. Nothing short of hella drastic changes in how we live as a global society will slow down things. 

That change will not happen overnight, so in the meantime, we’re just going to have to live, love, and laugh our way through life while carrying our tote bags and Tuppers everywhere. It’s challenging and expensive to be as climate-conscious as possible. While I may take my tote bags to the store, my driving to that store is contradictory. Things like that happen regularly, and it becomes exhausting if that’s all you focus on. So instead, focus on how good it makes you feel to do those little things like taking your Tupper to the taquería in your tote bag that you got at a zinefest, or that time when you rode your bike instead of driving! 

Whatever brings you joy in these hard times. In the meantime, I’ll continue to vibe in my señorismo because if a minor inconvenience today means a couple of fewer pieces of trash tomorrow, I’m down.   

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