Environmental and social justice activist Freweyni Asress of Gondar, Ethiopia runs the Instagram account @ZeroWasteHabesha, with which she documents her progress toward a zero-waste lifestyle, alongside encouraging and facilitating conversations on topics such as Black ecology, race, and colonization. Defined by academics J.T. Roane and Justin Hosbey, “Black ecology” attempts to summarize the idea of Black and African diaspora communities, particularly in the Southern United States, being some of the most vulnerable areas in the United States affected by ongoing climate change. In addition to the definition outlined by Roane and Hosbey, Asress argues that discussions of Black ecology can been employed as opportunities to reevaluate current and past relationships between Black people and the lands they occupy. She says her thinking on these issues related to her fond memories of her grandmother’s farm near Gondar.
Since its conception in 2016, Asress’s account @ZeroWasteHabesha (Habesha is a term used to collectively refer to Ethiopians and Eritreans) has amassed an audience of over 20,000 followers. With her platform, Asress strives to change how environmental movements are perceived by the Black and African diaspora communities via education. By shifting the discourse from white-centered narratives regarding health and wellness, Asress and other activists with similar sentiments, hope to refocus on the history, progress, and empowerment of Black and brown communities. @ZeroWasteHabesha provides its followers with reading lists that explore Black indigenous culture, Black culinary history, and Black geography.
Asress is currently based in Washington D.C. and devotes her time and efforts to mentoring and motivating the younger generations at the D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center there and in nearby Baltimore. She is also a community curator and organizer working especially in the large Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in the Washington D. C. metropolitan area. Her passion for sustainability stems from her experiences on her grandmother’s farm in Gondar as well as her own education about the relationship of Black people to land and especially the appreciation her Ethiopian ancestors harbored for the natural resources surrounding them.