It's not that Ramata D. doesn't want to dine on the organic food extolled by the green movement. She just doesn't earn enough green to buy it.
The 27-year-old mother of two says the wage she earns at a southeast Seattle clothing design store requires she rein in her family's food costs. She'd buy more healthy meat and fresh produce if both were less expensive, and if there were produce stands around her New Holly neighborhood.
"If I purchase organic [food] in the middle of the month," Ramata said, "I wouldn't have the money for any fresh fruit and vegetables at the end of the month."
Ramata is not alone. A new report reveals many women living in neighborhoods like Rainier Beach and Skyway say a lack of money, not a lack of desire, is keeping them out of the so-called "green economy."
Of the 212 southeast Seattle women surveyed in a report, "Women in the Green Economy," issued by the nonprofit Got Green, 40 percent said that access to healthy fresh food, for themselves and their families, is a top priority. Yet 33 percent of all women surveyed earn less than $12,000, limiting the type of foods the women can afford. (By comparison, 12 percent of Seattle's total population earns less than $12,000.)
For other surveyed women, direct access to healthy food affected their choices. Nearly a quarter of the women said the location of grocery stores and produce stands, far from where they lived, proved a barrier. For another 18 percent, organic or healthier fare simply wasn't available nearby.
But the report indicated that for southeast Seattle women, lack of access to healthy food wasn't the only obstacle to going green.
Nearly a quarter of the women wanted to live in greener, more sustainable housing. Of particular concern was the presence of mold in their current houses and apartments, which lack proper ventilation. Household mold has been linked to respiratory illness in children. The women said their current financial situation made living in green housing unattainable.
A fifth of the survey respondents wanted a green job, such as energy auditing, but felt that lack of training hampered their efforts. They also said that, more often than not, green jobs went to men instead of women.
For the 17 percent who found transportation to be a roadblock to being green, they derided a mass transit philosophy that seeks to get commuters out of cars. Got Green found many of the surveyed women didn't own cars, so the nonprofit deemed them "less petroleum-dependent already."
Some women, however, praised Metro's bus transfer policy. With a transfer, the women can get off one bus, spend 90 minutes shopping or picking up kids from childcare, and then board another bus -- all for one fare.
These same women took issue with Sound Transit, which opened Link Light rail stations in the Columbia City, Othello and Rainier Beach neighborhoods in 2009. Sound Transit doesn't offer transfers and charges a fare for each ride.
The report makes numerous recommendations to bring these women more fully into the green economy, including increasing opportunities for the region's farmers to sell their local food in area "mini-markets," supporting the city's programs for home weatherization and developing policies that allow the city's southeast residents to impact transit policy.
But one recommendation bears a sentiment that echoes on nearly every page: "To reach low income and women of color, the environmental movement needs to stop exclusively talking about the health of our planet and instead start talking about -- and promoting policies -- that improve all families' health."
"Right now," she said, "I'm just struggling so my family can eat healthy."