April 19, 2012
By Mando Rayo and Rebecca Leona Wilson
Walking through our neighborhood, you see families, young couples, and locals gathered in front yards, on porch chairs, or at the town square, or "Zocalo." Teenagers and families fill a nearby park, playing sports and running around picnic tables covered in different dishes. Aside from parked vendors on side streets selling local produce and fruit out of their trucks or carts, everyone seems to be walking or on bicycles. You start to smell herbs as you walk up to a market bustling with people buying, trading, and selling fresh food and homemade products. Older women walk by you carrying newly bought goods in their worn redas, the traditional netted market bags. You notice the common practices, the sociability, and the sustainability. This is a traditional Latino neighborhood.
I often come across the assumption that Latinos are not sustainable; that either they are not interested or that these practices are not a priority for them. I disagree. I do believe Latinos are sustainable through practices that are rooted in our culture, traditions, and history.
Among Latinos, sustainability goes back many generations. In Mexico, my grandparents and their grandparents before them practiced self-sufficiency in the farming and cultivation of vegetables, fruit, and the food they needed to feed their families and make a living. In the kitchen, they used fresh herbs and vegetables from the house or neighbor's garden, conserved water by reusing it, and reworked leftover items to reduce the amount of perfectly edible food going into the trash. Old jars and plastic milk containers were reused to store nails, supplies, and piggy banks - literally saving every penny. Family time was spent recycling aluminum cans and old clothing material for arts and crafts projects. In more modern times, the practice of reusing plastic bags and foil paper has become a community-wide practice in order to decrease both spending and waste. These choices, often starting out of necessity, have become traditions and part of our culture. The unwritten law among Latinos and especially those in low-income communities is to save resources where you can in order to provide for your family--conservation out of necessity. This conservation out of necessity has become mainstream as the rule of the "green" movement. Although they may be unaware, the truth is that many Latinos are "green" innovators.
So what does an already "green" culture have to do with marketing sustainable practices to Latinos? Everything! Understanding and acknowledging Latino roots is a key strategy, not only to connect with Latinos but also to market your products and services to this community.
The opportunity exists not in educating this audience about the why or how of sustainable practices, but it exists in the possibility of identifying modern sustainable practices as a favorable twist to their traditional customs. For example, the reda, or netted market bag, is embedded in the Latino mind as a common household item, but the time to maintain or replace one often doesn't exist. What does? Recyclable tote bags. From the abuelita to the today's family, this "new" product can be made to represent the modern vehicle for economical conservation practice if the association is shown through your cultural marketing and outreach.
Make it social
One of the ways Latinos have traditionally practiced sustainability is in combining efforts of families and neighbors to create communities that satisfy all needs. Pot-luck style meals feed extended families, car repairs are done as a neighborhood effort, and social gatherings tend to be outside, in the shade of an old tree rather than in an air-conditioned home. Latinos are social in nature, among family, friends, and neighbors. Projects, meals, and errands are rarely done alone. Even free time is spent in the company of friends and family. This united effort doubles as "green," environmental conservation, often without acknowledgement, among the Latino community. To become part of this common purpose, brainstorm how your product or service can bring together the Latino community under the umbrella of sustainability and security.
Be a Resource and Build Trust
Long-established tight knit and supportive communities have led to loyalty and trustworthiness among Latinos. The acceptance of your brand into this community is long term, and leads to word-of-mouth referrals that will grow your business for you. In honoring the traditions through awareness of the Latino community through the message tailoring of your product or service, you can create relevancy for your brand. By giving Latinos the opportunity to incorporate new practice into their culture with respect to preservation, rather than requiring a lifestyle shift that leaves their traditions in the dust, you'll be inspiring brand ambassadors for life.
Source: Huffington Post