Oakland-native Rue Mapp is the CEO and founder of the wildly popular community, Outdoor Afro. What started as just a blog from her own kitchen table in 2009, has now evolved into one of the largest spaces for Black people to reconnect with nature and the great outdoors. The national not-for-profit network is present in up to 32 states and impacts the lives of more than 60,000 people annually through in-person outdoor experiences and digital engagement.
"I come from a long heritage of outdoor enthusiasts and was raised by a family who treasured and practiced a connection to nature that started in America’s agricultural South and continued in Northern California, where I grew up," Mapp shares.
Beyond her organization, she's a wife and mother to three adult children. Whether with her family, her networks—or solo—she thoroughly enjoys all types of outdoor recreation such as swimming, kayaking, fishing or whitewater rafting.
"I like to hunt, roller skate, and play golf whenever I can as well," she adds.
EBONY linked up with Mapp to learn more about her work at Outdoor Afro and its connection to sustainability. See what this 2023 Sustainability Power Player had to say.
EBONY: Why is sustainability important to you? How does this reflect in your work/business/brand?
Rue Mapp: Sustainability is more than the care that we should have for our natural resources. It should also start with yourself. I always make sure that I am living a life in balance that gives back and fills my cup more than it draws away, such as connecting with my spirit, family and community, but also doing a vocation that helps more everyday folks realize their potential to lead and have agency in their local communities. My purpose is to connect more people to nature and the healing benefits available for all.
As a Sustainability Power Player, we see you as someone helping to better Mother Earth. Beyond the work mentioned, how do you like to connect with or ground yourself in nature?
I very much enjoy spending time in forests, particularly my local redwoods in the San Francisco East Bay Area. There is so much about this location that is a reminder of what resilience and regeneration can look like, which we all can learn from. So whenever I feel like I need to get grounded in what it means to be connected and regenerative, I go to that forest. I love sharing that same experience with others.
What ways can we also become power players as far as being more sustainable and eco-friendly?
It all starts with raising your awareness of all the incredible nature that is at hand for you and everyone. When you consider how our bodies are primarily composed of water—that the air we breathe may have once been rain—you realize we are an embodiment of nature as the human animals we are. Once you are aware of this interconnectedness of all living and nonliving things, it can shift our perspective to realize and practice the power we all have to find our restoration, healing and joy through our everyday connections to nature, right where we live and no matter our circumstances.
Tell us your all-time favorite sustainable product(s) or gadget(s)?
I’m a big fan of reusable beverage containers. Outdoor Afro has partnered with Klean Kanteen for more than a decade. Through this partnership, I have learned just how little plastic actually gets recycled and winds up in our oceans. If you use a reusable container of any kind and of any brand, you are helping what may seem to be a small way, but collectively, it's a meaningful act that helps keep plastic out of our oceans.