Living Sustainably and Passing on Knowledge

Pearlena and Quita

Mother and daughter Pearlena and Quita Jackson make an impact on each other—and the world

By Savannah Huls

“Encourage, inspire and inform people about the benefits of a simpler, less materialistic lifestyle, and to teach the importance of protecting our natural environment.”

Thus is the mission of Green Desert, which was inspired by an Arizona woman and her family, who are devoted to living the most sustainable life possible and showing others that they can, too.

Green Desert officially launched in 2011, but has actually been present through the initiatives and inspirations of founder, Quita Jackson, since her youth.

Eco-conscious initiatives have been practiced by her entire family, including her mother, Pearlena, who participated in an Eco Fashion Challenge held by Green Living Magazine earlier this year. The duo definitely shares a passion for spreading sustainability. 

Pearlena, a Fashion Designer

In May 2019, Green Living Magazine held an Earth Day Upcycle Design Challenge, where several Arizona fashion designers were selected and tasked with upcycling, creating a piece of clothing by reusing other discarded clothes or materials. Pearlena created shorts and a peplum top with detachable sleeves from two discarded garments—Quita modeled the garment in the competition—and she was awarded runner-up.

The eco-conscious mother-and-daughter make a good pair. Pearlena is an expert at upcycling, while Quita is an expert at growing. They say they have gained inspiration from each other to both pursue their personal passions while implementing sustainability, to which Quita has fully devoted herself. The habits Pearlena instilled in her daughter from a young age quickly turned into a lifestyle for Quita, which led to Green Desert.

Quita, Owner of Green Desert

Green Desert is an eco-friendly non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about how to live a simpler and more sustainable life. Growing up, Quita was taught to never waste anything. She was also taught to be extremely resourceful, which is a word that has been applicable to the women of their family for many generations.

When talking about her mom, she says, “I would describe her as resourceful in any situation, whether it be money, whether it be food…she’s very resourceful and she’s always been that way.”

Quita was also motivated by the way her mother would selflessly give to help others, even when they did not have much themselves. As she got older, she began to see the importance of giving and teaching in a way that allowed people to eventually learn how to do it for themselves. This self-sufficiency concept, along with everything else Pearlena instilled in Quita, inspired many of the values behind Green Desert.

Quita developed a backyard garden in order to create a healthier lifestyle for her family. Knowing food plays such a vital role for the body and overall health, she wanted to be consuming healthy, home-grown food.

How It Began

Growing her own food and raising her own chickens led Quita to become extremely passionate about the planet, as well.

Green Desert initially began as videos that Quita would film and post on YouTube that were essentially “How-to’s,” teaching people how to grow their own food while living more sustainably. Eventually, the videos began gaining in popularity, garnering millions of views. This sparked the launch of GreenDesert.org, providing a name and platform for people to visit. Although its following and interest continued to increase, the mission of the organization remained the same—to educate people on how to live sustainably and lessen their footprint on the earth.

Quita designed Green Desert based on her own manageable backyard garden, because she never wants to grow more than her family needs—only what allows them to be self-sufficient. Going back to her roots, she committed to not letting any food go to waste and to only produce what she can sustain.

Although she could easily choose to expand her garden, remaining small-scale allows her to stay true to her values and practices of being entirely sustainable.

Growing in the Desert

One of these practices includes using only rainwater to water her garden throughout the whole winter season. Expanding beyond her backyard would cause her to have to tap into the City’s water in order to maintain the garden, going against the efforts of Green Desert that value the precious resource of water.

Despite being based in Arizona, through Green Desert, Quita teaches that, “If you can grow it in the desert, you can grow it anywhere.”

Given that there are many setbacks due to the dryness and heat of the desert, Quita has still made it possible to live off her garden and affirms than anybody else can do the same, too. Green Desert was created as a non-profit organization because Quita firmly believes it should be free for people to learn about sustainability, growing, being self-sufficient, and leaving a smaller footprint altogether.

“People shouldn’t have to pay to learn how to treat our Earth better,” says Quita.

Teaching the Next Generation

Quita is intentional about implementing this lifestyle with her three children as well, and encourages them to share this knowledge with their schools and teach their friends. She believes it is fundamental for her children to experience nature and understand the importance of prioritizing the planet.

“Everything is about what you are doing to give back,” she says, explaining that she instills in her kids the idea that they are taking from the Earth, and so should always provide something in return.

Since launching Green Desert, Quita’s entire family has been able to see from experience how crucial it is to take better care of the planet, continuing the lessons her own mom taught her.

And, Quita and Pearlena continue to teach and learn from each other.

“When I learn something, I teach it, and when you learn something, you teach me–that’s just how it’s supposed to go,” says Pearlena.

Quita plans to continue educating others on living sustainably through Green Desert, encouraging them to start with even small steps, as those can also make a big difference.

“None of us are going to do everything, but if everybody does something little, it becomes something huge,” she says. 

To learn more about Green Desert, visit www.greendesert.org.


Savannah Huls is an Arizona-raised writer, traveler, and outdoor-enthusiast working as an editorial intern for Green Living Magazine. She is in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and plans on continuing on to receive her master’s in global journalism. She hopes to one day be able to travel the world and collect stories in order to pursue her passion for writing.

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