Minimalist Me: Food

Buying groceries can be challenging for me because I have this mental checklist, a criteria that I base my decision on, before buying something. Ideally, it should be organic or natural, environment-friendly, locally produced, and has less packaging.

I always check the ingredients list. If I recognize most of the contents, none of those words you can barely read, then I’ll buy it. I used to eat a lot of junkfood but now, I mostly eat fruits and nuts for snacks! Occasionally, I buy sweets and pastries but I’m also trying to lessen my sugar intake (and the same goes with salt).

I remember a chef saying that you should train your tongue to eat real food. Kids hate veggies because early on, they get used to artificial food bathed in too much salt or sugar or flavoring. Once your tongue gets used to natural flavors, you’ll realize how, most of the time, the food being served is too salty or too sweet.

For me, minimalism in terms of food could also mean lesser meat and more plant-based diet. It is ranked as number four among climate change solutions. Reduced food waste is third in the list so no to food waste, please.

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Minimalism is about mindfulness. Being mindful about the food we put in our bodies is something we should strive for. We should change the mindset that eating healthy is a punishment or is a way of robbing yourself of the good stuff because it’s not.

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War on Plastic

Summer is almost over but in a country where we have really nice beaches, it might as well be summer all year round. But our oceans are now choking in plastic. Heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s an accumulation of ocean plastic and garbage, which to date, is three times the size of France, and it’s getting bigger!

Why don’t we just clean it up? Not as easy as it sounds. There’s the issue of cost, distance, and effects of photodegradation (sunlight reducing plastic to smaller bits making them even more difficult to clean up).

Plastic is deemed evil for a reason (i.e. toxicity, pollution, etc.) but its usefulness in terms of food safety and food preservation is undeniable. A Quartz article explains that “Plastic is the symptom. Our centralized food system is the disease.” And a systemic issue will take time to be resolved.

One thing we can already do, however, is to start getting rid of unnecessary plastic. The good thing is more and more people are becoming aware of this. A lot of efforts are now being done to tackle the challenge.

There’s the ban of single-use plastic in some cities and municipalities, even among corporations. People are refusing straws and are opting for better alternatives – paper straws, bamboo straws, metal straws, and glass straws. There’s even a collapsible and seaweed-based edible straw. Speaking of edible, an alternative plastic bag made from cassava can be eaten or is compostable (as opposed to the oxo-degradable bags which just break down into micro plastics).

A growing group of individuals are starting to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle bringing re-usable bags, and jars, and containers when they go shopping; and re-filling their re-usable water drinking bottles instead of buying bottled water.

We have all these better options and it’s such a simple decision to make. It’s a matter of saying yes to the simple solution with big impact and letting go of the attraction of convenience.

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Halo-halo in the mountains with a re-usable container.

Musings on the ALGOA Organic Foundation Course

With people becoming more concerned of the state of the environment, who are also clamoring for safe and healthy food, the organic movement is slowly gaining attraction worldwide.

I got to learn more about the movement when I participated in the 2018 Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) Organic Foundation Course. ALGOA is a project initiated by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)- Asia.

This year, there were 27 participants from 12 countries namely Korea, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

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The course participants with the LGU officials of Goesan  County (Photo from IFOAM-Asia).
Goesan County in Chungbuk Province, Korea was the perfect place to have the training program with its natural and beautiful environment. It is one of the birthplaces of organic farming in Korea. It is almost isolated that not so many Koreans themselves know of the place but it turns out that this could be an advantage for the preservation of nature and for organic agriculture to thrive.

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Goesan County, Chungbuk Province, Korea
During the Welcome Ceremony, the Mayor of Goesan said that he had three presents for us – the fresh air, organic food, and sticky corn. We, the participants gladly enjoyed these three.

Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. In its core are the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care. These principles were evident when we talked to local farmers, visited farms, and went to Hansalim, a cooperative established by both producers and consumers. One farmer we talked to said that they provide safe and healthy food for consumers and in turn, the consumers ensure that the producers can continue to make a living through farming. It was truly inspiring to see this sense of community built on mutual trust. It was also equally inspiring to meet young farmers. Young people would not normally choose to go into farming and prefer to work in offices in the city but it’s amazing how these individuals chose a road less traveled, so to speak.

During the training, we learned about JADAM organic farming (low cost agriculture); biodynamic farming (farming that follows the rhythms and cycles of nature); Organic Guarantee Systems; value chain; innovations; and marketing methods among others. Our minds were fed and our bodies, too – with organic produce that is local, fresh, and diverse.

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Local, fresh, and diverse organic food.
To cap off the course, we attended the 4th ALGOA Summit, which brought together local governments and the private sector to discuss policies and ways to promote organic agriculture.

David Gould of IFOAM Organics International said that all of the Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to food. We must then realize the connections between healthy people, healthy food, and healthy farms. It’s still a long way to go for the organic movement to be truly embraced but through our collective efforts, we can work together towards a more sustainable future.

 

 

 

My Green Flick Top Picks

Earth Day is just around the corner and if you’re looking for inspiration so you won’t merely celebrate the day but take action, here are some environmental films which you may want to watch. Frankly, every day should be Earth Day  because caring for the environment is actually for our own good. But what do I know. I’m not as smart as the politicians in my hometown, Baguio, who think it’s necessary to put up a mall and a parking podium at a park; and drive away people from the area to pave way for a trade fair. Just bloody brilliant, isn’t it?!

Now, some of the films can be depressing but I hope you join the cause and be an environmental warrior after watching these.

1. The Lorax

Based on Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, this is a story of a world without trees. It’s also about greed and how businesses tend to disregard the importance of the environment for the sake of profit. SM Baguio and Baguio politicians, you should watch this (related story: For the Trees!)!

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2. WALL-E

Another animated film, WALL-E, paints a dystopian Earth covered in garbage with people turned obese due to an automated lifestyle (sounds like the present Earth if you ask me). Featuring the love story of two robots as a subplot, WALL-E is a cute, funny, and hopeful movie to watch.

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3.  Racing Extinction

Animal species are going extinct and it’s our fault. Dealing with illegal wildlife trade, climate change, and other environmental issues, the documentary is a call for change of habits for the survival of species.

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4. Food, Inc.

We don’t really know where our food comes from. The documentary, Food, Inc. exposes the unsustainable industrial production of meat, grains, and vegetables. I hope the movie can make you more mindful about the food that you eat.

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5. Okja

Okja is not your typical action-adventure film. It’s also a social commentary on genetically-modified organisms, ethical diet, and environmental activism. It revolves around the story of friendship between a young girl and Okja, a super pig. Okja will make you cry but more importantly, it will make you think.

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4. A Plastic Ocean

This year’s Earth Day focus is to end plastic pollution. A Plastic Ocean may convince you to stop single-use plastic that ends up in the ocean and eventually on your plate.

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Green-minded

Green-minded ako
Berde… berde ang kulay ng mga puno
Mga punong sa halip na pinaparami
Pinuputol, pinapatay
Pinapalitan ng matatayog na kongkreto
Berde… berde and kulay ng gulay
Sabi’y pampahaba ng buhay
Ng tao, at ng mundo
Dahil bawas sa karne
Bawas sa emisyon ng karbong
Nakasusulasok
Maitim na usok
Na sa planeta’y bumabalot
Planetang nalulunod din sa basura at plastik
Plastik na sumasayaw sa hangin
Lumalangoy sa ilog
Lumulutang sa karagatan
Plastik na nasa isdang kinakain
Sa tubig na iniinom
Tila wala ng pag-asa
Wala na nga ba?
Ang mga isip-berde ay hindi papatalo
Patuloy ang buga ng karbon
Kasabay ng pag-usbong ng malinis na enerhiya
Mula sa tubig, hangin, at araw
Kumakaripas sa takbo ang urbanisasyon
Ngunit humahabol ang mga ideya
Ng green architecture at green space
Marami ang walang pakialam
Walang pakundangan sa pagbili at pagtapon,
Pagbili at pagtapon, pagbili at pagtapon
Subalit marami rin ang nakikialam
Binabago ang pananaw na wala tayong magagawa
Sa bawat pagtatanim ng puno
Sa bawat pagsuporta sa renewable energy
Sa bawat pagpili sa maka-kalikasang produkto
Sa bawat paghindi sa plastic straw, at plastic bag,
At plastic water bottle, at plastic spoon and fork
Sa bawat pagkonsumo ng organikong pagkain
Ang mga ito’y parang patak
Ambon sa umpisa
Nawa’y maging daluyong ng isip-berdeng gawa
Green-minded ako…
Sana ikaw din
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Minimalist Me: Clothes

The good thing about maintaining the same body shape and weight for around 10 years now is I don’t have to buy new clothes all the time. If I do have to buy clothes, I go to second hand shops where with patience and a little bit of luck, I manage to find a nice shirt or two at a really cheap price.

Most of my clothes are hand me downs, or presents from friends, or shirts I get from attending advocacy events. I’m sure I’m not the favorite person of retailers because I don’t contribute much to the consumerist world where your value is measured by how much you spend shopping.

Fast fashion has huge environmental costs – water pollution, use of toxic chemicals, and  textile waste. Polyester fabric shed microfibers adding more plastic to already plastic-filled water bodies. Organic cotton doesn’t use toxic chemicals but requires a lot of water.

Should I just go au naturale and banish myself in the mountains like a true Igorot? Come to think of it, my ancestors back in the days just wore bahag or loin cloth, a piece of clothing wrapped around the hips.

 

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You can see me here wearing a bahag and er, showing some skin. Photo Credit: Haire Kadari

Recycled fabric is the best bet but they’re not easy to come by. So an option is to simplify and adopt a minimalist approach to clothing. Less stress emotionally (as you don’t have to constantly worry about having too much clothes and nothing to wear). Less stress on your pocket. And less stress on the environment. More stress to capitalists though but they should be the least of our concern.

Minimalist Me: Shoes

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

This question flashed on the screen as the 1997 Iranian film, “Children of Heaven” concluded. The movie is about a brother and sister who had to share a pair of sneakers to wear to school. The sister wears them in the morning then hurries home so she could give the shoes back to his brother who then has to run to school but ends up almost always late for class.

I have three pairs – dress shoes, casual office shoes, and sneakers. Double or is it triple digits for the ladies, I suppose, trying to beat Imelda’s record of thousands of shoes.

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The shoes I buy would normally last me for years. I’ve learned to prioritize quality though they come at a price. It’s worth it, nonetheless. Sometimes, I feel like I’m such a cheapskate. I wouldn’t want to part with my worn out shoes justifying that there’s still life left in it. The materials shoes are made of (leather and rubber) are not exactly environment-friendly so the less I buy shoes, the more I minimize my ecological footprint.

There are claims that we don’t really need to wear shoes so maybe I should just go barefoot. But I’m at the mercy of so-called social standard telling me what I’m supposed to wear, what’s appropriate. Formal, casual, rugged, party shoes, workout shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes, shoes to match one’s outfit… Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching for the capitalists!

How about you, how many pairs of shoes do you have?