Zero Waste January: The Japanese Way

Japanese World Cup fans pick up trash after the game.

A Japanese guy voluntarily cleans up an overpass in Baguio.

Kamikatsu, a zero-waste town in Japan, segregates their waste into 45 types in 13 categories.

Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” is inspiring people to tidy up.

I do admire how the Japanese do things. Especially on how they deal with garbage. At an early age, kids learn how to clean their own classrooms that they grow up expecting no one to clean up after themselves.

In the Philippines, it’s a different story. People litter because they think it’s someone else’s responsibility to dispose their garbage. There are laws against littering and laws mandating us even to segregate but who cares about these laws. We blatantly litter because simply, we can get away with it.

In a so-called poor country, disposing garbage properly should be the least of our worries since day to day survival is what we’re focused on. Yet what’s exasperating is educated Filipinos, you wouldn’t expect, also litter!

Recently, devotees of a religious event left 15 trash of garbage not in garbage bins or garbage bags but scattered everywhere!

The same thing happens after people spend time in public parks, the beach, or the mountain. We leave the garbage behind.

How can this mindset and behavior change? There’s constant reminder, and education, and campaigns on proper waste management. Maybe we should step it up and charge people fees for garbage they produce. And I mean, not just the measly amount but the real cost of disposing this garbage. Because in reality, the government is spending a lot just from hauling all these junk.

Out of sight, out of mind. But I do hope the Japanese way could rub off on us some way, somehow.

Image result for kamikatsu japan
Kamikatsu, a zero-waste town in Japan (Photo from Business Insider).
Advertisements

Zero Waste January: The Straw that Everyone Loves to Hate

Since that video of a poor turtle in pain as a plastic straw was being pulled out from its nose went viral, people began to realize how this thing could hurt or even kill animals. And it pollutes the ocean, too.

So restos started banning plastic straws. Or they provide alternatives like paper or re-usable straws, which I’m not really a fan of since it simply reinforces consumerism. Making us believe that life is better with straws when we could, in fact, survive without it.

That’s the thing with consumerism. We have to keep buying stuff we don’t really need. Like those “eco bags” being marketed as the better option. How many of these do we exactly need? A growing mountain of re-usable bags, left unused (defeats the reason for its name), would end up as trash and we’re back to square one.

But back to single-use plastic. This addiction is all about convenience.

Using plastic bags is more convenient than always carrying and actually re-using a re-usable bag.

Choosing plastic spoons and forks, and cups (and those paper plates are not any better) is more convenient than washing up.

Buying bottled water is more convenient than carrying one’s own water tumbler.

Drinking with plastic straws is more convenient than using one’s damn mouth to sip and gulp.

We are drowning in plastic. Bits of it could now be found in our stomachs. So ditching the plastic straw is a good start. But it shouldn’t end there. Let’s be inconvenient together and ditch other unnecessary plastics, too.

Image result for turtle, straw, greenpeace

Zero Waste January: Pop Goes the Balloon

Just a bunch of innocent balloons. It’s all for fun. To make people revel at the moment. And break a record at that.

But people didn’t buy it. “Stop this madness!” was the clamor.

There were rants, and pleadings, and reasoning. A petition was made. Thousands of signatures collected in less than a day. Then the government intervened. A recipe for disaster for the poor capitalist. Could be the reason why it was an easy target. But surely, it’s people power at work.

Naysayers shake their heads.

“You stopped the activity but not the trash.”

“Why stop this and not that?”

“How about the rest of the garbage of everyone else?”

Damn if you do, damn if you don’t. As always.

Holidays in Bhutan are celebrated planting trees. They don’t fly a balloon, or release sky lanterns, or choke the air with fireworks. And they don’t leave their garbage behind after the celebration.

Better to be a kill joy than a “kill planet” as somebody puts it. Then again, one doesn’t have to harm the Earth for just a little bit of fun.

No photo description available.
Credit: Camp SEWI (Student’s Environmental Writing Initiative)

The Ends is Nigh

UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns us that we may have only until 2030 to solve the issue of climate change. Basically, we have to limit warming to 1.5°C because the continuous increase in temperature has already given us a preview of what is to come – catastrophic typhoons and droughts, frequent flooding, deadly diseases, and these could get worse. Sounds like a Nostradamus prediction but it’s all real no matter how hard people like Trump deny it.

Would this actually prod politicians, capitalists, and corporations to do something? If all hell breaks loose, they’re safely tucked in their ivory towers counting money. How can they sleep at night? Makes you want to punch them in the face.

Photo from kleanindustries.com

For instance, worst plastic polluters like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle make empty promises about reducing plastic waste which we’re practically eating already (Yep, microplastics were found in human poop!) There’s Monsanto controlling food production and promoting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The issue of GMOs is debatable but if you ask me, without comprehensive studies on the long-terms effects of consuming GMOs, I wouldn’t choose to eat them.

In the Philippines, a developing country subscribing to the ideals of developed nations, urbanization is on a rush. Mountains are flattened and trees are cut to make way for concrete roads, and malls, and condos, and fastfood restos (making us all dangerously fat).

The state of the environment is never a priority. We have this idea that we have the right to trash this planet (case in point, overtourism of Boracay leading to its closure). Eventually, we sadly face the consequences of our actions and they can turn out to be deadly. Lives were lost in the landslide in Itogon, Benguet and Naga, Cebu. And this is not something new. But corrupt government officials who don’t give a damn don’t do anything about it.

I read about narcotization in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, “Stranger than Fiction.” When a problem looks too big, when we’re shown too much reality, we tend to shut down. Are we shown too much of environmental decay that we have decided not to take any action? Why is it all bad news that we are made to see anyway? Someone said because good news can take care of itself, which makes a lot of sense.

Speaking of good news, the ozone layer is healing! So we do have the capacity to turn things around. Maybe we can address climate change and plastic pollution and it won’t be the end after all. I hope.

 

SenseCampPH and Sustainable Travel

It is unfortunate that the only way to escape from our stressful busy lives and to re-connect with nature is when we visit places like Mount Purro Nature Reserve. Yet it’s a shame how a lot of tourists are obsessed over the Instagrammability of a destination. No wonder we face issues like overtourism, pollution, and commodification of culture.

There should be a better or more sustainable way for tourism. This very theme was tackled during the SenseCamp 2018 organized by MakeSense, which is a two-day event that included discussions on various facets of sustainable tourism, different workshops, advocacy and awareness building, and opportunities for networking (Read about last year’s SenseCamp here).

In the said event, Alo Lantin who loves telling stories through photographs, reminded participants to travel beyond social media – to genuinely wonder, to be authentic, and not to fake experiences. Alo’s message is also perfectly captured in his favorite quote from the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Melody Melo-Rijk from WWF-Philippines also talked about their project, “The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient of Sustainable Tourism.” As discussed, one can be a sustainable diner by eating local, trying plant-based dishes, using reusable utensils, and not wasting food, among others.

TJ Malvar, who helps manage the camp’s venue, Mount Purro, said that their goal is to be a truly sustainable travel destination. He admits that there’s a lot of work to do but the key is balance of the triple bottom line – profit, people, and planet.

We normally think that when we take care of the environment, we are saving the planet. But in reality, we are doing so to save ourselves. When we travel, when we see the world, may we appreciate it and make an effort to protect it so the future may also have the opportunity to see and experience these places.

_1300319
The SenseCamp Participants (Photo by George Buid)

 

 

IFOAM-Asia Organic Youth Forum: Our Journey through Mindanao

Mindanao is tainted with a not so ideal reputation due to incidences of war and terrorism. A travel ban in the region is also in effect for foreigners. But this did not stop me together with 20 other advocates of the organic movement to travel around Mindanao and learn how organic agriculture is practiced there.

We represented our respective countries namely China, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Indonesia, Philippines, Argentina, and the UK to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)-Asia Organic Youth Forum which is part of the 3rd Organic Asia Congress.

Organic Youth Forum (2)

The pre-forum activities included field trips where we got to see firsthand the efforts being done by individuals, organizations, and local government units (LGU) in promoting the organic movement. One impressive initiative is the “From Arms to Farms” project of Mayor Rommel C. Arnado which transformed the Municipality of Kauswagan from a depressed ghost town and war zone to what it is now, a barometer of peace. A Bogota Peace Prize and Galing Pook awardee, the project trains rebel returnees to become organic farmers which Mayor Arnado believes addresses hunger, poverty, and the issue of land grabbing considered as the root causes of violence in the area.

Another simple yet impactful project is the setting up of a farmer’s market in Cagayan de Oro led by Governor Bamby Emano of the Province of Misamis Oriental. Farmers can sell their naturally grown produce every Friday at the market without paying any fee. The LGU also provides transportation support.

The farms and the organic practitioners we met were likewise very inspiring. Alomah’s Nature Farm in Dahilayan, Bukidnon managed by the couple Benjohn and Grace Mahistrado showcases beautifully landscaped vegetable gardens. They have mastered diversifying and value-adding as they sell vegetable salad, vinaigrette dressing, and herb tea on top of turning their farm into a learning site and a tourist destination.

IMG_20180913_132021

A visit to the biodynamic family farm of Vic Tagupa located at Dumarait, Balingasag gave us a glimpse of a philosophical and spiritual approach to organic farming. Considered as a model of a climate-resilient farm, the 1.44-hectare land is surrounded by a perimeter buffer dike planted with nitrogen-fixing trees, banana, and fruit trees which serve as defense against flooding and contamination from synthetic fertilizers being applied in nearby farms.

In the Municipality of Talisayan, Maristella Rallos wants to make farming sexy. Her passion towards nature motivated her to start organic farming which in two years’ time has turned the bare land into what she calls now as VS Project, a space where she gets to try out good practices in farming.

School gardens in Bislig City was a delight to see especially knowing how children are exposed to organic agriculture at an early age. Interestingly, a lot of the youth from the cities and municipalities we’ve been to are motivated to practice farming the organic way.

IMG_20180917_085948

During the forum proper, we learned about best practices and experiences of young farmers, advocates, and organic pioneers. We also had the chance to interact with the local youth of Bislig.

The whole experience has been wonderful. I gained so much insights and is encouraged by all the brilliant stories and sharing. All I have is gratitude for the heartwarming hospitality of the LGUs, the hard work demonstrated by the organizers, and the friendship gained from like-minded people.

Cheers to a bright future for the organic movement in the country and in Asia!

Minimalist Me: Ecological Footprint

I want to minimize my ecological footprint or my demand towards nature going against anthropocentrism because really, it’s not all about us, human beings.

I adopt minimalism with regard to shoes, clothes, other things like books, even food that I eat.

In the office, I make an effort to use both sides of paper. I encourage my colleagues to segregate garbage (which seems so difficult to follow) and urge them to avoid single-use plastic.

When eating out, I tell my friends not to use plastic straws or challenge them to eat more veggies.

I constantly talk about the little things we can do to contribute to caring for the environment.

Some people do try to support environmentalism but others, I’m afraid, just find me overbearing whenever I start talking green. And sadly, a lot of people just don’t care – they have other stuff to worry about and environmental issues are the least of their concern.

There’s also the question whether individual action can actually cause real impact. Taken collectively, it can influence corporations. But these corporations can take advantage of it weaving corporate action as sustainable when it’s far from the truth. Case in point, Starbucks replacing plastic straws with sippy cups made from more plastic. Starbucks claims the plastic lid is recyclable unlike plastic straws but do they really get recycled?

Another downside of these individual environmental actions is that it can make people feel that they don’t need to do anything else as they already did their part. Annie Leonard, in an article, said that civic engagement is the real source of power to make a difference.

The key then is consistency as well as continuous involvement in environmental initiatives. We do this not really to save the earth because it is us who need saving. We are actually saving ourselves and the human race.