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.

 

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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.

Minimalist Me: Books

I collect Stephen King books. I used to collect those of Dean Koontz, too but I decided I’m more of a Stephen King guy (sorry, Dean).

In my previous post on minimalism, I’ve made it quite clear how I’m not a big shopper. But buying books is a different story. That’s something I wouldn’t mind spending money on. For the record though, stingy as I am, I buy from secondhand bookstores. It’s an awesome feeling when you discover a really nice book at a very cheap price. But after reading them, I’ve decided to give these books away.

I’ve kept a few for myself (can’t let go of Stephen King just yet) especially those that I would want to re-read but we have to be honest here, most of the time, they remain in the bookshelves collecting dust.

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I have bookworm friends who have book collections and that’s totally fine. If keeping these books add value to your life, then by all means, collect all the books you can get your hands on.

As for me, finally deciding to be part of the horde, buying my first smartphone, had a perk in terms of allowing me to read e-books. I still prefer holding an actual book, turning the pages and smelling the book paper, and all, but with free e-books available online, I save a lot. Plus, fewer stuff. But borrowing books from friends (hello, friends) and the library (if there’s still one) could be an option.

So yeah, I have minimized buying books. But I genuinely feel happy when I see people going gaga over books fairs and book sales. And in case you’re wondering, I still accept books as presents.

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?

Stuff, garbage, and the power to choose

I was waiting for my turn at the supermarket checkout counter one time when I noticed that not so many people bring reusable bags with them. I suppose it’s because paper bag is being used and as it’s biodegradable and all, it’s okay. But these would still end up as garbage.

Some would opt buying tote bags. You’re helping the environment by doing so. Well, not necessarily. If you keep on using these bags when you go shopping, then great. But we know quite well that doesn’t really happen. Most of these tote bags remain unused and eventually get tossed in the garbage bin.

In fastfood restaurants, people who order take-out will end up with their food wrapped or placed in too much packaging producing so much waste for just one meal! The use of disposables, though dropping, is still preferred for its convenience.

Everywhere you go, you’re bombarded with one consistent message, “Buy me!” The promise of happiness, fleeting as it is, drives us to keep buying. Surprisingly, we’re not any happier. And all these stuff also equate to more waste.

We’re practically drowning in garbage! But we don’t really care. Out of sight, out of mind. We pay the government a measly environmental fee and it’s their job to bring the stink somewhere else. Worse, these wastes find themselves in bodies of water or they clog sewer systems resulting to massive flooding.

Being a wise consumer or adopting a minimalist lifestyle are seen as solutions. But in order to have real impact, a massive cultural and behavioral change should take place.

Now I’m counting on the ripple effect. How small actions and small changes could lead to something bigger. An individual’s reduction in spending and consumption reduces the income of others, mainly the capitalists who wouldn’t want the flow of money to be disrupted and would do whatever it takes to keep it going. In this regard, we may say we are helpless in the clutch of consumerism but we do have the power. The power to choose to be better consumers and live simpler lives.

 

Why not a Green Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly. It’s also the season where it seems like it’s okay to indulge in excessive eating, spending, and consuming. Over consumption equates to more stress on the environment. But here are some ways on how you could make your Christmas celebration greener.

  1. Declutter and give away your stuff. Let go of things you’re not using. They may be useful to other people. Before thinking of going shopping, look through your belongings for hidden gems that could be the perfect gift for someone else.
  2. If you do have to buy a present, make sure it’s useful, environment-friendly, and has less packaging. And buy from local stores and social entrepreneurs if you can.
  3. Bring re-usable bags when going shopping.
  4. Wrap your gifts with fabric (like the Japanese do, furoshiki-style), newspaper, paper bags, or old Christmas wrappers.
  5. Don’t use disposables during parties. It’s too much a hassle washing up and all but think of the amount of garbage you generate from all the parties (double whammy for plastics, straws, and styro).
  6. Prepare local, organic, healthy dishes; less meat and more veggies. Your body and the earth will thank you for it.
  7. Don’t waste food. Compost food scraps to reduce potential waste.

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Photo from: http://www.the-open-mind.com/top-tips-for-a-greener-eco-christmas/