Achievements & challenges

So far, i think i’m doing good with zero wasting. But there are still challenges.

Achievements so far

1. I don’t make any waste at all whenever i go out.

And this is because i now always bring with me my zero waste essentials: reusable water bottle, spoon and fork, reusable bags, reusable baunan (food container) for take-outs, and handkerchief (bye, tissue paper!). I now don’t and can’t leave the house without these with me. They’re as essential as my wallet and umbrella.

2. I compost our raw kitchen waste.

I love composting. I’ve never realized before that composting is such a therapeutic activity. Crushing egg shells, cutting fruit and vegetable scraps into smaller pieces, picking up dried leaves and sprinkling them all over the compost pit feel so good to the body and mind. The activity is meditative. I love reconnecting to Earth, returning to Earth what nourished us. I’m still learning my way through it and the learning process itself is fun. I will write about how we deal with our raw and cooked kitchen wastes in a future post.

Challenges

I’m afraid challenges are more overwhelming than my achievements so far. But they’re challenges, right? Not setbacks. And i can and will always work on these things.

The number 1 challenge i encounter in zero wasting is gift giving. Sounds weird, huh? Well, when i learned about zero waste, i realized that my trash is a direct outcome of my choices and habits. I realized that if i don’t want to generate trash, i must refuse and reduce. Refusing plastics and single-use items is easy. Reducing stuff i buy is easy, too, since i was never into shopping anyway. But you know what’s hard to refuse and/or reduce? Gifts! And it’s not even because i love receiving gifts! In the Philippines, people love giving gifts and it’s considered rude to refuse them. I think the same is true in some Asian cultures.

In the month of January alone, i received many pasalubong from friends who traveled or went home to their provinces during the holidays. Pasalubong are souvenirs Filipinos give as gifts for family and friends back home. Of course, these gifts often come in plastic packaging!

In January, too, our family received a padala or package from family and relatives in Hawaii. When i was a kid, i loved opening packages filled with candies, chocolates, and junk food. But now, when we opened the box, i thought “oh god, that is a lot of trash.” Of course, i was referring to all the packaging. Almost everything was packaged or wrapped in plastic!

While i appreciate the generosity of family and friends, i can’t help but be critical of our gift-giving culture. It’s a symptom of our materialist and consumerist culture. And since we’re talking here about a culture, it is going to be hard to change this. But change can happen. After all, not giving gifts is never really an issue to anyone (well, from my experience, no one gives a damn if i don’t give gifts); it’s the refusal to accept gifts from well-meaning family and friends that’s tricky.

Another challenge i encounter in zero wasting is getting family and friends to join me. This means that my family (my parents, especially) still buys packaged food from grocery. So what i do to change that is avoid or refuse eating grocery food. Hopefully, that’ll start the shift to stop buying packaged food. As with friends, well, I’ve gotten praises from them for yet another “advocacy.” And that’s it. Not that i go about aggressively persuading them to do zero waste with me and immediately. Because i don’t. Well, ok, except for the menstrual cup. I’m pretty serious about it that i think i sometimes look like a menstrual cup spokesperson now. But it’s only because the menstrual cup has been so life-changing and i only want my friends to experience it too! In addition, the amount of waste unwasted by menstrual cup use is huge! Anyway, i’ve raved about menstrual cups to friends but the idea of inserting a cup inside the vagina (or even the idea of using washable pads instead) has always been met with weird looks and i find that a bit frustrating at least for my environmental advocacy.

As i go on in this journey, i’ve observed that the idea of zero waste seems too challenging for many people. It’s the word “zero” that makes it seem impossible. Or maybe people just don’t see waste as an urgent problem yet. Or if they do, they don’t see it as a mostly direct outcome of their activities. And that’s why i decided to do this blog, too. I hope through this blog i can show others that the waste problem in the country is real and serious and that zero waste is the solution to it. I hope through my actions and this blog, i can show that simply refusing plastic straws and single-use items (like disposable pads or tampons) make a huge difference. 

*****

Zero wasting has been challenging and sometimes stressful now that i am conscious of my trash, but i find it even more stressful–and actually, morally burdensome–to not even try.

In future posts, i’ll try to focus more on giving zero waste tips. Maybe that way it’ll be easier to show that zero waste is achievable rather than challenging. 

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