Zero wasting, to me, is about changing habits and lifestyle to achieve the utopian vision that is sustainability. It is being mindful of your choices and actions so that you generate as minimal waste as possible.
As such, ever since starting this journey i’ve learned to let go of old habits and develop new ones. The following are just some of the simplest examples.
I used to buy bottled water when thirsty, but now i bring a reusable water bottle everywhere i go.
Before, i just unconsciously accepted plastic bags when buying anything. Anything. Even stuff that can be simply put in my bag. (Oh the things we do if we aren’t mindful!) But now, i always bring reusable cloth bags and refuse plastic bags. That said, i’ve also learned the art of refusing and asking for an alternative. (Well, not really. You’ll see later.)
I also used to just use/accept disposable plates, cutlery, and cups when eating out. Not anymore, tho, as i now always bring my own baunan (lunch box), cutlery, and cup when going out. Hence, my bag has been bigger and heavier since zero wasting!
Other new habits include segregating and recycling. I no longer put my trash into one bin. They are properly segregated–paper, metals, plastics, ink cartridges–in a cabinet for recycling. Trash that can’t be recycled go into my ecobrick can, which i will drop off at The Plastic Solution once it’s full. These simple habits reduce trash big time, saving a lot of garbage from going to landfills.
Also, i’m trying to get into the habit of not buying anything new. I’ve never been a shopaholic anyway so this is easy. And really, i don’t need anything new. Since zero wasting and, in effect, minimalizing, i’ve found out that i already have everything that i need. In fact, i have more than what’s needed that i’ve come to see my stuff as overwhelming. Hence, decluttering has become a new habit too.
Another reason why i’ve decided to not buy any new stuff for myself is because people will do that for me anyway. Now this brings me to what i call “culprits.”
A while ago i said that i’ve learned the art of refusing. Well, not really. As i’ve said in a previous post, we Filipinos love giving gifts and souvenirs. And gifts aren’t something you can easily refuse: it’s not even because one likes receiving gifts; it’s just considered rude to refuse a well-meaning gesture. That said, gifts and pasalubong are the number one culprits of my trash.
Another culprit is attending conferences. I’ve already been to three this year and realized how wasteful these events can be. Conference kits have so much unnecessary freebies inside. I admit i haven’t really learned how to politely refuse or return these useless giveaways, so here they are adding junk to my clutter. And then there’s also the food. Two out of three of the conferences i attended served food in single-use plastic containers and with plastic cutlery. Lack of foresight and, thus, preparation, is therefore another culprit. Had i foreseen these, i would have brought my own food instead of ending up guiltily accepting them. 😭 In both instances, tho, i used my own spoon and fork.
Anyway, as i’ve said before zero wasting here is not without its challenges. But once you see your trash in a new light, there’s no turning back: there’s only striving to become better as you go.
That’s what i’m doing. And i’m so glad to have found a community in the Philippines who are also doing the same! They’re mostly on instagram where they actively share zero waste tips. Our community of “zero wasters” is not yet that big as in other countries, but i believe we are growing. Recently i’ve learned that my university (UST) gave away free reusable metal straws to students in an effort to make the campus straw-free. Ayala malls are also now plastic bag-free. More and more schools are doing The Plastic Solution’s #StuffItChallenge. And menstrual cups are now getting social media attention. These may be tiny bits of good news, but they mean valuable efforts nonetheless. They mean that people are making efforts to change their habits, as well as address the culprits.
We’re only in the first half of 2017 and so much has happened already, although not always for the better. And while it’s still rather early to tell that this year is better than the last, i can feel that, in general, we are trying to get things right this time.