This year, i’ll zero waste pa more! 

This year, i’ll zero waste pa more! 

Wow. It’s been a year. I remember planning this blog towards the end of 2016. And now i’m in the second year of my “official” zero waste journey.

The first year had been challenging. I tried my best but still occasionally fell short.

All of my personal trash in 2017. They will be dropped off at The Plastic Solution.

Obviously, i’m still faaaar from zero. Just for transparency: not included in those containers are our household waste or waste i share with my middle-class family. But this year, i will do better and, hopefully, be more in control.

My general goal: to fit a year’s worth of personal trash in two containers or less. And then for this blog, i will focus more on sharing tips and resources (aside from experiences). Especially because some of my friends are now starting their own little steps towards zero waste this year. (Yay!) So now the agenda is to help them and others stay on this journey. Thankfully, because zero waste is now gaining popularity, more alternatives and solutions are now available. I will blog about these very soon.

Anyway, Happy New Year to you who are reading this. I’m going to assume that you’re here because you want to do some change this year, particularly, to minimize your waste. The waste crisis in this country alone is unimaginably huge. People need to give a shit. So if you’re thinking of helping fix that through zero waste, then welcome aboard! I’m glad you want to do this. The zero waste community in the Philippines is growing. That’s proof that zero waste is doable and achievable.

If you’re new to zero waste, i hope you find this blog helpful. If you’ve been zero wasting, feel free to share experiences and tips! One of the things i discovered last year is that there’s nothing more kilig than meeting a fellow Pinoy zero waster! It feels amazing when you encounter people who give a damn about things you give a damn about. It makes you realize that there are people who care for this country and for this planet. It inspires you to do more, do better. It gives you hope.

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Announcement: I don’t want gifts this Christmas

Announcement: I don’t want gifts this Christmas

As i’ve said before in previous posts, gifts are one of the culprits to stuff accumulation and waste generation. It’s easy to refuse straws and single-use plastics, but not gifts. Not that i like receiving gifts; it’s just that refusing gifts can be thought of as rude.

When i was in grade and high school, we gave Christmas gifts to our teachers. So now as a teacher, i worried i might get many gifts this Christmas. And so i needed to do something. As soon as December came, i made the following announcement through Facebook’s My Day:

Thought i should make this announcement as early as now.

To all family, friends, coworkers, students:

Please do NOT give me any gift this Christmas. Please do NOT include me in your shopping list. I have been trying hard to minimalize my life this year. That means i’ve been trying to lessen my stuff and possessions. I won’t be able to achieve that if i will receive any new stuff from well-meaning people. I will very much appreciate your support on this personal project.

Pero pwede ang CASH! Which i will donate to a cause that i support. So cash only or nothing at all. Either of the two will be highly appreciated and considered the coolest gift ever. Thank you!!! 😊😊😊

I even announced that in the classroom to my advisory class and sent it personally to friends. Also, i reposted it a few days before our Christmas party with students.

The result: i STILL received some gifts. But not as much as i likely would had i not made the announcement. I got only two gifts from two students who i’m sure didn’t see or hear the announcement. And from friends, well, they told me they had already bought something for me before i even announced my No Gifts Please policy. What i truly appreciated, tho, is that they gave me stuff that are ecofriendly. Also, they didn’t wrap the gifts because they knew i wouldn’t like them wrapped. It’s really the mindful thought that counts.

Speaking of mindfulness, i’ve been practicing it again since doing zero waste. So on my part, i wanted my gifts to be ecoconscious. As such, i gave away reusable metal straws as Christmas gift to family and friends. (Why i chose metal straws is the subject of my next post.)

I also wanted this Christmas to be meaningful, to be more about time and relationships and less about stuff, to be about sharing rather than abundance.

And so for noche buena, i cooked for my family. I don’t cook and have no talent in cooking at all, so my mother and brother eventually helped out. The cooking turned out to be a fun experience for me and my brother who also doesn’t cook.

As for the traditional kris kringle (secret Santa) at work, i didn’t put anything in my wishlist. This was because i didn’t want anything new for me at all. Luckily, my secret Santa learned about my announcement. So he gave me a letter instead in addition to cash. (He even added P200 more than the agreed budget. I will soon donate everything to an org that i support.) This is the best gift i received this Christmas. ❤

Lovely. I love letters, especially ones with beautiful handwriting.

I hate how Christmas has been hijacked by capitalism. Christmas has lost its meaning that “Merry Christmas” doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. “Happy holidays” is more apt. After all, ’tis a long holiday of buying, stuff, big sales, raffles, and exploitation.

If there’s anything i truly, deeply want for Christmas, it’s to see capitalism fall. Because then we can achieve peace, justice, and joy. Mindfulness, i believe, can help make that wish come true. (But that’s for another post.)

Anyway, happy holidays! I hope this year has been good to you in general.

On death

On death

My previous post was scheduled to be published on November 18. I remember i was wrapping it up just a couple of minutes before i fell asleep. I had only been asleep for half an hour when my mother woke me up at 2:30 a.m. telling me that my 90-year-old lola (grandmother) has died. Mommy, as we all called her, had been trying to live up to my father’s birthday on the 19th. She didn’t make it.

I was reading my recent posts just before writing this and was surprised to see that i was preparing for what this year has yet to offer, that i was hopeful things would happen for the better. But i certainly didn’t expect or prepare for this. Nor did i think Mommy’s passing would be anything for the better. 

I should find solace in the fact that she had been desiring that moment with all her heart–that moment when she’ll come home to her Lord (and with open arms as she would imagine). But it’s hard. I’m still so pained by her passing. I thought i was already prepared for this as my maternal grandmother also died last year. Both of them were dear to me.

When my maternal grandmother died last year, i had just started doing little zero waste practices. During the entire duration of her wake, i saw how wasteful an event such as death can be. I saw that again in Mommy’s wake. 

Lamay (wake) in the Philippines is like a salu-salo, a gathering, a party–a party for the dead: the bereaved family and relatives prepare food and drinks for guests who have come to mourn with them. I just realized it’s the biggest party in a person’s life: it lasts for days, relatives abroad come home, families become complete, distant friends you’ve never heard of in years appear. Now. Of all the time that we had. Now, when the “celebrator” is not even here. It’s a sad party. But a party nonetheless.

Like any parties, a wake is wasteful. My lola’s death last year was the first death in the family in my adult life. I helped the family buy food for guests, which completely puzzled me because why? Why should we, the bereaved family, do all the hassle of preparing food for them? Didn’t they come to express their condolences? to join us in our mourning? Surely they didn’t come to eat, right?

But then what’s a party without food? 

And perhaps this is a party no one prepares for. And with all the affairs and emotions the dead leaves us, convenience is the first and last resort. So hello, grocery food. Hello, single-use cups and utensils. Hello, Tetra Pak drinks and straws. Paper plates. Stirrers (stupidest thing invented ever). Tissue papers. Junk food in plastic-foil packaging. Instant coffee in sachets. Candies in plastic wrappers (seriously, is this Halloween? Why the need for candies??? Would visitors feel better if they suck on something sweet and minty?) 

We humans are so funny. Doing all the hassle for the dead. All the making up (bec wut, life happened?). All when it’s too late. It’s such a waste. The dead doesn’t give a damn anymore. 

She is not here anymore. 

So much had happened in the very short time since i came home from Japan. And so much, too, had been missed. Perhaps if i knew how to manage and value time, perhaps if i valued relationship over work, i would’ve chosen to spend time with her. Perhaps if i knew better, i would’ve listened more, tried to understand, loved harder.

What Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists once said is true:

It seems we don’t know how to love the ones we love until they disappear from our lives.

It hurts to realize it’s too late to wish i knew how. 

Bye, Mommy. “Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back, he said, ‘Hallelujah, you’re home.'”

“Zero waste” travel: Japan

“Zero waste” travel: Japan

Last month, i went to Japan with my friends from college. I wanted this trip to be as zero waste as possible, so i brought with me my zero waste essentials, as well as my own toiletries.

Brought my Korean chopsticks so i don’t have to use the disposable ones.

I also managed to master the art of refusing. “No straw, please. Arigatou gozaimasu!” “No plastic, please. Arigatou gozaimasu!” I was glad the Japanese didn’t find this insulting. In fact, they were very accommodating to my choices.

Butterbeer is best enjoyed without a straw. 😊

However, i also had failures. There were times when we had no choice but to buy packaged food from the 24-hour Lawson and bring them to our Airbnb because restaurants were already closed.

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Tsk tsk. Trash from instant ramen, instant o-nigiri, snacks, ice cream, etc. All of these go straight into my ecobrick.

And then because i am a Filipino, buying pasalubong or souvenirs has always been a must. I struggled so hard with this and eventually lost. I always hated shopping and yet i felt i needed to bring something home. Anyway, my pasalubong for friends and colleagues were materials made of paper and were bought without packaging. Still, i brought home some packaged goods for family.

Then there were also the traps: bag tags and stickers from airports, receipts and tickets, brochures and maps i thought i needed and didn’t refuse.

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Trash as souvenirs

Obviously, my trip to Japan wasn’t zero waste. I’m not proud of this and will definitely strive harder in my future travels. Next time, i will plan ahead so i don’t have to resort to convenient stores for food and, of course, as much as possible, buy only plastic-free pasalubong.

One of the many things that i loved about Japan was the cleanliness. In all the cities we visited–Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Nagoya–the Japanese seemed to value cleanliness. Like in Metro Manila, stores weren’t exactly package-free and many people used plastic straws and disposable utensils like chopsticks. But how come there weren’t trash everywhere? Then i realized it’s because the Japanese cleaned their surroundings religiously, managed their wastes properly, and simply gave a shit-ton about trash. For example, people didn’t toss their trash anywhere they deem fit but in trash bins that follow a strict sorting system. Also, one of the house rules of our Airbnb host was to make sure all our trash is bagged in plastic before we leave the flat. In the Philippines, our uber hospitable hosts don’t usually tell guests to clean up.

When in a place like Japan, it’s easy to think about home and feel sad, frustrated; to think about the good life it offers, but also your dreams and hopes back home. One of my simple dreams is to see Metro Manila clean and green. I believe it isn’t impossible. All it takes is to give a shit. Like how zero wasters give a shit about trash, about rivers and seas, about our planet. Of course, this dream can’t be realized by just bringing reusables and refusing single-use plastics. But those small actions are ripples of change that, i’m hopeful, are building great waves of positive impact that can lead to paradigm shifts, systems change, and government action and that eventually can make this dream come true.

Compost update

Compost update

I’m taking the sem break to catch up on my commitments. The other day i managed to finish my own version of the #MinimalistGame (at least the dumping of stuff in my “good-bye” box; i’ve yet to turn them over to our local library, Segunda Mana, junk shops, or any of these orgs). Still, when i look around me, there is still so much stuff. I’m looking forward to doing the game again, but this time following the actual rules.

I also checked out my compost pot. After about eight months, it had been full to the brim, with a mound of hay stacked above it. As no more waste can be added to the pot, i thought maybe it’s about time i harvest the compost. So i removed the mound of hay and saw that the topmost layer was already earth-like. I’m not sure if i did the right thing, but i removed quite an amount of the topmost layer and sprinkled them over some plants. I’m having doubts now because i realized that that layer was newer than the bottom layers and had less time breaking down. But then its texture looked and felt great, although with lots of hay poking out here and there. On the other hand, the middle and the bottommost layers beneath that were quite moist. I’m surprised that despite little air circulation, the compost didn’t smell. In fact, my compost was odorless. I take this as a sign that my compost, in general, did well. Anyway, i thought to give it more time to break down (there were visible egg shells), so i aerated it, mixing the mound of hay i removed earlier in it.

Closed loop: Turning food waste into earth or, rather, returning food back to earth

I’m still learning about composting and most of the time i just go by feel. Nonetheless, i’m happy i was able to get back to it. It had been months since i actually got my hands dirty; the past months i merely tossed in fruit peelings in my pot and occasionally poked the contents. I had almost forgotten how earth feels in my hands so working in the garden again felt therapeutic. Also, i’ve realized how truly amazing Nature works: amidst all the stress of the past months, here She’s been, doing Her work silently, beautifully, closing the loop, somehow reassuring me that with the right attitude and effort things will work out as they would and for the better.

When stress becomes wasteful

When stress becomes wasteful

The past six months have been eventful and stressful. They went by so fast and with so many ups and downs that i found myself very exhausted and extremely sad at numerous times.

Since end of May up to the time of writing, many events have happened: as soon as i submitted my thesis proposal in May, i immediately applied for teaching positions; went to interviews, exams, teaching demos, and medical tests; got hired; organized a birthday party for my 90-year-old grandmother who, the day after her party, we’d learn has cancer; then became a teacher and the school year began.

I had not taken a real rest during the first few months since May until end of July when classes were suspended for three days due to typhoon Gorio. I slept for the most part of those three days and one of those days was my birthday. I considered that one of the sweetest birthday treats ever.

A lot of things have happened since. It’s been stressful and it is evident in my trash. My goal this year has been to fit a year’s trash in two plastic cans and donate it to The Plastic Solution at the end of the year. I have managed to achieve my goal to fit six months of trash in the first can. But only three months into the second half of the year, the second can is already stuffed.

Nine months of trash. My new goal is to fit the remaining months’ trash in another can and no more than that.
That’s the result of stress-eating, getting sick, lack of preparation, and resorting to convenience because requirements, deadlines, lack of sleep. It’s been very unhealthy.

Anyway, the first semester has come to an end. I am thankful for the break, for this long-awaited rest. I plan to slow down, catch up on commitments (including my unfinished #MinimalistGame), and prepare for what the remaining of 2017 has yet to offer.

Decluttering is forever

Decluttering is forever

Long before i heard of zero waste or minimalism, i’ve always been uneasy with stuff. Of course, growing up in a Filipino middle-class consumerist culture, i’ve had my fair share of enjoying giving and receiving gifts and buying stuff just in case or just because. But as i am really more of a simple, nature-loving person, i find stuff just generally overwhelming. Plus, i just hate how capitalism works.

Anyway, i hadn’t realized then that i could do something about my stuff. I kind of thought, just as i did with trash before, that stuff just happens. So i was so glad to have stumbled upon Annie Leonard’s internet film The Story of Stuff about two years ago. My discomfort with stuff and hyperconsumerism in general had never been so well articulated before: stuff is made for the dump. In other words, we are trashing the planet thru mindless consumption of stuff. The short movie also made me see my clutter in a different way. Suddenly, all my stuff were magnified and i felt so overwhelmed. And i was never even a shopaholic or a hoarder. This might seem exaggerated, but i once did feel a slight anxiety a year ago when i did a general cleaning of my room: there was so much useless stuff and i didn’t know what to do with them but to either keep them or trash them away. Either way, i got slightly anxious.

Believe it or not, i have been decluttering for a year. I quit my previous job a year ago and started decluttering since. I’m still decluttering. It. Never. Ends. But then again i don’t do it regularly (because thesis) so maybe that’s also why it’s taking me forever.

And so i am challenging myself this month to do the 30-day minimalism game. This game is inspired by The Minimalists. But because i don’t think i’d be able to get rid of 465 things in a month or afford to get rid of them all by midnight each day–also since we’re talking about just my stuff, not my family’s–i’ll have my own rules.

And here are the rules of my own #MinsGame:

1. Each day, i will put at least three items in my “good-bye box.”

2. At the end of June, books will be donated to our local public library.

3. At the end of June, clothes, bags, and other stuff will be donated to Segunda Mana or any of these organizations.

My “good-bye” box already has some stuff in it as a result of my decluttering. I’ve also donated an earlier batch of books last March to my local public library and i already have another batch waiting to be donated. The stuff already in the box, as well as the books, won’t be counted for this game.

This game starts today. Wish me luck!