Trash talk: Composting

Trash talk: Composting

There are a lot of articles and blogs about how to start zero waste. I’ve noticed that most of them list the following as the first baby steps to go zero waste:

  1. Refuse plastic straws.
  2. Bring your own reusable water bottle.
  3. Bring your own reusable grocery bags.
  4. Shop package-free, in bulk, and/or second-hand.
  5. DIY your own products.

    While i find these as indeed easy steps to start lessening one’s waste, i think that to go zero waste one must begin with composting in mind.

    For me, the first two ways to begin zero waste are: 1) use a menstrual cup and 2) compost. (So obviously, at least for me, if you don’t menstruate, you can skip no. 1.)

    I know Bea Johnson said that zero waste must follow the 5 Rs–refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (and in that order!). But when i first learned about zero waste through Lauren Singer, i made a quick mental survey about all the trash that i generate and realized that the two things that i needed to address right away were disposable pads/tampons and food waste. These two can’t go to landfills!

    So when i decided to go zero waste, i knew i needed a composting site. Luckily, we have a space in the garden where i can dump our organic trash.

    Here are the things we throw away for composting:

    • vegetable and fruit scraps
    • crushed egg shells
    • dried leaves and twigs
    • nail clippings and hair
    • shredded brown paper bags
    • guinea pig poop and fur
    • hay
    Lenny, one of my guinea pigs who help me compost by donating their poop and hay to my compost pit :3

    There are many ways to compost in the city. In fact, i do two different methods of composting.

    The first one is the compost pit method. We have an unused garden bed, which i now use as a compost pit. I simply dump daily food scraps into the pit and cover them with soil, dried leaves, guinea pig poop, and hay to prevent it from becoming smelly and attracting flies. Earthworms and millipedes (of which we already have a plenty in the garden) aid in the decomposition and i have observed that this method works even if i have a continuous or steady stream of new materials to compost. The down side of this method is that i can’t harvest the compost as the compost is constantly mixed with new materials and soil. I’m still figuring out when to stop filling the pit and wait for all the materials to finish breaking down so we can use the “soil + compost” mix for gardening and, hopefully, growing.

    My compost pit. It’s not an ugly sight (or a smelly pit) as long as you have lots of dried leaves around.

    After more than two months of composting using the compost pit method, i thought i wanted to set it aside for a while to give it time to finish breaking down. And so i decided to do another method. This one’s easier to manage for those who don’t have a garden bed. It uses a clay pot (or any container with a hole for draining water) as a composting bin. In this method, i simply dump in our organic waste, covering every layer of greens (nitrogen-rich matter) with a thicker layer of browns (carbon-rich matter). EcoWaste Coalition has made a simple instructional video on how to do this method. I think this method is a slower process than the other, but adding in a bit of soil and/or compost activators can speed it up. This method also works like Daily Dump’s khamba composting: once the pot is full, it can be set aside for a few weeks while another pot is being filled.

    My compost pot. I’ve read that the water that drains out of it is “liquid gold.” I’ll put a container underneath the pot soon to collect the water.

    Composting is so easy and fun to do that i easily got hooked to it. I love returning to Earth what nourished us and it has made me appreciate the concept of ecosystem in a deeper, beyond-textbook level.

    As a beginner, though, there are times when i feel like i’m doing it the wrong way (as sometimes plants sprout out of my compost pit), so i find myself always googling how to troubleshoot composting problems. I’ve realized that composting is a learning process. 

    Now as for leftovers and cooked food waste, well, we let animals–i.e., stray cats–do the job for now. But i’m also planning to start bokashi composting soon in order to manage other food wastes such as meat and fish bones (my family is omnivore while i’ve been pescetarian for more than a year now).

    If you want to start composting at home but live in Metro Manila or have no space for a pit, you might want to inquire with your barangay if it has a community composting project. (I did this and found out that our barangay used to have one but discontinued it. Sad.) If there’s none, your best options are the pot composting that i mentioned, bokashi composting, and/or vermicomposting. 

    Composting is simple and easy. I think everyone must give it a try! 

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    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. 

    Trash talk: Problems and solutions

    Trash talk: Problems and solutions

    As someone who cares for the environment, i hate it when i see trash in the oceans, in the mountains, and even in the streets of Metro Manila. And so because i hate trash, i do not litter. Instead, i throw all of my trash in its “proper” place: the trash can. Not in the oceans. Not in the mountains. Not in the streets. But the trash can. All nonbiodegradable go into one trash can and all biodegradable go into another. That’s how i deal with my trash: properly. Because I care for the environment.

    Or so i thought.

    Then i stumbled upon an article about Lauren Singer and her three years’ worth of trash that fits in a mason jar. And i realized that all this time i’ve been dealing with my trash the wrong way. I realized i may not be trashing the oceans and mountains, but i’m sending loads of trash to landfills–which discharge toxins into air, water, and land–thereby trashing the planet just the same. And i thought i cared for the environment. I remember having mixed feelings about it. Shock, disbelief, frustration, disgust, and guilt were the initial, quick reactions. But then i also felt strongly inspired, motivated, and hopeful. Right then and there i knew i wanted to do the right thing, to do things properly. Like legit properly.

    Zero waste made me see trash, as well as myself, in a new perspective. I now see my trash not as something that just happens inevitably and out of my control, but rather as something that i actively create, a direct and concrete outcome of my choices, habits, and lifestyle. Therefore, if i want to stop generating trash, i’ll have to start being conscious or mindful of the choices i make.

    The first question i asked after i read about Lauren Singer was: how about periods? I immediately realized that the only trash i can’t keep in a jar (and can’t compost either) are pads and tampons. Good thing, there is such a thing as a menstrual cup and i was good to go. I’m off to zero wasting.

    Since taking little steps to reduce waste last year, though, i’ve found that zero waste can be a bit of a challenge in the Philippines. Package-free stores are not widely available and accessible yet. So far, Ritual is the only totally package-free store in Metro Manila. I haven’t visited it yet because it’s very far from where i live.

    As such, i actively and constantly seek alternatives and solutions. I’ve inquired with farms and local businesses and companies if there is any way i can purchase their products without plastic packaging. While most of their answers are in the negative, i’m glad they are already aware of the need to ditch plastic and are in fact already finding solutions to packaging. In addition, they’ve promised to consider my suggestions.

    But while alternatives and solutions are still in the works, i’ll do the best i can. There are still ways to avoid trash going to the landfills. One is bringing properly segregated recyclable waste to recycling centers or your barangay’s material recovery/recycling facility. Then there’s also The Plastic Solution for nonrecyclable waste. The Plastic Solution is a movement of repurposing plastic bottles by stuffing the bottles with nonbiodegradable waste, transforming trash that would otherwise end up in landfills into ecobricks that will be used for the construction of houses, walls, benches, etc. This simple solution to nonrecyclable trash has been done in different parts of the world, including Sagada, Mountain Province.

    I have been encouraging friends to join me in doing The Plastic Solution’s #StuffItChallenge, but i feel like i have to clarify an important matter. I think The Plastic Solution is a good way to start transitioning to zero waste in the Philippines. However, it is important to note that it is not the same as zero waste. Repurposing trash as ecobricks does solve a huge problem (as does recycling), but it’s not so much of a sustainable and game-changing solution–that is, if we just keep on stuffing instead of working on ways so that there is nothing to stuff anymore. For as long as we say yes to plastic bottles, disposable packaging, plastic straws and eating utensils, styrofoam, etc., then manufacturers of these materials will create more and we will just create more ecobricks out of new trash. That when we still have a lot of landfills to deal with! The same goes with recycling: as Bea Johnson said, zero waste is not recycling more, but less. In fact, zero recycling is a goal.

    Challenge accepted! A note, tho: I don’t have any plastic bottle and i don’t plan to buy one for the #StuffItChallenge. And so i’m stuffing everything here, including trash i pick up from beaches and mountains. The people behind The Plastic Solution said they will still accept this container at their drop-off points so yey! Join the #StuffItChallenge now!

    For me, zero waste is the proper and most logical solution to trash. I believe in it so much. It is a game-changing solution: it aims to change the game by saying no to disposable, nonrecyclable materials, thereby demanding manufacturers to take back their trash and make the necessary solutions to the problem they created. Zero waste is telling these people “i’ve had enough of your shit and i don’t want to deal with it.”

    Anyway, all that said, i think it is clear that the problem of trash is solvable and that zero waste is possible in the Philippines. We all just need to start looking at our trash then ask: where did this all come from and where are they going? Let’s reflect on those questions for a while and once and for all, let’s all deal with our trash properly.

    #CoronIsNotBikiniBottom

    I need to postpone a scheduled post due to a very pressing matter that is really stressing me out.

    On January 9, 2017, Nickelodeon announced that it will be partnering with Coral World Park to open the world’s first undersea resort and attraction in Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said that the 100-hectare Nickelodeon undersea attraction and resort would be part of the 400-hectare Coral World Park and would be “yet another important step in boosting the Nickelodeon entertainment experience as we continue to give our fans, kids and their families, new ways to interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.” Viacom further said that the development, which would feature Coral World Park’s trademark undersea restaurants and lounges “located about 20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean,” would “advocate ocean protection.”

    Bullshit, right? Just utter bullshit.

    “…give our fans…new ways to interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.” Wow, i just cringe whenever i hear that. As if the marine life in Coron can be turned into a brand like Nickelodeon. As if Viacom owns the marine ecosystem in Coron. As if there is a real Bikini Bottom under the sea and the way to appreciate Nature is through characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. Also, what “ocean protection” are they talking about? Building an undersea attraction and resort will pollute the ocean and disrupt and destroy its marine life. What Nickelodeon and Coral World Park plan to do is not protection, but exploitation.

    I have not yet had the chance to visit Coron, but i have been to El Nido, Palawan. According to people who have visited both, Coron and El Nido are very similar and equally beautiful. And goodness, El Nido is a paradise! It is one of my favorite places in this country. Heck, i’m in love with the whole of Palawan! Palawan is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The latter is also one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

    Often dubbed as our “last ecological frontier” because of the rich biodiversity in its land and marine ecosystems, Palawan is a natural attraction in itself. So what’s the point of building an attraction or theme park? Again, building a theme park in what is already a natural paradise is not protection, but exploitation.

    Except for greedy corporations, i think everyone finds that fact is easy and simple to understand. That is why not long after Nickelodeon’s announcement, #CoronIsNotBikiniBottom trended on social media and an online petition seeking to block the planned theme park from pushing through quickly gathered support.

    Reacting to the public’s outrage, developer Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. said on January 11 that there had been a misunderstanding as the planned development will not be underwater but “undersea themed” that is “land-based.” Nickelodeon also clarified that the “undersea-themed attraction…is NOT developed undersea.”

    But, of course, they are lying. As early as 2011, Coral World Park’s plan has always been to build an underwater resort hotel in Palawan. That is why their website banner reads (in French): “An underwater experience.” (UPDATE: Whoa! The “News” tab has been updated. It now contains a thank-you note to “CNN and all the media which have covered the clarification of our development in Palawan.” Now this is awkward since all the news clippings just below that say clearly that Coral World Park is an underwater resort. UPDATE #2, January 14, 2017: Coral World Park’s website is gone. I’m not 100% sure, but before the website went down i think i saw that some of the words “underwater”/”undersea” have been changed to “underwater-themed”/”undersea-themed.” Again, i’m not sure. I hope i had taken some screenshots of the website. But i have a feeling that they took the website down because despite the changes made–if indeed those changes were made–their images, such as the one below, show that the planned Coral World Park features undersea villas, restaurants, and lounges.)

    cwp
    Photo from Coral World Park. Does that look like an underwater-themed resort that is land-based? I don’t think so.

    It is surprising that despite their massive proposal Coral World Park was not able to present a master plan when representatives met with Greenpeace Philippines and Save Philippine Seas. I hope this means they are carefully rethinking their plan. I hope their final decision would be to drop this money-making nonsense. If Nickelodeon and Coral World Park truly advocate ocean protection, they will not push through with the exploitation and instead support existing marine conservation efforts, as well as the communities in the area. Moreover, as a global kids’ brand, Nickelodeon should educate kids to respect marine life and NOT to exploit nature for entertainment and money.

    Photo from Save Philippine Seas

    Let us all remain vigilant regarding this matter. We need to wage a war against corporate greed and make sure this plan never pushes through.

    I believe that at the core of zero waste is caring for the environment. After all, it was my love for Nature that led me to this philosophy. And so if you are zero wasting, please support this cause and sign the petition here.

     

     

    Menstrual cups :’)

    Menstrual cups :’)

    In my previous post, i said that the menstrual cup was the major reason that made me decide instantly that i am finally going zero waste. There’s no exaggeration in that statement. This may sound weird but the menstrual cup is life-changing. As in, bes! Once i realized that zero waste menstruation is possible, i realized that i can actually do zero waste. After all, a huge part of my nonrecyclable waste in 2016 was composed of pads and tampons and their packaging.

    If you have used a menstrual cup before, i’m 100% sure you agree with me. If you haven’t, then try it and i’m already 100% sure you’ll agree with me. Since i’ve used it, i haven’t stopped raving about it to my sister and friends.

    Even before i’ve actually used a menstrual cup, i’ve been talking to some of my friends about it and have had a hard time convincing some of them to join me in making the switch from pads and tampons to menstrual cups. The facts and figures about the waste disposable pads and tampons make weren’t convincing enough. And that is partly because that’s just all where i’m coming from, really: the pro-Earth perspective. But now that i’ve actually used a menstrual cup, i hope i can now be more convincing.

    Behold the holy grail of zero waste period!

    So what’s exciting about menstrual cups? Well, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to my period! At first, i only wanted to use it for environmental purposes. I thought i was trading convenience and comfort for an environmental cause and i was willing to do that just so i won’t send another pad or tampon to the landfills. But it turns out that menstrual cups are not only eco-friendly, but actually waaay more convenient, comfortable, and hygienic than pads and tampons!

    How so?

    (1) You only need to put it in twice: morning and evening. While this depends on one’s flow, i think that even on heavy days cups won’t require you to change as often as pads and tampons do. You also need to own only one cup for at least five years or more because silicone, of which the cup is made, is durable and reusable. That said, menstrual cups are more convenient and practical to use than pads and tampons, which you need to buy every month and change every four hours or less to avoid odor and risks of toxic shock syndrome caused by bacteria. (Wow, imagine the waste we throw in a single day and in a month!)

    (2) It feels like you’re not wearing anything at all! Mga bes, i think many of us can relate about how pads and tampons can feel very uncomfortable and gross they restrain our freedom to move however we like. With menstrual cups, not only can you hike, run, dance, climb, and swim safely, you can also sleep in whatever position totally worry-free. Pads for “all night” use have nothing on menstrual cups. Not even tampons, which gives a feeling of dryness inside you. Using the toilet becomes a different experience too: no sight of the blood on the pad (yuck!) and no need to protect the tampon string from touching the toilet bowl. Having said these, i think menstrual cups are more comfortable to use than pads and tampons. A note, tho: Trying it out for the first time did feel uncomfortable but applying water-based lubricant did the trick. The lube i used was Trust EZ Lubricating Jelly, a small sachet of which costs P25.00 at Mercury Drugstore. Eventually, i learned how to easily insert the cup without the help of a lube so now my periods are totally zero waste.

    (3) No odor, no itchiness, no leaks!* Once you’ve used it, you’ll realize how gross pads and tampons are. Heck, you’ll realize that the blood isn’t gross at all! The odor, as we all know, is actually caused by bacteria building up in the moist down there and upon contact with the chemicals in the pad or tampon. The same odor-causing bacteria irritates the skin, causing itchiness and, sometimes, rash. About leakage, tho, the cup needs to be properly inserted or emptied every 12 hours in order to have no leaks. In my experience, i only had a leak because i once wore the cup for 24 hours straight as i then had honestly forgotten about my period!

    So there. Eco-friendly, convenient, comfortable, and hygienic, the menstrual cup is truly the best thing that has ever happened to my period. There is just no way you can make me go back to pads and tampons anymore. I hope this simple reason is enough to convince menstruating people** to make the switch too.

    So where can you get menstrual cups in the Philippines? I got mine from Anytime Menstrual Cups PH for only P700.00. I wanted to try the Filipino brand Sinaya Cup but it was rather expensive for me then as i had resigned from work during the time i desperately needed to make the switch (desperate because my conscience wouldn’t let me throw another pad to a landfill. I still have a pack of unused pads here and i’m never using them again!). A social enterprise, Sinaya Cup costs P1,199.00; when you buy one, you also give one to a woman in its partner communities or to Days for Girls, an international women’s advocacy group.

    International brands of menstrual cups are also available locally at maternity online shops, but i recommend the two brands i mentioned because they’re the most affordable so far and many Filipinos have used these brands and given them good reviews with detailed tips on how to use them.

    So there. I hope you give menstrual cups a try, if you haven’t. I swear, it’ll be the best thing to happen to your period!

    UPDATE: I don’t know why, after some use, my menstrual cup leaked. As far as i can tell, i have inserted it properly and have not filled it to the brim. So why is it leaking now?? I googled and found out that i’m not alone. It turns out that leaks are pretty normal. While there are ways to stop menstrual cups from leaking, i realize it would also help to wear washable menstrual pads or pantyliners to catch occasional leaks. I’ve heard of washable pads and pantyliners before but didn’t bother to mention them as a zero waste period alternative because i’m a hardcore menstrual cup fanatic. (Haha) But because occasional leaks, okay, here you go. Now, where to get washable menstrual pads and pantyliners in the Philippines? Well, just google “washable menstrual pads philippines” and you’ll find many local online stores that sell washable pads and pantyliners at affordable prices. I haven’t bought one but i suggest choosing one that is made of cotton instead of microfiber. 🙂

    ___

    *Not that we should be ashamed about menstrual leaks or stains! But don’t we hate stains–blood, coffee, ink, etc.–on clothes or furniture?

    **’coz i feel i just want to say that not all girls and women menstruate and that not all that menstruate are girls or women. ðŸ˜‰

    This year, i’ll go zero waste!

    First of all, welcome to my blog! I don’t know what brought you here but i hope it’s because, like me, you also care for the environment. I also hope that you visit this blog once in a while because i promise to update this as much as i can. I have never successfully maintained a blog before, but this time, i solemnly swear that i will post an entry at least once a month.

    Secondly: about this blog. Going zero waste is my 2017 New Year’s Resolution No. 1 and this blog documents my zero waste journey. I say journey because it’s going to be a slow and long process. That is why the name of this blog is “Zero Wasting”–to indicate doing and becoming. It’s an active work in progress. This journey has actually already begun last year. But that part of the journey was mostly preparation and education. And it’s only now–after studying and researching about waste, stuff, consumerism, and sustainability amidst all the lows and highs and plateaus of the eventful year that was 2016–that i feel confident enough to embark on the journey and share my experience with others. I told myself: this time, there are no excuses.

    By learning about the zero waste movement, i don’t mean merely reading stuff and not doing anything. No. Part of the education was application. As such, i have been practicing waste reduction since last year. But it has been a slow and frustrating progress. I have failed many times and have resorted to convenience along the way. But i’ve had a couple of small accomplishments: last year, i bought only two plastic bottles of water and that was before i bought a canteen which i now bring with me everywhere i go. I’ve also kept most of my trash made of paper and cardboard–like used paper (used on both sides), receipts, bus tickets, post-its, chocolate boxes, soap and toothpaste boxes, envelopes (plastic windows removed), calling cards, tickets to cinema and plays/musicals (’cause what’s the point of keeping them?), coupons, tags on clothes–in my paper recycling bin (which, btw, i just turned over to a junk shop first week of 2017). In addition, i’ve rejected straws and plastic spoons and forks in most of my dine-outs, i’ve made it a habit to refuse plastic bags and freebies, i’ve brought a baunan with me for take-outs, i’ve bought secondhand clothes, and–and this is my fave–i’ve used a menstrual cup! The latter is the high that got me to decide instantly that i’m finally going zero waste and will blog about this journey.

    Finally, I hope you join me in this journey. If you are from the Philippines, let’s help each other out. Let’s share struggles, experiences, alternatives, and solutions. Let’s show everyone, through example, that zero wasting is cool and possible in this beautiful country. 🙂