Lately, there have been many viral videos about how much waste floats around in our oceans alone. Take into consideration the amount of trash we have dumped in garbage sites, plus all the junk that you are about to throw out in the next weeks, multiplied by the number of households in the entire world. It’s hard to fathom. Statistically speaking, each person produces 4.3 pounds of trash per day.
One of the biggest illusions is that when our trash gets picked up by the garbage collector, it’s no longer our problem; out of sight, out of mind. Futile efforts have been made for this increasing global issue just because of consumerism which is dictated with an iron fist by the major corporations.
In reality, most of our garbage ends up in the sea or landfills. This is where the cycle of life continues. The fish eat the trash, and people eat the fish. The animals eat the garbage, and people eat the animals. Think about it. The degeneration of the Earth would mean our own demise.
We need to take ourselves out of the state of apathy, as the harm that we do to our world, is harm that we inflict upon ourselves. It is up to us to make personal changes and bring a domino effect to society that will sweep each person with an awakening of their compassion for the world we live in. Our planet cannot save itself and scream “Enough!”
One of those who stands up for Mother Earth is Jean Alfonso-Decena. She is an active advocate of Zero-waste and their home practices this devotedly. She shares how becoming a zero-waste advocate has changed the quality of life of their family ever since they chose to do something that others would think to be close to impossible.
The turning point
Admittedly she said, it was not easy transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle. Like any kind of transition, it has factors surrounding getting tired of something, and getting tired of getting tired of it.
The lifestyle choice was the best option in racking up in savings, letting go of unnecessary material things and being mindful of the environment.
“I say this because we got accustomed to the convenience of everything: we were not mindful or our purchases- we just kept buying what we needed and wanted while witnessing our weekly trash be collected in big bagfuls, burning cash and accumulating material things that we hardly use or have any need for. It got tiring, the consumption and the piling up…so we acted upon it. “
“My husband and I started researching- he even went to Thailand as part of his ecovillage immersion and studies—and applied what our parents would have done decades ago. In a way it was also easy because my husband and I are meditators/yoga practitioners, which taught a life of minimalism and mindfulness.”
“Similar to when I went vegan at first- they’re all looking at me like I’m going backwards and being foolish but I explained to them—my family first—how economical it would be when it comes to savings, and how it would benefit our health (and) then help the Earth.”
At home they were very accepting of it, but she says she would usually get appalled stares from co-workers, vendors, cashiers at supermarkets and restaurants. She sometimes gets into occasional arguments about disposables when she refuses them and starts taking out her own containers. Then, like magic, they’d become interested in what she was actively advocating. Confusion is replaced by admiration for her tenacity in saying no to plastics and straws. She encourages them to do the same, to give what is due to Mother Earth.
Other family members and friends get surprised when they learn that she and her family do not use disposable panty liners, napkins, toilet paper, toothbrush and the usual chemical-laden toiletries such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap and cleaners.
Decena shares, “My mom is begging me to retire my worn out flats. In the two years we’ve been transitioning, we gained a lot of breathing room, sunshine in the house, birds that greet us in the morning and our lush little urban garden. We hardly have anything to give to garbage collector, it’s so funny!”
Consumerism dictates lifestyle
Decena turned to a vegan diet and this change made her look into deeper views about lifestyle choices and the environmental effects of people’s consumer habits. It made her think about how consumerism is a valuable tool to vote for what we want. Simply said, if we direct our money to unhealthy choices, we are voting for that kind of lifestyle.
Although she has been an environmentalist in her own ways prior to the change in diet, veganism has opened her eyes to how majority of people have been conditioned to the benefit of the big corporations. Being vegan has awakened her sense of minimalism and practicality.
“I then realized that I don’t need much to thrive, so I started looking into minimizing my consumption, therefore minimizing my waste. I also started feeling suffocated by the habit of buying and filling my home with material things that gather dust or take up lots of space”
Vegan + zero-waste = perfect combination
Since their family is also vegan, it compliments their zero-waste lifestyle. When asked if it helps to be vegan she exclaims,
“[Yes,] Totally! Veganism and zero-waste living are like two peas in the same pod. One cannot exist without the other if we truly get to the bottom of it.”
One of the biggest benefits of going vegan—apart from saving animal lives and making human health vital—is the amount of waste one can save.
Between scrimping on showering and skipping that cow beef burger, the latter saves more gallons of water, crops that can be fed to humans and the land that animal farming consumes. Also, cooking oil cannot be composted, so it forces us to reduce eating fried food or cooking with it, which benefits our health.”
Aside from that, most products that can be bought without packaging is also vegan! No wonder why shopping becomes a breeze.
First and foremost, it is important to take into consideration your means of getting there. Forget about gas powered engines! Everyone can use some strolling time, take a walk or
ride a bike. This will help our environment greatly.
Decena shared her tips on how to maintain a zero waste lifestyle amidst shopping in a usual setting. She says that you really have to plan your trips to the mall or market.
Eco-bags are a must and she brings them everywhere she goes shopping. Her reusable bags for shopping also include canvas bags. The wet market or farmer’s market is your best bet when it comes to shopping without packaging since you have the freedom to choose not to package them in plastic. For wet items, she uses reusable plastic containers like Tupperware.
Contrary to what others might think, she finds it easier to shop now since whatever goes with a non-biodegradable package is immediately out of the choices so this cuts her shopping time to more than half. Only buy what is essential, she interjects.
Another bonus in going zero waste is it pushes you to make better food choices. Most of the foods that do not come in non-biodegradable packages are products that have been processed. Your options will be more on whole foods, which are products that were not processed or have close to none chemicals in them. Decena says, “Processed/artificial foods and consumables are unhealthy to the body and the procedure it went through took up a lot of resources to be made. The more whole foods we consume, the least processing it entailed, the better they are for the body and the earth. Plus we’re supporting the livelihood of the small farmers and vendors who work to feed their families, not the big corporations that keep getting richer.”
“It is hard to maintain a home totally without plastic, some are still being given and what we do is upcycle, reuse, and recycle the disposables or plastics that still end up in our home.”
In making your zero-waste transition, you will need reusable essentials that will help you get started. Here is a checklist you can keep handy. Make a bold change in your life and lessen your carbon footprint. Most of all, give some lovin’ to Mother Earth as she sustains us every day.
• Tumbler and cutlery
• Ecobags, cloths (as wipes, sanitary napkin etc.)
• Jars for leftovers and for buying package-less items in the grocery or market
• Wood, metal or glass items like wooden toothbrush, metal containers, glass containers and straws
• Stove not microwaves which are bad for the health
• Organic or natural products like toiletries and cleaning aids
• Baking soda and vinegar for various cleaning needs
• Shovels, pails and boxes in three sizes (pails to collect rainwater, store compost materials/animal food, and laundry activities; boxes for segregating waste for composting,
• Wooden stick and scissors for Ecobricks (there’s still some plastic that ends up at home, which can be turned into Ecobricks)
It’s time to act now; there is no better day than today. It doesn’t matter what others would think. Consult your own moral compass, and you will find the simple answer that making small changes can make a big impact.
An online brand, Zero Waste Philippines provides products that can cater to your zero-waste needs. You may check them out at www.facebook.com/ph.zerowaste or contact Ferdinand at 09064030656. They are happy to share more tips on how to carry out a zero-waste practice.