From Zero Waste to Low Impact

If you use the #zerowaste on Instagram, your post will surely be part of 2.7 million photos displayed on grid while if you use the localized version which is #zerowasteph, you’ll see 23,000 posts about it. This is a proof that the zero-waste movement truly gained traction in the past few years.

I was once that person who got hooked (which I didn’t regret) by the zero waste lifestyle. It was December of 2017 when I was having a cup of coffee with my co-teacher and got curious of how coffee cups were being recycled.

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I found out that they’re neither compostable nor recyclable because the process of separating the plastic lining (yes, it makes them to not get soggy over time)is already complicated. This only means that this sign isn’t a promise.

This brought me to the website of Bea Johnson, the founder of Zero Waste Home.
If you heard about that one woman who was able to make a jar of trash for some years, yes, that’s her. Johnson has been living the lifestyle for 10 long years.

Making the story short, the Zero Waste Filipina was born. I created the blog with the intention of documenting my day-to-day journey until I reach the point where I will have zero trash.

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I think that I was successful with it as according to National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), an average Filipino produces 0.4 kg of trash per day. In 2018, I was able to stuff all my inevitable trash in a bottle weighing 1.5 kgs. Yes, that’s the amount of my trash for one whole year.

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While Zero Waste Filipina opened me to so many opportunities I never knew I would experience, it also let me carry a responsibility that I had to bring every single day. I often get upset for not finding unpackaged options around my area or, I just bring home my trash.

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Despite the repetitive explanation to people that the two words attached to my name aren’t adjectives and a personal goal instead, it was inevitable for people to see me as a miniature of the circular economy. Despite your big efforts in reducing your trash and still have some, don’t you worry dear, it isn’t your fault. It’s the system’s fault.

In 17th of March 2019, even though it will affect the identity of my blog, I decided to change my handle name from Zero Waste Filipina to Low Impact Filipina. Here are the reasons why:

  1. We only see the tip of the iceberg.
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When we buy something and we use our own reusables, there are waste that we don’t see during the production, transportation, and delivery. Although we cannot underestimate the power of a single person to create a difference, we should also look at the realistic perspective that we are not living in an economy that supports this lifestyle. No, I am not stopping you from bringing your own reusables. I still do that. Not because we don’t see the trash doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

2. We are living in a linear economy.

Source: https://talkintrashwithuhn.com/2017/06/07/trash-to-treasure-accelerating-the-circular-economy/

Every product packaging that we use in our daily lives is meant to be thrown away afterwards. Actually 98% of our grocery items are packaged in plastic. This is what we call the disposable economy or the linear economy. The zero waste economy or the circular economy supports the cradle-to-cradle system where each material is being reused or composted. This does not mean that you should continue buying plastic products because we’re living in a linear economy anyway. You can support the circular economy by having a circular mindset. Think of the before and after life of the products that you buy. Ask things like, “Do I need this? Is it worth to throw away after its end life?”

3. It should start from the industry.

While I strongly believe that one human action can lead to a positive environmental impact, I also believe we should start giving pressure to these manufacturers, retailers, and the government to have our voices heard. You can do this by communicating with your local legislators and businesses by writing an e-mail or letter or joining the local sessions. Above all, you can vote with your peso. Be conscious of what you buy. Remember the Economics 101: The supply and the demand. And as Emma Watson said, “As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

4. Broaden my focus

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Zero waste concept opened my mind to different perspective of environmental discussions. While beginning with your waste is good, it is also beneficial for yourself and the environment to take a look on the other focal points of environmentalism. Through living low impact, I will be focusing on different topics such as animal agriculture, transportation emissions, renewable energy, plastic pollution, fast fashion, and lowering your purchase. I would like to discuss a broader perspective of environmentalism rather than focusing on my waste alone.

Living a low impact lifestyle doesn’t connote that I am giving in creating more trash. This does not also show that I am not conscious anymore of the plastic packaging that I get everyday. This is an approach where I lower my impact but raising my consciousness in all aspects of environmentalism. I would like to shift my motivation from trying to avoid the guilt to wanting to do something positive. At the end of the day, we have the choice to choose what term does make us comfortable.

So while zero waste is not where I choose to primarily focus my attention to, I’d love to hear if what impact zero waste did to you.  Have you encountered similar issues like mine?

Published by Angel Mata

Angel is a teacher based in Laguna, Philippines. She is advocating for reducing one's environmental impact through waste reduction, vegetarianism, and second hand purchase.

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