Common Grounds: A holiday pop-up that helps our Bantay Gubat. Here’s how you can too!

Let’s talk about where 98% of water in Metro Manila come from: The Ipo watershed. Primarily consisting of public forestlands, forest cover has dramatically dropped from 85% to just 40% in recent years. The entire watershed is a protected area by virtue of several proclamations including the granting of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title for the Indigenous Dumagat tribes in the watershed, covering 15.8% of the area.

Photo by Wazzup Pilipinas

If you are wondering who are the people behind the protection of these watershed against illegal activities, it is no other than the Bantay Gubat, or Forest Watchers. There are 173 Bantay Gubat rangers in total, most coming from the Dumagat indigenous people group who find home in sitios that dot the surrounding forest. They patrol 6,600 hectares of rainforest facing conflict with offenders seeking to profit off the watershed’s natural wealth.

Team Kamagong leader Romel Paray stands in front of the vibrant forests he works to protect. Photograph © Alo Lantin / WWF-Philippines

Aside from guarding the forest from law offenders, these heroes are also protector of the watershed. If you still have water running down your faucet, these people should be thanked for, a lot.

Here comes the problem:

Due to the decrease on the forest cover, when it rains, it floods. This problem gets worse when these rangers spend the night in the forest. Lacking proper tents, the rangers craft makeshift shelters out of the surrounding foliage, binding together giant leaves to sleep under.

Aside from that, this mountain forest that is one of Metro Manila’s main sources of water is now at the mercy of illegal logging and burning after around 20 of its forest guards left their posts in January this year. These forest rangers are supposed to be paid by the MWSS, a government agency in charge of providing water to Metro Manila through water concessionaires. MWSS, through Presidential Proclamation Number 391 in 1968, shares management responsibilities over Ipo Watershed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. These forest rangers have to wait so long before they receive their monthly salary. They also lack of materials and equipment necessary for their job. Despite these scenarios, they really endured and worked despite the uncertainty.

Photo by Gregg Yan

While we wait for the government to do their part in ensuring the financial and social security of our forest rangers, organizations like UP Mountaineers, a student organization of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, do their part through the promotion of responsible mountaineering and conservation of the Ipo Watershed.

How can I help?

Aside from monetary donations through organizations like UP Mountaineers and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the collaboration of The Low Impact Filipina, The Girl and the Outdoors , Mud Morning Cafe and WTN (Where to Next) launched Common Grounds, a holiday pop-up with a community feel that offers a generous variety of local and eco-friendly products.

Partner merchants of Common Grounds

Common Grounds will be collecting donations for our forest rangers on November 25-30, 2019 ; 10AM to 9PM at Morning Mud Café, Stall #5, Centennial Dorm, E. Jacinto St., UP Diliman, QC.

Here is the wishlist of our forest rangers according to the UP Mountaineers.

Photo c/o UP Mountaineers

With your generous donations, you can help not only our forest rangers but also the sustainability of our water supply! Help protect nature by supporting our rangers.

Eco-Anxiety: How to deal with it?

Ever since I started living an Eco-friendly life in 2017, my anxiety kept on barging in my mind.

‘Am I doing enough?’ ‘The Amazon Rainforest is burning. I’m not doing enough!’ ‘I used a paper bag today instead of bringing my own bag!’

These are just some of the questions that bother me on a daily basis. Sometimes, I even can’t sleep thinking about that non Eco-friendly detergent that I used because I had no option in the city that I am living in or re purposing my old toothbrush to clean my sink but will eventually turn to micro plastics and kill the marine life.

If you are experiencing the same, don’t worry, you are not alone. You are indeed suffering from Eco-anxiety. Stephanie Watson of How Stuff Works defined Eco-anxiety as chronic fear of environmental doom – the concern that increasing human development and pollution that leads us into an inevitable scourge of floods, famines, heat waves, species extinctions, and ultimately, the demise of our planet.

Eco-anxiety is indeed real and it can truly stress you out (especially if you are just starting out living an eco-friendly life). In my experience, I felt that I have hit the rock bottom where I thought that my actions didn’t matter at all and won’t change anything.

While it is true that my small daily actions don’t create that much of an impact, it is still better to do something than to wait and do nothing. Here are the things that I did and still doing to overcome Eco-Anxiety:

  1. ACCEPTANCE

It was early January 2019 when I started to feel the early signs of Eco-anxiety. It was when I was living with people who were not living the same way as I did. While it brought me to disgust and fear in the beginning, it taught me that not everyone can do the same thing as I do for some valid reasons such as accessibility to bulk stores, or the financial incapacity to purchase a more sustainable alternative. This also opened my mind that progress is much better than perfection – that there will be times that I have to choose between two evil options and just choosing the lesser evil ones.

Acceptance does not mean that I’m giving in with going back to the pre-Low Impact Filipina life but rather doing as much effort as I can everyday. Practice acceptance in your daily struggles but never give in and turn back to life that hurts the planet.

2. Find a support group

Are your housemates not cooperative with your initiative of segregating your trash? Or do you have your daily dose of caffeine in a reusable tumbler but your officemates chose the disposable ones? This sounds really upsetting.

Whether online or offline, it is always good to meet like-minded people who feel the same for the planet as much as you do. In my case, when my schedule permits, I always try to meet my fellow environmental bloggers and local business owners to refresh my minds and give and take a tap on the back.

If your time doesn’t permit you to do so, you may join online groups such as the following:

3. Get a new perspective

I lived in Manila for two years trying out my career as a teacher. I also started living sustainably in this city but realized that that was not for me. Year 2018 when I moved to San Pablo city, a decision that I will never regret in my life. Walking around Manila everyday, I knew that I cannot do it alone and I will not be able to solve the trash problems. Having these thoughts everyday made me think that I am hopeless. Moving to San Pablo, Laguna gave me a much better perspective of my environmental vision. Several factors helped me to do so such as the plastic bag ban, and the annual environmental projects of the city and the school.

Note: You do not need to move out of your city to get a new perspective. You can get it from attending seminars, or doing environmental activities that you can adapt to your own city. You can also have it at home reading books of how wonderful our planet is. You can start anywhere.

4. Start going back to work!

This blog has been down for the past three months for variety of reasons for personal reasons. I became very fragile of what I see online and offline. After some months of break, I’m coming back grinding and writing of how we can help our fellow Filipinos, the Philippines, and the world, not only by raising awareness but also by asking them to urgently switch to a more sustainable life. While corporal responsibility can create a massive impact, here are the things that you can do to help reduce your footprint:

  • Eat less meat, go vegetarian or vegan.
  • Fly less.
  • Practice minimalism.
  • Send letter to businesses about their packaging.
  • Write to your local government officials.
  • Practice a less plastic life.
  • Lower your purchase.
  • Live a low impact life.

5. Follow Eco-influencers

There is nothing bad following celebrities who inspire us to be beautiful or feel beautiful everyday. But, following eco-influencers really helped to get a much better perspective in my daily grind of environmentalism. They gave me so much tips and tricks and virtual tap on the back during my low times. Here are my favorite Filipino influencers that I follow on Instagram:

If you have more eco-influencers that you follow, please leave a comment below. Also, if you found this article helpful, I would love it if you would give it a share!

Low Impact Hairties?

Hair ties are easy to find… and also easy to lose. People have been losing hair ties daily and most of them just end up as trash polluting our environment. Hair ties themselves are not eco-friendly as they are made out of the mixture of synthetic and non recyclable materials.

Here are the small actions that you can make to have low environmental impact while tying your hair up in this extreme heat in the Philippines.

  1. Try other methods other than hair ties.

One advantage of using a hair tie is that it is very convenient and accessible. Just grab it, and tie your hair up. Why not try other ways on fixing your hair like headband, hair clips or hair sticks? Here are the other 9 alternatives in to elastic hair ties.

2. Do not lose your hair tie.

This might be so easy to say but the most sustainable way of having a low impact hair tie is to take good care of what you have like a baby. Try to also minimize the number of hair ties that you own.Having fewer items will actually help you have them handy when you need them! This might be so easy to say but the most sustainable way of having a low impact hair tie is to take good care of what you have like a baby.

3. Pick up a hair tie on the street.

This might be too extreme for everyone but this is what other people do like Bea Johnson of @zerowastehome. While other people are losing their hair ties, what you need to do is to pick them up.

Photo from Bea Johnson’s Instagram (@zerowastehome)

4. Repurpose your hair ties.

While all hair ties are not made the same, they can serve so many purposes. You can use them in organizing your cables, tying up your test papers (if you’re a teacher like me) or you can also repair them and make them as a new hair tie.

Photo from: WasteLandRebel

5. Invest in a plastic-free hair tie.

Yes, they do exits. Kooshoo, feeling good in Norfuk, a language spoken exclusively by the people of Norfolk Island, a small island in the South Pacific, is a hair tie brand based in Canada. It is locally available at Loop Store in Quezon City. When I have been losing my promise to myself that I will be using one hair tie in my life time, I started placing my order to this plastic-free hair tie. It happened by accident, I promise you. (Just send me a DM, HAHA)

They are the only plastic-free, biodegradable, ethically made hair tie on the market (as far as I know at least!) 

They are significantly more expensive than regular hair ties, but they are also last way longer, so the price difference isn’t as drastic as it seems. However, since its Php. 499.00 (10$), I’d say it’s fair to stretch the wallet for this one, given the plastic-free payoff.

Hair ties, as little as they seem, they are as dangerous as your plastic straws and fish nets polluting our ocean. Their small size can be easily ingested by sea animals. While we cannot have zero impact to this planet, we can create a positive change through the change of our habits whether its through your peso or picking up used hair ties lying around our streets.

Is your bamboo toothbrush 100% eco-friendly?

Bamboo Toothbrush from Loop Store, Quezon City, Philippines

What is a Bamboo Toothbrush?

Bamboo toothbrushes are similar to any other manual toothbrush you would find on the grocery stores. They have a handle and bristles to remove food bits and plaque from your teeth. The key difference between bamboo toothbrushes and plastic toothbrushes is the material used to make the handle.

Bamboo plants, unlike other trees, grow quickly, need little maintenance and may thrive without fertilizer or pesticides.

When used in its raw form, such as in the shape of a toothbrush handle, bamboo does have a considerably smaller ecological footprint compared to plastic. This is because bamboo is biodegradable. You can compost the handles of bamboo toothbrushes if you first remove the nylon bristles. You can also find ways to creatively reuse the toothbrush handles, such as turning them into plant markers for your garden, or you can also use them as an eyebrow brush when removing them at night.

How eco-friendly is your bamboo toothbrush?

When you buy one bamboo toothbrush, it means that one less plastic is going to the landfill, or the ocean. While this is a good way to go, we cannot help by get curious if we companies really tell us what they really claim. While searching for a good toothbrush, I came across this article online entitled, “The Truth about Your Biodegradable Toothbrush”.

A-Hao, who owns a plastic-free products shop called Simple Eco Life in Taiwan, was selling a toothbrush called The Environmental Toothbrush, and she wanted to know if the bristles really were made from Nylon-4.

Nylon-4 is a petroleum (= fossil fuel) based plastic that is said to biodegrade within months. Long story short: Nylon-4 seems to be biodegradable (not compostable), as studies like this one suggest.

To answer her claims, she brought the said toothbrushes to the laboratory to have it tested. The result showed that the toothbrushes are made out of Nylon-6 which is neither biodegradable nor recyclable.

According to A-Hao, western companies who sell these bamboo toothbrushes often do not communicate directly with their Chinese manufacturers (yes, most are sourced from China) but through an agency. It’s possible that they are being misled by the agencies that set up the manufacturing partnerships.

There are also other claims that their bristles are made from charcoal-enhanced Bamboo Bristles, and some other brands use pig hair. While these can all be true, what we can do is to always ask these brands not only about the after life of their products but the process before they reach the hands of the consumers. This is not to judge them but they to ask them if we’re doing more harm than good.

Note: Your bamboo toothbrushes aren’t eco-friendly if they end up in the trash. They aren’t significantly more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterpart because they don’t decompose well unlike what we imagined. Compost or repurposed them instead.

While zero waste or low impact living isn’t about perfectionism, this shouldn’t be an avenue for green businesses to not become transparent of what they do and what they sell. Let’s support them but never forget to guide them to the right direction.

A guide to Plastic Free July

Plastic-free July is a global annual challenge where people give up the use of plastic for one whole month. The goal is to raise awareness about the effects of unconscious consumption of plastic and plastic pollution.

If you are interested in joining the challenge, go to Plastic Free July’s website and sign up.

As we all know, challenges can be really overwhelming so I made a guide on how you can kickstart this month plastic-free.

1. Identify your plastic trash source.

Been there, done that! I started giving up plastic straw and buying a metal straw first. While this is a good start, straws are not really an everyday essential for me as I can go without one. This is where identifying your trash source comes in. Through identifying your trash source, it will be easier for you to find a plastic-free swap that you can use on a daily basis. Low purchase, low waste.

2. Choose what works for you.

Can you do a monthly challenge or is it too overwhelming for you? Then, go for a week of July plastic-free. Do you prefer eliminating all the plastic in your life or just the ones that make your bin overflow? Choose something that works according to your budget, your time, and your preference. As long as you won’t feel overwhelmed and withdraw from the plastic-free life soon, go for it. I got you!

3. Plan.

Plastic-free life requires a lot of planning. This can be a little overwhelming in the beginning but it will pay you off at the end as it will be part of your habit. Remember to forgive yourself whenever you forget to bring your reusables. This is not your fault. It’s part of the system that we live in. Do your best, that’s what matter the most.

4. Live it!

Once you get used to living life without plastic, you will not turn back, trust me. It will be part of your habit, and your system. It will not be an easy task in the beginning but if you keep going, the planet Earth and the future will thank you.

Note:

Remember to not become too hard to yourself. I make trash. We all make plastic trash. This situation only shows how plastic has become pervasive, unavoidable and already part of our system. What we can do is to reduce them and consciously and only purchase things that we need. We cannot let it to be this way for the next years. If you have a trash fail, forgive yourself or post it online and tag @lowimpactfilipina so we can all cheer you up to not give up. We are all here along side with you.

Silicone Vs. Plastic? – Low Impact Filipina

When I started living sustainably in 2017, most of the alternatives to plastic that I encountered were either made of wood or metal. Silicone was out of the picture back then. In fact, silicone sent a negative message to me as I was always watching ‘implants fail’ before and the word silicone was always mentioned.

This all changed when I got interested about menstrual cup, a medical grade silicone alternative to tampons and pads.

What exactly is silicone?

Silicones or siloxanes as they are also known—are something of a hybrid between synthetic rubbers and synthetic plastic polymers. They can take on different forms and be used to make malleable rubberlike items, hard plastic-like resins, and thick spreadable fluids. Comprising chains of silicon molecules with side-groups of other molecules, it can take the form of a liquid or solid.

Where do we use them?

Silicones have become enormously popular in recent years and are constantly marketed as safe replacements for traditional plastics. Period cups, toothbrush cover, silicone bra, and collapsible cups, you name it, you can find them almost everywhere today.

Is silicone plastic?

Because of the flexibility and durability of silicone, we taught that they are plastic because of its properties such as the maleability, flexibility and durability. Like plastic, they can be shaped or formed and softened or hardened into practically anything. You can use them almost on everything.

Are all silicones safe?

Not all silicones are made the same and as consumers, we have to invest to high quality silicones that is food grade or ideally, medical grade. To earn more profit, some manufacturers add fillers to the products.

You can test a silicone product for chemical fillers by pinching and twisting a flat surface of it to see if any white shows through. If you see white, a filler likely has been used because pure silicone should not change color at all.

If it has fillers, the product may not be uniformly heat resistant and may impart an odor to food. But most importantly, you will have no idea what the filler is, and it may leach unknown chemicals into the food. For all you know, the filler may be a silicone of low quality or not silicone at all.

If silicone and plastic are both polymers, which is lesser evil?

While silicon and plastic can adhere heat and cold temperature, silicone does last longer compared to the latter. In fact, silicone can last series of sterilizing (for cups, 5 years) or freezing when used as freezer bags. Silicone has also no estrogen-mimicking toxins such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) unlike the conventional plastic. Talking about the environmental threat, silicones, just like plastic are rarely recycled. Although it can be collected by a special recycling facility that will downcycle the silicone into oil used as lubricant for industrial machines, it is rarely accepted in municipal recycling programs. Therefore, silicones, just like plastic will not biodegrade and will just in the landfill for hundred of years.

If I were to choose between silicone and plastic, I would go for silicone for durability, heat-cold resistance, and food and medically safe. I believe that if we inevitably use resources, we choose the ones that don’t require frequent harvesting and less impact.

So, are you Team Plastic or Team Silicone?

Can minimalism help save the environment?

On the rising trend of minimalism from clothing to the tech designs, you can really see the appeal of people in having clutter-free space. Aside from the physical aspect, you will see more people cutting back the number of things they own (Hello, Marie Kondo). As for me, this is a pretty good trend that we should all jump in – having less is more.

But, can this trend help save the environment?

When I started going zero waste in 2017, I tried to find a plastic-free stuff for everything that I own. Toothpaste in glass jars, bamboo toothbrush, solid shampoo, etc. There is nothing wrong with those but, if you still have existing items at home, it is very important to consume them first before trying out new items. That is the concept of minimalism – living with less.

Here are the reasons why minimalism can help save the environment:

1. Low purchase = Low Impact

Living with less stuff definitely reduced my impact to the environment by just being careful of what I purchase. When I consciously monitor the things that I buy, I noticed that I also produced less waste. For example, when you buy clothes, there are a lot of waste produced before your purchase like transportation, plastic packaging, chemical dying, etc. I try to think of this while holding a piece of clothing that I think will match my shoes and ended up will not buying it. It is not deprivation. It is mindfulness. They may seem small but these factors create a big impact.

2. Less but the best.

If we buy consciously, we also buy fewer things. When we decide to buy fewer ones, we buy the best ones that will last for a long time. By doing this, we’re able to get get rid of stains and holes that immediately appear to cheaply made clothes. Less stuff but the best stuff.

3. Economics 101 (Supply & Demand )

60% of global greenhouse gases are generated from human consumerism. Our demands from getting more stuff to get inside our homes and lives require transportation. More transportation means more emission, and more of these means a hotter planet. It’s a ripple effect that we shouldn’t ignore.

Minimalism is a great way to save the environment — and yourself. With the growing hype of social media showing us to acquire things that we don’t have, it’s easy to set aside the consciousness of responsible purchase. But, even if you slowly do small steps into a more minimalist life, it will still create an impact to this world. The more minimalists humans that we have, the better our planet will be.

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?