When I got into college, I took up psychology as my undergraduate program and we were required to take a class on global development. We discussed the different environmental issues affecting countries all over the world. One of the things that struck me the most is the plastic problem we're facing, specifically ocean plastic pollution. When I found out that the Philippines is the third largest contributor of plastic leeching into the ocean, I was completely shocked. I was confused and equally frustrated as to why these issues weren't brought to light and how people would rather pretend they didn't exist. I wasn't aware how much damage we were inflicting our own planet and how we did it so mindlessly. I was a senior at De La Salle University a little over 2 years ago when I decided to start on my journey on sustainable living.
It was the first time I was exposed to the reality and gravity of our situation. Despite not knowing much about the lifestyle, I wanted to learn more and shift my life accordingly. I'd been hearing the term "zero waste" going around wherein people attempt to lower their carbon footprint by producing little to no waste and avoid sending anything to landfill. Unfortunately, we live in a linear economy where products are meant to have an end-of-life so consumers have no choice but to repurchase them because it's better financially for bigger corporations. Although individuals gear towards zero waste and want to live with a circular economy in mind, the term "zero waste" wasn't meant for individual action, but the root in which production starts — the industry. However, there are ways in which we can minimize the damage we inflict.
"You never really know what you throw away until you stop taking out the trash."
In April 2018, I consciously decided to collect all the trash I use and generate on a daily basis and find some extreme, but effective ways to cut down on waste. One year later, I discovered that most of the trash I produced came from packaging of food such as junk food and online deliveries. Plastic straws and disposable cutlery were also the most evident. It was clear to me that one of the biggest challenges I continually face while living a lifestyle centered on sustainability is the lack of accessibility to package-free goods in the country as well as the awareness of the world's situation. I learned to find alternatives and have cut waste drastically since.
For Earth Day 2019, I challenge those who are seriously interested in starting their journey to do a trash audit, whether it be a week, month or even an entire year.
One of the simplest ways you can start is by refusing single-use plastics, which usually end up in ocean. The items seen in the photo are things I bring with me whenever I leave my home to avoid sending anything to landfill. This photo contains the following; reusable canvas bags for fresh produce, metal cutlery, metal straws, a metal bottle opener, metal chopsticks, metal tumblr with bamboo brush cleaner, 3 metal tiffins, 2 reusable cotton cleaning cloths, and a black eco bag to carry all these items. It's important to remember that sustainability is not perfectionism. Some of the things in this photo have been with me for a year and a half. It didn't happen overnight, but took me months to find out what works best for me. I suggest gradually making changes rather than buying everything labelled as "zero waste" just to keep up with trends. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to shop package-free is by visiting your local market and seeing which fruits, vegetables, and grains are sold loose and by the weight.
I want the next generations to enjoy the nature and the great outdoors as I have. To be able to witness a blue ocean filled with marine life, have access to clean drinking water, and breathe quality air free of toxins. Living sustainably may be a recent trend for most people, but it's a journey that requires an awareness that we're part of something bigger than ourselves and that the decisions we make today could impact us drastically in the near future. It's a lifestyle that I consciously commit to daily and a movement that only grows stronger one decision at a time.
About Timo Pangilinan:
Timo is a fresh graduate of Psychology from De La Salle University and has been committed to minimal waste living for the past year. You can connect with him on Instagram @timopangilinan