Towards Zero Waste Lifestyle: The Struggles and Triumphs
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, March 28, 2019 11:55am
Art by Dani Elevazo
The Philippines is one of the top contributors of plastic waste dumped in the ocean. Just imagine: The Philippines ranks third out of the 195 countries in the world and tops the highest in Southeast Asia in terms of trash collection rates. If waste will continue to end up in our waters, an expert claims there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
It’s high time we take accountability for our actions and acknowledge little things that affect the health of our planet. One of the major ways to help Mother Earth is through waste management. It involves the collection, treatment, and disposal along with the regulation with the continuity of the process. Waste management is easy to do but somehow hard to implement. We really lack discipline in garbage disposal—the Manila Bay’s sad situation is one proof.
Waste management should start at home; simple garbage segregation or minimizing the consumption of disposable items and packages can jumpstart this practice. Sachets and coffee packets, for example, may not look harmful considering its size, but if this is everyone’s mindset, maybe we should think twice about the hazard it can bring to the environment.
KC Aguila, a 26-year-old account manager, noticed the wasteful use of single-use packages for small items such as plastic bags, which can take up to 1000 years to decompose. Some stores use a paper bag since it’s biodegradable, but consumption of these bags also means cutting down more trees for paper.
Zero waste lifestyle does not literally mean producing no waste at all. It’s about minimizing or eliminating the trash you produce. But just because you’re tidy or have a little mess at home, it doesn’t mean you’re practicing a zero-waste lifestyle. We all know Marie Kondo’s "KonMari" method—throw away things that don’t "spark joy”—while this method will make your household tidier, throwing stuff doesn’t minimize the garbage piles in landfills.
KC admitted she had a knack of using paper towels to clean up a mess since it’s convenient—she can immediately throw it after using. But she realized using paper towels is one of her wasteful practices. When KC realized that she had been producing these unnecessary wastes, it pushed her to change lifestyles and dispose of her old ways.
She searched for sustainable alternatives to her everyday household items: fabric cotton rounds instead of cotton pads, stainless steel razors instead of disposable ones, bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic, and shampoo bars instead of bottled ones. However, she doesn’t encourage buying eco-friendly products if you can use your items at home. KC is also into upcycling stuff; she made a bed frame and TV table out of wooden pallets, which are typically used as shipping containers.
For two years, KC strived to minimize her wastes. The sustainable items she uses are not usually found in grocery stores and she had to refrain from buying items in sachets or packets. Still, she admits she has her lapses. It’s usually when she buys groceries since it’s difficult to avoid plastic products and purchase food for takeout or delivery. There are also instances she forgets to bring containers or her utensils.
With her experience, it only goes to show that convenience is one of the major things you should sacrifice if you want to pursue zero waste lifestyle. We should re-evaluate our lifestyle and the smallest things we do daily, like eating in restaurants, buying groceries, or practicing personal hygiene. KC tries her hardest to find alternatives for disposable items. She’s thankful for the stores that are sprouting, making her life a zero-waste lifestyle accessible to many.
As much as she can, she doesn’t give herself credit or recognition for practicing zero waste lifestyle, because, for her, it should be a norm.
“It’s comforting to know that we are making progress. We still have such a long way to go! But it’s helpful that more and more people are being conscious with their lifestyle and how it affects their environment,” she said.
KC’s advocacy of living a zero waste lifestyle is her way of making the world a better place. When you strived through what you think is right, it is never without a reward. For KC, it is the satisfaction brought about by minimizing her waste. It’s like fulfilling her responsibility as a resident of this planet. As much as she can, she doesn’t give herself credit or recognition for practicing zero waste lifestyle, because, for her, it should be a norm. It should be one’s obligation to make a move and save the environment. She doesn’t like to force others to live a zero waste lifestyle even though she is passionate about her advocacy—she tries to live by example. KC believes if she can do it, why not others? She actively entertains questions and gives out suggestions to curious friends.
The struggle with spreading her advocacy is real, but so is the problem with environmental preservation. KC loves to travel. She loves to go to the beach and on nature trips, but living in the city reminds her of the effects of pollution. Sea creatures mistake plastic bags for food, which can cause their death. The waste thrown into the ocean destroys the marine’s life habitat and it would permanently damage the sea. It pushed her to help the planet in ways she could.
Sustainability is key to a zero-waste lifestyle. For those who are serious about aiming for a zero-waste lifestyle, here is KC’s ultimate advice: use what you already have—reducing is always better than recycling. Take note of your purchases and have a mindset of being sustainable since it will save the environment and your pocket, too.
It’s not yet too late to save our environment and natural resources. The government is making efforts in cleaning up the environment; the Manila Bay clean-up is just the beginning. But we can’t always have others do the work for us. We shouldn’t wait until our own planet is destroyed because of our carelessness. Let’s find sustainable alternatives and refrain from disposable items. These may be small gestures, but it is the little things that count. It’s time we pay back Mother Earth with kindness through our sustainable lifestyle.