Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why Pinoys need green lifestyle

Growing up GROWING UP in the years after the war, I was taught to recycle things. Curtains morphed into tablecloths and aprons, clothes were handed down from sister to sister or from brother to brother, and oil containers became sprinklers. Of course, in those days we didn’t call what we were doing recycling. We thought we were simply and sensibly making the most of everything, since various resources were scarce after the war.

I remember that the garden was my favorite spot, and even then, I held close to my heart the principle of “waste not, want not.” We grew our own vegetables on the compost soil that we generated. There were no garbage collectors (basurero) back then, so we put our garbage to good use. Kitchen waste and yard waste (dried leaves and twigs), mixed with a little bird poop, made good fertilizer, and out of the rich compost soil came the vegetables that nourished us. The garden pots were used cans and the compost was mixed in used rubber tires. It was a natural cycle that we appreciated.

New perspective

This is precisely the reason why I wrote a book, “An A-Z Guide for a Green Pinoy.” I want Filipinos to look at their garbage bin in a new perspective. I hope that it will make them ask these questions the next time they shop: “Where does this product come from? Is it made or grown locally? How far has it traveled? Who made it? Will it last? Can I recycle it? Is it toxic? Is there a better alternative? Where will it eventually end up? Is it at the dump?”

For generations, we have been hauling our garbage to open dumps. It took the July 2000 Payatas tragedy and some 200 lives for the government to come up with Republic Act No. 9003 (The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000). The spirit of the law is very clear: To see the things we do not use or no longer need as waste, not garbage. They are valuable resources that need to be managed.

Experience tells us that the most sustainable way to manage solid waste is at the local level—as close to home as we can get. The law has identified the modes by which solid waste should be managed: Reduce, reuse and recycle. The strategies: Segregate at source, recover and compost.

It has been more than 10 years since the RA 9003 was passed, yet despite the simplicity and clarity of its implementing rules and regulations, it still is waiting and wanting serious enforcement. Compliance is only about 10 percent. But if the law won’t pursue us, nature eventually will, and the penalty it will exact is more than what any man-made law can ever impose.

Homage to nature

Solid waste management is paying homage to nature. It is an affirmation of our commitment to life and the whole creation. In a world where environmental challenges seem so overwhelming, the easiest way for us to have a large impact is to reduce our individual waste, recycle and compost. However, it is not too late. The book also has a section called “champions for the environment” which details successful green programs of various companies, organizations, NGOs and individuals which can be replicated and serve as a guiding example.

Some of the “champions” include Holcim Philippines Inc. which promotes effective waste management with Geocycle, the Isko Cleans UP student group which is taking the lead for a ‘Zero-Waste’ Campus, the Kilus Foundation which transforms trash to fabulous fashion bags sold all over the world, the Meralco Development Center which perfectly illustrates how a training center can attain world-class standards yet become environment-friendly at the same time, SM Supermalls, Jollibee Foods Corp., Nestlé Philippines Inc., Unilever Philippines, among others.

3 Rs

There’s also a story about the outstanding efforts of environment activist Leonarda Camacho. Every positive contribution, no matter how small, is going to help. You, yes you, can make a difference!

Here are some tips on how to implement a successful waste management strategy: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” also known as the 3Rs, is the cornerstone of environmental philosophy.


REDUCE


REDUCING WASTE is the best option. It’s a simple concept, but it is often the most overlooked of the 3Rs. Simply put: If you buy less stuff, then you will have fewer things to dispose of. It will save you time and money, conserve natural resources and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.

It is very alarming how much of what we throw away is still useful.

Fifty years ago, there was virtually no plastic in the garbage can. Bottles were returned or reused since households had their milk delivered. Other bottles had a deposit on them. This practice kept the streets clear of bottles.

Through the years, our society has become increasingly wasteful. The amount we wasted grew, along with the changes in the way we shopped, especially now that packaging has become very attractive. Dependence on processed food and home-meal replacements grew, which in turn meant more packaging will be thrown away. Now, garbage trucks heading to the dumps are just not big enough to contain all our increasing waste.


To reduce waste, consider the following tips:

Buy less stuff. Consider secondhand stuff. Most of what we throw away could be useful to other people. Flea markets, ukay-ukay and thrift shops do a great service in giving our unwanted items another lease on life.

Refuse packaging when possible. Almost every time we go shopping, we are offered over-packaged items. The products we buy are placed in a small plastic bag, then into a larger plastic shopping bag. Get into the habit of refusing those bags! Instead, carry your own reusable shopping bags all the time! It’s not difficult to have one or two foldable bags in your handbags. Many countries in Europe routinely remove excess packaging at the checkout for the shop to sort out.

Buy quality goods. One way to reduce waste is to buy products of better quality. Avoid goods that won’t last. A well-made, durable product will outlast a cheaper, inferior product.

Buy local and support our domestic economy. This decreases carbon footprint and encourages livelihood.

Avoid disposables when possible. Try to avoid items that are only used once and then thrown away, such as plastic cutleries, cups and plates, cameras and razors.

Avoid anything you can’t reuse or recycle.

Refill. Whenever possible, buy products in refillable containers. Some restaurants and coffee shops offer products at a discounted price when customers bring their own container for takeout.

Buy in bulk. If you buy some of your food in bulk, ask your friends if you can buy together and reduce cost for all of you.

Set your printers and photocopiers to print on both sides of the paper by default. This will automatically reduce the amount of paper a business uses and reduce paper costs.

Use modern technology to your advantage. Why send out marketing material in the post when it can be done more effectively by e-mail? Not only are your materials more likely to reach the right person, but you will also save money on paper, envelopes and postage.

Carefully proofread documents on your computer screen first before printing. This will enable you to immediately catch mistakes and avoid the need to print the document again.

Instead of throwing away printer toners and cartridges, have them refilled. You save a lot of money in the process.

Store your company letterhead on your hard drive, and print the letterhead when you print the letter. This eliminates the need to print and stock separate stationary, and makes changes to company information easy, fast and free.

REUSE


WE ARE so used to throwing things away without a second thought. Why not reuse the items instead? Reusing is one of the best practices for a cleaner environment. Consider some best reuse practices:

Turn your lunchbox into a sustainable feast and waste-free meal. Use washable cloth napkins instead of paper, a stainless steel thermos instead of juice boxes or plastic water bottles, and steel cutlery instead of plastic ones. Doing all this on a daily basis reduces deforestation and toxins, and you incur less waste in the long run.

Instead of using disposable containers or materials such as aluminum foil and zip-lock bags, use reusable food containers to store leftovers and other food in the fridge and cabinets.

Repair, refurbish or reupholster furniture to give a new lease on life. Your neighborhood craftsman can do it for you.

Donate or sell. Many thrift shops or secondhand stores are now becoming extremely good at marketing a whole range of products. Some thrift shops are becoming specialists in a particular merchandise. Some focus on designer bags, shoes and clothes, while others specialize in “retro” knickknacks, such as old telephones, odds and ends, furnishings and decors, selling alongside china and flatware. Some specialize in books, such as Book Sale, with hundreds of outlets nationwide. Browsing in thrift shops is a trendy habit.

Reuse envelopes if possible, such as for distributing internal mails. Make it a practice to reuse file folders by reversing and re-labeling them. Reuse paper that has only been printed on one side. Use other side as scratch pads or for printing out drafts of reports and other documents.

Circulate newspapers, magazines, technical journals and other publications within your office so that you don’t have to receive multiple copies of the issues.

Reuse paper clips and fasteners. There is no reason why a paper clip must be thrown away.

Use durable boxes for shipping among your company’s various branches, warehouses or stores. This will enable you to reuse the boxes for as long as possible.

Store manuals, policies, and other documents online. Don’t print out huge employee handbooks. Allow employees to access PDF copies at their own time.

Contact and sell to junk buyers segregated office supplies that are no longer useful.


RECYCLE

WE ALWAYS say that necessity is the mother of invention. In times of war and political upheaval, the struggle for survival has triggered an extraordinary flow of creativity around the world. Some of the best recycling ideas are the products of thrift and self-reliance that flourished during hard times. But in the emergence of the modern “throw-away society,” those diverse traditions of recycling and reusing are being revived by artists, designers and eco-warriors alike.

From the wisdom of bygone days to innovative ideas from contemporary artists and designers around the world, recycling ideas are boundless if only we let our creative juices flow.

Recycling in our country is still evolving. We have a long way to go, but recycling is moving from its supporting role in waste disposal to a preferred method of getting the maximum return from a shrinking supply of limited resources.

Home composting is by all means encouraged; it’s the easiest recycling that we can do and this greatly reduces our garbage. Nearly two-thirds of our garbage consists of materials that could be composted.

Sustainable packaging is a buzzword in the packaging industry and among companies that heavily use various types of packaging materials in their day-to-day operations. It involves, among other things, the use of packaging that is compostable or recyclable, made with recycled contents or renewable materials, or manufactured without using toxic chemicals. These types of packaging materials are now being used by a growing number of companies as part of their efforts to limit the environmental impact of their products.

In essence, this is the tenet of the recycling industry: reduce air, water and land pollution, especially at dumps; reduce the demand for water used in processing paper, plastics, glass and steel by 50 percent; save energy such as fuel oil at the factories because recycled wastes melt at lower temperature; save space at dumps; conserve raw materials; save further destruction of forests, oceans (for oil), mountains (for minerals), and quarries (for silica); keep the surroundings clean and tidy; give jobs to people; save pesos/dollars that will otherwise go to importation of raw materials; and earn money for the industry.

Recyclability is one particular criterion that is considered important not only for a packaging material but for the product itself. The fact that a product is recyclable facilitates the job of saving it from being dumped on a landfill.

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