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Nowadays, social media is riddled with photos of turtles with plastic straws in their nostrils, birds choking on face masks, and other adorable animals suffering from the consequences of people’s obsession with anything single-use. As a regular consumer, what can you do about this?
The answer is to try your best to live a more sustainable life. Don’t get us wrong – this term has probably been used millions of times as clickbait, but it’s more than just a catchphrase. It’s a lifestyle choice that demands you to be more conscious about everything you consume.
By 2050, the population of the Philippines may reach a whopping 144 million, and with more people also comes more demand for housing, food, travel, and clothes.1 Considering the Philippines is already stretched thin when it comes to resources and biodiversity, the only way to offset this is to change our lifestyle.
You are not alone in your quest to live a more sustainable life. In the Who Cares, Who Does survey by Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights, and consulting group, it was revealed that a staggering 75 percent of Filipinos prefer sustainable and eco-friendly brands. This massive shift signals a start of a new era for millions of Filipinos.2
If you are curious about how to decrease your carbon footprint in the Philippines, here’s a guide for you.
What is Sustainable Living?
Sustainable living is a philosophy or lifestyle that aims to reduce our individual and/or collective use of the Earth’s natural resources to counteract climate change and other environmental/ecological disasters due to human activity.
This can be achieved by decreasing our carbon footprint through making positive changes in our daily lives (which mainly involves energy consumption).
When you hear the term “sustainable living,” the first things that pop in your head may be millennials bringing metal straws in their favorite coffee shop, people lugging around glass microwavable containers in their favorite carinderia, or Instagram influencers picking up trash on the beach.
While all those can mean sustainable living, this philosophy and way of life means much more than that.
3 Principles of Sustainability
Sustainable living has three major principles – social equity, economic viability, and environmental preservation.
This involves different societal systems and structures that support the ability of current and future generations to live healthily. Socially sustainable communities are democratic, connected, and are able to provide their citizens with a good standard of living.
This principle involves the strategies to motivate corporations and people to use socio-economic resources to their advantage. This will ensure that businesses continue to make a profit without damaging the environment.
This is the most popular pillar of sustainability. It occurs when systems, activities, and processes minimize the impact of their operations, products, and facilities on the planet. For instance, one of the best ways to exercise this pillar is through switching to clean energy in office buildings and practicing zero-waste manufacturing.
The Goal of Sustainable Living
The target of sustainable living is to decrease your personal and societal impact on the environment by making changes that counteract climate change and other environmental concerns. By reducing your carbon footprint or achieving “net-zero living,” you can offset what you take from the planet.
Before we proceed, it’s important to note that living a sustainable life does not happen overnight. Obviously, it’s immensely hard to achieve a “net-zero impact” on the environment. However, that shouldn’t discourage anyone from making an effort to decrease their carbon footprint.
Sustainable living is a continuous process that involves learning and growing in hopes to bring a positive impact to the planet in the years to come. This way, future generations can enjoy a safe and healthy environment.
What does Sustainable Living look like?
Wondering what leading a sustainable life looks like? Here’s a closer look at it.
Using renewable energy
Sustainable living means minimizing or totally foregoing the use of fossil fuels because it is a non-renewable source of energy, and its extraction process destroys the planet. Even its use releases tons of CO2 emissions that harm the planet.
In contrast, renewable energy is derived from an unlimited source like the sun or wind. More than that, it is clean to use and is more affordable compared to non-renewable sources of energy.
Growing your food
The pandemic has made millions of people discover their love for gardening. However, this isn’t just a hobby that’s good for your mental health.
Growing your own food can help you save money and offset your carbon footprint. Inorganic farming is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss so as much as you can, try to grow your own food without pesticides and insecticides.
Foregoing meat is one of the best ways to start living a sustainable life because growing animals need land, water, and other resources like food.
For example, to produce one kilo of pork, a whopping 5,988 liters of water is needed.1 According to the Vegan Calculator, adopting a plant-based diet will save you 401,500 gallons or 1,825,255 liters of water per year.2
Limiting food waste
Almost 2,000 metric tons of food are wasted every day in the Philippines.3 If you really want to live a sustainable life, reducing your food waste at home through freezing food, and finding creative ways to use scraps will help lessen this problem.
Taking public transportation
If you have a car, you’re contributing to global emissions. One of the best ways to offset your carbon footprint is to take public transportation or try human-powered modes of transportation such as biking.
Importance of Sustainable Living
Here’s a list of reasons that will encourage you to try sustainable living.
It helps improve air quality
When many people practice sustainable living in a community, air pollution decreases. Therefore, people can enjoy clean air.
It makes people healthier
When community members take steps towards sustainability, it can significantly affect their immediate environment. This not only means cleaner air, but also less pollution, and cleaner water.
It fosters the conservation of natural resources
Not all resources are infinite. For instance, each time you enjoy cold water from your fridge, something is responsible for its power whether it’s coal, nuclear power, or gas. When you conserve these resources, you can help the future generation of Filipinos meet their needs. This also includes food supply, water, and trees.
It slows down climate change
Sustainable living can help slow down the impacts of climate change. When this happens, there will be fewer risks for stronger typhoons and other intensified natural disasters like rising water levels in the Philippines.
It fosters economic development
When people are committed to living sustainably, it creates more jobs for locals. For instance, if a food company wants to forego plastic packaging, they can hire weavers to make baskets made from indigenous materials.
How has Climate Change affected the Philippines
It may come as a surprise for many people that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Here are some ways climate change has affected the country.
The Philippines is hit by many typhoons each year. Just like hurricanes, the fast winds of typhoons cause intense damage, especially to coastal areas.
Because the Philippines is an archipelago, it means that countless towns will be damaged due to extreme weather changes.
Unfortunately, the intensity of storms such as Typhoon Haiyan has greatly increased in recent years. This is due to the increasing temperature because of global warming.
As with intense typhoons, the Philippines is also prone to droughts or El Niño. This poses major concerns, especially for farmers.
Rising sea level
Each year, the sea levels in the country rise by 60 cm.4 This may not seem like a huge number, but it’s three times the global average which is only 19cm.
The rising sea level puts 13.6 million Filipinos in 822 coastal municipalities, 64 coastal provinces, and 25 major cities at risk of losing their homes.
Water Supply shortage
Climate change is already affecting the water supply in the country since it lowers the quantity and quality of water available for consumption. Extreme rainfall even intensifies this problem because it damages supply infrastructures.
Energy supply shortage
Hydropower is responsible for 20% of the energy supply of the Philippines. However, this is threatened by water scarcity. Because of this, people constantly have to deal with power outages.
Human health can be severely affected by climate change. The changes in rain and temperatures could trigger the spread of water and vector-borne diseases which equates to higher mortality and morbidity.
It also increases the vulnerability of people to pulmonary illnesses, especially with kids and elderlies in urbanized areas.
11 Ways to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in the Philippines
Want to live a more sustainable life but don’t know where to start? Here are some realistic tips on how you can start this lifestyle.
1. Limit using disposables
Filipinos love convenience. However, this is costing the planet more harm than good. As much as you can, pack reusables in your bag. This could include the following items:
- Reusable bags
- Spoon and fork
- Food storage containers
When you’re prepared, you can avoid single-use plastics when going out. You can even save money.
A lot of single-use items that are thrown away in landfills have toxins that are released on the ground and waterways. So every time you think it’s just one plastic cup, one plastic straw, or one plastic bag, think of its life cycle.
How long will you use it for? and how long will it take to biodegrade? Think about it: the chichirya wrappers you threw away a decade ago are still in landfills.
Other replacements to single-use items include:
- Compostable toothbrushes instead of plastic toothbrushes
- Menstrual cups instead of sanitary pads or tampons
- Beeswax instead of plastic food wraps
- DIY cleaning products instead of cleaning products that come in plastic containers
- Reusable coffee filters instead of single-use filters and coffee pods
2. Use energy-efficient appliance
You may think you’re saving money by using your decade-old fridge, but it’s actually just making your electricity bill skyrocket because it’s not energy-efficient.
Upgrading your kitchen and laundry appliances to energy-efficient ones will help you save more money and enjoy better efficiency.
3. Use what you already have
Does your mom use a plastic ice cream container she got last year to store fish in the fridge? This is exactly what this tip means.
You may think sustainability only looks like the perfectly shiny glass jars you saw on Home Buddies, but the wisest trick is to use what you already have.
Sustainability doesn’t have to be photogenic or picture-perfect. Instead of buying new things, be creative. This may involve using old clothes as rags, or reusing plastic containers as lunch boxes.
Related: How to become a Minimalist
4. Shop local
Shopping locally is one of the best ways to help your local economy and the environment. Most local restaurants and establishments use less plastic compared to big corporations.
For instance, fruits in the supermarket already come wrapped in plastic. In comparison, fruits in the palengke can simply be placed in a reusable bag. This tip will also help you enjoy items at bargain prices.
5. Don’t be obsessed with trends
Fashion is one of the world’s biggest polluters.5 Instead of shopping for the new “trendy” item on TikTok, only get pieces that will last, and already fit other items in your wardrobe.
When you are tempted to get something new just because it’s cheap, ask yourself how much workers are being paid to make that item, and how many times you can wear it before it loses its quality. If you want to update your wardrobe, try ukay shopping.
6. Try Meatless Mondays
In the previous section, we’ve established that having a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do to live a more sustainable life.
But for people who find it hard to quit Lechon, they can try meatless Mondays. By foregoing meat once or twice a week, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
If you are living with your family, ask them to do meatless Mondays with you and use it as an opportunity to veganize your favorite Pinoy dishes.
7. Drive less
Walking, carpooling, biking, and using public transportation are some of the best ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
If it’s not possible, try to combine multiple errands so you can make fewer trips. As a responsible driver, it is also your job to keep your car in shape through tune-ups. This will increase your fuel efficiency.
8. Use renewable energy
If you can afford it, invest in solar power or other renewable energy sources. This long-term investment will help you save more in the long run.
For instance, if you get around 10 solar panels that each generate 250 watts of electricity per hour, you can go off your grid for a few hours per day and save on your electricity bill.
9. Leverage sustainable technologies
Whether it’s rechargeable batteries, planting trees through GForest, or using Ecosia as a search engine, using sustainable technologies usually takes little to no effort, yet you can still make an impact.
10. Stop wasting food
If you have leftovers, do not throw them away. Instead, resist the urge to order from your favorite restaurant for your next meal and simply enjoy your leftovers. If the food goes bad, use them for your compost.
Another great way to limit food waste is to plan your meals. This way, you know exactly what to buy next time you’re in the market.
11. Use your influence to promote sustainability
If you want to make a bigger difference, use your influence to inspire others to go green. You can do this by leveraging social media to share content about the environment.
Additionally, you can also set up “item swaps” with your friends so your unwanted belongings won’t go to landfills, and post about your favorite eco-friendly alternatives.
All of these will help raise awareness on the importance of sustainability and prove to skeptics that living a sustainable lifestyle isn’t something they should be intimidated about.