Ever feel like there’s so much bad news about the environment and you can’t even do anything about it? There’s too much plastic in our waters, too much heat in our atmosphere. It’s easy to get “bad news fatigue” and just plug our ears to the crisis, falling back to the lifestyle we’re used to, as if nothing is going on around us. It’s a coping mechanism humans have when faced with distress. But when it comes to our planet, we can’t afford to lapse into “the way it has always been”.
This is our only home, after all, and the home of our children and grandchildren. (At least until real estate on Mars becomes available to us Earthlings.) Now here’s great news: changes in our individual habits can make a huge impact in healing the Earth. Remember the ozone crisis in the ‘80s and ‘90s? After a widespread shift in consumer behavior, we managed to save the depleting ozone layer thus saving humankind from frying in too much UV radiation. People who were aware of the crisis began boycotting products that emitted chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Governments soon followed with CFC bans, and companies were forced to phase out those chemicals. That was a massive success story that hinged on the way we used everyday products like cosmetics and household cleaners. So before we give up on sustainability, let’s break this down into specific environmental facts, and the super-easy consumer habits we can develop to help address them.
FACT # 1:
91 PERCENT OF ALL PLASTICS
ARE NOT RECYCLED
A lot of us feel comfortable discarding plastic items when we throw them in the Recyclables bin. They’ll be recycled and won’t go to waste, right? Not quite, especially if it’s soiled. A global analysis found that of the 6.3 billion tons of disposed plastic in the world, only a measly 9 percent has been recycled. Here in the Philippines, even trash pickers won’t collect many plastics because they can’t sell them to recyclers. These non-recyclables are just left to pile up in landfills or clog up waterways and ultimately end up in the open sea.
A SIMPLE THING TO DO:
OPT FOR REUSABLES OVER DISPOSABLES.
We’re so used to the convenience of disposable plastics: take-out containers, party cups, plastic straws and stirrers, disposable razors, and of course, plastic bags. Try reusable alternatives like those made of glass, wood, natural fabrics, or metal. Make sure you pack your reusables in your everyday bag.
ANOTHER SIMPLE THING TO DO:
CHECK IN WITH YOUR LGU ABOUT WASTE MANAGEMENT.
The Philippines already has an Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which local governments are supposed to implement.
Contact your local leaders to see what garbage disposal or recycling systems they’ve put in place, and express your interest to follow through as a citizen. At home, rinse your soiled recyclable plastics as they are more likely to get recycled if they are clean.
FACT # 2:
THE BIGGEST CHUNK OF ALL PLASTIC PRODUCED IS SINGLE-USE PACKAGING.
Packaging is the leading type of plastic that’s produced worldwide. It accounts for a whopping 40 percent of global plastic production. Further, most of this plastic packaging is used just once then discarded. Businesses across various industries need to rethink their packaging and consider more eco-friendly alternatives. The revolution has begun with some companies opting for sustainable materials, like Made Mindful’s Virgin Coconut Oil in reusable glass bottles and biodegradable transit packaging that uses recycled paper and zero plastic. But we consumers must also shift our relationship with disposable packaging.
A SIMPLE THING TO DO:
BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINER AND BUY FROM SUSTAINABLE BRANDS.
It’s so easy to just use your own tumbler instead of buying bottled beverages every time. The personal care industry is also following suit – some stores now allow you to refill your empty toiletry bottles! Purchase from companies that use sustainable packaging. Remember this quote from Anne Lappe, “Everytime you spend money, you cast a vote for the kind of world you want."
Fact # 3:
ELECTRONICS STILL USE POWER EVEN WHEN THEY’RE ‘OFF’.
Certain appliances and gadgets – such as TVs, microwaves, phone and laptop chargers, extension cords, cable boxes, and game consoles – still draw energy even when you’ve turned them off or put them on standby. This energy leeching has the sinister nickname “vampire power”, and it contributes to our homes’ carbon emissions – as much 4 million tonnes a year. All on top of our electricity bills!
A SIMPLE THING TO DO: UNPLUG!
As soon as you turn off something or are done using it, take the tiny additional step of unplugging it, too. Also make it a habit to unplug your idle appliances before leaving the house.
FACT # 4:
COMMON CHEMICAL PRODUCTS ARE A TOP FACTOR IN BIODIVERSITY LOSS.
We often hear of animal species becoming threatened due to exploitation and habitat loss. But did you know that chemical pollution is also one of the top five stressors of biodiversity? Diffused chemical waste harms the precious balance between microorganisms, pollinators, food-producing plants, and large animals. What’s worse is, much of this chemical waste seeps from commonly used products like cleaning products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
SIMPLE THINGS TO DO:
READ LABELS BEFORE BUYING.
Look for products that are certified to be sustainable in their manufacturing. Some labels you want to see are the Rainforest Alliance Certification (green frog icon) and the Marine Stewardship Council (blue fish icon).
CHECK INGREDIENTS BEFORE BUYING.
Choose products with natural components or the least amount of synthetic chemicals. Quick tip: “virgin” oils are extracted without chemical additives, so they’re the eco-friendliest type you can buy. Made Mindful’s Virgin Coconut Oil is extracted using a purely physical expelling process -- no added chemicals whatsoever. The resulting VCO is unadulterated and 100% pure without any harmful byproducts.
FACT # 5:
BUYING MEAT HELPS FUEL GLOBAL WARMING.
As painful as this may be to hear, the demand for meat is a major factor in the rise in greenhouse gases (GHGs). According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, as much as 14.5 percent of human-related GHG emissions are from the raising of livestock.
A SIMPLE THING TO DO:
CUT DOWN MEAT PORTIONS, AND COMPLEMENT WITH PLANT FOODS.
Scientists say just reducing our meat consumption to modest portions a few times a week instead of everyday, could lower carbon emissions by a third by 2050. Try eating smaller meat portions while filling up with more plant-based food. Environment-friendly, AND better for your fitness, too. (Check out some yummy plant-based recipes here!)
Do you think you can try any of these simple sustainable habits today? We guarantee that with a little practice, they’ll quickly become a seamless part of your lifestyle. And once you get the ball rolling, you’ll be part of the solution that the world direly needs. For more information and tips on sustainable living, check out @MadeMindful.ph on Instagram and Facebook!