Articles, Environment, Shopping & Consumption

The Cost of Convenience vs. Zero Waste Living


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#MUNIonThis: Do we really need everything we “need”? This is a question we asked attendees at the MUNI Meetup on Zero Waste Living last July 1 at ROOTS Katipunan, with our guest moderators Gela Petines of Reef Nomads, Bea Crisostomo of Ritual, Raki Talan of Sinaya Cup, and Hannah & Adrian of Tinkerknot.

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With all the media and advertising using emotions to encourage us to buy stuff because they can make us feel happier, more desirable, and more fulfilled, we need more mindfulness and discernment to figure out what society wants us to want vs. what we actually value and what truly brings us closer to our ideal world.

At the MUNI Meetup, we also aimed to specifically spark a discussion on the impact of single-use plastic, how much we really “need” it, and what we can do to change that perception and the unconscious behavior that comes with it.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

When we have a greater understanding of the resources that go into the things we own, and where they wind up after, would we not be compelled to mend clothing, reupholster furniture, repair broken gadgets, and own reusables (mess kit: tumbler, food container, utensils, straw, etc.) instead?

Society has created the perceived need for disposable items or shiny, new things sold to us by a bombardment of advertising and hard-to-resist sale / marked down prices. Oftentimes, these unconscious impulses to buy new things or use disposables just add trash to our homes and towns too, and stuff that we’ll eventually chuck when we realize we didn’t really want or need it in the first place.

THE COST OF CONVENIENCE

Sure, bringing reusables may not always be the most “convenient” choice to make all the time, but isn’t it a more inconvenient choice to keep contributing to more waste? Let’s use single-use plastic as our favorite example here.

At least 8 million tons of the 300 million tons of new plastic produced each year (half of which are for single use) find their way into our oceans. [1] That’s the equivalent of one dump truck’s worth garbage into the ocean every minute.

Out of sight may temporarily be out of mind, but there is no “away” when we throw our trash. Everything goes somewhere. There are two likely journeys.

One, they head to landfills. In Manila, the Payatas dumpsite is a 50-acre piece of sacrificial land fated to house trash rather than be put to some productive use. But plastic doesn’t biodegrade and 100 years later, they’re still there.

The mountains our landfills have become are only growing taller each year. Then these start to leach toxins into our waterways – the same sources of water we use for bathing and drinking, and methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change more than carbon dioxide does [2].

Read:
Plastic Oceans: The Facts

Environmentalists Hail Closure of Payatas Dumpsite
Methane vs. Carbon Dioxide: A Greenhouse Gas Showdown

Or two, our trash finds its way out into the ocean. At present, there are “garbage patches” in the ocean, where microplastics, plastic pieces less than 5mm in size [3], and other forms of plastic swirl endlessly.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch spans from the west coast of Japan to the east coast of North America, and it’s not the only garbage patch in the world. It’s just the biggest. Garbage patches form because of ocean gyres, circular ocean currents that occur due to the Earth’s rotation and wind patterns. These plastic pieces then end up getting picked up and eaten by birds and sea creatures, and remaining indigestible in their bellies.

And what’s worse is how insidious the problem is. While the name “garbage patch” conjures images of a landfill floating in the middle of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are microplastics suspended throughout the water column. [4]

Read:
How Big is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? Science vs. Myth
The Psychology of Creating A Waste-Free World

DO THE RIGHT THING

The fact that you’re reading this now tells us you have a heart, you care, and you want to do something to help address the mounting trash problem. So what can you do?

Prevention (Reduce/Reuse) vs. Cure (Recycle)
First step in fighting against waste is by not putting it out there to begin with. We can come up with all sorts of ways to creatively reuse non-biodegradable trash, but if we keep producing more trash, we’re not solving the problem at the root.

Think before you buy, bring reusables whenever you can, and choose long-lasting products when you do make a purchase.

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Zero Waste kit: Tumbler, metal straw, container, utensils, and eco bag made with upcycled cotton! We’re sure you have most of these lying around the house. It’s all about putting them together and bringing them when you head out. 🙂

Read:
5 Ways to Go Zero Waste at MUNI Market 2017

Cut The Crap: An Introduction to Living More With Less feat. Bottled Drinks
Cut The Crap, No More Butts: The Big Impact of Little Butts

Influence vs. Indifference
Knowing what you know now, share what you learned, and more importantly, get others bitten by the bug by showing them it’s easy, accessible, and that they can get support from you!

dsc_2454.jpgThe best way to do this is by acting as a role model, and normalize the “weird” habit of bringing their own reusable tumblers and straws when they order drinks outside.

Read: #CutTheCrap: Rethinking Disposables’ Life Cycle and Single-use / Takeaway Culture

Progress vs. Perfection
Creating zero waste, or at least closest to zero, is possible but challenging. MUNI Meetup moderator Julia Motoomull reminded us that it is not about being perfect and berating ourselves when we’ve left our tumbler or eco bag at home.

It’s about constantly making more conscious choices everyday, until it’s almost second nature to us – and those around us. 

We hope the information we shared in this article won’t be of single-use to you, that you share it and live it too.

We dream of a day when we no longer use single-use non-biodegradables, when it becomes common culture and everyday behavior to bring containers for taring at stores or markets, or for taking food out of your favorite resto.

Help us make it happen? 🙂


Editor’s note: Save the date! We’re brewing a Zero Waste learning and networking event for September 30 (crosses fingers)! Follow this blog, our Facebook page and Instagram for updates.

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