The Problem with TrashTag: Why I Stopped Supporting Clean-up Drives

Do you love joining clean-up drives? Did you join the #trashtag? Here are three ways you can do more to make our planet cleaner.

I recently got attacked by some trolls over Instagram for commenting over a social media influencer’s post. Just because pointed I out how ironic that they sought for plastic-free province yet they used plastic bags to collect the trash but anyhow, this has inspired to come up with this post. Recently, there is a growing trend of clean-ups #trashtag and everyone who is seeking for attention or praise are doing this.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the immediate benefits of picking up the trash, however, at the moment it is just being used by several social media influencers as a publicity stunt to become more popular and gain more likes, not to mention by companies to portray that they care about the environment.There are cons with this movement and you may not agree but I just feel the need to put it out here.

  • Temporary and Unsustainable – Even if we take a good portion of the Philippine population to constantly clean-up, it will not solve the core of the problem which are lack of self-discipline and lack of corporate responsibility. Also, most people do not do it regularly enough to make the effects evident. How many times have people done clean-ups in different places and yet minutes after trash is back again. I know because I have taken part in several Shore it Up drives.

  • It Does Not Empower the Local Community – If locals get used to some other people cleaning up for them, they will never feel the responsibility over the mess they are making. I always see how a lot of Filipinos have this sense of entitlement when they are in fastfood or restaurant chains, you barely see anyone responsibly throwing their trash. Same goes for all those fun runs, like some Earth run organised before where hundreds of water cups were just left out on the road. Currently, DENR has organised several River and beach clean-ups but I am not sure of the percentage of participants that live in the venue. Those countless areas where dwellers just continue to trash their surroundings will just grow accustomed to the idea that there will always be someone else cleaning up after them.

  • No Accountability Post Clean-up – I have seen several clean-ups and photos taken after the event but no one really shows where the trash collected goes. In one vlog, several social media influencers took several bags of trash and they got praised for what they did, however, it surfaced couple of days after that they just left the trash in the same area so did it really change things?

You might think, if you know better, what do you propose we do instead of just picking up the litter? Great if you think like this! Here are better ways to help the growing plastic problem:

  • Put a price on plastic. – Companies should be charged more for the use of plastic given the numerous bad effects it has over our environment and health and we consumers should push for legislations for this. We should also make use of plastic bags in grocery stores more expensive instead of charging people to buy an eco bag.

  • Force companies to create sustainable and eco-friendly packaging. – Recent news showed that there is a growing pressure from consumers nationwide for better packaging. Couple of months ago, Loop announced it will be working with several known companies for reusable packaging.

  • Shift to a zero-waste lifestyle.- In the end, it all starts with us, the consumers. If we produce less waste then there would be less trash in our planet. You opting for an alternative packaging or plastic-free products already has more impact over a one day clean-up. It is not easy but it is far from impossible. There are a lot of resources and tips online for you to shift to this lifestyle. Besides, our predecessors already lived like this before. Our grandparents used banana leaves and reused mason jars, why not go back to how it used to be.

I am not stopping you from joining the next clean-up drive, if it makes you feel good and you feel it is making a real difference. I just want to remind people that the problem will not be solved completely if we do not zoom out to look at the bigger problem and put our focus on the root cause of the issue. It is like covering a hole in a damaged boat with barehands, sure it delays the sinking but it does not really stop it.

Next time you buy something, think about how you are contributing to the trash problem. Choose to consume without waste.

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Why I Gave Up Shopping for New Clothes and Why You Should Too: The Problem with Fast Fashion

These days everyone is proudly flaunting their metal straws and those reusable spoons & forks but there is another bunch of products that could have more impact in the pollution problem if most of us gave it up. This is why at the start of 2019, I made this as my top resolution and here is why you should include it in yours too!

Why You Should Quit Shopping for New Clothes

These days everyone is proudly flaunting their metal straws and those reusable spoons & forks but there is another bunch of products that could have more impact in the pollution problem if most of us gave it up.

What is it you ask? Give up shopping fast fashion products!

What is fast fashion?

It is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.

In A Nutshell

In early 2018, the fashion giant H&M reported sitting on a huge pile of unsold clothes — $4.3 billion worth of inventory. They also incinerated 15 tons in 2017, which they claimed were clothes not safe to use. This shows the major problem the fast fashion industry has. Imagine if each one of the 7.5 billion people on Earth owned only one pair of pants and one shirt, that would make 15 billion items of clothing but of course we have more. In fact our consumption for fast fashion is growing at a crazy pace and it must stop. For over two decades, I have always been a fan of buying second hand clothes, in my country, we call it ukay-ukay. However, it was only this 2019 that I decided to completely avoid purchasing any new clothing for the entire year.

Here are the reasons why I decided to stop:

More than 50% of fast fashion produced is disposed in under one year.

150 billion garments per year are produced in the global fashion industry, which means about 20 items per person.

30% of clothes is never sold.

460 billion dollarsis how much the global economy misses out on each year because people are throwing away clothes they could continue to wear.

Less than three years is the lifetime of an apparel item in developed countries.

Customers are using large amounts of clothing for a shorter time:An average American buys 70 apparel items a year which translates to a new piece of clothing every four to five days.

The average closet of a UK citizen contains 152 items. More than half gather dust. There are $45 billion of unworn clothes in the United Kingdom alone.

What if you just cannot cut down just as much as I can? Here are some suggestions:

  • Support eco-friendly brands that support long-term conservation projects.
  • Shift to eco-fabrics and support the development of agricultural residues like leftover straw as sustainable alternative for fabric manufacturing.
  • Buy clothes that last and reduce & recycle fabric to optimise the use of the product. Try doing Project 333 and be surprised how little you need for 3 months.

At a digital age, it is not an excuse to not know of sustainable alternatives. It is good though that for most Filipinos, ukay-ukay is popular but it is not really stopping the production of new ones which eventually end up in thrift stores. We have also become home to huge stores of fast fashion brands. The next time you shop, think about it. Is it really necessary?

If you want to know more about the growing problem of fast fashion, check out these resources:

Pulse of the Fashion Industry by Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group

The State of Fashion by Business of Fashion and McKinsey Company

A new of textile economy by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Fashion at the crossroads by Greenpeace

The True Cost documentary

Burning deadstock? Sadly, ‘Waste is nothing new in fashion’

Seven Sustainable Priorities for Fashion Industry Leaders by Global Fashion Agenda

The Sexy Off-Price Sector Has a Big Problem by eMarketer Retail

Takeaways From Future of Fashion Sustainability Panel

Overproduction: Taboo in Fashion

Oxfam Research

10 Ways To Start Eating Sustainably

Eat right! I’m sure you have heard of vegetarianism and how it helps the environment. But if you are not willing to give up your meat, should you just continue with your old ways? I say no!

Here are some ways that you can eat your way to a better society and ahealthier environment. The secret is Sustainable Food.

What is Sustainable Food?

Well according to Sustain: There is no legal definition of ‘sustainable food,’ although some aspects, such as the terms organic or Fairtrade, are clearly defined.

Their working definition for good food is that it should be produced, processed, distributed and disposed of in ways that:

  • Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods – both in the UK and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries;
  • Protect the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species,
  • Avoid damaging or wasting natural resources or contributing to climate change;
  • Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.

1. Purchase local, seasonal, organic, foods.

Supporting local/regional food systems helps protect our health and the health of our communities, and helps stimulate local economies. Buying local and unprocessed or less processed foods is particularly critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally destructive practices and supporting local people in developing countries help in breaking cycles of exploitation and poverty.

In Cebu, you can easily head to SRP Farmer’s Market. There farmers do not deal with middle man and do not have to pay taxes thus they earn more.

If you want to know the price difference:

1 kg of Lettuce at Farmers Market = P40-60

1 kg of Lettuce at SM Supermarket = P120

2. 2.Buy food produced by environmentally friendly farms.

Sustainable agriculture can feed the world without damaging the environment or threatening human health.

3. Keep animal product consumption to a minimum.

The University of Queensland suggests at least one meat-free day per week.

4. Buy only seafoods that are caught or farmed in a sustainable manner. Deciding what seafood to order at the restaurant and what to purchase at the supermarket can shape the future of our global marine environment.

Who does not enjoy seafood? I am a fan of crustaceans and I enjoy fresh fish but the recent fishing practices have greatly affected the marine environment. From shark-finning to illegal fishing, our love for seafood is causing destruction to our oceans. So before you order, check if it is sustainable seafood.

Ocean or tuna? When you consider the pro’s and con’s , Ocean should be the primary option. It’s been 2 years since I gave up eating tuna. Why? Eight out of the nine local canneries in the Philippines scored poorly in terms of traceability, transparency, and sustainability. Just think of it a can of tuna that sells for P20-40 per can is costing the lives of sharks, sea turtles and other marine life because they end up as by catch. What about Century Tuna? Century Pacific Food, Inc. has joint ventures with Thai Union, the world’s largest canned tuna supplier with alleged human rights and environmental abuses along its supply chain. Sign the petition here to the world’s biggest tuna company.

5. Minimize food waste.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten. In a world full of hunger, volatile food prices , and social unrest, these statistics are more than just shocking: they are environmentally, morally and economically outrageous. So next time you are at a buffet, think realistically and do not let your emotions take over. Always remember what your mom tells you, finish your food and take food in moderation.

6. Not purchasing bottled water.

Buy reusable water bottles! Plastic water bottles are one of the top marine litters. Here in the Philippines, we have ATM’s or Automatic Tubig (Water) Machine that is a coin-operated water dispenser. I make it a point to always bring my water bottles and if I bought bottled water each day for a week that would already mean 7 bottles. Now add it up exponentially by the number of people in this planet!

bottled paper

7. Eat in a way that promotes health and well-being (consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and avoiding artificial ingredients).

Philippine television will always have advertisements of sodas, fastfoods and other junk foods. It is no different from other countries and this constant brainwashing has made us crave for all these foods.

I rarely eat in fast food places, it is because I have seen several documentaries and I am not a fan of processed foods. As a nurse, I have always been conscious about what I eat.

If you find it hard to fully ditch some food items, here are some healthy swaps that you can do.

8. Know the cost of cheap food.

Cheap food can be misleading.

Here are some information that you do not know about cheap food:

  • Exploitation of cheap laborers who will work long hours in inhumane conditions because they are trapped in a endless cycle of poverty.
  • Mass farming depletes the soil of nutrients and promotes erosion, so farmers have to keep expanding as they burn out their existing fields (which leads to the further destruction of natural habitats)
  • The extinction of a great variety of seeds as food scientist hone in on one genetically modified “superseed” resistant to problems like drought and insects
  • The rise of monocultures where one, dominant crop is at risk of a single threat wiping it out completely
  • Air and water pollution from the by-products of massive food processing plants, commercial farms, and factory feedlots, which makes the air we breathe and the water we drink hazardous to our health
  • Carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels to keep all of the food system machinery moving; which leads to global warming and unpredictable climate changes (which ironically has repercussions on farming and crop yield!)
  • The use of viruses to break down the molecular structure of food to manipulate the genes (GMOs), a scientific practice we don’t have the longevity or the research to know if it’s really safe
  • Overproduction caused by commercial farming means an overabundance of cheap food, which leads to either lots of wasted, unused food or just the opposite: lots of overconsumption and a myriad of health problems including diabetes and heart disease
  • Food becomes less about nourishing people and more about profiteering; and big corporations are likely to disregard health and societal concerns in the pursuit of more and more money (their deep pockets also allow them to have very powerful lobbyists and essentially to buy out our government)
  • With every dollar spent you are telling manufacturers that it’s okay to keep doing things in the same, unsustainable ways.

9. Grow your own food.

Can you imagine how much savings you will incur if you save all the seeds? I started saving seeds from tomatoes and I have now a seedling from two avocado seeds that I saved, it was not even hardwork.

Here are other kitchen staples that we can easily regrow.

10. Be willing to give up convenience.

According to CDC, the average American eats away from home four times a week, and studies have shown that can translate to putting on 8 extra pounds a year. The more you eat away from home, the more the pounds can add up. Making small changes when we’re eating out or on-the-go can make a big difference in our health – and our waistlines.

In addition to that, fast food is not as convenient as we think, sure it saves you all the hassle when on a rush but it incurs later with long-term health effects.

THE WRAP-UP

When you weight the pros and cons of sustainable eating, you will realize why it is logically sound to shift. These 10 steps are lifestyle changes that you can slowly adapt to. Little by little as you progress, the changes you make will help lessen the impact we have in our environment and society because of our lifestyle choices.

With any decision, always choose the sustainable option.

“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays