Since coming to the Philippines in July 2014 I have been overwhelmed by the amount of plastic that is used on a daily basis. Not only can you find the regular plastic item such as bottles of body care items, cleaning products, and food with plastic packaging; but you can also find single-use shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, laundry detergent, and more. Most people do not buy the larger bottles of products but rely solely on the individually wrapped items for daily use, resulting in a great amount of waste. In return, and not surprisingly, plastic can be seen on the streets, on the beaches, and everywhere else in between the two. Plastic items are over-running the country(other countries as well) and it is extremely scary to think that most of these items cannot be recycled and will continue to contribute to landfills into eternity. At some point there will be no more room left and we will all be living on piles trash. I don’t particularly like this option. Nor do I think it is how God envisioned us taking care of this beautiful planet.
Here is an example of the plethora of single-use items and tiny packaging:
Cutting back on plastic items was something I tried doing when I was in the U.S. by relying on items that could be recycled in various ways. However, upon looking at this issue more deeply, I realize how I have been failing at this goal here in the Philippines. It is very easy to adjust to new locations, families, friends, jobs by picking up habits and traits of those around us, and not all of these are positive. Over the past year and a half there have been numerous times I have tried to cut back on certain items in order to be more environmentally conscious but I would always slid back due to convenience. Some aspects are easier to maintain due to local fresh markets, carrying a canvas bag, and drinking from a stainless steel water bottle. I also use apple cider vinegar and coconut oil for part of my skin care regiment which keeps me from needing a few other packaged items.
A major struggle though, similar to the U.S., is that most body care products, cleaning products, storage containers, etc. are made out of plastic; and almost all store bought food is packaged in plastic. There are probably nice brands here that are more eco-friendly but they do not fit into my stipend budget so they have not really been an option. The struggles have kept me wavering on the fence and I have felt guilty for my own consumption for far too long. This has all changed. As some of you may know, when I come up with a new plan I become fixated on it and stubbornly determined to accomplish it. Well, now that I have made up my mind I am determined to see this through as much as I can. I know allowances will have to be made and I will not be able to completely rid my life of plastic for the time, but I am resolved to get rid of 90%. It will be a process and is not something I can manage overnight but I am excited about moving forward.
The other night, after hours of researching my new plan, I went to bed feeling positive about these new changes; however I was too excited and could not fall asleep (this is unfortunately common for me). I decided to get out of bed and start having a plastic packing party so that I could rest easier knowing I had begun taking the first step. I began going through all of my belongings (not very difficult in my case) and I was quickly ashamed by the amount of plastic items I had accumulated as the pile grew larger and larger. As I came across every plastic item, and put it into piles, I tried to think how it could be replaced by a non-plastic alternative – some were easier than others. Some items I was not able to get rid of, but hopefully, over time, I will be able to find suitable replacements. I am thus embarking on my new plastic-free life and hope one day to achieve waste-free status. This also means that you can expect blog posts in the future detailing how to make new and exciting products as I figure out how to live without plastic in a land full of it. 🙂
Here is my pile of plastic. Considering how my belongings are already downsized here, this is appalling, and these items took up way too much space. Tsk tsk Rachel.
There are so many resources available for those who are interested in doing the same. (I am not going to make this post ridiculously long by telling you a bunch of statistics and facts.)Two major websites I have been reading are: Trash is For Tossers and the Zero Waste Home. TIFT is the website of a 24 year-old girl who has only accumulated a quart jar of trash over the last three years and ZWH is about a family of four who only accumulates a quart jar of trash every year! How amazing is that! Both website offer many tips and suggest how to replace plastic items with other alternatives. There are countless other websites available if you just search Living Without Trash/Garbage/Plastic or similar wording choices.
*Given this, if you would like to send care packages, I ask that you do not send anything that is made of plastic or packaged in plastic. I know this is tricky and I don’t like being picky, but if you are looking for suggestions I would love shampoo bars, body and face bars, bamboo toothbrushes, bulk-food-finds sent in tins, etc. I also love hand written letters a great deal (never underestimate the power of letters)!
Much love everyone!