Growing Lettuce from a Makeshift Pot

I’m not much of a Starbucks drinker, but whenever I go to the local branch here in our city, I make it a point to ask for coffee grounds and used milk containers. I explained to them the first time that we use them for our composting and backyard farming, and whenever D and I would grab our Sunday breakfast there, the baristas remember us and provide them with a smile.

I got the idea of recycling the milk containers from a zero waste group from FaceBook. I’ve asked some cafes for used milk containers, and so far it was Starbucks that readily provide them with no questions asked.

What we do with the coffee grounds is mix small portions of them to the compost. This makes the soil richer, and afterwards we use the soil for planting our organic crops such as lettuce. It takes about 2 weeks for the lettuce seeds to sprout, and approximately a month for us to be able to harvest them. Check out our latest baby, with the recycled pot compliments of our local Starbucks.

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I am glad to see more people doing composting as a way to leave a green footprint for our planet. I am still hopeful that in my lifetime the single-use plastic will be reduced or eliminated – the earth and its inhabitants badly needs to breathe again, and plastic clogging our oceans and being ingested by animals need to be urgently addressed

Taking a Stand for the Earth

Contribution

In recent years, I have become more conscious of the impact of plastic pollution. Tons of plastic end up in the seas, and these cause great harm to the animals who ingest them – hundreds of them dying choked or trapped by the plastic. Knowing how these animals suffer break my heart, and there was a time a couple of years ago that I had a break from Facebook because I was deeply bothered by animal photos. I appreciate that many countries have taken big steps to reduce the plastic pollution. In the Philippines, I know that some cities have already moved to paper bags in the supermarket counters, or switching to paper straws in cafes. I have also seen more effort in terms of waste segregation, where composting and recycling are encouraged. But we have a long way to go in this war against plastic pollution. D and I join coastal cleanups regularly, and I feel that the amount of trash in the oceans are just not getting any lesser.

As I  start this year, I made a pledge to go as plastic-free as much as I could. I locked in this pledge at National Geographic’s Choose the Planet campaign. The goal is to prevent 1 billion items from reaching the oceans by 2020. This initiative incites everyone signing to drive the change beginning with ourselves. So, hand on my heart, this is how I’m going to contribute.

Contribution
Little ways to contribute

Ditching the plastic bag

Now I’m so happy I’ve received several eco-bags from family and friends, more so over last Christmas. I have them neatly tucked in my bag so I can use them whenever I end up buying stuff from the supermarket. This should cut off at least 3 plastic bags from me per week. Annually, that’s at least 156 bags.

Bringing my own cutlery

When I eat out, or purchase food to go, I use my own cutlery. I won a set of foldable cutlery two years ago, and glad they’re quite handy. This helps cut off plastic spoons and forks.

Stainless over Single-Use Plastic Straw

Single-use plastic straw is smaller compared to the plastic bags and plastic spoons and forks – but these are one of the most commonly found items in the oceans. I remember picking up dozens from my coastal cleanups. Lately, big cafes in Makati and BGC have switched to paper straws, and some do not readily offer straws for folks taking out drinks. I’m not sure if paper straws are really plastic free (I read some comments in forums that they still have plastic linings), but one thing’s for sure: my stainless straws are. So, they’re also one of the items neatly tucked inside my bag. Last Christmas, I received around 3 of these from different friends. I hope it’s not just a fad and people will consistently use them.

Refillable containers

I’ve found shops where I can refill my shampoo, body wash, liquid castile soap, conditioners and laundry detergents. And since I am into DIY, I am also able to recycle the containers I use for my cologne, face wash, salt scrub, and linen spray. Another way to reduce plastic is through packing my own lunch using reusable containers.

I know that there are thousands of people in the world who are as concerned, if not more than I am, in taking measures on preserving our mother earth. I am grateful to them, for taking a stand and for not giving up in sharing their knowledge and passion to the people around them, sparking inspiration and change everywhere they go. #ichooseplanet

Solar Panels

Solar Panels

I first saw solar panels in 2010 when we were on a train ride from Prague to Munich. D was amazed at houses lined with them as we passed through German towns. We saw them again when we were in Osaka later that year, during a train ride yet again en route to Kyoto. Since then, D had been researching their availability in the Philippine market. At the time, it was still very expensive so he just kept it within radar.

Then an opportunity came knocking in 2014. Solar panels became more affordable, and D read about a distributor based in a nearby city. After making some calls, he was sold to the idea and easily convinced me to invest in them for our house. D’s primary reason was to save on our electric bill, whereas mine was to do our bit to help address climate change.

Solar Panels
Solar Panels

For the technical stuff:  before installation, we identified an area that is well exposed to sunlight. An analysis of the daytime electricity usage was conducted by the supplier to determine how many panels were needed for our house. One panel emits 250 watts, and we got a total of 6 panels. We also bought an inverter which is the device that converts the harvested solar energy into electricity. We applied for net metering so that any unused wattage harvested by the panels would be sold back to the utility company, which, in our case, is Meralco.

For the administrative stuff: we secured a permit for the solar panels from the city hall. The city hall’s technical team inspected our house prior to the installation, assisted by our solar panel distributor. As for Meralco, they were the ones that granted us net metering for a fee. The requirements we submitted to them included copies of the title of the property and electric bill.  It took 3 months for our net metering to be up and running because we were the first in our area who applied for such. At the time, net metering was so new, that they took a photo of the team once it was done – for documentation purposes I guess?

Meralco
Meralco

Investing in the solar panels was one of the best decisions D and I made. I’m glad when friends express interest in having them installed at their homes, and more so when they do. I wish it will be encouraged more in the Philippines (maybe even subsidize it for consumers). Sadly, as with electric cars, we may have a long way to go before this happens as more favor is given to the utility companies. On a bright side, some big companies are already starting to use them like shopping malls, farms, and factories. My dad, who had been dreaming about solar energy, was finally able to put up a solar energy company partnering with friends who share the same passion. It now keeps him busy, and I am happy to see him share the advocacy to a bigger audience and making it happen.

 

 

 

 

Green Fair 2018

Scenic

I dream of a world where every living being is respected, valued, protected, and live in peace. My wish for Mother Earth is for its beauty and cleanliness to be restored, so generations yet to come can live to see and appreciate it. 

Because of this dream and wish, I support efforts and endeavors that promote sustainability.

Last Saturday I came upon a friend’s post in Facebook about The Green Fair. It was a collaboration of eco-friendly merchants with the aim of increasing awareness on actions we, buyers, could take to make a positive impact to the environment. It was happening the same day I read about it, and so right after my Minhwa class at BGC, I headed to the O2 Space at the RCI Building at Rada Street in Makati to check out the stores that participated in The Green Fair.

Merchandise
Merchandise at the Green Fair

You Dirty Dog

Of course, this is the first stall that I checked out (I have been out for five days having gone to Sagada a few days before, and I was terribly missing my fur babes at home). First order of business is to get something for the boys. I refilled a bottle for the chemical-free, biodegradable dog shampoo in Oats scent. Other than dog shampoo they sell hemp chew toys which were 100% natural.

Tracy, the owner of You Dirty Dog came up with the business because of the needs of her 2 dogs, Ringo and Mo. Ringo has sensitive skin and is allergic to the dog shampoos out in the market, so they researched and formulated a natural shampoo that was suitable for his skin. Mo, on the other hand, would ingest plastic from the sturdiest of chew toys. So they used hemp to create chew toys as a safer alternative.

Refill and Beyond

Next stall that I checked out was Millie and Kris’ Refill and Beyond. They sell (by refills) liquid bath soap, fabric conditioner, laundry soap, and hand soap.

What I learned from Millie is that globally, millions of bars of soap are discarded every day. These are partially used soaps – some even used just once. What a huge waste! This, along with the fact that they themselves needed better ingredients on their personal soaps for their families, inspired them to create their brand.

They worked with a relative who is a chemist in coming up with a sulfate-free soap that yielded a good scent. Their fabric conditioner (which I bought through refilling my bottle) uses lavender scent, and the body wash uses olive scent (it reminds me of the Body Shop liquid soap that I have at home).

Greenpeace

Greenpeace was there to provide informational talks. What I learned from my discussion with them is sadly, the Philippines’ Pasig River is now the second most polluted river in the world, and the Philippines is now also the third biggest ocean polluter following China and Indonesia. Heartbreaking information, and nothing to be proud of.

I’ve joined coastal cleanups last year and early this year. Every single time, I’m overwhelmed and frustrated by the plastic pollution on the coasts, and no matter how long I spend in picking them up, they just cannot be cleared. I know too, that even though we were able to clear up the beach, by the next day it’ll be overflowing with trash again. Greenpeace would do a brand audit on the top polluters from the coastal cleanup, and they would send their data to the big companies. Some of the big companies have responded that they would be researching for a better way to address the use of single plastic packaging, which is hopefully a good sign. I asked Greenpeace what they do to the trash that were audited, and I was told they return it to the companies and follow through on how these are being disposed or recycled.

Bini Natural Living

Bini sells organic products like essential oil soaps, jelly soaps, foot scrub, natural deodorant (paraben and aluminum free). They also have roll-on oils using essential oil. I was so curious about the jelly soap, it looked so colorful and soft I wanted to squish it. I bought a bag of pink himalayan salt for my DIY gifts.

Eco-products from other stores

I wish I had a bigger budget to use for the fair. I bought wooden spoon and fork from my friend who was manning a booth. They also sell wooden knives, pickles, reusable beeswax wraps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and organic soaps.

Next to her stall is Kooky Koleksyon’s handmade accessories, some even using recycled materials.

There were also booths that sold bamboo toothbrushes, reusable straws and eco-bags.

Shopped items
Items I bought

I hope we have more of these sustainable products and brands coming together so they are more readily available in the malls and weekend markets (for those who opt to do the traditional style of shopping). Otherwise, there’s always online shopping to be able to reach stores like these.

 

 

Sustainable Living: Composting at Home

composting

Years ago I’ve heard my dad talk about composting in his backyard, and at first I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He taught me that it helps with waste management, and compost can be used as organic fertilizer for their plants at home.

I found later on that composting does not only provide free organic fertilizer, but more importantly it is a sustainable way for me to contribute to leaving a green footprint. Compost scraps that end up in the landfills produce methane – and methane emissions cause global warming. The materials that can be used for compost are readily and abundantly available at home anyway – so in short composting is free, easy, useful, and sustainable. For those that do not have a garden to use the compost soil for, I’m sure there will always be a neighbor in need of some. I remember one of our neighbors giving us compost soil when we ran short planting some herbs in our pot garden.

Compost bins can be bought from garden depots. In my home we made our own DIY compost bin by using the extra bricks that were piled up in the yard to form the bin’s walls. Then for cover, we used a scrap metal sheet. We designated a dry shaded spot at the backyard for our DIY compost bin. We made sure it is covered at all times because our animal friends love roaming around the backyard – we wouldn’t want them digging away on the compost.

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Bricks and scrap metal sheet for our DIY compost bin

At least twice a day we get to fill up the compost bin with scraps. For an efficient compost pile, we make sure that the greens (or wet) are balanced with the browns (or dry). The greens provide the nitrogen for the soil, while the browns provide carbon – that’s why they have to be balanced so that the chemical composition of the soil will be good. Examples of green or wet scraps are vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, used loose tea leaves, and chicken poop. Yep, we have 4 lovely hens in the yard that provide us our free-range organic eggs everyday. For the brown or dry scraps, we use eggshells, paper bags, toothpicks, bamboo skewers, feathers that fell off the chicken, dog fur (which we get from our dogs’ grooming combs), dried leaves and twigs from our backyard, used paper towels, and tissue paper rolls.

Lastly, we mix the compost at least twice a week so as to ensure that the moisture is balanced. If it is too dry, we add a bit of water; if it is too wet we turn the soil so the moisture is equally distributed throughout the bin. We carefully do the turning though – there are worms in the compost bin and we wouldn’t want them harmed. The worms help in the organic decomposition of the scraps.

So there you have it, a glimpse to our composting practices at home. I am glad our neighbors started a composting community.