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.
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
I’m all about planting our own crops in our backyard. It’s fun, therapeutic, fulfilling, and also promotes well-being for my family. More importantly, it is our way of helping save the planet.
Since we have started planting more herbs and vegetables in our backyard, we resorted to using recycled containers so that we could be able to organize the plants in a more space-efficient way.
One thing I love about our community is that neighbors support one another by sharing seeds, compost, seedlings, and even recycled containers for pots. I have also recently became a regular customer at Starbucks because they support backyard farming through sharing of their coffee grounds and empty milk gallons that we use at home as herb pots.
Lastly I want to share with you this wonderful find from the roadsides of Luisiana, Laguna. This box is handwoven and made of coconut leaves. It was used to wrap three pieces of bibingka that we bought for snacks on our way back to Manila. These plastic-free boxes are so simple and innovative, and they last long. I intend to use them as pots for my next batch of basils and mint.
Today I will show you the very first fruit bearing tree that we planted in our yard: the calamansi. A little over a decade ago, D collected some calamansi seeds and planted them, carefully barricading the seedling that grew thereafter so that Rex, our labrador who was then a pup, wouldn’t destroy it. It has since then grown tall and strong, about two meters high. We trim it so that it will remain that way as it’s a bit harder to harvest the fruits if it’s taller – as the branches are filled with thorns. Other than its infrequent need for pruning, the tree is quite easy to maintain.
The calamansi is native citrus fruit widely used in the Philippines. It is small, green on the outside and yellow in the inside. On a hot day we would squeeze a bunch of fruits, add honey and water to make refreshing calamansi juice. It can also be used with soy sauce and chili pepper as condiments to dumplings and barbecued meat. For marinade, we use calamansi in the absence of lime or lemon. Of course, the skin of the fruit is added to our compost. Lastly, some people use the juice of calamansi as skin toner.
Next is the chili pepper. Now this one we planted from collected seeds. It sprouted within 15 days and in less than a month we already saw it flowering. It is also a low maintenance plant. The picture below shows our first harvest from this shrub. We would add it with the calamansi and soy sauce as condiment.
There you have it, fruit bearing trees from our backyard. 100 percent pesticide free.
Watch out for the next parts of this series, coming soon (just waiting for my new seedlings to grow bigger).
Hello and welcome back to my sustainable living series!
Today I will show you two plants that blossomed from our kitchen scraps: the onion and mint.
Before I became a concerned citizen of the earth, I always thought that all plants came from seeds, therefore before they even grow, a load of effort is required from the ‘planter’. Imagine my delight when I found that the onion and mint that we set aside from our kitchen staples sprouted into seedlings.
The mint took about two weeks to start growing, while the onion took about ten days to propagate. We had to move the onion to out enclosed pot garden though, because one of the four hens started digging through it.
The perks of having these two herbs home grown include saving on trips to the supermarket, and running into possibilities of not being able to consume all that we end up buying (hence waste). More importantly we are sure we are getting fresh and organic produce.
I was able to stay away from rice for about the whole year of 2017 and started slipping back into the habit in 2018. So, this year I am mustering all my will power I try to cut off rice from my diet and replace it with greens.
It’s a good thing we are still in the cooler months, and I am quite pleased we are still able to grow lettuce at home. Here’s how the new sprouts look like. We cover them with screen because we found out that along with our mulberries, the lettuce are a source of joy by the birds that frequent our yard in the mornings. No wonder they sound so happy when I wake up. I’m happy to let them have a blast with the mulberries, but I need the lettuce for later…
Other than tossing them into salad, I also use the lettuce as a substitute for pita wrap.
Another salad ingredient that we use are the leaves of the gynura procumbens. Now unlike the rest of the crops at home, I bought this baby from the local garden store. I thought they were ashitaba, only to find out months after that they’re not. I read that the gynura procumbens have medicinal benefits like treatment for cardiovascular and kidney diseases, constipation, diabetes, etc. While I am not sure if these claims are scientifically proven, all I know is that the leaves go well with salad – or soup.
That’s all for now! See you again same time next week for the next part of this series.
Good morning, and glad to have you guys once again for a quick tour of my backyard.
Today I will show you 2 tropical fruit bearing trees: Kamias and Atis.
The kamias, also known as bilimbi, is a short tree whose green fruits grow in clusters. The acidic fruit is juicy and is rarely eaten raw. When I was a child I would frequent the kamias tree that grew at a vacant lot behind my grandma’s house, and bravely eat the fruit raw, dipping it in salt. As I got older I came to realize that the fruit is best used as a substitute ingredient for tamarind, for sour soup dishes like sinigang, pinangat, and paksiw. I have also been able to have a taste of kamias candy and jam. Didn’t like these much though, so I stuck on just using kamias for home cooked dishes.
In olden days, elders boiled the kamias leaves and cool the water to be used for bathing mothers with newborns. I don’t recall what the ritual is for though…
Speaking of that old tradition, the next tree I wanted to show you is the Atis tree, whose leaves are also used for new moms’ baths.
Atis, also known as sweetsop or sugar apple, is a fiber and protein rich, custard-tasting fruit. A fruit has multiple black seeds. It is also ricg in vitamin C and B6, manganese, iron, magnesium and potasium.
Our atis tree was also a pleasant surprise. We were using the seeds from a consumed fruit as part of our compost, when all of a sudden a seedling emerged. The photo above capturesthe first 2 fruits produced by our atis tree – that’s six years in the making! So I am so excited it finally yielded fruit!
What fruit bearing trees do you have in your backyard and are they also easy to maintain?
Hello and good morning! I’m up early to check on my darlings (animals and plants), enjoying the sound of chirping birds this cool February Tuesday.
Over the last weeks we’ve had a short tour of what I consider treasures from my backyard: from the fruit bearing trees like mulberry, papaya, rambutan, coconut, lime, to our vegetable crops like eggplant, and ginger. We also had a look at my aloe vera, a medicinal herb, and lastly I introduced you to my four lovely hens that grace us with our organic eggs.
This morning let me show you 2 of our very reliable trees. They’re self sufficient, in fact they just grew at our backyard, much to our pleasant surprise. They’re also quite easy to maintain, don’t require much.
First up is our banana tree. It’s yielded several bunches of fruit already. I love having banana for breakfast. Sometimes, I add a fruit to my smoothies as a source of natural sweetness. The leaves also serve multiple purposes. We use these as wrapper for suman, a sticky rice snack. We also use this to wrap bibingka, a sweet rice cake that is a Filipino favorite during the cooler months.
As you can see the fruits are due to be ripe soon. And with this much fruit we are sure to share them with our neighbors. This is what I like about our community, people sharing garden produce every so often.
Next one’s our malunggay tree. In english it’s called moringa. We use the leaves as ingredients to home cooked meals like tinola or diningding. There are many health benefits from malunggay, in fact I have seen kiosks in the supermarket selling malunggay tea.
Our tree generously produces leaves. Every fortnight, before heading out to the market, my aunt would harvest bunches of its leaves and brings them to the early morning market vendors to trade with other crops like corn. I’m so happy when she does this – isn’t it how it used to be done ages ago? She gets approximately a good 100 pesos’ worth of crops in exchange for the bunches of malunggay stalks and leaves. It’s always a treat when I wake up to sweet freshly cooked corn on the cob – a trade she made for the leaves.
Have you ever experienced trading your home grown produce in the market, or sharing it with the community?
I hope you liked our short tour. Next week I’d show you two tropical fruit bearing trees: kamias and atis.
Hello again, and greetings from my humble abode. This is the last part of the tour of my backyard. Over the last two weeks we checked out my muberry, papaya, rambutan, aloe vera, lime and eggplant. If you have not yet read about the first 2 quick tours I wrote about, you can click here for part 1 and here for part 2.
Don’t mind me as I sip on my tea while I show you around today.
I have 4 hens in the backyard, and whenever they are not moulting, we get at least one egg per hen per day. So we hardly get eggs from the supermarket anymore, and these are certified organic. Whenever we have a surplus of eggs, my aunt makes leche flan for dessert.
I have two coops for my hens, and this is where they spend the night and lay their eggs in. During the daytime they frolic around the yard. And when they do, we keep a close eye on the compost bin because there was an instance we left it open and they happily dug into it.
The hens are quite easy to take care of. They eat vegetable cuttings from the kitchen.
Our ginger grew from a ginger cutting (with the eye bulb)that we planted. We thought of growing our own ginger because of its many uses. I use it everyday! On weekdays I skip coffee for breakfast and start the day with ginger and honey tea. I find it calming my tummy and soothing my throat. We also use ginger for local dishes like tinola, sinigang sa miso, and tahong soup. We planted this back in April of 2018 and is quite low maintenance. It does not require too much water. I can’t wait to get our first harvest soon.
That wraps up today’s tour of my humble backyard. Hope you enjoyed this one. Next week I’ll show you some fruit bearing trees.
Greetings from my humble home! I hope you enjoyed seeing my mulberry, papaya, coconut and rambutan trees from my backyard garden in last week’s post. If you’re new to my blog, you can click here to read about it.
In today’s tour, I’ll show you a plant that I’ve been using since I was a child, and 2 fruit and vegetable bearing crops which we use frequently when we are cooking at home. Here we go…
Aloe Vera is called Sabila in Filipino. It is a medicinal plant that does wonders for the skin. Ever since I was a child I would rub the sabila meat on my face and scalp. It softens and calms my skin. Now I see a aloe vera in a several Korean skin care products, and I’ve even tasted refreshing aloe vera drinks. When we started cultivating our garden, the sabila was one of the things we planter first because it’s low maintenance and fast and easy to grow.
Lime and Eggplant
The reason we planted lime is because I could cook a lot of tasty food using it. Also, surprisingly, it’s easier to get lemons from the nearest supermarkets compared to limes (they run out easily). I was pleased that it quickly grew within a few weeks from planting seeds and I look forward to its first batch of fruits.
Behind my newly grown lime plant, is a row of eggplants. Eggplants are perrenials and also easy to grow plants. We have harvested quite a few of its produce already and used them in local dishes like pinakbet, tortang talong and diningding.
Hope you enjoyed the second part of the tour of my backyard. Next week I will show you other crops and animals (aside from my dogs) that walk around my home. Happy Tuesday!
Organic food is harder to come by as compared to the commercially mass-produced food options in the market – those that are most likely clad in chemicals. Eating out exposes most consumers to these mass produced products, and here in Metro Manila, if I look for a restaurant that uses organic or free-range ingredients, I’d have a lesser and more expensive options. I’m glad healthy options are now more widely available – but they’re somehow concentrated in the CBDs. So for instance, if I was at my hometown at the south, or at my folks’ in the north of Metro Manila, and I’d crave for something organic for lunch, I will have to drive or commute to get to the next city where I can dine in at a selected restaurants that serve organic food.
Sustainable living is a lifestyle where I reduce my carbon footprint and limit the wastage of the planet’s resources. I can do this through Reducing, Refusing, Reusing and Recycling. This year, I’m doing more of the Refusing than Recycling. It’s part of the change that I wanted to drive starting with myself. So part of Refusing means using my own resources, and buying only as a last resort. One of the things I can produce on my own is by planting vegetables and fruits in my own backyard. In doing so, I can put my compost soil to use, and at the same time, I know for sure what I harvest are indeed organic. For the crops we plant at our backyard, we do not use pesticides and chemicals.
Let me give you a tour of my backyard garden.
First stop is my mulberry tree. Its seedling was shared to me by our parish priest last year, and in a matter of a few weeks it already started yielding the mulberry fruit. Mulberries are small fruit colored pink or red. They are tart and sweet. I read about their nutritional benefits and interviewed sellers of mulberry tea from the Legazpi Sunday market and was advised they are considered superfood rich in antioxidants. They help prevent cancer and aid in digestion. For more information about mulberries, click here.
Papaya, Coconut and Rambutan
The papaya regularly produces fruit (or vegetable?) for us at home. The fuss-free, low maintenance tree quickly propagated from the papaya seeds that we planted. When it’s still green, we use this as an ingredient for tinola, a local dish. When ripened, the fruit turns yellow in color and we eat this for breakfast as it helps with digestion. On a hot day it’s also a good idea to make papaya shake. Yum!
I got the coconut tree from the plant nursery and have been waiting for months now for it to produce fruit. I’m fond of drinking coconut juice, and we mix the coconut meat with other fruits for salad. I dream that one day soon I can go to the backyard at any time and get a coconut fruit at my heart’s desire.
Lastly, the rambutan, is a seedling for now. Rambutan is similar to lychee in taste in my opinion. Its sweet fruit is filled with antioxidants, iron and vitamin C. I can’t wait for it to grow.
That’s it for now. Next week I’ll show you some plants in my mini pot garden and along the fence of the yard. Hope you enjoyed the first part of the tour. Til we meet again!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Hello everyone, for those of you new to my blog, I’m an environment advocate. And so, I support companies that promote recycling and plastic-free shopping.
I’m so excited to share with you a new find: I recently discovered Ritual.ph – it’s a small general store at the Languages International building along Arnaiz Avenue in Makati City.
At the onset the store makes quite an impression with its modern, clean, and chic interiors. I like how the merchandise was organized and placed in glass jars, or wrapped with paper. The shop supports local producers and farmers. I saw some wooden bowls that were beautifully crafted and I was told they were sourced from Dumaguete province in Visayas.
Ritual.ph sells various pantry items such as dried lemongrass, dried pandan, dried wild mint, turmeric, virgin coconut oil, salt, rice, flour, and beans. For food and drinks they have ice cream, coffee, cacao and cacao bits, kombucha, and chocolate bars. They also have bath and body items like gugo (sourced from Mt. Banahaw and used to increase hair volume, prevent hair fall and strengthen hair strands), scented salts, oils, liquid soap, shampoo, activated charcoal, balms, and kaolin clay. For cleaning materials they have baking soda, deodorizer, laundry bars, and liquid dish soaps. I also saw vegetable crayons, stainless straws, vintage notebooks, matches, and cigars displayed near the cashier.
I’ve recently tried their coffee – unfortunately at the time only Robusta was available so that was what I had. Next time I will try their Arabica coffee.
How it works is I, the buyer, would bring my recyclable containers, then I fill them up with, say, the liquid soap and weigh how much I got. The pricing of their refills are by the gram and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how affordable my purchases are. More importantly, I always leave the shop feeling quite contented that I didn’t add up to the plastic usage problem of our planet.
My favorite purchases are the lemongrass liquid soap, rosemary clarifying shampoo, and the lemongrass conditioning shampoo. The ingredients used for these are 100% biodegradable and do not contain harmful chemicals like sulfates, parabens and fragrance oils. The shampoos use coconut base, aloe vera and essential oils. They all smell so divine, to the point that I look forward to my showers so I can enjoy the refreshing scents.
I hope more and more shops like Ritual.ph open up in Metro Manila so that their reach will be wider. Ritual.ph can also be found at the Legazpi Sunday Market in Makati. For more details about my new favorite store, check out their website
This blog is not sponsored by Ritual.ph, and I wrote this because I’m so happy with finding them and the products I’ve bought so far.
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.
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.
Pedro and the hens exploring
Need to cover the compost bin for these ones not to start digging
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.