I'm joining EarthHero on their March Zero Waste Challenge, but I'm going to be doing a bit of a different spin on it. I'm borrowing a page from Heidi over at zerowastechica and Olivia at zerowastehabesha and will showcase how cultures have been living sustainability before "zero waste" became a trend and got its own hashtag. I grew up in the Philippines until I was 9 and went back several times since then (though not as often as I would have liked). I remember a lot of the things we did to save resources and use up as much as we could, not necessarily because we wanted to save the Earth, but because it was the native and economical thing to do. Many cultures around the world have been preserving the Earth and doing what they can without the label. While it wasn't termed "zero waste", the concept of sustainability has been around since the dawn of time.
This month, I'm going to showcase how Filipino culture and how my family reduced waste and encouraged sustainability in the Philippines. My memory is a little fuzzy so I have asked my parents to help. My husband is Armenian who grew up in Turkey so I will also be asking for his help to provide me examples of how his culture lived sustainably. I'm going to present a few of them here, but head on over to Instagram so we can walk through more examples in the month of March.
"Zero Waste" can sometimes be privileged, but the goal of this is to show how many people around the world have been living like these for centuries. We can learn a lot from our own roots and from the myriad of cultures that inhabit this Earth.
Additionally, I will be doing bunch of giveaways from some wonderful vendors. Here's the breakdown of who I've partnered with and what you can get your hands on. Perhaps, these items will kick start your zero waste journey.
Who is EarthHero?
EarthHero is a sustainable online marketplace whose mission is to make shopping sustainably easier for everyone. They offer a wide range of products from companies committed to making a difference in the creation and distribution of eco-friendly products. A portion of the products are shipped from their warehouse in Boulder, Colorado in 100% recycled packaging. The rest of the products are shipped by the vendors themselves using post-consumer recycled packaging. All of the products that they sell on the site come with it's own list of Sustainability Features such as what it is made out of, how to dispose of it, how it is packaged and other earth-friendly features. All of the shipping is offset through Carbonfund.org to reduce carbon footprint as much as possible. They partner with brands that I personally use like Klean Kanteen (my full review of their bottles here), Bee's Wrap and many others.
I'm partnering with EarthHero for all of the things they do above and the fact that understandably, we may need to purchase a few items to start and continue our eco-friendly journey. Because we no longer live in a society where we make everything ourselves, when making a purchase, why not do it with a company that is also doing what they can to ensure a more sustainable future.
With my partnership, you can get 15% off an order at EarthHero.com using code "DOSOMETHING" until March 31. If you've been eyeing something, but cost was prohibitive, see if this discount code can help facilitate a purchase.
I'm sure you've seen the statistics now that food packaging accounts for a lot of the waste that households and individuals generate. For me, growing up in the Philippines, eating out was a special occasion. In fact, it was rarely done, but a few times, the family may do a long trip and bringing food or "baon" was necessary. When I was growing up, we would vacation at my grandparents house in Bohol, an island in the middle of the Philippines. This journey would take 12 hours on a boat and required meals. On the boat, they would sell food items wrapped in banana leaves. Banana leaves have a waxy coating and becoming elastic when warmed making it harder to tear apart which is why it is used heavily to wrap food items. These were easy to carry and the banana leaves were sturdy enough to protect the food items and act as plates. After it's use, banana leaves would then be fed to the pigs extending it's use.
My favorite Filipino foods wrapped in banana leaves are puto and suman in case you were wondering.
Of course, you'll still see food items being packaged in banana leaves, but perhaps not as much as before. With the introduction of plastic, foil and other alternatives, banana leaves are not as popular. Today, the latest food packaging alternative that has a similar functionality as the banana leaves is the bees wax cloth. It's a cotton cloth that is coated with beeswax and other oils. It's a great reusable option. Find these Beeswax Wraps at EarthHero.com.
Coconuts Is Everything
Today, it seems coconut everything is the latest trend, but in speaking with my parents, coconut was a staple when they were growing up. Coconut trees and the fruit they bear are the most versatile of plants. Let's break down how coconuts are used for everything. Let's start with the coconut itself. From coconut water to coconut meat, coconuts were used as a hydration source, a food source and for body and hair. The coconut shells are used as bowls, ladles and or spoons. If the husk is left on, the coconut is used as a floor polisher. Side note that in some schools, kids have to clean their classrooms so they learn the value of cleanliness. I remember in 2nd grade cleaning our classroom and using the coconut husk to polish the floor. Coconut husks are also great as fire starters and as charcoal. Coconut wood is very durable and is widely used for housing. The coconut leaves are also used as roof thatches and for weaving into various objects such as baskets, mats and other household products.
Today, you'll find coconuts in everything. It's a great versatile product to have on hand. It's not a new item and you'll find many countries like the Philipines, India, Malaysia and other tropical countries thriving off of this plant.
If you've been to the Philippines, it's hot! Many industries take advantage of the sunshine to line dry lots of items, from clothing to fish to rice to coconuts to corn to mangoes. "Solar energy" was probably not a term that was used, but the concept of using the sun has helped people create businesses and save resources throughout the Philippines.
Secondhand Clothing is Ukay Ukay
Pun intented. For a period of time, secondhand clothing had a large market in the Philippines. These were called "ukay-ukay" and basically bales of clothing from the Western world would make it's way to the Philippines to be sold at Sunday markets. Earlier on, the clothes were of high quality so many still had a lot of life in them. Lately and as of my last visit in 2017, some of the clothes that I saw came from fast fashion so did not have the quality they used to have. Interestingly too, the competition for fast fashion is so high that even "ukay ukay" items are now competing with clothing sold at malls. So something to think about as we consume these cheap clothing that not even other countries will want them in the future. So where will they go?
Growing up in the Philippines, I wore secondhand clothing. There was an incident once where I lost a new sweater that I got and I refused to go home because I was afraid of getting yelled at. My sister and were lucky because my mother was working in U.S. so that she would send us nice dresses, but from what I remember most of our play clothes were secondhand.
Fast forward to living in America. I did not particularly like thrift shops growing up. My mom would shop there and practically raised my younger sister on thrifted clothing, but not me. I was an American teenager who wanted branded clothing from the mall. I spent a lot of money on clothes that were on sale from all brands. Thankfully, I've learned that thrifted items are not bad and by shopping secondhand, we can help reduce the amount of items that go to the landfill and make use of items that still have a lot of life in them.
No Fork, No Problem
So many people will be grossed out with eating with their hands, but it's human nature to use what you've got. In the Philippines, eating with your hands was very natural. Prior to Spanish colonization that brought on the concept of utensils, the tradition of eating "with hands" called "kamayan" was very popular. It was a way to bring everyone together to share a meal. If you've ever been invited to a Filipino household, they won't ask how you are, but have you eaten? Filipinos love to share food and "kamayan" was a way to do that.
Today, it's not that normal to see people eat with their hands as they opt instead to use plastic forks or spoons. Still for some Filipinos, they do the diligence to wash their hands at each meal in case the opportunity to eat with the hands occurs. And personally for me, sometimes eating with my hands makes the meal that much for delicious. Of course, eating with your hands at work may not be seen as totally copacetic, so instead opt to bring your own reusable utensils. This bamboo utensil set found at EarthHero.com is great to have on hand so that you can skip the wasteful plastic cutlery and still eat well.
Coffee Culture Without The Waste
I want to share with you a ritual that my husband exposed me to which was to sit around and drink coffee. In America, coffee is more or less consumed on the go. The amount of drive-thrus for coffee increases by the minute. In Turkish and Armenian culture, coffee (kahve in Turkish, soorj in Armenian) is always sipped slowly. If you've been to Istanbul, coffee and tea shops are everywhere. Coffee in these parts of the world is a time to have a break, to chat and catch-up. It's not about the caffeine or the fancy cup to carry it around. Coffee is a ritual. "Sip a little, talk a little and repeat." In this part of the world, coffee is always served in small demitasse reusable cups. It's rare that takeaway is offered that some shops have to advertise they offer coffee to-go.
These are just some examples of how I've experienced cultures already living sustainability without the label. Join me in the month of March on Instagram as we explore more ways to live a more eco-friendly life. Perhaps, this will inspire you to ask your parents or grandparents a few questions about how they lived. For many, living sustainably was and may continue to be out of necessity. So it may not be labeled "zero waste" but it is still a grand gesture to refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle and rot. There are a lot of lessons to be learned regarding how our ancestors lived and how other cultures live today. Let's share those lessons and normalize sustainability.