No, I am not from La Salle. Neither am I anti-Ateneo. But, I am pro-Green. And by Green, I mean the environment. I understand that going about change is difficult, so is moving out of comfort zones. In this sense, going Green or making our lives Green — or doing things in ways that do not further harm the environment — can take much time, effort, and resources.
But, the fact is, we can no longer expect governments to prioritize environmental protection. They never have, and perhaps they never will. There is always a more important concern that it perceives to require greater, and more urgent, priority than policies and programs that promote being Green. Even Education and Health do not get the priority they require.
But, the fact remains that no matter how well-educated, well-fed, and healthy and wealthy you are, if the Earth goes, then we all go. And money and power will not save us. If we lose arable land for farming, potable water, and forests and oceans to environmental degradation, then we will have nothing to live on except the mountains of plastic that we have created over the years.
Not all is lost, however. For we can instead make a personal commitment to go Green, in ways that we can, no matter how small. And if more and more people — and businesses — make the effort to clean up after themselves, then perhaps in the future the need for government imprimatur will become less important if not altogether unnecessary.
There are things we can do ourselves and for ourselves. For instance, WALK or BIKE, if you can. Walking or biking can be good for your health, we are all told. If you can do it to and from work, then better. But, otherwise, even just for short trips to the store, or for errands, or simply for exercise, depend less on vehicles and fossil fuel for your mobility.
I don’t like to walk, honestly. But I find it more difficult to bike. However, given today’s fuel prices, I have found myself walking more — by choice. Thanks to the city government, as well as private developers, many parts of the city I live in have become more walkable or pedestrian-friendly. And this has allowed me to walk more often and drive less. Small thing, but big win.
A prime example of a welcome development is the extension of the elevated walkway along Dela Rosa St., which now stretches from Makati Medical Center all the way to Greenbelt. And by going through places like Glorietta and Landmark, you can actually walk in the shade and protected from rain all the way from the EDSA-Ayala MRT station to the Makati Post Office near the corner of Ayala and Buendia (Gil Puyat).
In fact, despite its obvious disadvantages to me and a lot of other people, I would still prefer for the city government to make more areas of Makati City CBD car-free and exclusive pedestrian zones on weekends. Easier said than done, I know. But, I am certain more families — including the elderly and persons with disabilities — will opt to walk around as long as they can be assured of safety and convenience.
In recent months, our household has also been generating significantly less garbage by making small adjustments to what we buy and how we buy things from stores. We try to avoid, if we can, sachets and small retail packs. We have also made a conscious effort to buy more items in glass rather than plastic bottles, or packed in boxes or cans rather than plastic bags or wraps.
More important, we now keep reusable bags in the car as well as reusable containers. That way, when we buy vegetables and meats, for example, we use our own reusable containers and decline the use of stores’ plastic bags. This has also made it easier for us to store food, with sealed containers of fresh items going into the freezer or refrigerator directly from the grocery.
We try to avoid plastic straws and plastic bags; we opt for wooden chopsticks rather than plastic cutlery for takeout food; we ask for ceramic mugs rather than disposable cups when drinking coffee in coffee shops; and, we bring our own refillable water container from the house rather than buy bottled water when outdoors.
My wife has also put together a worm bin. Yes, we keep worms in a bin in the back patio. Most biodegradable items such as fruit and vegetable peelings, and coffee grounds and egg shells — including unbleached brown wastepaper — end up in the bin to “feed” the worms. The worms help in composting these items and, in turn, produce fertilizer for her plants.
Keeping plants in pots, rather than a large planter, also helps save water. We are now also looking into growing some of our own vegetables in the back patio, in small plant boxes that will require less soil and water. In fact, new technologies for “growing light” also makes it now possible to grow some vegetables indoors, and we are looking into that.
And, in segregating garbage, we also set aside the recyclables like cans, aluminum cans, recyclable bleached waste paper and recyclable plastic items. The garbage collector takes them weekly, and presumably makes money off them. On occasion, we load the stuff into the car and bring them to a recycling collection fair periodically hosted by a banking group in Makati City.
Honestly, I am uncertain as to how much actual positive impact on the environment all these initiatives have made. But, for sure, our home now produces less garbage than it used to. And we have been consuming less plastic. Also, I have been walking a lot more, and I feel better for it. Additional adjustments have also allowed us to save a bit on fuel expenses.
I hope we can sustain the effort. The changes were not easy, but we are getting used to them. And, I hope that more people can also make the personal commitment to go Green, to make small changes in their own lives, in the way they do things, as their contribution to helping protect the environment, or at least mitigating its degradation.
Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council