Baby Steps to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Zero-waste. It’s a concept that has been advocated more urgently lately. If you spend enough time on social media, you can’t miss all the videos and articles being shared about how single-use plastic and wastefulness are destroying the planet. Our oceans are choked up in such a surreal way that it almost seems like a nightmare. To make matters worse, the Philippines is apparently the 3rd worst plastic polluter in the world! It’s a problem so big that I can’t see how we can even ignore it.

Growing up, our parents always taught us to never litter, and we don’t. For a while, I thought that was enough. However, over the years, I’ve tried to pay more attention to how much unnecessary plastic I was really using. How many plastic straws, toothbrushes, menstrual pads, tampon applicators, razors, baggies, cling wraps had I tossed in the trash without a second thought? It makes me cringe. That’s why I have made the decision to do as much as I can to reduce my plastic waste. Fortunately, my husband is fully on-board with it and has also picked up my tree-hugger ways. Now, we make a conscious effort as a family to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

Is it really Zero-Waste?

It’s extremely difficult to go zero-waste here in Cebu. Most establishments and businesses aren’t very supportive of this cause. Almost everything is packaged in plastic, oftentimes unnecessarily, which is extremely frustrating. That doesn’t mean we can’t try though. I guess “Zero-waste” is not a very accurate term. I don’t think you can really go zero-waste unless you live in the jungle, hunting for and planting your own food, weaving your own clothes, etc. “LOW-waste” would be a more appropriate term for it I suppose. For us, it wasn’t a sudden drastic sweeping change, but rather a series of baby steps and little changes that we believe will make a difference in the long run. We still have a long way to go.

As other eco-warriors have inspired me and my family to make these changes, I hope this will inspire you to do the same.

Ditch the plastic when dining out.

Stop sucking plastic.

My bamboo straws from Cebu Eco Fix.

When dining out we try to remember to tell waiters/servers not to give us plastic straws and just drink our beverages straight out of the cup. Sometimes, we forget especially at the drive through and the crew automatically puts plastic straws in the bag, so we have to be more consistent with this.

Of course, there are some drinks that are just better with a straw like milk teas and shakes (both of which I love.). There are already many reusable options available. You can purchase metal or locally-sourced bamboo straws (with cleaning brush) online from Cebu Eco Fix and Noble Folk. These online shops also sell other products made of sustainable and ecofriendly material.

Bring your own containers.

Since I am constantly drinking water, I bring my own bottle everywhere I go so I can just refill it periodically throughout the day. When ordering drinks, make the effort to ask to have them placed in your own tumblers or thermoses. When planning to buy food, take some of your own containers with you. If you are at a coffee shop, ask the barista to place your coffee in a mug, because some of them will still place it in a disposable cup even if you are drinking it there. As to why they do this, I have no idea. You also have to be careful with some establishments who will fill your tumbler but then still throw away an unused disposable cup, because apparently they use them for inventory purposes (which is just ludicrous… I mean, there has GOT to be a better way to do inventory).

Pack Reusable Cutlery.

Cheap metal spoons and forks are so easy to come by. There are also several online shops that sell cutlery made from bamboo or coconut, which makes them compostable in case they ever break. Carrying your own cutlery will also prevent you from resorting to those single-use plastic gloves many hole-in-the-wall food places tend to give out… Or you could always just wash your hands before eating.

Zero-waste dinner at Sugbo Mercado (Tumbler filled with lemonade from Pork Barrel; Pad thai from Banana Pancake Trail plus some chicken wings and ribs on our reusable plates)


If we support businesses that allow or encourage you to use your own containers, perhaps more of them will follow suit. For example, we recently visited the local food market, Sugbo Mercado in I.T. Park, and were pleasantly surprised that the vendors were really accommodating. The staff at Banana Pancake Trail and Pork Barrel were more than happy to let us use our own picnic set. We were able to do away with paper plates (which are usually lined with plastic), plastic cups, and plastic gloves. Banana Pancake Trail actually offers P5.00 discounts to those who bring their own reusable containers. Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf also give similar discounts. Chatime (I.T.Park) and Bubble Tea Station have also been known to willingly fill your tumblers.


Zero-Waste Shopping

Refuse unnecessary plastic packaging.

If it doesn’t need to be placed in a plastic bag, refuse the bag.

If you head to your local bakery, you will notice that they will wrap each kind of bread (even if you buy only one of each) in its own plastic bag… and then they place all the little baggies in a bigger bag… and then double bag it! Seriously. Bread doesn’t weigh a ton. It’s not going to tear through the plastic.

When you buy a single strip or bottle of medication at a pharmacy or a pack of gum at the convenience store, the cashier will undoubtedly mindlessly place them in itty-bitty plastic bags that you won’t even be able to reuse.

Change really has to start with us refusing all this unnecessary packaging.

Use Ecobags.

It’s also a good idea to have a reusable shopping bag on hand at all times for spur-of-the-moment purchases and supermarket stops. We like to reuse the bags from S&R because they are sturdy and huge. This is also the reason why I tend to hoard those giant bags that pharma companies like to hand out at our conventions. If we forget to bring our ecobags while shopping for groceries, we opt for them to be placed inside carton boxes instead of in plastic bags.

A fellow zero-waster gifted me with some lovely crocheted bags  which we use when buying fruits and vegetables. If you can’t have them made, you can order some from Knot Co. (knotcoph) on Instagram. Their bags are really pretty, decently-sized, and come in reusable tins. The company also has a physical display at Urban Lifestyle (2nd Floor of Axis Entertainment Avenue, Escario St., Cebu City) With these, you can place your purchases in the bag, weigh them, and then place the price sticker right on them. Ta-dah! No more plastic bags necessary!



 Zero-Waste Period

About three years ago, I made the switch to reusable menstrual products. It actually surprised me to find out that they had been available for quite a long time. Since then, I have not gone back to disposables except in emergency situations.


Menstrual cups are a fantastic option for women. A good quality cup could seem expensive initially, but in the long-run will save you a lot of money since it will last at least a good five years. I’ve had my Ruby Cup for around 3 years already, and my Lena Cup for a couple of months. Think of all the plastic garbage that each cup-wearing woman has prevented from ending up in a landfill or in the sea.

Lena Cup

Not only are they a more eco-friendly option, but they are also extremely  comfortable to wear and allow me to do whatever  I want — run, swim, bike, dance, yoga — even on my heaviest flow days.

Make Cloth Mainstream

Overnight pad by Faerie de Ubec

“Pasadors” have also replaced my disposable panty-liners and overnight pads. I personally feel that they are more comfortable. Depending on how big your stash is, they can also last a while. There are already several online shops that sell them, such as GreenPads, Ka Nami Pasador, and Chill’s Cloth Pads.

Some can even customize your pads for you. I got this one from Ethne Ravindranathan of Faerie de Ubec.  I love that the pads I got from her are topped in jersey fabric, which wicks the moisture away from the skin, keeping you feeling dry. Her fabric designs are cool, and the extremely flared back of the overnight pad keeps me from leaking.

Use Beeswax Wraps

Instead of using plastic surround-wraps and sandwich bags, opt for these cotton and beeswax wraps that you can use to either cover bowls and other food containers, or wrap your snack/lunch in. Using the warmth of your hands, you can mold the wraps accordingly. Of course, you need to remember that a lot of heat will melt the wax, so make sure your food has completely cooled before wrapping them. The ones I have are from G Project Manila, yet another gift from a dear friend.

So far, those are the main changes we’ve tried to incorporate in our daily routines. I’ve already got my eye on some other ways we can ditch the disposables. I’ll be writing about them as we go further on our zero-waste journey, hoping we can help others who may also just be starting out.

Here’s hoping we can all pitch in as much as we can to help our planet. This is our home, albeit a temporary one, but our home nonetheless. Let’s take care of her, shall we?


Related Links:

Here is a link to National Geographic’s campaign called “Planet or Plastic.” The photos captured here are a clear indication of how serious the situation is. If it doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will —

If you want to learn more about how to go zero-waste, you can join Buhay Zero-Waste and/or Buhay Zero Waste-Cebu on Facebook.

Lena Cups available at Bloom Body Shop.

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