I’m not an expert or a person of high position. I am basically just a nobody who is trying to live a Sustainable Lifetsyle. A Sustainable Lifestyle, for me, is just meeting your basic needs without harming the environment in order to make essential resources available to sustain future generations. This article is about why and how I live a Sustainable Lifestyle, with more emphasis on the WHYs, because I think, it would easier for a person to distinguish the HOWs when the WHYs are put to heart.
I think many of us already know that humans are now facing the greatest threat to our kind, which is the Ecological Breakdown. But despite it all, we can only see very few actions being done. I can think of a number of reasons why, but I would like to assume that we are just not fully aware of what we are up against. I am hoping to at least shed some light on our current situation by anchoring this article on the 2 major factors of the Ecological Breakdown; (1) our Wastes and the (2) Climate Crisis, and on how, as an individual, I try to at least contribute on fighting them.
The ballooning Solid Wastes and its link to the Extinction Crisis
According to World Bank, we produce 2.01 billion metric tons of global solid wastes every year. A huge 75% of that are non-biodegradable wastes that will stay and pollute our lands and oceans even beyond our lifetime. We knew for a very long time that we need to stop producing and using these things but, we can’t just quite do it. Because frankly, we are so dependent on them that they are already normal parts of our lives. Here are some proof: You wake up in the morning, you brush your teeth. What’s your toothbrush made of? How is Shampoo packed? Your lotion, your deodorant, everything, how are they packed? Then girls, it’s your Period day, what is your menstrual pads made of? And so on and so forth. I can go on iterating the rest of your day, identifying all our daily needs and demands that actually contribute to this environmental crisis. You will be surprised to know that each person produces an average of 0.74 kilograms of trash every day, multiply that to the 7.7 billion population of the world today. No wonder that the whole planet is drowning in trash. That’s exactly what my realizations were around April of 2018. And because of that, I decided to correct my own demands. I decided to start my journey to a Zero Waste Lifestyle.
By doing the Zero Waste Lifestyle, I completely stopped using plastic. I’ve learned to bring my own bags and containers everytime I do my groceries. I’ve learned to use washables and reusables all the time, such as cloth pads and eating utensils. I bought myself my very first bamboo toothbrush and Shampoo Bars. I boycotted restaurants that are not considerate of my advocacy, for example, McDonald’s. I’ve learned to compost. And lastly, I learned how to create my own toothpaste, deodorant, and lotion just to avoid packaging. After 3 months, I’ve successfully reduced my 3 trash bags every week to 1 small trash bag a month. It’s not much because it’s just me, but imagine everyone doing that together.
According to the Center of Biological Diversity, we are now in an Extinction Crisis. The 6th Mass Extinction, as what they all call it, with 1 million species possibly heading towards extinction by around 2050. This is 1000 times faster than the normal extinction rate. Our ballooning solid wastes contribute a lot to that issue. That is why, I am hoping that we rethink the ways on how we treat our solid wastes.
The silent issue on Liquid Wastes
Also, September last year, I fully pledged to never again buy new clothes or apparels from huge companies. A whooping 98% of my wardrobe, from clothes, to bags and shoes, are reused items I bought from thrift stores. Why I decided to do so, is because of the Textile Industry’s issues on Liquid Wastes.
The Plastic Pollution has gained spotlight these years, but I wish I can only say that there’s only Solid Waste issues. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of Liquid Waste issues. They are one of the major factors on the acidification of our oceans. While I would love to talk more about all the industries that are accountable to the global liquid wastes, I want to focus on something that we can take action on, as individuals; the Textile Industry.
China alone, being the largest producer and exporter of textiles in the world, is responsible for discharging 2.5 billion tons of liquid wastes every year. Bangladesh, which is the source of H&M’s textiles, has been in controversy last 2013 for discharging 1500bn liters of liquid wastes.
Sustainable fashion has been trending these years, but for me, it will always be a myth for huge corporations. If you want real sustainable fashion, supporting ethically-produced Filipino textiles is a great a start.
The Climate Crisis
It was around November of last year 2018, when I realized that doing the Zero Waste Lifestyle isn’t enough. The Zero Waste Lifestyle solely focuses on not producing wastes, and the Environmental Crisis is way bigger than that, because we have what we call the Climate Crisis.
We all know about the Climate Crisis. We all know that the planet is getting warmer due to the excessive Greenhouse Gases. But do we know that what we are experiencing now is only a rise in temperature of 0.8°C? According to the UN World Meteorological Association, given our current activities, there is a projected rise of 3°C – 5°C over the next years to come. These levels of the rise in our temperature will cause “catastrophic” impacts to us. With that, the 2015 Paris Agreement were signed by countries all over the world, with the aim to achieve the ambitious goal of reaching the last safe limit of 1.5°C – 2°C temperature rise for this century. So much numbers, but how do we exactly do that? To quote from Forbes; “. . .we need to start cutting global greenhouse gas emissions rapidly. By 2030, emissions need to be about 45% below what they were in 2010, and by 2050 we should not emit anything overall.”
Reading all of that few months ago, to be honest, I felt hopeless because it’s simply not doable. We need to turn things around in a very short period of time. Even our scientists say that we are losing our Carbon budget in a faster rate than expected. They say that there is only 5% chance of actually achieving the ambitious goal of 2°C. We are, in fact, losing this battle. But you know what, despite all these negativity, I realized that we should at least try. So I decided to minimize my individual carbon emissions because little did you know, there is 4.5 metric tons of carbon emissions per capita per year, contributing to the overall 31 gigatons of global carbon emissions annually.
So, decided to shift from the Zero Waste Lifestyle to a Sustainable Lifestyle. I was surprised because minimizing my own carbon emissions, was actually harder than zero waste. First thing, I decided to avoid any gasoline-run vehicle and only bike when I go to places around the city. I’m lucky that I am in Japan, and there are actually bike lanes, but in the Philippines, I can only sigh. Next, I decided to only fly when absolutely necessary, because aviation produces 859 million tons of CO2 yearly. I decided to go Vegan, not because I want to be healthy, but because animal agriculture produces 50% of the overall global greenhouse emissions. I decided that I will only buy an electric car or motorcycle in the future. I am planning to purchase my first ever solar panel for our home this year. I’ve managed to minimize my shipping or delivery orders. I decided to stand against all sorts of mining by going for ethically-produced wood products and minimizing my purchase of steel and glass products. I wish I can measure my current monthly carbon emissions with this lifestyle, but since I can’t, I do hope that in my little ways, I was able to help in sparing some space in our depleting Carbon budget.
Is Sustainable Living doable?
My “Sustainable Lifestyle” is not 100% yet, not because I am still doing it for roughly 6 months now, but because I am living in a city. When asked if Sustainable Living is doable, I will absolutely say yes. Whatever your social class is, it is doable, but it will depend on your location. The working class in rural areas, will find it easier to shift to a sustainable lifestyle compared to the working class in a highly urbanized location. The latter is currently impossible. That is why, it is important to note that to win this fight against the Climate Crisis, we need to basically change the current ways of the world.
Of course, changing the ways of the world, is no easy task. We need to continuously do awareness drive to educate people regarding our current situation and the efforts needed to be done. It is of utmost importance for us to continuously demand for sustainability from our business and government leaders. We need our governments to provide a fully structured sustainable community framework. To mention some, all gasoline-run public and private transportation need to be turned electric. Our planes, our ships, our cars, our jeepneys, everything need to be CO2-free. There should be a complete ban on plastics and all sorts of unsustainable products. All our energy sources need to be from renewable energy. Consumerism and trade on sustainable products, should be encouraged and need to be done locally. We need the business sector to cooperate into prioritizing sustainability above all else in their business operations. And most importantly, we need each and everyone of us, to limit our daily demands only to sustainable products. Plus all those solutions that I probably do not know. It’s such a long way to go, but HALF of those by 2030, and ALL of those by 2050, and we might still have a chance.