Partnering for marine conservation

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Nowadays it’s difficult to paint a bright picture of the planet in the face of climate change, but we can at least try.

That’s what we did during the second part of our Sustainable Tourism Panel Discussion Series in MakeSense Philippines, this time tackling beaches!

I’ve been a volunteer in MakeSense for over a year now. The first event that our team organized was Sustainable Tourism: Tribes, and we can proudly claim that event as a success as well. We were able to gather over 30+ people and exchange ideas during that event.

This time, we invited different people with initiatives related to sustainable tourism and the beach. Our panel members come from different sectors, from the academe down to the industry. One of our main goals for the event was to find synergies among these different people coming from different backgrounds. Despite their differences, they’re each working for the same thing, which is the conservation of our beaches and waters. 

I know this sounds like a very academic and ideal thing to do. But it’s something that we can strive towards. 

Personally, my career right now revolves around the academe. In the academe, you’re taught and trained to think of the ideal and what the world should strive towards. At the same time, I can honestly admit that what we lack is an accurate grasp of the realities on the ground. Several of my colleagues can attest to this. However, despite being a weakness, these are the exact leverage points that the academe can work with together with the industry. If the academe has insights or models for a better future, industries are at the pedestal to execute these. This is where the synergies among different sectors come in. 

But how exactly will these synergies work?

In Sustainable Tourism: Beaches, we gained insights as to how this can be possible. One of our speakers, a coral reel scientist, talks about how there are only less than 100 marine scientists in the Philippines working to protect our coral reefs. With more than 7,000 islands in the country, clearly this number is not enough to monitor the coral reefs. According to him, only 2% of organizations working on corals employ marine scientists. 

This is a possible entry point for cross-sector partnerships. This is where collaboration comes in, because not one sector alone can save our coral reefs. 

And this just so happens to be another one of the main goals of the Sustainable Tourism Panel Discussion Series. If we can identify synergies and collaborations among different sectors, we will have better chances of saving Mother Earth. In this case — protecting and conserving our marine biodiversity. 

The humble steps for package-less groceries

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Last January, personal care conglomerates Procter & Gamble and Unilever announced plans on collaborating with zero-waste startups to close the loop on their single-use packaging, from Rexona deodorant to Crest mouthwash. News like this implies that the zero-waste movement that garnered popularity last 2018 doesn’t seem to be a passing fad that critics have made it out to be.

Originally published at: https://www.offcrowd.com/

Written by: Anna Cayco


Even in the Philippines, the movement has started getting traction among the people. An example would be how package-less groceries have found their footing in Metro Manila. The concept of a package-less grocery seemed only to be read about from one’s social media feed.

With an increase in awareness and demand for sustainable products in Manila, several package-less groceries are able thrive and provide people with an alternative to shopping in plastic-ridden supermarkets or groceries.

THE MAKINGS OF A PACKAGE-LESS GROCERY

One of the pioneer package-less groceries in the city is Humble Market. Tucked inside YDG Coffee in Mandala Park is a wide variety of kitchen essentials, such as sea salt and vegetable oil, and locally-sourced organic ingredients, from grains to dried fruits, found in dispensers and bins. Customers replace the ubiquitous plastic bag with their own reusable containers to weigh and transport the ingredients.

Kurt Lee, a patron of package-less groceries, believes that they are even easier than shopping at regular ones. Although it may be difficult at times to find and bright his own containers, “Package-less groceries make it easier to manage space at home,” he said. Less time would be spent on taking products out of their single-use packaging and throwing them in the garbage.

Humble Market also tackles the amount of landfill created by personal care items with Humble Essentials – their own personal care line that include bamboo toothbrushes, metal safety razors, and silicone menstrual cups.

This bold move was the product of owner Roanna Medina’s own battle with autoimmune disease. Her condition had pushed her to seek clean and whole foods, which eventually led to putting up a grocery that promotes sustainable living and holistic wellness.

“We see people within our circles getting sick because of the environmental toxins… It’s no longer our fault, it’s the environment that we live in and that’s what’s really pushing us to make those changes,” Roanna stated.

Now operating for seven months, Humble Market also acts as a collaborative space with local brands and suppliers. Roanna and her team initiate partnerships with brands based on the alignment of their values. “[We] just treat it like dating,” she quipped.

Their criteria boils down to three things: all-natural ingredients, plastic-free packaging, and reusability or biodegradability.

“And once we really see that there’s alignment and we have a future together, and we really could commit to each other, that’s where we really connect to talk about the terms, about our partnership,” she explained.

A few partners to name are Akkula PH, who makes organic lip balm packaged in compostable paper, Messy Bessy, who creates all-natural and non-toxic liquid detergent, and Hineleban Farms, who grows organic adlai in the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon.

THE ALTERNATIVE NORM

As the zero-waste movement and the interest in sustainability grows, the question of how far should habits surrounding convenience arises.

In the case of grocery shopping, it isn’t as black and white as skipping plastic straws for beverages. For Roanna, the solution is not exactly to forgo and replace all regular supermarkets and groceries with package-less ones.

Instead, Humble Market prioritizes making sustainability not only accessible but approachable for all. “We don’t take an aggressive approach because we understand or acknowledge that it requires change to happen. And not everyone’s immediately ready to make those little changes in their lives,” she clarified.

Some of these non-sustainable habits are even ingrained in culture. An example she gave was Filipinas’ hesitancy to try out a menstrual cup due to their preference over sanitary napkins over tampons.

“The thing is we should always have options. What might work for you might not work for someone else. One person’s food could be another person’s poison… It goes back to our bio-individuality, how different we all are and so having options – that’s just what’s natural. We just can’t have one absolute thing because it’s only going to cater to a small segment of society,” Roanna had eloquently put.

Just having the choice to go package-less or not is still a big leap from the past wherein the non-sustainable choice was the only choice. There is still a lot of room for research and innovation to improve sustainable consumerism.

As for Humble Market, their next step would be to expand their products to at least 200 units by the end of the year. “We are growing but just at the right pace,” Roanna said.

Normally, a mindset like that is discouraged for business. But a moderate pace of growth entails deliberateness and mindfulness that the zero-waste movement promotes. It is exactly this encouragement for people to take more careful steps that shows sustainability is beyond a blindly-followed fad.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/

Farming in an urban jungle

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Urban farming was initially a response to the lack of agricultural farmers who can accommodate the rising demands from all over the country — particularly from major cities. Not only does it make food more accessible and affordable, but it minimizes a large amount of waste caused by inefficient supply chain-management.

Originally published at https://www.offcrowd.com

Written by Denrie Caila Perez


Metro Manila is experiencing a revolution: a green revolution. Over the past couple of years, developers have transformed business and entertainment districts into open, green spaces. Gone are the days of the traditional boxed shopping mall and office. Nowadays, you can find a garden growing where you shop — which means more choices to dine al fresco.

The real estate industry followed suit with several condominium properties already following the ‘green trend,’ advocating for lush green spaces and wide skylights.

Sustainable development was already a hot topic even before the widespread call for a comprehensive plastic ban. Green architecture was supposed to be the future — or at least the solution to a multitude of environmental problems.

Urban farming using greenhouse. Photo by Erwan Hesry | Unsplash

However, we may have been looking at it the wrong way this whole time. That is, the very problem we’ve been focusing on might be all wrong.

Beneath the success of sustainable development is actually a growing case of unsustainable expansion — read: water and food security shortages.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Global food shortages have impacted the price of goods in the Philippines, making living conditions more and more difficult for a number of Filipinos. While a majority of cities in developing countries are struggling to generate income opportunities, an estimate by the World Bank shows that more than 50% of population already live in urban areas.

This is why major cities worldwide have integrated urban farming initiatives to meet food and water demands.

Urban farming was initially a response to the lack of agricultural farmers who can accommodate the rising demands from all over the country — particularly from major cities. Not only does it make food more accessible and affordable, but it minimizes a large amount of waste caused by inefficient supply chain-management.

According to The Ellen McArthur Foundation, 45 percent of perishable vegetables grown in Europe are wasted before they reach the table. However, that’s not the most important takeaway — premature food waste was discovered to be caused by long and inefficient supply chains.

Supply-chain management in the Philippines is known to have inadequate infrastructure and inefficient government bureaucracy. This results in overspending, insufficient distribution, and idle products that never make it out the door.

So where does urban farming fit in? It actually has a bigger impact than you think.

The table inside Odick’s garage is filled with more toys that he uses for display

FARMING IN THE CITY

Urban farming isn’t just about gardening. When put into practice, it is directly integrated into the ecological and economical dynamics of a city.

Metro Manila has numerous unutilized spaces and areas that can become productive spaces for urban farming. The roofs of buildings, and even the walls, can be used for soil-less, hydroponic systems. With enough coverage, it can successfully narrow local supply-chains — think of production and distribution happening within your own neighborhood.

Urban resources are also great tools for farming. Government agencies have recently been struggling in the disposal of urban waste and waste water, which worsens the air and river quality in the city. Organic waste can be used as compost and urban waste water can be used for irrigation.

In turn, consumers can grow organic food right at their doorstep (or over their heads) while lessening pollution in their neighborhood and contributing to local economic growth.

This can potentially address soaring food prices and operational inefficiencies in the country. Not only that, but it can significantly decrease the harmful impact on our ecosystem.

WHO’S DOING WHAT

Urban farming has already been recognized by local government units as an asset for improving supply chains amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The Quezon City government structures their urban policies and plans around urban farming programs.

Local entrepreneurs have also begun to see the value of urban farming in the Philippines — both commercially and environmentally. For stories on who are redefining sustainable development, check out what Green City is doing to Paint the Town Green.

Why I choose social entrepreneurship

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I was first engrossed with the idea of social entrepreneurship when I first visited the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (GKEF). If you would notice my two previous blog posts, both of them were about the GKEF too. I just can’t get enough of the place. The thought of building agricultural social enterprises to help underserved communities was very attractive to me. I wanted to create a social impact that will resonate among many people. There and then, when I visited the farm, I knew that I wanted to do something similar.

These blocks of letters are found at the GKEF’s Hyundai Building, where the Social Business Summit is usually held and the SEED students conduct their classes.

Following my GKEF visit, I began looking for a part-time job that would satiate my desire to start a social enterprise. That’s when I found the DLSU Center for Business Research and Development. I became a research assistant there, and since then I was exposed to several social enterprises like Anthill Fabric Gallery, ReyMic Enterprises, engageSPARK, Bayani Brew, Karabella Dairy, and many more. I have fun doing research about these social enterprises, and I believe it’s one way for me to become one step closer in fully learning how to build my own social enterprise. I admit that I still have a lot to learn, most especially in the operations and finance aspect, but it looks like I’m doing good so far!

Me (in blue shirt) together with my professor (in white), fellow research assistant (in blue polo), and secretary of the DLSU Center for Business Research and Development.

My interest on social entrepreneurship just continues to grow every day. Just like what one of my mentors would always say, the problems we see in society shouldn’t be seen as problems per se, but as opportunities to create social business solutions that will tackle those problems. If you’re successful, you can even replicate that solution and expand it so that more people would benefit from it.

One particular social enterprise that inspires me is Human Nature, which started even before the GKEF was formed. Human Nature sells and produces beauty and cosmetic products that are environment-friendly. They also pay their workers with something higher than the minimum wage. Moreover, they have expanded to other countries such as the United States. But what consistently strucks me the most about them is their advocacies on women empowerment, wherein they organized a summit about it.

This shows us that social enterprises do not just mean business and that the social aspect is not only secondary. In fact, what makes social enterprises different from traditional businesses is that the social aspect is one of social enterprises’ main agenda. While Human Nature makes sure that its revenue streams are constantly flowing through sales and whatnot, it also has the ultimate goal of promoting environment-friendly products and women empowerment. These advocacies are directly embedded in the totality of their brand; the way they market and advertise their products is a manifestation of their social mission.

Recently, I’ve also joined a social enterprise competition called the BPI Sinag U for Entrepreneurs. We are developing an urban agriculture business model that will initially focus on the sustainable development of relocation sites in the Philippines. Ultimately, our goal is “to establish sustainable communities through urban agriculture.” We know how people in relocation sites do not really want to live in such places because they don’t see any opportunity there. But what if we show them that relocation sites can become economically viable? Urban agriculture has been one of the foremost, recent solutions in urban settings due to its simplicity and effectivity. Instead of buying vegetables and fruits in the supermarket, which are evidently pricy as compared to when you buy directly from farmers, with urban agriculture you can now produce your own crops. You can even sell them and make a business out of it. Through the social enterprise that my team and I are forming, we are looking into being able to expand this urban agriculture business model to other communities in the country–not just relocation sites. If ever we succeed in this competition, we will definitely push through with this business.

Me (in blue) together with other DLSU representatives for BPI Sinag U for Entrepreneurs.

My social entrepreneurship journey so far has been filled with challenges and opportunities. If it were not for the people who supports me along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Here’s to nation building and finding innovative solutions to our social ills!