On sustainability and being ‘gracefully lost’

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We have a negative connotation on the word ‘lost’. But I beg to differ.

I’d be lying if I say that I already found what I want to do for the rest of my life. The thing with being ‘lost’ is that it’s a process — it’s not something you can run away from just by a quotable quote in Facebook or an inspiring message by someone.

Being lost is an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to explore possibilities and stretch out ourselves as much as we can (but not to the expense of overfatigue). It is, you may say, a kind of phase in life, but I think it can be something lifelong. Getting lost in helping others, for instance, is something I can buy into.

We hear so much unsolicited advice everyday on ‘fixing our lives’ or being at the state of ‘not being lost.’ I think these are horrible advice.

For one, human beings are extremely complex. When talking about the state of being ‘lost’, it’s not something that you can just discuss through a black-and-white perspective.

Instead of wallowing in despair of being ‘lost,’ I say we look at it constructively. I say we become gracefully lost.

Lost with sustainability

As what you probably know as someone reading this blog post right now, I write mostly on sustainability. But this wasn’t something that just popped into my head.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals have over 17 general goals for the planet. Each of these 17 goals has more specific sets of goals, and so on. I happen to find myself amid all these goals. I am, you could say, ‘gracefully lost’ in my advocacy for sustainability. I can honestly admit that I have no direct focus right now, but I make do with what I have by exploring and stretching out the possibilities. Some ways I do that is through this blog, my work, and volunteer engagements.

Another factor is that I’m treading on a path that’s barely scratched, at least locally. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to achieve what I want.

I believe in the intersection of business and environment. Businesses have the potential to overturn the damage it’s done to the world. This will require a new economic order that doesn’t rely on ‘eternal growth with finite natural resources.’

It’s a tall order. I honestly don’t know where to start. But I do certain things anyway. And this is what I mean about being gracefully lost.

Gracefully lost

‘Lost’ is a term that gets thrown around quite leniently. We forget that the term is not all that bad. It also has its good side, and that’s what I want to focus on here.

Being gracefully lost is like finding yourself for the first time in a railway system of a big city. You have no idea how it exactly works. But you do it anyway. You learn along the way. You build your knowledge. You practice it. Then you become used to it.

And this applies to any aspect of life. It’s alright that we don’t know yet what to do or where to go. We just have to do something. We just have to embrace being lost. And we have to do whatever it costs to maintain our sanity and health and still manage to bond with our loved ones.

Being gracefully lost reminds us to take it easy. It removes the pressure and fills us with an unrelenting force of lifelong learning.

What the traditional academe can learn from innovative schools: Taking the case of Foundation University

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The academic world has constantly been criticized for being archaic and slow. But things are roaring for change down at Foundation University (FU) in Dumaguete City, Philippines.

FU was awarded in 2015 by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau as the most sustainable school in the Philippines. In the past years, they have been speeding up their sustainability and social innovation initiatives.

A canteen within Foundation University, which was designed by its president. The ceiling was designed with bamboo.
Foundation University maintains a hydroponics farm in one of the rooftops of their buildings. The hydroponics farm is also being used by the school’s agriculture students.

Part of these initiatives is a special event last September 20, 2019 entitled “Entrepreneurship and my Future“, where the university invited MakeSense Philippines to hold a social initiative creation workshop. MakeSense is an international organization that organizes and promotes initiatives on sustainability.

In the long run, FU aims to integrate sustainability into its curriculum. They plan to do this by making the different colleges and disciplines work together in academic outputs like theses and projects, among others.

This was also the first time that a social innovation event of this kind was held in FU. During the workshop, the students had brilliant ideas to solve some issues found in their local communities. Among some of these include plastic waste solutions, solid waste management, and solving unintended teen pregnancy.

The panel members speak during a discussion session of Foundation University’s event, “Entrepreneurship and my Future”.

A unique selling point with FU is that they have already began the path on creating systemic networks not just within their departments and colleges, but also with external innovative organizations like MakeSense. Being that their sustainability initiatives are relatively young, they have many opportunities to tweak and experiment along the way.

There is one buzzword for FU’s innovativeness: systems. By creating social innovation networks, FU is able to leverage on a rich pool of individuals and organizations that are sustainability-oriented. They are also able to integrate sustainability on an internal level, specifically in their curriculum and students.

This is something that many other academic institutions can buy into. With systemic issues plaguing us locally and globally, now is the time to move fast. If it would take the traditional academe to radically shift its focus on sustainability and innovation networks both internally in its curriculum and externally with innovative organizations, then now would be the opportune time.

The social garden in Foundation University.

Being a minimalist in the Philippines

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Recently, I’m slowly learning that the way I think consists of the typical traits of a minimalist.

I don’t like fancy clothes and prefer to keep my wardrobe as ‘minimal’ as possible. I’ve always been the guy in our family who keeps saying to donate our things, so that our house can ‘breathe’ a little easier with more space. I prefer spending on things that I really need (but of course, I have some occassional guilty pleasures also like food — no one is perfect!). I also find the concept of ‘essentialism’ very pleasing; I find solitude just by hearing the word.

Ultimately, what minimalism means is that you only get what you need given your current resources. What that ‘need’ is would depend on your individual preferences. It’s not the same case for everyone.

Coming from a developing country like the Philippines, minimalism sounds like a very foreign concept. People from developing countries tend to be hoarders of material possessions — take for example our families. This is why being a minimalist in the Philippines can be challenging.

But if you’re like me who identifies as a minimalist, there are many ways we can achieve a minimalist lifestyle despite our social circles. Here are some of the ways you can do this.

Understand what things you really need based on your personal context

In Filipino society, we’re constantly driven or encouraged by our peers to own, own, and own things, because they represent a status symbol or your purchasing power. But we also have to remember if these things actually add any value to our lives.

The question to ask is: What value do the things I buy add to my life? Do they merely satisfy my consumerist desires, or do they address something valuable in my life?

Make sure you are buying into sustainable products or services

The world is burning — literally. As a minimalist, it breaks my heart for it to have reached this point. People consume a lot, capitalists keep on developing without thinking of the environment — what you get is a world order working under the notion of ‘infinite growth’ but ‘finite resources’.

Which is why the minimalist movement can help in this battle. As minimalists, you learn to get only what you really need. And what better way to do that but by supporting sustainable products and services.

Now — I am aware that some sustainable products and services are expensive as hell. Avoid those. There are many other ways to become ‘sustainable’ apart from being a ‘green consumer’. Ultimately, it is a lifestyle, not just a “consumer lifestyle”.

Declutter, declutter, declutter

We tend to own too much things. We think that they would fill the emotional voids in us. At one point they actually do, but later we realize that we get too fixated and dependent on material possessions to satiate our emotional well-being.

Try decluttering your things and see if it would have any changes to your mindset. I understand how difficult this can be, but as a minimalist we need to understand what we really need and what works best for us.

The things that would remain may end up to be still a lot of things, but what matters with minimalism is that you only keep the things that really matter to you. And this can be a few things that can be counted by your fingers, or even several things. It is a case-to-case scenario.

Remember — ‘clutter’ is something that doesn’t add value to your life.

There’s nothing cognitively dissonant with being ambitious and a minimalist

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you should forego of your dreams in life. Again, minimalism is about organizing your life and getting only what’s really important to your context.

The key concept is consuming with intent. Don’t just buy into things simply because it adds status, power, or prestige. In the minimalist world, having what you need and having inner peace are what matters.

… and that’s my list. I am constantly learning about this concept, and would want to know your experiences also! Hit me up through ianbrmia@gmail.com.

Why going for the environment is healthy for the organization

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This post was made in collaboration with Bambuhay’s Green Session titled “Why going for the environment is healthy for the organization”.


Last August 10, 2019, my sustainability friends/advocates and I went to a seminar organized by Bambuhay, a social enterprise in the Philippines known for its bamboo straws and other eco-friendly products. The seminar invited three guest speakers: yours truly, my friend who is a zero waste advocate, and Colin Steley, the APAC Director of Stratcon Singapore. We each presented our advocacy and answered some questions that our audience had during the open forum.

For me, I took the opportunity to talk about Berde Boy, my sustainability blog. I shared what led to the creation of my blog, why blogging about sustainability is important, and how blogging can be used by social enterprises as a leverage for their publicity and social media traction. What was most interesting to me, however, were the insights shared during the open forum.

One is the possibility of me creating vlogs/videos about my experiences in sustainability. It was brought up as a question by one of the audience members. I told her that her suggestion was very timely, because for the past weeks, I have been considering on creating vlogs as additional content for my blog. This is one thing I’ll be working on in the very, very near future, so I’m excited to launch these in my blog.

The questions raised by the audience on sustainability practices also caught our attention. For one, I’m glad that the youth is engaged in so many initiatives related to sustainability. Second, I learned that the youth is also spreading their advocacy through their social media channels. Like what I do in my blog, one of my goals is really to spread awareness and let everyone know that there are plenty of solutions to our sustainability issues today. Third, zero waste is one of the youth’s top concerns when it comes to sustainability. I also gave an insight that — what if, we referred to it as ‘low impact’ instead? Zero waste comes from the notion that waste can be completely eliminated, although I do not think this is humanely possible. Hence, low impact sounds like a more feasible approach. It tells us to minimize our waste as much as possible, but considering that we live in a modern society, waste altogether cannot be easily eliminated.

The highlight of the seminar was Colin’s talk about Stratcon Singapore and the Green Business Bureau — two companies he is currently working with. Colin provided us a high-level discussion on sustainability, specifically on using data and metrics to help businesses become ‘green’.

Following all the talks, we had a networking session with the audience members and our fellow speakers. Indeed, creating networks and collaborations in the local sustainability sector would later create ripples, which would become waves and tides. This is why we do what we do.

What I learned (so far) about the sustainability profession in the Philippines

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For quite some time now, I’ve been grappling with the thought of a sustainability career in the Philippines. I’ve asked people their thoughts, researched some degrees in local universities, joined some sustainability initiatives, and even posted in reddit to ask for advice. And while indeed it is difficult to start a career on sustainability in my country, there are some insights I learned along the way.

The sustainability profession is not yet clear

What I mean by this is that the sustainability profession is not yet defined in the Philippines. If you were to pursue a scalable career on sustainability, you’re going to have to do it in another country. This will most likely be in developed countries with fast-growing industries on green technology and renewable energy, among others.

On the other hand, if you’re fine with pursuing the ‘grassroots level’ kind of sustainability, non-profit and environmental organizations are good places to start with in the Philippines. While doing so, you can decide to go higher up the ladder and enter corporate sustainability, for instance.

Since the profession is not yet defined in the Philippines, I think the best way to go is through a grassroots approach. You can also decide to take a masters program in environmental science, environmental planning, or urban planning, among others, and gain some related experience along the way through internships.

There is the notion that sustainability is only about the environment

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that sustainability is only about the environment. While it is true that the sustainability movement was mainly influenced by the current environmental state of the world, it is not just about that. You also need social, economic, and political structures to make sustainability possible. For instance, environmental policies are integral components of urban and regional planning.

There’s a big debate on this — on the fact that sustainability is not just about the environment. While I appreciate this, personally speaking I don’t find the debate to be necessary. Like the systems that make up the world, sustainability works the same way. It is a systemic field. This means that it involves a lot of industries and perspectives. So rather than debating on the fact that it involves more than just the environment, I think it’s high time that people talk more on ‘how’ sustainability can be pursued.

The profession is typically reserved for higher-ups in CSR and environmental organizations

One of the big barriers to entry in a sustainability career in the Philippines is that the position is typically reserved for higher positions. One of these include top positions in corporate social responsibility. Before reaching such a position, you’re going to have to climb the ladder in whatever way possible. While this may sound discouraging, it’s the reality of the profession.

I was advised before that — to enter a sustainability career in the corporate world — it would help to get into a marketing field. Since sustainability is still a developing field, learning how to communicate it through a marketing field sounds like a viable path to take.

The job hunt is pretty scarce 

A Google search for sustainability careers in the Philippines would most likely leave you frowning. Like I mentioned, if you were to pursue a scalable sustainability career, I think you’re better off pursuing it in another country. One of the reliable sustainability career resources would be Sustainable Career Pathways.

Lack of opportunities means plenty of room for development

I want to end this list on a positive note. While there is, indeed, a lack of opportunities for a sustainability career in the Philippines, this just means there is plenty of room for development. This means that as a sustainability advocate, you may even decide to start a project involving your local community, or engage with initiatives on recycling, green living, or low impact, among others. The insight here is that you start creating the change that’s needed for this field.

In general, these insights are not meant to discourage us from pursuing a career in sustainability. They are, instead, meant to challenge us and teach us to become creative. A simple metaphor to it would be: if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade out of it.

Rebranding to… Berde Boy!

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Hello everyone!

I have rebranded my blog, Triple Bottom Line, to Berde Boy.

I decided to give my blog an overhaul and apply a more relaxed, friendly vibe. I will still write about my insights on sustainability, but this time with a lens and mindset that can be easily understood hopefully by anyone. With Berde Boy, I’m also able to apply personal touches, as compared to using the name Triple Bottom Line (which, let’s face it, sounds too serious for a personal blog and sounds confusingly like a news channel). And after all, sustainability is everyone’s concern, so what better way to present it as this hip, trendy, and impactful phenomenon in the world today. For a better and more sustainable world, let’s keep hoping and dreaming.

This is a big jump for me as my sustainability blog will now go towards a completely new direction. The previous name of my blog, Triple Bottom Line, was meant to share stories on sustainability. Berde Boy is no different. What makes the new brand unique, however, is that it tackles sustainability on a lighter note — something that can easily be mentally digested for curious readers, first-time sustainability advocates, and many others. And of course, with your help, this blog can become successful someday. For sustainability and a better world — let’s write about it.

For collaborations, email me at ianbrmia@gmail.com.

An open letter to aspiring sustainability professionals in the Philippines

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Since you opened this blog post – like me, you’re probably trying your best to start a sustainability career of your own. Whether it be on energy, waste, green cities, communications, etc., sustainability is very broad. In the Philippines, how much possible is a career on this field?

I’ve spoken with many people on what they think about the industry of sustainability careers in the country. People tell me that careers in this field are typically reserved for higher-up positions in corporate social responsibility and environmental organizations and institutions. It’s also very course-specific, such as environmental science and agriculture.

There is the notion that sustainability is mainly about the environment. For starters, there is no sure way to get into an entry-level sustainability career, because the field itself is still very young in the Philippines. It is not yet as developed, but we are learning more about it.

Let me be the one to say that you’re not alone, and like every aspiring sustainability professional, the field is, indeed, so vast and wide. There is so much to explore.

So where do we start?

Since sustainability careers aren’t as professionalized yet as we hoped them to be – in my thought – starting from the grassroots level is the best way to go.

Two of the ways I do this is by engaging in sustainability-related projects and reading related materials. Some of the projects I got involved with tackle social entrepreneurship, sustainable agriculture, peacebuilding, women empowerment, youth empowerment, and this blog, Triple Bottom Line. On the other hand, one of the main reading materials I’d recommend is eco-business.com, since it focuses on the Asian context of sustainability.

The process varies from person to person – these are just the ways which I personally find helpful.

Trish Kenlon, founder of Sustainable Career Pathways, provides a more general advice that I think is applicable in whatever context you are in. She lists down several reasons and tips and explains why it’s just ‘darn hard’ to launch a career in sustainability.

Just looking for a career in sustainability can be mentally exhausting. I find myself sifting through tons of local job openings and find ‘sustainability specialist’ as the most common one. Then again, however, these job openings are environment-focused.

I think it’s important to remember that to create a suitable industry for sustainability careers in the Philippines, it’s not always just about the environment. There are also the elements of culture, politics, and economics in sustainability. This is, however, a topic for another day.

Considering that the sustainability field is still very young in the Philippines, the only real way I can think of is for aspirants like me to explore until we find the ‘sweet spot’. With this, I’m wishing all of us the best. If you’re an aspiring sustainability professional yourself, message me and let’s talk about it.