Partnering for marine conservation

Standard

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. 

Being a minimalist in the Philippines

Standard

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.

The humble steps for package-less groceries

Standard

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

Standard

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.

On sustainable tourism and tribal communities: What makes it truly sustainable?

Standard

What makes sustainable tourism, ‘sustainable’?

My team and I at MakeSense Philippines hosted a panel discussion yesterday, March 11, 2019 to talk about exactly that. We had speakers from the local sustainable tourism sector talk about their initiatives, best practices, and things to improve on for the sector. For this discussion, we focused on tours held in tribal communities.

53160271_810047552690828_3582078307698475008_o

It’s important to note that sustainability is nowhere near the realm of “simple”. When you talk about a sustainable kind of tourism, it becomes even more complex because now we’re talking about three sides of the equation: social, environmental, and economic impacts of tourism activities. In the case of sustainable tourism initiatives such as those highlighted in our panel discussion, there’s a lot of things to consider. However, there are nonetheless a few important things that need to be highlighted.

Impact assessment of sustainable tourism initiatives. It’s hard to measure impact. It’s still a young practice in itself. We can go very technical and quantitative about it, and we can also become qualitative. But one thing’s for sure, sustainable tourism activities would need to have a comprehensive set of impact metrics to measure their actual sustainability. From carbon footprint, plastic waste, higher income of the target community, number of trees planted, demographics of the community — you name it. There’s a lot to measure, and these kinds of initiatives would actually need to spend a lot to be able to track all these different kinds of impact.

But why measure impact in the first place?

For one, it lets the project or initiative know more if what they’re doing actually created changes in their communities. Since our panel discussion talked about sustainable tourism in tribal communities, they would need to know the social, environmental, and economic impacts that their initiative created for their target tribal communities.

One of the most commonly cited experiences in the initiatives when talking about social impact in tribal communities is how one interacts with the community. This brings us to…

Traveling etiquette in tribal communities. One important thing to note when visiting tribal communities is that you’re mainly there to visit. Realistically speaking, you’re not obligated to give donations or cash to these communities, because not only are these dole outs or unsustainable, they somehow create an ‘imbalance’ in the community.

What does it mean that it creates an ‘imbalance’? For one, it gives the tribal communities the impression that they can just rely on cash and donations from tourists all the time. When that happens, it’s going to become a cycle until the tribal communities would just become dependent on tourists for alms. While the hearts of the tourists are at the right place, that is honestly not the right time to give cash or donations. We would rather immerse ourselves in their culture, understand where they’re coming from, hear out their stories, and come home with fresh ideas on how we can contribute to this initiative. If you want to further get involved, you can simply join a relevant organization, volunteer your time, and create initiatives that will actually last long-term for these communities. The bottom line is to not rely on dole outs to help these communities — we’d rather help them through more sustainable ways.

Designing travel experiences that cater to both travelers and the targeted community. What’s unique about the projects and initiatives in our panel discussion is they have different designs and business models. One enterprise is focused on environmental preservation, a second on poverty alleviation, and the others on cultural immersion. One thing in common, however, is that they are all ultimately trying to design experiences that matter, experiences that promote social impact.

54255479_2372794142754205_3402229193583362048_n

Another thing to note is that when designing sustainable tourism initiatives, it’s important to keep all your stakeholders in mind. For instance, in the case of one of the initiatives in the panel discussion, their focus is on providing a booking platform for impact-driven tours managed by local tour guides. It aims to give travelers local experiences.

In this sense, it goes beyond the traditional notion of travel wherein you go to a place to take Instagram-worthy shots or visit the most famous landmarks. You can say these are the types of tours that involve off the beaten tracks. But in this case, they are off the beaten tracks that promote social impact, and I think that’s beautiful.

Making sustainable tourism initiatives truly sustainable. This is not easy. The whole discussion around sustainability is not easy. What more if you’re going to actually make a sustainable tourism initiative a truly sustainable one?

I’ve been to a number of similar events and one of the running and typical questions when the open forum comes is on the aspect of the initiative’s sustainability. Let me be the one to address the elephant in the room that there can never be a “perfect sustainability”. All we can do is make the most of what we have.

To give a better perspective on this, one of the speakers in our panel mentioned positive and negative externalities. He explains that there can never be a perfect kind of sustainability because there are always externalities on both ends. This means that what we should be looking at instead is the net impact of sustainability once you’ve accounted for all the positive and negative externalities. It’s simple as saying, “There may have been negative things that happened, but when the overall result is positive, then we can consider that a success”.

At the end of the day, sustainability merits a ton of discussion and systemic thinking. I’m even confident to admit that what I talked about here merely scratches the surface of sustainability in tourism. There needs to be more discussion on this area. Lastly, if we’re going to be solving the challenges of our time, we’re going to need to think beyond and into the complex systems that make up these challenges.