Sustainable living is rapidly emerging as a mainstream movement because of climate change, waste reduction and minimizing consumption at the forefront. These concerns are understandably influencing the consumer mindset and generating a lot of demands for products that are more environmentally sustainable.
Anna Oposa, founder of Save the Philippine Seas, and Angel Mata-Jamilan, founder of Low Impact Filipina, are both frontliners and action heroes of sustainability.
“It has been said over and over again, the world has a plastic problem. Yet, we can’t live without plastic. There are some plastic items we can’t live without. Plastic is still a good product. You just have to be responsible where to dump it," Oposa said at the recent launch of Wonderhome Naturals, a new, plant-based brand that offers a fully sustainable homecare line that’s also proudly made in the Philippines.
“Others are calling me ‘Plastic Police,’ but I’m not. Sometimes, people tend to hide things from me. Plastic is still a good product. Sometimes, it’s even a life-saving product. You just have to be responsible where to dump it. You have to make sure they don’t end up in the sea of the environment.”
In disposal of plastics, there is always the right way to do it, she pointed out. “A lot of our plastics are getting into the seas for many different reasons,” Oposa said, citing the lack of solid waste management infrastructure.
The Philippines is ranked third as the ocean plastic polluters in the world., according to Bryan Chua, brand co-founder of Wonderhome Naturals. “We produce around 2.7 million kilograms of plastic waste per year. Quite surprisingly, 74 percent of the plastic that end up in the ocean are actually plastic that we already throw away in our trash can.”
“All LGUs are supposed to have material recovery facilities where you keep the trash or the garbage and so far, there’s only 33 percent compliance,” informed Oposa. “For sanitary landfills, there’s only 24 percent in the last 24 years. We have a long way to go in terms of infrastructure.
“In behavior change, we have this idea that out of sight, out of mind. There really is no ‘away.’ Everything we dispose of has a final destination. Whether it’s in a dumpsite, a landfill and unfortunately, even in the ocean or in the streets.”
When Oposa started getting into marine conservation, one of the easiest changes she was able to make was to look for earth-friendly products. She particularly reads the ingredients used or the packaging done.
“If we can’t do away with plastics right now, at least look for companies that are extended producer responsibility that are responsible like maybe the design,” Oposa said.
Wonderhome Naturals wants to inculcate the circular way of thinking, encouraging and even monetizing customers to send the bottles back to them so they can recycle and reuse more bottles that they produce.
“As a company and a brand, it is our goal that in the next few years, we do end up recycling and re-using more bottles that we actually produce, so we can make some sort of a ripple in the clean revolution that we want to start,” Chua said.
Launched only last month, Wonderhome Naturals advocates that “clean and green can clean.”
As a company, the contribution of homecare into this waste is actually pretty big, according to Chua. “Back in 2019, there’s around 5 million units of homecare products being produced and it is projected to grow quite steadily as our economy and population also grow. Around seven million of packaging material being produced will also end up in our ocean.
“The tragic irony here is that homecare products which are supposed to be designed to help us clear our home to get rid of the bacteria and germs, is actually polluting the bigger home that we live in, which is our planet.”
Jamilan, for her part, shared how to get started with the less-waste journey or lifestyle, which is not new to her. Raised by frugal parents in a rural area in Mindoro, Jamilan grew up re-using the resources that she had as much as possible.
When she got to college in Manila, Jamilan got exposed to the convenience of disposables. “I can buy things and throw it away after,” she recalled. “That became my lifestyle.”
In 2017, she started working in Manila. “I used paper cups every day for my coffee,” she said. “I found out that paper cups are not easily recyclable because of the plastic lining inside. Out of curiosity, there I started to live a less-waste lifestyle.
“Zero waste is a long run for us to achieve. It’s not only on the consumer side, but we need the contribution from the corporations to the government and their policies. That’s why the name to Low Impact Filipina. It started with a cup of coffee.”
Day in, day out, it boils down to choices. Jamilan’s lifestyle changed so much since 2017 when she started the zero-waste lifestyle and especially since she became a mom. “Zero is the goal, but before we can even get there, why not start with less?” she said.
“As much as possible, before hoarding new stuff, I try to reduce or lower my purchase first. Four years ago, just looking at the Instagram feed of foreign products, I thought I need to buy a lot of things without knowing that I already have existing stuff at home. I am trying to use what I have first before buying a new one. I can apply it to everything.
“Especially as a mom, when I start to browse on some online shops, I thought I need everything I saw. Now, to lower my purchase, I just borrow or ask for some relatives if they have existing stuff before buying a new one.”
Meanwhile, in choosing cleaning products for the home, Jamilan was raised with choosing or buying cleaning products that are in glass packaging or paper from abroad and they travel far going to the Philippines.
“One of my considerations is make sure the product is made in the Philippines,” said Jamilan. “Supporting local, made with natural ingredients from the Philippines, gentler and better, ethically sourced, the farmers or workers who made these products are paid well.
“As a person who has been using lemon and vinegar for years in cleaning, I think we were just caught in the marketing that strong is better. For products to be effective, they don’t have to have strong chemicals to be effective.”
Jamilan’s mantra to buy less. “It saves the environment and it saves your pocket as well,” she said. “It saves you money. You have to consider series of steps before buying. If you need something, do you know someone whom you can borrow from? If there’s none, can you swap or buy something second hand. Maybe if you also have the resources, you can also make.
“I try to live a low-impact lifestyle. Zero waste is the aspiration, but it’s not really realistic. Every year, I make what I call a re-use solution. I commit to just one thing. Sticking to it and doing it well. Sometimes you get overwhelmed. You want to do so many things, but you set up to fail. If there are ways that I can reduce and re-use, I try to commit to it.”
Chua insists the commitment of Wonderhome Naturals toward sustainability doesn’t just end with their product. “We do believe in practicing what we preach,” he said. “So we’re really committed to sustainability practices, not only in our marketing and products, but also in our actions.
“As a company, we try to make it a point to source product sustainability. We try to think of the circular thinking in terms of production design. When we ship out goods to our customers, we try to think of ways to reduce packaging materials or reduce waste commonly associated to shipping. We try to reduce it to at least 30 percent whenever we ship goods to our customers.”
Wonderhome Naturals also accepts plastic waste from the public. They work with a company called The Plaf or short for The Plastic Flamingo, that tackles marine plastic pollution by collecting and recycling plastic.
“We encourage all our employees to bring their plastic waste from the house every week, so they don’t have to throw them,” Chua said. “Customers also bring their plastics to us and we recycle.”