Start Green, I’ve only just Vegan

A colleague used to playfully call me “Mother Earth” because of the eco-friendly gifts I gave every Christmas. My friends were amused and amazed to unwrap bamboo toothbrushes, a set of steel spoon, fork plus screwable chopsticks, and metal straws back when these were not so common.

We have always been taught since childhood to conserve water, use scratch paper and plant trees but the concept of environmental degradation was honestly abstract to the younger me. In college, I volunteered after a trash slide in Payatas — while wading thru flood, I saw body bags and that’s where it hit me that there was so much trash that people were literally dying from it. The experience was unforgettable and though more aware, going green was still admittedly a slow adaptation for me; old habits of using disposable plastics were hard to break when there weren’t other alternatives offered.

More and more, I learned about climate change and saw the increasingly devastating effects of typhoons in our country. The last catalyst for me to embrace going green more was in 2017 when I saw heartbreaking photos of beautiful sea creatures dying from plastics in their bellies. When I got to work with the SMIC Sustainability team, a whole new level of awareness truly opened up. I was amazed at what the company was doing to sustain natural resources, mitigate disaster risks and heed green practices in its supply chain.

Small wins are wins. Collective, incremental small wins become big wins for Mother Earth.  Every little green move counts!

Abi Arcangel

Over the past couple of years, I have tried soap/shampoo/conditioner bars to avoid plastic containers, fabric napkins to eliminate single-use pads, washable facial rounds to decrease waste, jute dishwashing scrubs instead of synthetic sponges and coconut husk scrubbers in lieu of non-biodegradable cleaning brushes. Whenever I went out, I brought canvas/mesh bag, water tumbler, collapsible coffee cup, metal straw and mini utensils. I have filled up and donated eco-bricks. I got to appreciate slow fashion and particularly patronized weaves made by local artisans. I really enjoy exploring novel ways of sustainable living and discovering fresh ecological brands.

My biggest action towards a greener lifestyle was when I shifted to a vegan diet in January 2020. I could not unsee and unknow what I saw in documentaries. I decided on a plant-based diet when I learned that meat production contributed heavily to greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, deforestation, water stress and coastal dead zones. I felt sorry for the animal abuse I watched in factory farms so I gave up dairy. I could not go back to eating seafood when I read how overfishing disrupted marine life. (Since becoming vegan, I have shed off extra weight and incredibly improved my health, including eliminating two medical conditions caused by hormonal imbalances, one of which I’ve had for more than a decade.)

Kare-kare with Vegchon, Tofu Bibimbap and Rice Noodles with Vegan Siomai

I never considered myself a good cook prior but I’ve been having a blast trying out new recipes in the kitchen. I now serve vegan-only meals when I am in-charge of the menu. I consider it a victory whenever my family who’s into poultry, meat and seafood actually ask for my plant-based courses and we now get all excited to try new viands. I eagerly give recipes when friends ask about what I made. It’s a thrill when I discover and share meatless, cruelty-free, healthier substitutes – yes, there’s vegan cheese, vegan hotdogs, vegan isaw, vegan desserts, and so much more!

The global warming problem is indeed daunting but we can all be part of the solution when we become more mindful of what we consume and what we waste. Just start with something, anything. Begin today. Be better at it tomorrow and the following days. Then aim for bigger goals. I have a friend whose first baby step to a more earth-friendly lifestyle was to click ‘no’ to printing ATM receipts to save paper then she stopped buying beverage in plastic bottles as her level-up move the year after.

Promote green businesses. Plant trees. Support environmental organizations. Conserve water. Say no to plastic straws and utensils. Segregate trash. Begin with one meatless meal a day then a meatless day per week (#MeatlessMonday) or a meatless month (#Veganuary). Upcycle used items. Bring reusable shopping bags. Make eco-bricks. Do not waste food. Be a responsible traveler. Donate old electronic gadgets to recycling centers. Delete unnecessary emails which otherwise take up space in servers that need to be maintained 24/7 by electricity and water.

There are so many means to live more sustainably, lessen our carbon footprint and be an example for others to start and carry on in their green journey, too.

Bamboo toothbrushes and metal straws have become ubiquitous. Plant-based burgers are currently sold in fastfood chains. Companies have been providing paperless billing. Governments have implemented regulations on single-use plastics. These ideas started with one person until more and more gave their support. Whatever we do, no matter how minor we think it is, influences other people and creates an impact.

Start small. Begin where you are. Do it today. It’s crunch time.

Small wins are wins. Collective, incremental small wins become big wins for Mother Earth.  Every little green move counts!

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