Crosses on foreheads, elders singing the pasyon, fish and monggo on Fridays – one way or another, living in the Philippines, one of the predominantly Catholic nations in Asia, has given us memories of Lent.
As time goes by, more Filipinos adopt modern traditions and Lenten practices from other countries. More families, especially those with young kids, enjoy Easter egg hunting and people are adding modern pleasures to their list of things to give up for Lent.
Some of the most popular options are sweets, coffee, smoking, and alcohol. You might’ve also seen posts on Facebook recommending giving up social media, Netflix, and online dating for Lent.
In western countries, even non-practicing Christians give up something for Lent. They either take this period to renew their faith or simply enjoy a personal cleansing while going with the tide.
One practice growing in traction this 2019 is giving up plastic. Churches are encouraging their congregations to look beyond having a personal cleansing and repenting one’s sins but to also think about the Earth and future generations.
It’s only a few days now until 2019’s Lenten season ends, but what harm is there in going plastic-free for a few days? You can use the remaining days as practice for next year’s Lenten season or use it as a stepping stone to a zero-waste lifestyle.
So how do you go plastic-free in the Philippines? You can start with food-related plastics.
Fast food chains
Many fast food chains serve their food in plastic-lined papers and cartons even when you choose to dine in. Of course, the simplest way around this is to avoid those fast food chains. But we can’t ignore the fact that many of us choose fast food because of its convenience and affordable price.
Not everyone has time to make packed lunch and sometimes, the nearest most affordable option is a fast food joint. For situations like this, you can bring your food containers and utensils and ask the server to put your food in it.
Jameson Jimenez’s young family, for example, enjoys eating at McDonald’s now and then, so they bring their containers.
But not every establishment is open to you using your containers; if the cashiers don’t allow you to do it, speak to the manager. If you’re a bit bolder and don’t mind waiting to eat, buy at another fast food chain.
Most of the plastics in our lives come from grocery shopping. From the grocery bags to the food items’ packaging themselves, you accumulate so much plastic just from one trip to the grocery store.
It requires a lot of planning but it gets easier once you get the hang of it. The easiest way is to avoid grocery stores and go to your local palengke with lots of bags and containers. No one would bat an eye if you ask a vendor to use your container instead.
But before marching out of your door with your plastic-free resolve, do a lot of planning. Make a grocery list to anticipate what kind of containers you will need. You can learn a lot from Daña Marie Gibe Perez’s trash-free market shopping.
If there are no public markets near you, you have to get assertive at grocery stores. Some stores allow you to use your own containers, but some have security guards and managers that need convincing. It is possible, though. GingSioson Nepomuceno does her grocery shopping at Robinson’s Town Mall Supermarket in Malabon City and they allow her to put meats in her containers, and they stick the price tags on them.
Getting rid of plastic when shopping for items, like clothes or shoes at malls or boutiques, is pretty easy. Simply bring your shopping bags, ask the cashier to use your bag, and that’s it.
When it’s a small item, you can just put it in your regular bag.
But online shopping is very tricky. An item usually comes with several layers of plastics including bubble wrap because the sellers want to prevent damage. So the only way around this, for now, is to avoid online shopping and only do it for necessities that can’t be bought at a physical store anywhere near you.
These are just some ways you can dip your toes into going plastic-free. You don’t have to buy (and add to the consumption) metal straws or cute eco-bags to do this. If there’s an instance when you can’t avoid buying plastic, be kind to yourself and just take note of how you can avoid it in the future. It takes a lot of planning and practice, but you’ll get there.
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Web content writer. Mother to a cat named Fatty and a basil named Herby. Dreams of going off the grid and running an animal shelter with her wife.