By ELLA LAXA-PANGILINAN
Manila Bulletin Lifestyle welcomes 23- year-old social advocate Ella Laxa-Pangilinan, presenting the debut piece of her youth column: EDIT. She brings with her a background in art history and design, experience living abroad in Italy, and a passion for supporting the Filipino however she can.
Over the past few days (even weeks), the posts I’ve been scrolling through on social media have revolved around what’s been happening to our dear Mother Earth abroad and in our own country. While we may not have direct control over the natural disasters that take place, I believe there a r e c e r t a i n ways of living that the world has gotten used to that does affect (and has affected) the planet and our living conditions. All these happenings, along with the timing of National Zero Waste month, have me pondering on the question: Am I doing enough?
It is safe to say that the idea of sustainability, living consciously, and efforts to spread awareness in the Philippines have vastly developed in the last couple of years. Apart from sustainable brands and products, there are now zero waste stores, pop ups, bazaars, seminars—even single plastic use bans in certain cities! The list goes on. Before I even talk about this further, however, let’s start with the question: What is sustainable living?
In my own personal efforts to become more conscious and pursue a more ethical lifestyle, I have attended several seminars and workshops, and even continue to do my own research into the topic. Realistically, sustainable living can mean different things to different people. I have found that in these varying interpretations, sustainability is essentially attempting to live a lifestyle that reduces our demand on the Earth’s natural resources.
My mom has always been an advocate for living healthily and sustainably, so certain things like segregating trash and having edible gardens weren’t new to me. While living alone abroad in Italy, I really got to practice a more conscious lifestyle. It started with simple efforts like bringing my own water bottle and eco-shopping bags. As I became more comfortable with my Italian, I eventually went to the markets and brought fresh, organic produce there instead of the plastic-packaged items at the grocery. I was even able to save a lot of money, and felt less guilt about my ways of living.
When I moved back to Manila, I wanted to continue the efforts I made, but also take things a step further. It was a struggle. I felt like I was trying so hard to the point that it wouldn’t just be for the environment, but for the critics. I found it so difficult to live freely without being criticized, as now it seems that everyone feels the need to uphold a standard of “sustainability.” There was one time I felt so bad about enjoying a steak, because one person from the group I was dining with made me feel like I didn’t care about the environment unless I was vegan. On another occasion, I was told I had too many possessions and should become a minimalist.
I always felt like what I was doing was never enough to live up to “the standard.” There was a time I decided to mute the critical comments, to stop comparing myself with others, and just focus on my own attempts. For some areas of my life, I also tried to figure out alternatives— while remaining true to myself, doing it happily and being able to sustain it. So far, doing it has been really effective for me, and I haven’t turned back!
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to put down those who willingly adapt to this lifestyle. But the harsh reality is that the majority of us have gotten used to living a life that is “unsustainable.” There are some people who can easily adapt, while there are also those like me, who are faced with criticism instead of information on how to gradually develop a sustainable lifestyle, one that is manageable and practical.
Ultimately, we aren’t perfect and our efforts never will be. We have to remember that “sustainability” is a process, not a standard, and what is important is the progress we make. Encourage and educate others, rather than criticize and discredit. We all have different ideas, and while you don’t have to agree with mine, I hope we can arrive at the conclusion that if we are all attempting, we are all contributing to living more sustainably.
EDIT is a youth column that discusses topical ideas and thoughts of the author relevant to the youth of today. Ella LaxaPangilinan is based in Metro Manila, where she is a broad memer of Called to Rescue, a non-profit organization given to rescuing minor children from sex trafficking, violence, and abuse.