How Filipinos are helping Taal eruption survivors while going zero waste

Lance Jabson
Seeing the need to do their part to help those affected, many organizations championing the zero-waste lifestyle are helping Taal eruption survivors by leading eco-friendly donation drives

Background photo by KD Madrilejos

MANILA, Philippines– From donating reusable boxes to using scratch paper to wrap items, several groups and individuals took extra care to help the survivors of the Taal Volcano eruption by going zero waste in their efforts.

Following the eruption of the Taal Volcano that began on January 12, donations came pouring in for evacuees. (READ: #ReliefPH: Help communities affected by Taal Volcano eruption)

But this also triggered another problem, as used plastic bottles and bags may start building up in evacuation centers. (READ: Why we can’t let our guard down on Taal Volcano)

The Environmental Management Bureau of Calabarzon warned that donating a lot of bottled water may lead to a garbage disposal problem in the near future, especially if the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the consequent rehabilitation will take several months or years.

Seeing the need to do their part to help those affected, many organizations championing the zero waste lifestyle started helping Taal eruption survivors by leading eco-friendly donation drives. 

Stans for a cause

Among the organizations leading these eco-friendly donation drives is Hola, Roha – a group of stans dedicated to K-pop group Astro. Acknowledging that plastic usage should be minimized, they wrapped donated items in scratch paper bags and eco bags for the survivors of the Taal eruption.

“Waste production has played a huge part in climate change,” Hola, Roha told Rappler. “We believe that taking care of the environment should start in our own ways.”

Hola, Roha accomplished its first donation on January 21, giving away ready-to-eat food, blankets, medicines, and personal hygiene goods to the families affected.

Hola, Roha is currently collecting donations. Send them a direct message on Twitter if you’re interested in helping.

Meanwhile, Beach Born – a small business specializing in handcrafted hair and skin care products – manufactured and donated shampoo bars for Taal Volcano eruption survivors in a bid to ditch sachets.

“It’s a vicious parasitic cycle. Plastic pollution contributes to climate change, a disaster happens, more plastic is sent for relief,” said Beach Born president Sarah Tirona. 

“We were just troubled with the amount of single-use plastic going to relief centers which is why we decided to donate our shampoo bars,” she added.

The business wasn’t alone in this endeavor. Beach Born supporters answered the company’s call for donations, gathering both funds and relief goods for those affected. 

On January 15, Beach Born announced that 50% of its web sales and other monetary donations will be used to purchase feeds and other items needed by PAWS Philippines and Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation (PPBCC) as they lead relief and rescue operations for affected animals.

Beach Born  donated different goods, ranging from their own hygiene products like shampoo bars, to food and practical items such as beddings and masks.

Beach Born is still raising funds to help animals affected by the Taal eruption. Those interested to donate may send a direct message to Beach Born’s Instagram account or give their donations via their website.

Finding ways to reuse

Hoping to strengthen their relief operations, Casa de Lorenzo Organic Products encouraged netizens to drop off reusable bottles, which they can fill up with soap for use of people affected by the Taal eruption.

“The empty bottles you’ll provide will not only be given a second purpose but will help our fellow kababayans in distress,” the organic store said in a Facebook post.

By January 21, they were able to refill and reuse over 1,000 bottles and supported 4 relief operations for affected communities.

Bayanihan, malasakit, at pakikipagkapwa tao (Community cooperation, compassion, and charity) – all while being mindful of our impact to the environment. What we all did became part of an even bigger act of humanity by fellow Filipinos,” Casa de Lorenzo Organic Products said.

Service to the environment is one of Casa de Lorenzo’s commitments. 

“Being socially responsible, especially to the environment, is among the prime considerations of our work because we source our livelihood from nature,” said founder Russell Lorenzo.

“The bottom line here is we want to set an example to everybody to tirelessly keep on thinking of ways to be friendlier to our planet…. We know that the little things matter. Put them together with all the efforts like-minded individuals are doing, it will be pretty substantial,” he added.

Humans aren’t the only ones affected by this disaster. Using plastic for a cause, Lunchbox Diet also took an initiative to help our pawed survivor friends by encouraging their customers to drop off reusable plastic containers from their food delivery service in their office.

These food containers would then be donated to PETA Asia’s Taal relief operations and redistributed to the appropriate animal care centers.

While Lunchbox Diet has already completed its donation drive, you can still return their plastic containers to get them forwarded to a local junk shop. You can also donate plastic containers directly to PETA Asia.

Avoiding single-use plastics

Groups aren’t alone in trying to go zero waste in their relief efforts. Youtube chef Judy Ann Agoncillo shared her love for both the Taal eruption survivors and the environment by donating relief goods in reusable boxes.

“By using reusable boxes instead of plastic bags ang paglagyan natin ng ating mga tulong sa mga kababayan natin, sabay nating natutulungan mabawasan ang pagdagdag ng basura sa mga evacuation areas,” she said in an Instagram post on January 15.

(By using reusable boxes instead of plastic bags for the donations we’ll give to our fellow Filipinos, we get to help lessen the trash in our evacuation areas.)

The celebrity was able to donate these relief boxes  to 35 families.

Donating sustainable products is already a big step in helping survivors of the Taal eruption and getting a head start on a zero-waste lifestyle. 

The zero-waste lifestyle is often mentioned as one way to reduce plastic pollution, especially when the Philippines has become the third biggest source of plastic leaking into seas worldwide, just behind China and Indonesia, according to a widely-cited 2015 study on plastic waste. (READ: How an online community encourages Filipinos to try ‘buhay zero waste’)

When going zero waste, Tirona suggests taking small steps.

“It could be as simple as being conscious about what you add to your cart, and bringing your own bag or water bottle. Borrow or repurpose clothes, buy vintage. There are so many little things we can do. It might seem like a small gesture but if we all do our part the impact could be beautiful and outstanding,“ she said.

These are just some of the efforts being done by Filipinos, as they advocate for the environment while helping fellow Filipinos in need. Do you know of other relief efforts that try to go zero waste? Send them to MovePH! – Rappler.com

Lance Jabson is a Rappler intern. He is a Grade 11 student from La Salle Greenhills Senior High School.

Rappler is building a network of climate advocates, LGUs, corporations, NGOs, youth groups, and individuals for the #ManyWaysToZeroWaste campaign, a movement pushing for responsible ways to use and reduce plastic. Go here to know how you can help.