[OPINION] Can you make every day Earth Day?

Elaine Dayanghirang

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[OPINION] Can you make every day Earth Day?
When I decided to be a lawyer, I wanted to uphold truth and justice at all costs, working hard to fight not only for my countrymen and the motherland, but for Mother Nature as well.

What does one do when his advocacies are constantly challenged and crippled by the current state of affairs? How does one protect his visions when he finds himself incapable of effecting real change in a world where individuals try, yet the system overpowers change?

It has been recently reported that the Philippine government will stop sending representatives abroad for climate change and environment-related conferences, finding such United Nations discussions fruitless. Instead, the country will participate via internet, pointing out that air travels to one country and back for climate change talks only add to the environmental problem. This may look like a step towards the right direction for an instant solution, but it would be immensely refreshing to have a government that supports the fight against climate change on all fronts.

MEED (Make Every Day Earth Day) is a push towards inspiring more people to be environmentally conscious. I want to lead myself into becoming a champion for Mother Nature. Before, I was a heavy consumer of plastic-packaged goods and single-use products. My daily routine started and ended with a cup of coffee, one for breakfast and a couple more throughout the day all the way until I finished studying late at night. In between my coffee runs, I unconsciously used disposable utensils and napkins during meals. I believe I produced over a kilo of non-recyclable waste per week, which is not so good considering how much garbage I thus contributed to the plastic epidemic for a whole year.

When I realized how much waste I produced and how badly we are all affected by the changing climate, I wanted to change my ways and do all I could to help prevent more waste ending up where it should not be: in our waters and sewers. With MEED, I plan to use my law degree and social media to inspire my peers, letting them know that a small shift in our lifestyle is all we need to check and reduce our plastic consumption.

I challenged myself to not buy single-use plastics. It was hard at first because you have to take an extra step to be more sustainable. Bringing your own tumbler, utensils, and steel straws are the beginning of the process. Simply not forgetting about them before leaving the house and bringing them out when it’s time to drink and eat is a key action we should all include in our routine, no matter how foreign this action may be. There have been many times when I almost left my straw or tumbler when dining out, which makes sense given our fast food culture. But I know this is just part of the growing pains when being thoughtful about the environment.

I share this advocacy with my friends by gifting them steel straws for their birthdays. During our group presentation on toxic and hazardous waste in my International Environmental Practice Law class, we gave away reusable cups from Starbucks so my colleagues could take part in this movement as well. As an advocate for reducing plastic pollution, I encourage more people to see the practicality of using reusable straws and insulated water bottles.

For advocacies like this, social media is our friend and it is heartwarming to see that there are people who think like me, also trying to turn a new leaf when it comes to living green.

At present, we can see an improvement in the general attitude of Filipinos with regards to caring for the environment. Years ago, there were only a few people who reminded others to reuse, recycle, and reduce plastic waste. Now, there is a growing population that is more environmentally conscious.

Then again, they still need all the support they can get in order to fully educate the masses about the current climate crisis and how we can prevent or mitigate possible disasters. Some scientists are already informing us that we’re nearing the point of no return, so it is high time we find ways to make the world better for the next generation.

It is also refreshing to see that many big brands are offering environmentally friendly options in major industries like dining and fashion. We can now wear our advocacies with clothes and footwear made from plastic fished out of the oceans. All customers have to do is support such products and create demand for sustainable and affordable fashion pieces. This can also be a call-out to businesses that dump their toxic waste in the oceans or who produce excessive non-biodegradable packaging. Big businesses cause much of our greenhouse gases and waste, and it is only fitting that they produce products that will harm the Earth less.

At this moment, MEED is an advocacy I plan to carry out and integrate with my day-to-day living. Refusing single-use plastics, patronizing sustainable fashion, and making more people aware that they have the power to take the right steps for climate change are solid ways to do my part.

I was in 6th grade when the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out. At that time, I did not fully understand what it meant. I have since seen it again, about 10 years later, and that was when I was finally wise enough to figure out what Al Gore was talking about. This year, I signed up for International Environmental Law Practice class in school, and it seems like my journey towards awakening my climate change-conscious self has come full circle.

A key takeaway from An Inconvenient Truth is that genuine government support is a key factor in making people listen to your cause. Yes, personal choices and purchases are responsibilities of each citizen, and creating sustainable products are on the table for businesses. But at the end of the day, it is the government’s responsibility to support and regulate how to properly take care of the environment.

In the future, I am looking forward to contributing more to the environmental discussion. This is a track close to my heart and one that I wish to pursue further. Environmental law is a highly impactful subject to learn and noble work in itself. The future will be better off with more bright minds collaborating on this mission and I look up to everyone who is in this field. When I decided to be a lawyer, I wanted to uphold truth and justice at all costs, working hard to fight not only for my countrymen and the motherland, but for Mother Nature as well. – Rappler.com

Elaine Dayanghirang is a student from the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law. She hopes to be a primary game changer in environmental sustainability.

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