Sustainable living, systemic changes in production systems key to addressing planetary crisis

Quezon City—Pursuing more sustainable lifestyles and shifting to low-carbon and sustainable production systems will address the triple planetary crisis (climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution) confronting humanity today.

This was emphasized during the second episode of webcast Stories for a Better Reality, a collaboration between the Climate Change Commission and The Climate Reality Project Philippines Youth Cluster with support from the Department of Education, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Youth Commission; and youth groups Kids for Kids and Wavefarers.

In line with the observance of the Philippine Environment Month, the episode entitled “Tayo at ang Natatanging Mundo: Sustainable Actions For The Planet” underscored the intersection of sustainability, climate action, and environmental protection.

Sobra-sobra na ang mga greenhouse gases (GHG) dahil sa activities ng mga tao. Kasi napaka-unsustainable na ng ating lifestyle. Sobrang taas ng ating konsumo sa mga resources at hindi natin iniisip na may consequences ito,” Dr. Maria Angela Zafra, the Executive Director of Strategic Development Research Institute mentioned during the #ExpertExplain segment of the episode.


Lessening carbon footprints through personal sustainable practices

The world is producing 2.12 billion metric tons of solid waste each year, with each person accounting for an average of 0.74 kilograms of trash every day. The decay of the organic proportion of solid waste is contributing to about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am part of this problem, so I decided to become part of the solution,” Danie Marie Perez, the CEO and Founder of Sustainability Hero shared.

Realizing the gravity of issues on solid waste, Perez shifted to a zero-waste lifestyle by making conscious and intentional choices. Adopting waste-free practices, she started to use eco-bags when shopping, opt for reusable containers for food packaging, and bring reusable water bottles wherever she goes. She also started purchasing sustainable hygiene products like shampoo bars, menstrual cups, cloth pads, and bamboo toothbrushes. 

Instead na araw-araw kang bibili ng bottled water, sa isang taon mayroon kang 365 bottles na itatapon. Whereas kung isang bote lang ang dadalhin mo at narerefill pa, mababawasan yung basura mo ng 365 na bote,” Dr. Zafra explained, saying that those who have the means should opt for more sustainable options to reduce plastic consumption.

Perez also shared that she started using alternative modes of transport for daily commute, specifically active mobility, limited her delivery transactions, used air conditioning units less, and shifted to a semi-vegan diet.

Perez said she personally took a stand on reducing her greenhouse emissions. “Our stand really has an effect. By doing these small things, we can definitely create a huge force and voice para marinig ng business sector. Kapag marami pala kayo who are calling for the same purpose and advocacy, some things happen,” she added. 

The need for systemic changes to enable more people to live sustainably

For Perez, pursuing a sustainable lifestyle opened her eyes to the world’s deeply-rooted climate and environmental problems and the need for systemic changes to address them.

Without systemic changes, it would be harder for people to shift to a sustainable lifestyle.

To date, sustainable alternatives, such as ethically sourced and sustainably produced clothes, are still not affordable and therefore not accessible to a lot of people. This pushed Perez to create her social enterprise called Sustainability Hero which offers eco-products to their hometown.

“I have experienced a lot of cultural differences and systemic issues that prohibited me to practice sustainable living, so I started demanding and calling out the business sector,” she stated, explaining the need to engage big players in the pursuit of climate action.

Making the fashion industry more sustainable

Prince Jimdel Ventura, on the other hand, emphasized that clothing and fashion are fundamental both in climate action and sustainability.

Ventura is a Climate Reality Leader and the CEO of Wear Forward, an enterprise that seeks to revolutionize fashion by eliminating textile waste and increasing clothing utilization by collaborative consumption grounded in sustainability and circularity principles.

“Textiles are a major source of microplastic in our oceans. We are losing USD460 billion kada taon dahil sa nagtatapon tayo ng mga damit na we could continue to wear. Hindi natin alam na extremely wasteful at polluting yung fashion industry natin,” Ventura said.

Ventura also criticized the existing linear system governing the fashion industry, where resources are inefficiently utilized to produce cheap but low-quality clothes up for disposal. He also explained that the supply chain of the fashion industry heavily relies on fossil fuels for production and distribution and virgin materials like synthetic polyester and 8,000 dangerous chemicals as inputs; hence, significantly contributing to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, conversion of the natural ecosystem, and waterway pollution.

Integrating sustainability in national policies and programs

Unsustainable production and consumption practices globally, along with the use of fossil fuels for energy, have contributed largely to the prevailing climate crisis and to the rapid deterioration of terrestrial and marine ecosystems worldwide. This highlights the need for governments across the world to drive sectors towards a sustainable pathway.

“If we wanted to hand down a better planet, put sustainability particularly ecological integrity and climate change in planning,” said Diane Gail Maharjan, Assistant Director at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

According to Maharjan, NEDA has integrated the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) into the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 to guide national programs and policies in developing and maintaining a social, environmental, and economic balance for all existing stakeholders in the country.

Sharing the key provisions of the Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production, Maharjan listed the priority executive actions that will serve as a guiding framework to influence and steer sustainable behavior and practices across sectors. These actions include developing and adopting green technologies and circular economy solutions; creating business models for waste minimization and use of secondary raw materials; conducting product life cycle analyses to assess the environmental impact of products; pursuing choice-editing and choice-influencing strategies; and strengthening ecolabeling programs and other green certification schemes.