One afternoon in 2012, a certain Lauren Singer saw her college classmate bring in a single-use plastic bag, a disposable water bottle, and a plastic takeout container to lunch. It seems like a very harmless sight, especially if that took place in the Philippines where fast food lunch is usually served in disposable, single-use containers.

As an Environmental Studies Major, Singer was and still is constantly looking for ways to save the environment. And when that classmate of hers showed up for lunch right in front of her with quite a number of plastic containers, she knew she had to make a difference starting now. Lauren writes on her blog, “[W]e are supposed to be the future of this planet and here we are with our trash, messing it up.”

Today, Lauren Singer is known as the ‘Zero Waste Girl,’ the same girl with only one 16 oz. mason jar of trash for the past 2 years. She composts and recycles regularly and believes that she can’t just claim to love the environment. She has to live it.

It’s incredibly challenging to live a zero waste life in the Philippines. Some people do maintain such a lifestyle and it’s so inspiring to see them actualizing this zero waste vision every single day.

Organizations such as MUNI Philippines regularly host events educating people on sustainable living and dining, and responsible traveling. There are so many ways to live a zero waste lifestyle, most of them simple and small.

For now, let’s focus on simply reducing our waste. Here are 5 small and simple steps towards a zero waste lifestyle we’re sure you can do:

1. Water Bottle

One super simple way you can reduce your waste is by bringing a reusable water bottle wherever you go. I personally would go for stainless steel bottles because they can keep the temperature of both hot and cold drinks longer. Brands such as Klean Kanteen and Hydroflax have high quality metal water containers that come in different sizes, so choose one that’s best for your lifestyle.

Some coffee shops like Starbucks offer a drink discount to their customers if you have them put the drink in your personal water botttle!

2. Utensils

Early this year, a photo trended on social media showing someone’s fast food dining experience. He chose to bring his own reusable plate, bottle, and bamboo utensils to a branch of McDonald’s Philippines and have the crew serve the food on his own container. People looked at him weird, but Abet Pabalate knew he was doing the right thing.

Pabalete posted the photo on his Instagram and captioned it with, “Well, Zero-/Less-Waste lifestyle is not easy. And mind you, may struggles din sya na minsan hindi ko napagtatagumpayan. But, if I think about it the Earth is happy with the choices that I make. I am hoping somehow that more people and institutions would care a little more.”

via Reddit

We at Typist use public transportation regularly and honestly, lugging around a lunch box every day is hard. But to minimize our waste, we’ve decided to refuse single-use utensils. We make mistakes every now and then because it hasn’t turned into a habit yet but nowadays we do carry with us reusable metal utensils for everyday use.

Some prefer bamboo utensils but they can be a bit expensive. We believe you can still maintain a less-waste lifestyle by working with what you already have!

3. Metal or Bamboo Straw

Restaurants and cafés use and dispose of hundred plastic straws every day. Imagine how many branches each of these restaurants have! Most tend to dismiss getting a plastic straw by saying “It’s just one straw!” but that’s really not going to work if you get 1 or 2 straws daily for the rest of your life.

It’s a small change but try to purchase a metal straw for yourself. One person can definitely make a difference! You can even buy some for your friends and family members to encourage them to maintain a less-waste or zero-waste lifestyle too.

Some cafés and restaurants like Serenitea and Go! Salads do sell metal straws in-store so go check them out too!

As for the plastic cups, when we make small mistakes and forget to bring our own water bottles, we simply take the plastic cup back to the office or at home to wash and recycle/reuse!

4. Try shopping at zero waste stores

If you want to take it a step further, there are zero waste stores in the Philippines. One of them is the Got Heart Shop which offers soap refilling. Just bring your own containers!

5. Get it in the mug

Most of us don’t own a small stainless steel or glass cup to bring to cafés for some morning coffee or tea. Although I did think about getting one after that time I was thinking of buying taho on the way to work. But anyway, if you don’t own one either and you’re on the way to ordering your daily morning beverage, try to ask your barista to put it in a mug instead of a plastic or paper cup.

Paper cups, once soiled, don’t make very good compost material. You can opt to reuse them on your own though after washing them thoroughly but it’s a lot easier to just get it in the mug instead.