Surviving the Crisis with Cost-Cutting Tips for the Pocket and the Planet

Quezon City. The nearly weekly oil price hikes and the consequent climb in jeepney and taxi fares as well as prices of basic food items and consumer goods prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to think up frugal ways to help consumers cope with the crisis.

Coming from different socio-economic brackets, the eco-activists and their friends listed practical belt-tightening tips that will help Filipino families make both ends meet in the midst of crippling fare and price increases while taking care of the environment.

Miss Earth Philippines 2008 winner, Karla Henry, gave the shortest but probably the most succinct tip if we want to avoid living “in the red” or falling into the debt trap during these difficult times. “The best advice,” she says, “is to minimize!”

Providing straight-thinking ideas were Miss Earth Philippines 2008 (Air) Razel Eguia, Miss Earth Philippines 2006 Cathy Untalan, Alice Raymundo of the Integrated Rural Development Foundation, Dr. Leah Sumaco-Paquiz of the Philippine Nurses Association, Fe Manapat of Womanhealth and economist Maitet Diokno-Pascual.

Also contributing their thoughts on how to live simply and sustainably were the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Kalikasan, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Children’s Helper Project, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Firefly Brigade, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Hugalna-Bohol, Institute for Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Mother Earth Foundation, Sagip Pasig Movement, Sining Yapak and Zero Waste Philippines.

Here are some matter-of-fact tips to deal with the hard times:

TO REDUCE ELECTRICITY CHARGES, make it a habit to switch off lights, computers and gadgets when not in use; do not leave electronic appliances in standby mode; open the windows to let the natural light in and aerate the natural way; shift to energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps; refrain from using the elevator – use the staircase up to the fourth floor; limit the use of office airconditioners, turning them off an hour before going home; set home and office airconditioning units to a comfortable, not too cold temperature, and set water heaters to warm or tepid instead of hot; if the light is on in the dining room, switch off the one in the kitchen; organize your washing and ironing on a weekly, not daily, basis, and don’t bother ironing house clothes.

For mosquito-prone places, NGO worker Yhet Garcia suggests the use of the ever reliable electricity-free mosquito net instead of electric mosquito repellants.

TO ECONOMIZE ON WATER CONSUMPTION, harvest rain water, store and use it for watering the plants, for washing clothes and for other household needs. Stop wasting water: fix leaking faucets and pipes; turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face; use a pail and a dip when taking a bath; wait until you’ve got a full load before using the washing machine; wash vegetables and fruits in a basin not under running water; wash the dishes all at the same time, not one at a time.

Stop throwing grey water down the drain: collect all grey water from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry and use it for flushing the toilet, washing the rugs, cleaning the pavements or for watering the lawn or garden.

Feminist Fe Manapat recommends the use of a pail and dip as substitutes for a nozzle to clean the car, or in lieu of a sprinkler to water the plants.

TO CUT GASOLINE AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES, choose to walk or cycle for short trips – both of which are good for the body, mind and spirit; for long trips, opt for ridesharing with your neighbors and friends or use public transport modes such as the LRT/MRT. For more efficient use of time and resources, plan your trips, combining errands into a single journey.

Use your car only when absolutely needed – drive smoothly and avoid jumpstarts to optimize gas use, and make sure that your car is well-tuned and maintained. Also, turn the motor off instead of letting it idle. Civic leader Elsie Brandes-de Veyra calls on motorists to avoid the main roads during rush hours and take the shortcuts whenever possible to save on time and gas.

TO MINIMIZE SHOPPING BILLS, stay home, minimize “malling” and avoid impulse buying. Reuse, repair and recycle first before making any new purchase. If you need to go to the public market or to the mall, prepare a budget, go with a list and stick to it, prioritizing the essentials over more dispensable stuff; go for generic items instead of the more expensive branded items, which are often of equal quality.

Watch out for the store specials or best deals, but only buy items that you truly need. Mountaineer Rey Palacio recommends buying in bulk whenever possible as this is not only cheaper, but also less wasteful in terms of reduced packaging materials.

TO STRETCH YOUR FOOD BUDGET, plan your weekly menu based on what is in season, keep your menu simple, cut back on meat and go for more green and leafy vegetables and local fruits. Say no to junk food, eat out less, cook your own food and drink plain water. Bring your own “baon” and water in reusable containers instead of buying meals and drinks at the office or
school canteen.

Home maker Ampie Doblada, for instance, prepares an adequate breakfast for her kids so she no longer gives them money for morning snacks. Whether you are eating at home or dining out, take only a “half rice” serving if that is all that you can consume.

Refrain from cooking too much rice; cook only what is needed and refrigerate any leftovers to be steamed or fried for later use. Given the rice crisis, let us not waste even a single grain of rice. To further cut on your food expense and achieve some self- sufficiency at home, try growing your own vegetables in your backyard or in improvised pots.

TO LOWER EXPENSES FOR LEISURE, HEALTH AND FITNESS, bond with your loved ones at home, avoiding unnecessary visits to the malls or out-of-town trips. Save on gym or health club fees by simply walking or cycling to school, work, church and store. Place bath soap and detergent bar into a net bag to make them last longer. Try cleaning your teeth with baking soda instead of toothpaste or, if you are as audacious as community leader Noli Abinales, try brushing your teeth with the tip of a guava twig.

With these sure-fire tips, we hope that you’ll survive the economic crisis, while conserving the fast diminishing natural resources of our nation and planet.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376