Scuba diving has turned me into such an ecowarrior, I have opened what is probably the first environmentally-friendly sari-sari store in the Philippines. It’s not perfect, sadly, because perfect products are not available. But, we sell only the most ecofriendly products that we can find. For example, we sell bars of soap in cardboard boxes, instead of the sachets that litter the countryside and ocean floor.
Laundry detergent and fabric softener are almost universally sold in sachets, as well. As much as I hate the amount of garbage produced, at least I found sachets that are labeled “recyclable.” Competitive products are not labeled as such, so we do not stock them.
Paper stem cotton swabs are hard to find in the Philippines, but you can find them at Robinsons supermarkets. Tragically, they are packaged in single-use plastic. However, I would rather convert my neighbors to using paper stem cotton swabs in single-use plastic than allow them to continue to use plastic stem cotton swabs in single-use plastic.
Like paper stem cotton swabs, it’s hard to find biodegradable wet tissues in the Philippines. And even though the wet tissues are biodegradable, the packaging is not. These are occasionally bundled on sale in single-use plastic, but I buy them individually and pay full price to avoid the unnecessary extra plastic.
We also offer refills at low rates. We ask customers to bring reusable containers, and we keep our prices lower than buying sachets or small bottles elsewhere. Plus, the bottles we purchase are recyclable.
Sadly, I don’t believe the Philippines actually recycles anything. However, I am confident that these recyclable products will eventually find their way into the North Pacific Garbage Patch, where Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup will retrieve them for recycling.
The best part of this experiment is that it is slowly working. Our location and prices make it a better choice to buy these products than to walk some distance to pay a little bit more for previously-preferred, environmentally-damaging alternatives.
It is important to note that most of our customers rent rooms from us or family members, which allows us to offer competitive pricing. Whatever the cost is to us, we only round up to the nearest whole peso. We are not operating for profit, but exclusively to change Filipino purchasing behaviors to the extent we can.