Thursday, July 31, 2014

Green Weddings 101: How to Make Your Wedding Eco-Friendly (Part 1)

Green is a popular option for wedding color motifs in the Philippines. However, green weddings or eco-friendly weddings have yet to grace the industry, but they aren’t totally unheard of. In fact, environment-friendly favors are widely used on local weddings especially due to the abundance of sustainable raw materials like abaca (Manila hemp) and recycled Kraft paper. In some instances, environment-friendliness is evident on organic catering services wherein the provider serves dishes made from locally grown ingredients.

If you are planning a full-pledged eco-friendly wedding in the Philippines, congratulations! In here, you’ll find ideas, insights and tips on how you can further please Mother Earth. Let’s start with discussing what a green wedding is. Be reminded that the discussion will be divided into three parts. 

Eco-friendly wedding defined

An eco-friendly wedding refers to any wedding wherein the couple attempts at decreasing the overall impact of the event. Sustainable alternatives from invitations down to the dresses are integrated. 

Further, these weddings are characterized by the conscious resources consumption which may span the processes of choosing sustainable wedding receptions, deliberately ignoring traditional practices that are considered unsustainable (like buying diamond rings) and recycling wastes accumulated during the event. 

Couples who are living a green lifestyle want their weddings to reflect such lifestyle and what they truly care about. For them, green wedding is not only a continuum of their eco-conscious lifestyle, but also an opportunity where they can raise awareness on the importance of sustainability in both our daily existence and during celebrations. 

Basic principles of green weddings

One of the key concepts in having a sustainable wedding is ensuring that most of the items used will not become waste quickly. This may include disposables and ornaments. 

Green weddings take ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’ seriously since couples usually prefer recycled or rented items to go with the wedding instead of buying them new. In this way, the amount of waste can be controlled.  

Despite the glee of the event, weddings leave behind tons of wastes that may have long-term impacts on the environment which should not be the case. Did you know an average wedding generates 400 to 600 lbs. of garbage?

Other core values are evident on planning the wedding itself. The main concern is preventing and reducing harmful environmental impacts directly or indirectly through proper choices of resources. In the US alone, the equivalent of American weddings is 8.3 million of cars driving annually, producing 63 tons of carbon dioxide in the air. 

Aside from transportation itself, transport of textiles, papers and flowers and other materials contribute to this figure. 

Reasons for choosing a green wedding

Eco-friendly weddings are beneficial environmentally, socially and economically. Below are some of the reasons why it is so. 

Environmental benefits

Every year, there are 2.3 million weddings occurring in the US (about 6,200 weddings every day). In the Philippines, there are about 600,000 weddings every year. Each of these weddings will generate tons of carbon dioxide and pounds of garbage due to bleach (dresses), chemical treatment (flowers), toxin (makeup and other skin care products), etc. Not to mention, the footprint of mining (diamond and other jewelries). 

Millions of trees are cut down to make stationeries. The processes involved in producing them also pollute the environment. So, you may use plantable papers. Yes, there are plantable papers or papers infused with seeds so they would grow as beautiful flowers or plants. The papers will be on your guests’ backyards and not on landfills. 

Imagine what good it can be if each of these couples would make just one green choice for their weddings. That’s 2.3 million green choices yearly! Now, imagine the greatness it might result to if these 2.3 million couples choose to have an eco-friendly wedding. 

Social benefits

The average wedding budget is $20,000, $1,000 of which goes to the wedding rings. Evidently, the wedding industry is a $72 billion industry. Green weddings are opportunities themselves in supporting the causes and advocacies of firms which embrace socially responsible practices. Even your guests will be educated on the importance of supporting the green economy, changing the way they think about their choices and purchases. 

Economic benefits

Going green saves any couple lots of money. Given today’s economy especially here in the Philippines, this is reason enough to put sustainability on every aspect of your wedding. Simple substitutions and decisions will do such as choosing a wedding venue closest to most of your guests so the impact of traveling will be reduced. 

Aside from all these benefits, green weddings are always unique. The weddings are a good way to show family and friends just how exciting and meaningful the eco-lifestyle can be. Oh okay, wedding planning is often an energy and time-consuming process that leaves very little room to think about environment and sustainability. However, having a green wedding doesn’t mean doing more work and spending more cash. It is the reverse actually!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tree Planting 101: It Takes More Than Just Digging Holes on the Ground (Part 2)

We’ve discussed in the first part the basics of tree planting Philippines. Now, we will discuss the necessary steps in organizing the activity.

1) Conduct a needs analysis

Organizers cannot just choose an area where they want to plant trees. No one would want to plant trees that will only be uprooted after a few days just like what happened to 28 fruit trees planted on MacArthur Park by Heart of Los Angeles volunteers.

One of the few things to determine is whether the area is a candidate for future developments otherwise the efforts will be wasted. Inspect the climate and growing conditions locally.

You may also ask the local people which trees they would want to see on the vicinity. Empower them by giving them a sense of ownership of the activity, so they would take part without hesitation.

2) Consult the experts

Again, deciding which saplings to plant needs guidance from the experts. It is possible to coordinate and partner with local government units such as the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO). The office, which usually includes a forester, can suggest areas where you can implement the activity.

In some instances, the local units also provide saplings to plant. This is free of charge provided that you’d provide documentation of the activity. CENROs can provide organizers with as much as 5,000 saplings. It would be best to ask the experts which trees are suitable and yet do not consume much water. You may also choose to plant extinct and medicinal trees.

3) Accomplish the documentation

Depending on the location, secure permits to formalize the process. Write a letter of request to inform the entities having jurisdiction over the area the intention to plant trees on the property. Secure a copy of the permits and other documents.

4) Prep the area

The majority of the volunteers expect actual tree planting and not necessarily clearing the area. Arrange a prep date that may involve only a few people, depending on the extent of activity. For instance, preparation may only mean removing unwanted shrubs and grass or it may include pre-digging holes so the volunteers would know where to plant the trees exactly.

In digging furrows, the rule of thumb is 6” deep and 2 meters apart. Stick 3 bamboo poles around the perimeter of the furrows. These will serve as markings, and they also purport to indicate that the furrow is already planted. Saplings come in separate plastic bags. The plastic bag must be removed during planting. The plastic bag must be then placed on at the other end of the bamboo pole to let the others know that it is already planted.

Further, you may borrow grass cutters from CENRO if they have any, or any of the volunteers themselves. Prepping the area may require 1 to 3 days though this will depend on the total area that needs planting. This should be accomplished 5 days or a week before the activity.

5) Spread the word

As an organizer, you need not spend too much on promoting the tree planting activity. Leverage the use of social media. Have your friends like and share the cause with their friends and so on.

Look for local celebrities who also support the cause of preserving the environment. Politely ask him or her to share or re-tweet the announcement, so more people will be aware of such an activity.

Tips during tree planting

  • Remind the volunteers to wear protective gears such as gloves, hats and boots when planting, if no sponsors will provide such.

  • Teach the volunteers the proper way of de-soiling the sapling after removing it from the plastic bag. Shaking it gently will suffice, but be careful not to remove the roots. Don’t use the soil that you remove from the plastic. Instead, use the soil around the furrow in buying the sapling. In this way, the newly planted tree will easily adapt to the new environment.

  • If you can choose the saplings, choose that are more than 3 feet in height. They have a better chance of surviving than those saplings 3 feet below in height.

  • When transporting the saplings from pickup points to the planting areas, don’t hold them on the stem. Hold the plant on the plastic bag.

  • Encourage the volunteers to bring their own shovels. If not possible, use improvised shovels such as coconut shells which can be obtained from any local market for free.

  • Some activities require ongoing monitoring while some can be left as is. Plan the extent of the activity early on so the volunteers would know what to expect. Send them with a progress report by collecting their contact information before or during the activity.

  • Visit the area regularly to determine whether watering is still needed or not. Check will plants thrive and which didn’t and consider re-planting the portions with new trees (if possible).

Environmental servanthood is one way of giving back to nature which had blessed us with a very important resource that we must appreciate and nurture for the years to come. If organizing a tree planting activity is not for you, you might as well become a volunteer. The benefits are surely rewarding!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tree Planting 101: It Takes More Than Just Digging Holes on the Ground (Part 1)

If there is one activity that coincides with Earth Day that would be tree planting. Billions of trees are planted every year to compensate the unfortunate fact that billions of decade-old trees are uprooted to make way for buildings, malls, parking lots, etc. Tree planting in the Philippines is a common practice especially among the local industries, but do we really know the essence of tree planting per se?

Planting is simple, and yet organizing a tree planting activity that transcends beyond gender, age, class and even industry is no easy feat.  Here are the basics on how to organize the activity and make it a success. Before we proceed, however, let’s understand what tree planting really is, its benefits, importance etc.

What is tree planting?

Tree planting is an act of planting seedlings. It can form part of reforestation activities involving the community and the local, national or international government. Participants of a tree planting activity, for instance, are usually volunteers.  

What are its benefits?

The mere act of planting helps Mother Earth in many ways. Here are some of the benefits of planting trees.
- Filtering air pollution
- Aiding in water recycling
- Preventing soil loss
- Creating shade
- Providing animal homes
- Making food for both humans and animals

Why tree planting is important?

Without trees, there will be no life. FACT: Trees provide the air we breathe. A tree can produce about 260 lbs. of oxygen in a year enough to support 2 people. Essentially, we – humans – must ensure that we make up for the trees we cut and uproot. Planting trees, therefore, is our responsibility since we consume the biggest benefit of such!

Who can plant trees?

Anyone can be a tree planter. It’ll only take 5 to 10 minutes to learn how to plant a tree properly. Some organizers are distributing learning materials long before the actual date of the activity. Some chose to create a video and post on their social media profiles.

If performed correctly, we can restore deforested areas and thus create ecologically-sustainable resources to use today and in the future.

When should trees be planted?

Trees can be planted any time of the year. However, the right time may depend on the type of trees that you want to plant. In the Philippines, the planting season is from June to January when the climate is not too hot and not too cold.

If you are going to plant a tree alone, you might as well do it on an important date such as your birthday, your parents’ anniversary, etc. if you want, you may do it with a loved one. Through this, you can make the activity more memorable. Just always consider the weather. You don’t want your sapling to drown from excessive rainfall. Saplings do best when they are exposed to mild to moderate temperature.

Where trees should be planted?

The right planting sites generally differ although the most common areas are personal gardens, parks, schools, church grounds and workplaces. You might have to ask for the property managers or caretakers before you may plant a tree on that area.

For organized tree planting activities, it is the responsibility of the organizers to scout for locations and accomplish documents of approval before proceeding to plant. In most cases, however, organizers already have a place in mind, and the vastness of the area dictates how many saplings and volunteers are needed to plant the whole area.

In the Philippines, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon are the most common choices of tree planting sites. Nonetheless, there are organizers who prefer conducting the activity in the city where volunteers can plant trees on roadsides, river banks, etc.

That’s pretty much the basics of tree planting. In the second part, we will discuss how you can go about organizing a tree planting activity.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why You Should Live Near Green Spaces

The medical community is looking into the greater advantages of eco-therapy. Eco-therapy is the process of improving one’s physical and mental health by doing outdoor activities such as bird watching in the Philippines or elsewhere, gardening, biking, food growing and other such activities that involves nature.

A new study conducted by the University of Exeter Medial School reveals that living within or near eco-friendly areas is a good idea health-wise. Green areas influence not only the physical wellbeing of a person, but also his mental and emotional conditions.

In yet another study published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, living within 1 to 3 kilometers near green spaces reduces the rate of mental and physical illnesses. While the effects can be felt after 12 months of living in that environment, some of the diseases that mostly benefit from these spaces are:

·        Heart and pulmonary diseases,
·        Body pains,
·        Depression, anxiety and stress,
·        Diabetes,
·        Asthma and other respiratory infections,
·        Headache, vertigo and migraine, and
·        Digestive infections.

Why green

You might be wondering why green. Here is the explanation.

Aside from being the color of life and nature, green also symbolizes balance, harmony and growth. Green also has a very strong emotional association with safety. Finally, green is the most relaxing color. Egyptians wear green eyeliners because it is healing for our eyes. The greener the surroundings, the happier and more satisfied the people are.

Further, putting green into your life is a must if you desire balance, growth and change. Green can provide freedom in pursuing new ideas and protecting from anxiety and fear. Green spaces evoke inspiration as well.

As such, living near green spaces endows dwellers with much, much more activities that people who live in less green areas will never experience. According to Operation Groundwork Organisation, the health benefits are as follows:

1.     Increased physical activities for all regardless of age,
2.     Improved mental conditions for all regardless of age,
3.     Reduced anti-social behaviors such as aggression and violence and bullying among children and young people,
4.     Reduced crime incidences, and
5.     Reduced health inequalities.

The Organisation also noted some social benefits of choosing to live where green spaces abound. Well-maintained parks, where people can meet other people, can lead to the development of a sense of belongingness and attachment.

We might as well mention the cultivation of the sense of community among the people. These people will feel responsible in protecting the areas somehow. They think that those areas should be preserved not only because of the benefits that they get from it, but also for posterity’s sake – the children of our children.

Great benefits for our children

People who live nearby parks, for instance, are more physically active. They also feel less stressed and depressed compared to those living in asphalted, concrete areas. This holds true among the children who get to play on environments where kids can be kids. For the parents, on the other hand, this gives them peace of mind, knowing that their children are safe, sound and secure. Not to mention, play is one aspect of our childhood where foundations are built, and that impacts the future.

When playing also, friendships are formed especially among children who get to socialize with other children from different backgrounds thereby bridging socio-economic and cultural divides.

On the contrary, some parents tend to become wary of letting their children play because of the existence of neglected spaces especially those that have dilapidated facilities. These places are perceived as risky. The severe these overgrown spaces look, the riskier they are perceived by the adults.

Nature heals, period. And the more we embark on these kinds of ‘green’ activities, the more we can improve our overall wellbeing. Evidently, the health benefits of living near the trees and bushes and everything else aren’t immediate. While the benefits may be gradual, these are sustainable, so you can expect health improvements in the long run.

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