The wakeup time happened 'yesterday' so the action must be taken 'today'
Raphaelo aka Rap, is the Program Manager of Mother Earth Foundation – an NGO that seeks to transform the Philippines into a more sustainable, climate-friendly, and Zero Waste country to live in.
With more than a decade of environmental campaigns and community empowerment, Raphaelo hopes to create a bigger impact in the Philippines through their zero waste programs one city at a time.
We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Rap, as a fellow DOer (The DO school alumni) and someone with great experience in the field of sustainability and zero waste, we thought we could get inspired and speak with Rap to know more about his work and the practices of Mother Earth foundation, to incorporate in our business as well as daily lives.
Through a video call in the monsoon with bad internet connections, we were able to ask Rap a few things that really resonated with us and we're excited to share these excerpts with you all as well!
To begin with the basics, tell us your story. What got you into zero waste?
Hi, I am Raphaelo or Rap for short, I'm currently living and working in Manila at a Non Profit Organization called Mother Earth foundation, which is specifically focused on the waste that is produced per capita, household or sector which we find contributes to the ongoing impacts of climate change . Mother Earth foundation is mostly known for zero waste advocacy in communties, schools, offices, Sustainability focused on waste for household sectors, contributes to growing impact on climate change. We notice island communties are at the forefront of climate change, who experience extreme weathers and rise in sea levels. Connecting and empowering these communtie is what we do.
I used to be a working student, joined an environmental play, for fun, but when I reached college I received first hand experience of climate change, because my campus was frequently flooded and I saw a lot of waste floating around, that's when I decided I should do something about this crisis joining a big organisation. Mother Earth foundation gave me my first job and I've been working ever since. It's been 12 years with them.
Where do you think Manila is in terms of sustainability? How far do you think it needs to go to make a difference?
We're in a position which is far better than it was previously. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done to reach the ideal scenario in terms of policies, systematic change and some behavioural change. Again, lifestyle change is necessary and it needs to be a holistic approach. It takes a lot, especially since we need to reach the government and our leaders. If corruption persists, then a lot of people will suffer (specifically marginalised communities). To get back, the awareness is there, but it's more about the consistency and implementation of the national laws and policies. We already have the agencies and committees. We have international collaborations, but then again the enforcement bit is the big question mark. How are we getting there? If its all policies and promotions, then nothing will happen. We need to take a bold step towards sustainability, because if not, with Philippines' position in the pacific ring of fire, it can only make things worse with natural calamities.
The wakeup time happened 'yesterday' so the action must be taken 'today', the deadline is already here, we really need to bring our act together.
What is something that you believe your country does that everyone should take inspiration from?
During the pandemic, lockdown was strict, people became attracted to things they can do at home, they were encouraged to do gardening, composting etc. People are loving their plants. As there is awareness, national level agencies and other groups are able to spearhead different things for climate, as a trend influencers are actively taking part in these campaign. But if FMCGS, corporations, big companies continue to greenwash etc will this make a difference?
We are part of GAIA (global alliance), BFFP (break free from plastic) who call out big corporations for garbage crisis. We support those organizations by sharing and following articles that provide real information and share general solutions on climate crisis.
Struggles and challenges you've faced during your time with mother earth.
During the beginning, we had to convince and do a lot of pitching to the government and private
sectors to explain to them and give them the idea, for them to appreciate zero waste and accept it as a need for the country. It takes time and resources to be a part of our collaborative process. As an NGO, finance was low and we needed more funding and approached stake holders back then.
We're happy to say that in the past 4-5 years, they have started to contact us and email us and are excited to take up the zero waste program. This has been a highlight of our journey, while before wehad to approach them. You need to look at the bigger picture and invest in the small things and identify your pain points, they will pay you back double or triple and right now we're declining projects because it's too many in numbers. Earlier, we used to want even just one. To provide quality programs to all parties we recommend other groups, in a way not declining their effort but doing what we can.
Every January is celebrated as zero waste month here in the Philippines . Officially assigned by the president of Philippines 5-6 years ago.
What about the fashion industry? How do you tackle this elephant in the room.
We identify fashion as a top contributor for waste. There are already initiatives amongst store, big stores redesigning their products. It has been a wasteful business which is slowly becoming aware and are open to recycling, but some are upcycling and downcycling as well. There are start-ups and social entrepreneurs, transforming textile industry into something sustainable. Phoneix (phinix) textile, transforms textile waste into sustainable clothing. I know of my DO school alumni friends who have sustainable brands in Philippines and Malaysia. There are responsible businesses doing for the people and planet while still maintaining eco stability of their venture. More inclusive businesses, more responsible businesses, without compromising the environment, planet first. Encouraging the people to do better.
He tells us he's visited India previously to study zero waste management and experience the local life.
I visited India to study Organic management in Kerala. One of the most memorable trips I've had, my Indian friend instructed me on how to proceed there as I wanted to experience the commuting, how to go by trains etc
What does kindness mean to you?
Kindness for me .. Wow. ..should be our global religion, should know no boundaries, this is one of the things we really take for granted, it's easy and simple to say but really hard to practice now days. If people step back and see the bigger picture of kindness, the world will be a little less stressful and toxic. Haha. And there's a good chance there will be better things than what's happening right now. Goes a long way to the receiver and to yourself for being kind. This will really help us succeed on the daily.
Small things = ripple effect in our communities.
We thank Rap for taking out his time and speaking with us about his experiences and thoughts. A lot of inspiration can be found in his idea of kindness and we too believe we can go a long way with a little kindness. (:
Raphaelo is the Program Manager of Mother Earth Foundation – an NGO that seeks to transform the Philippines into a more sustainable, climate-friendly, and Zero Waste country to live in.
He has studied Bachelor of Arts Major in Sociology at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, and has a background in Social Entrepreneurship in Berlin. In 2019, he completed his Postgraduate Studies on Circular Economy and Waste Management at the TU Dresden in Germany.
And with more than a decade of environmental campaigns and community empowerment, Raphaelo hopes to create a bigger impact in the Philippines through their zero waste programs one city at a time.
To read more about Mother Earth Foundation click here.