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How my Filipino family’s traditions embrace eco-friendly living | Stories

Growing up, my mother would always tell my brothers and me the following phrase before finishing a meal: wala nang butil ng kanin maiiwan. This phrase translates directly to ‘no grain of rice left,’ meaning that my brothers and I were to leave our plates spotless when we finished our meals. My parents engrained the idea of never wasting food into our heads, especially rice, which is a staple in most Filipino dishes. Raised in the Philippines, my parents have seen food scarcity firsthand, so they prioritized teaching my brothers and me how to minimize our food waste and only consume what we need.

My parents’ commitment to minimizing waste extends beyond just food, as they have always made a conscious effort to reuse and repurpose clothing, household items, and more. In my childhood home, my parents would transform old cookie tins into jewelry storage and peanut butter containers into money jars. When I’d visit my family members back in the Philippines, I would also observe similar practices. To my family, it has simply become second nature to them to conserve resources and repurpose items for new uses.

It is also common for Filipino Americans to prolong the life of clothing and household items by sending them back to their relatives in the Philippines. Every year, my parents would ship appliances, clothes, and other household goods back home in balikbayan boxes. Around the world, the Filipino diaspora sends balikbayan boxes as a means to show care for their loved ones back home and extend the life of products and clothes that can find new use in the Philippines.

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