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

View of green forested mountains and blue water

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.

Woman stands in front of a leafy green backdrop smiling at the camera and holding a badge that's around her neck

It inspires me to see how sustainability and conservation are so intrinsically intertwined with Filipino traditions and cultures. At the same time, however, Filipinos back home are some of the hardest hit by environmental threats such as climate change and disasters, living on a vulnerable archipelago of over 7,000 islands. Ever since I was a child, the Philippines’ natural beauty has made me in awe of the natural world and committed to conserving it. Thus, when I’d visit my relatives back home, I would be devastated to see the damage caused by typhoons, sea-level rise, and deforestation.

In this way, my Filipino heritage has not only shaped me to live more sustainably but has also fostered a passion for global climate action and justice in me. To me, one of the biggest injustices of the climate crisis is that the communities that contribute the least to climate change are often the ones who are hit hardest by its consequences. Thus, it’s an honor to be a part of a global conservation organization as influential and impactful as WWF, connecting me to a network that pushes for sustainability and environmental justice around the world.

Francesca Edralin works on the Private Sector Engagement Team and supports cause marketing campaigns that engage the public on environmental conservation and sustainable living. She is proud to be a first-generation Filipino American, as her roots have inspired her love for nature and passion for climate justice.