by Beryl Tranco
After a year of waiting for someone else to open a Zero Waste store in Dumaguete City, Philippines, Eula Rae Libo-on turned her dream of owning a Zero Waste store into reality. Together with her two closest friends, she invested in something that could possibly impact her community and the future generations.
“I was not on Zero Waste at first, but as I learned more about environmental concerns, I also became alarmed. I decided to do the switch, hence the hashtag of Lipay Mundo is #DoTheSwitch,” Eula shared.
The first Zero Waste store in the city had its soft opening in July 2019. “Lipay Mundo Co. aims to inspire the consumers and other businesses [about] the freedom of purchasing essentials without having to deal with the plastic packaging afterward,” Eula said.
“Lipay” means “happy” in Bisaya, the local language used in Dumaguete, and “Mundo” is Spanish for “world.”. “With a mission to keep non-recyclables and non-compostables out of landfills, we partner with different local and foreign organizations and individuals in granting Dumaguete City access to a Zero Waste lifestyle,” Eula shared.
Purchase only as much as you need
Located under the hotel stairs of Gabby’s Bed and Breakfast, Lipay Mundo presents itself as a small grocery store selling natural and organic products without packaging.
Lipay Mundo offers a bulk foods section that contains different kinds of organic pasta, nuts, coffee beans and moringa powder that comes in loose forms.
Also for sale are kitchen and household products such as edible and reusable straws, wooden and metal cutlery, beeswax food wrap sets, kitchen towels and reusable cups and food containers.
According to Eula, among the best sellers are the all-natural, non-toxic home cleaning and personal products. These are free of chemicals and toxins, therefore safe for every family member including babies.
“We make our own product brands [using] all-natural ingredients trusted by environmentalists and tested by chemists. We also carry other products sourced from individuals and brands with [their own] mission to create a positive environmental impact. We are proud to call them our friends and constant sources of inspiration,” Eula said.
Customers are given the freedom to purchase as little or as much as they need from the store as they are encouraged to bring their own containers for product refill or to trade with bottles from the store. They also have the option to buy empty glass bottles at Php 10.00 to use as their own refillable containers.
Overcoming the Challenges
“The first challenge [we had] was the belief system—making other people believe that [our] Zero Waste concept works. We overcame [this challenge] through endurance and patience that comes with teaching others the whole value of the concept,” Eula stated.
Eula shared that their first customers were foreigners and expatriates. “They were the ones who identified and understood the need, then eventually the locals followed. They now understand that the price point comes with the quality and sustainability of the products—having to not throw them away in the landfills after they use them,” she said.
And just like any other small enterprises, Lipay Mundo was also affected by COVID-19. The pandemic has brought out Eula’s creativity and readiness to adapt to change quickly. Closing the store was a challenge, yet it doesn’t mean the operations stopped.
“Since our physical store always smells good from the outside, people tend to come in and sniff everything they can get their hands on—which is taboo especially with the virus starting from the three entry points—eyes, nose, and mouth. We had to close the physical store indefinitely and stay online for now. We have to do more online advertising and apply a no-touch delivery concept where our riders deliver the orders to the customers without touching the deliveries,” she said.
Managing a Zero Waste store is to live up to the Zero Waste concept. “It’s not easy keeping up, but live up to it and see how the little Zero Waste things you do add up to the bigger picture. Start small, think big, scale fast,” she said.
Photos courtesy of Lipay Mundo.
This article is part of the book, BUSINESS UNUSUAL: Enterprises paving the way to Zero Waste, a collection of feature articles on select enterprises in Asia Pacific that practice and promote Zero Waste principles. Published by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the publication may be downloaded for free at www.no-burn.org/Business-Unusual.