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A sustainable lifestyle is often associated with exclusivity, as many say it comes with great expense. Yet Pacita “Chit” Juan, founder of the Echostore, a social enterprise and retail store carrying green, fair trade products, begs to differ.
The Echostore was first conceptualized back in 2008, a time when sustainable living was not as widely known and given great importance as much as it is now, making Chit Juan, along with two other women who also founded the enterprise, pioneers to the green living trending the country — a fact she claims to be her biggest achievement in all 15 years of the Echostore. “Kailangan may mag-umpisa eh (There has to be someone who starts),” Chit says.
Adopting a sustainable lifestyle requires choice and dedication as it does not happen overnight, much as Chit and her co-founders’ decision to launch their business at a time when consumers were still somewhat unfamiliar with the idea of sustainable living. It took them many years before the Echostore really took off, according to Chit.
She even recalls how many detractors they had during the first few years of the enterprise, saying the Echostore would shut down immediately. Yet, she proudly declares that she is pleased that they were still successful in launching the business despite negativity. In fact, this month of September marks its 15th year.
She really believed that when something is dedicated to a purpose, it will succeed. “‘Pag mission-driven kasi, it will always succeed (When something is mission driven, it will always succeed),” she says.
Even the pandemic did not put the store into a halt. Chit in fact says that it paved a way to further boost their online sales.
“Priorities lang talaga (It’s all a matter of priorities),” Chits ays. She argues that the notion of sustainable living being expensive is merely relative and a matter of whether the person is fully ready to shift and commit to that lifestyle.“Bakit ‘pag bumili ka ng large drink sa Starbucks, hindi mahal? (How come a large Starbucks drink doesn’t seem so expensive to you?)” she quips.
However, Chit does not deny the fact that sustainable products are indeed significantly more expensive than ordinary ones, as she says that a big contributing element to this is the fact that sustainable products have not yet achieved a significant market scale. Yet, she contends that sustainable living does not necessarily have to be absolute.
“You don’t have to be vegetarian all the way. Gusto mo Monday ka lang meatless, o kaya Friday (You don’t have to be vegetarian all the way. If you want, you can just skip meat on Mondays and Fridays).”Those two days spent not eating meat is already a big step in integrating a sustainable lifestyle. So is using a water bottle or a metal straw, adds Chit. “Baby steps,” she says. “Baby steps, and before you know it, it becomes part of your lifestyle.”
It is all about knowing your options in the things you do every day, according to Chit. Whether it is what you eat for breakfast or how you get to work every day. Being a responsible consumer is, after all, what sustainable living is truly about, adds Chit. This is why she expresses her joy that the Echostore was able to be exposed to the Gen Z‘s, as she says they are the ones especially mindful of the environment and the importance of sustainable living.
“I have great faith in Gen Z, kasi pinanganak sila sa challenges ng climatechange.It’s your generation now who will bring this to the mainstream (I have great faith in Gen Z because they were born into the challenges of climate change.It’s your generation now who will bring this to mainstream),” Chit says.
This article first appeared on tribune.net.ph