‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

Composed primarily of women, local bag artisans from Bulacan created and assembled the bags from the tarpaulins of SM Store. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Nothing should go to waste. This is the goal of a circular economy wherein all existing materials should be reused, recycled, and refurbished for as long as possible.

The circular economy in the Philippines is still a “work in progress,” according to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The 2024 report also says that although the local circular economy is still at a “foundational” level, there are many related laws and mechanisms that have been established since the 1990s. However, their impact on production processes as well as consumption remains limited.


A change in attitude toward recycling among consumers and manufacturers is needed for the circular economy to bear fruit in the country, the report adds.


The 206-page report also cites the need for “a more detailed and practical understanding at the day-to-day level to drive behavioral change.”

The significant role of the private sector in advancing knowledge and best practices for the circular economy is also cited by the report.

Among its recommendations is a collaboration among key stakeholders such as the private sector, academicians, policy researchers, and representatives of local governments to pave the way for a more sustainable future.

‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

The bags were designed by social entrepreneur and Filipino designer Zarah Juan.—CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

‘Green’ movement

Conglomerates such as the SM Group have responded to the call for “green” initiatives. Under the SM Green Movement, the Sy-led SM Investments Corp. has committed to conserve the resources of the planet and rethink ways to actively participate in the circular economy.

SM is also partnering with medium and small-scale entrepreneurs to promote circularity and empower local communities through sustainable enterprise development and livelihood programs.

The SM Green Finds program makes it easier for customers to identify products that are sustainable and eco-friendly. These curated items are handpicked from locally sourced and natural handicraft made by local artisans.


“Aligned with our commitment to equal opportunity for all, we continuously engage with external stakeholders, including host communities, to advocate social and economic inclusion and development,” shares Lizanne Uychaco, group diversity officer of SM Group.

SM’s group-wide initiatives on diversity and inclusion are seen to go hand in hand with environmental stewardship.

‘Tela’ tales

Leah Magallanes, vice president for sustainability and quality assurance at SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. (SMHCC), thought of ways to make sustainability more “tangible.” The answer came to her in the form of “Tela tales,” an initiative that aims to convert pre-loved linens of SMHCC into beautiful bags with handwoven patterns.

SM then reached out to communities near Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay and Pico Sands Hotel in Nasugbu, Batangas. Groups of women from Barangay Bulihan in Batangas and Kalingap Casa de Sueños in Tagaytay were trained by designer and social entrepreneur Zarah Juan.

‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

FROM HOMEMAKERS TO WEAVERS Sonora Mendoza (middle) and Severina Basco recount the humble beginnings of Tela tales.—CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Sonora Mendoza, 54, who worked as a barangay health worker for 30 years, recalls that a team offered in November last year a livelihood program at Barangay Bulihan. She says that 13 women, mostly homemakers, joined the program. Some of them had zero weaving skills. Nevertheless, they were all patiently taught how to weave basic patterns. Eventually, their weaving skills improved, and they even started creating their own designs for the bags.

SMHCC provides the pre-loved linens and other materials for the bags while Juan pays the weavers from the community. The bags come in two-toned blue, two-toned pink and aqua-orange.

Bonding moment

Tela tales was coined as women share their life stories while weaving. But the core mission of this project is to “transform lives with one linen at a time.”

Severina Basco, a 59-year-old homemaker, says her group always looks forward to the weaving sessions because it has become a “bonding” moment. They exchange stories about their lives and they often give advice to those in need.

Mendoza likes the idea of giving the linen another opportunity to become useful again. Although they were meant to be disposed of, it was as if her hands are giving the discarded materials a second chance to be beautiful again, she says.

Basco says that the additional income she receives from weaving helps with her family’s daily expenses. In addition, the program taught them additional skills—how to make rags, siomai (dumplings) and polvoron.

Community effort

Kalingap Casa de Sueños is a nonstock and nonprofit organization that shelters homeless and abandoned women in their senior years. The shelter is an 11-minute drive from Taal Vista Hotel.

Kalingap came to mind when SMHCC was looking for potential stakeholders.

For Dolores de la Cruz, community representative of Kalingap, Tela tales program is “very promising.” She adds that what they earn from weaving is more than enough for a day’s work and that the program itself is good because it helps them do something productive during their spare time.

‘Circular economy’ goes to the grassroots

WOMEN POWER Artisans from Barangay Bulihan showcase the handwoven patterns they created for the Tela Tales campaign.—CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Aside from pre-loved linens, used tarpaulins from the SM Store are also repurposed through the Tarp Project. This recent campaign of SM Green Finds is a repeat collaboration with Juan. The project aims to create functional bags out of the repurposed material.

This program has become a community effort as the process begins with the collection of used tarpaulins. Afterward, persons deprived of liberty from Quezon City are tasked with cleaning and cutting the tarpaulins. The materials are then transferred to Bulacan where local artisans print and assemble the bags.

For her part, designer Juan shares that it is a privilege to help promote circularity and green living with SM Store. “The seamless coordination of the project hinges on the careful consideration of each step and aspect of the design process. Moreover, I prioritized ensuring that the colors and prints transcend fleeting trends, aiming for enduring appeal and longevity, a reflection of the bag’s overarching purpose,” Juan says.

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Proceeds from the sale of tote bags and pouches from this initiative will be donated to the youth and education programs of SM Foundation.

TAGS: circular economy, Sunday Biz

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