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#SeatizenSunday: Poch Espina, Sip PH

Poch Espina traded what could have been a stethoscope for steel straws. On his last year as a Health Science major in Ateneo, Poch founded Sip PH, an environmental enterprise that started with the aim to reduce the amount of plastic straws used daily. Since he was set to migrate after graduating, Sip was only intended to be a short-term initiative to earn money and increase awareness about plastic pollution. “But one thing led to another for me to stay in the Philippines,” he shares.

In just one year, Sip has grown from a temporary project to a full-flown business, with their reusable straws being carried by stores such as Common Room and Serenitea, and their newest product, the Sip Burrito, being sold out within days of launching. In addition to carrying products that encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle, Sip, led by their Chief Exsiputive Officer Poch, is also exploring ways to improve the waste management system.

What led you to your work?

First would be my heart for the environment, which got really developed when I got inspired by Gela Petines and my membership in Institute of Skin Divers Ateneo (ISDA). Second is my dream of establishing a sustainable business and tackling waste management when I went abroad for exchange in Romania. And finally, I got moved by my experience in SPS’s SEA Camp, which led me to act rather than just talk.

Tell us about your current work. What do you do?

When Sip started, my work included a lot of replying to emails, shipping out orders, and meeting people for partnerships. That still happens today, but with a much better system. As CEO, my job is to make sure everything is running smoothly, from supply chain, sales, and little everyday things. My team is very proactive and fully capable of their jobs.

The thing about a startup is that one day can just be overthrown because of some important meeting or a speaking engagement -- that’s the fun part about it. Half the time, it’s a fluctuating schedule. On an easy day, it means going to the office, and if all everyday matters are taken care of, it means reading, researching, and doing product development to make sure the business progresses and moves forward.

What’s the best and worst parts about your job? How do you overcome the negative parts?

I consulted [about Sip] with one of the professors I respected, and she immediately asked me to stop using metal straws because of their environmental impact. I could not sit for the rest of the day. It made me feel bad when I realized I might have been doing something counter-intuitive, but at the same time, it’s these conversations that bump me to the right direction and allow me to open up my horizons even more.

When I started Sip, all I wanted to do was to reduce plastic straw usage. Today, I dream of completely changing our solid waste management system, to integrate not just radical thought, but business-sense.

Also, I love being invited to give talks, and I hate having to put buttons on our pouches (laughs).

One bazaar after another! Follow Sip on Facebook to find out their bazaar schedule.

What is a philosophy or words you live by?

People will believe in you if your heart is in the right place.

What three pointers would you provide for people who'd like to start pursuing an environmental lifestyle?

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. World ain’t perfect, and neither are you. It’s the small steps that count, but always be mindful of what you do. This goes not just for the environment.

  2. Encourage others to do the same. While every little thing counts, you’re one person in seven billion. Let’s be real: if we want to make a dent on the world, we have to get everyone, or at least half of them, on board.

  3. Love what you’re fighting for. It’s really what allows you to act on it with full-on force. If you can’t love it, then learn to! The world is one heck of an amazing place. [To love it] is the most human thing you could possibly do!

What is your why - why you do what you do?

My “why” lies with the simplest items at the core of the human soul: care. Care not just for environment, but for everyone around us. I’ve chosen to make sure that we take care of what is given, and not just go about everyday like the world is okay. It’s not. The only way we get things moving is if someone starts moving.

What lifestyle changes have you made for the environment?

I always think about every move I make and what possible carbon emission it can produce. It’s both funny and burdensome.

Reducing plastic waste is non-negotiable. The hardest part has been managing household waste -- when you buy food, it’s already pre-packaged, among other things, which essentially inspired me to be a key to the solution of not having eco-friendlier options available.

What inspired me to make these changes was seeing the difference firsthand. When I first dove in Batangas in 2012, it wasn’t that bad yet. Floating trash and a few bleached corals here and there. Five years later, it’s horrible. If you don’t believe that there’s a problem, go to the nearest beach or the nearest dumpsite, and you’d see that we have a huge problem to solve.

Sip straws on display in a café

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Just keep doing what you are doing. Always be awesome, be hungry for almost anything that can come your way. Yes, that includes food.

Purchase Sip reusable straws and Sip Burritos for yourself or for gifts at Sip PH, and like their Facebook page to stay updated with products and bazaar schedules.

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