Armchair activism: poster illustration for Muni.PH’s #CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign

Ever been so engrossed in whatever you’re doing that you forget time and before you know it, 3, 5, 10 hours have passed?

When I’m working and  I get “in the zone,” it’s hard for me to stop. That’s what happened when I got a message from Jen from Muni.PH asking me if I could be part of a visual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of cigarette butts on the environment.

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster

Did you know that cigarette butts are the single most collected item in coastal clean-ups? We may not see them most of the time, but they’re there, buried underneath the sand, and they eventually end up in the ocean where they’re mistaken for food by marine life and birds.


But then, now what? While I have my own little ways of being eco-conscious (minimizing my use of plastic bags, foregoing drinking straws as much as I can when eating out, pocketing my own trash until I can dispose of them properly later), it’s not my advocacy. I choose to reserve my energy and passion about other things. I’m not gung ho on getting people to be as mindful of their trash as I am. I’m more passive-aggressive about it: I give the offending person the stink-eye and maybe roll my eyes and think of how uneducated he/she is.

Then there are people like Jen who, with her baby Muni.PH, raise awareness and encourage people to do more than eye-rolling and mental middle-finger-raising.

The idea was to come up with an illustrated e-poster for Muni.PH‘s #CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign, to raise awareness on cigarette butt litter and its effect on marine life. Now this was something along the lines of what I can do, and what I’m passionate about, which is illustration. It was for a good cause.

Before I even told Jen that yes, I’ll do it, I was already sketching out an idea for a poster. I really was just going for a sketch to present an idea to Jen, but I got so engrossed in what I was doing that the sketch became more and more complicated and started taking on a life of its own. I just kept going because I was liking how the sketch was turning out, and I wanted to see what it would look like.

It ended up looking like this.

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
View bigger thumbnails of the process on my Behance gallery

Surprise, Jen! Yes, I’d be glad to contribute to the campaign, here’s what I have! *shoves poster into Jen’s hands*

Yup, that’s pretty much how it went down. Jen says I ambushed her.

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster

This illustration is not in my usual bright color palette but I went for muted tones to downplay the cute and to emphasize the sad reality of where your improperly-discarded cigarette butts end up.

Some details:

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
The illustration includes a dugong (sea cow)… 

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
…and a butanding (whale shark). Both unique sea creatures endemic to the Philippines.


#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
Cigarette butt litter isn’t a Philippines-only problem, though. It’s a problem worldwide.

I’m not going to tell you how much time I spent on this illustration as it’s embarrassing to have people know I can sit down at the computer that long, without going for pee/food/water breaks (but I did stand up to play with/pet/annoy my cat. Hashtag priorities.). Yes, this lifestyle will kill me, just like how your cigarette butts will kill these poor animals if you don’t dispose of them properly.

#CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign poster
The final poster

Working on this poster, I was reminded of a time, more than ten years ago, when my friends and I went to a beach somewhere in Batangas, a province south of Manila. We were swimming in the water when a local man on his boat paddled up to us and offered, for a fee, to take us to a part of the beach that had finer sand and nicer, clearer water. When we declined, he shrugged, took out the lit cigarette in his mouth, and threw it in the water. Then he paddled away.

I was pretty appalled at what he had done, as if the ocean was his own personal ashtray. And to think that that was where he lived and made a living. I couldn’t fathom why he would do such a mindless thing. But that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s a mindless act. People act and don’t think of the repercussions of a seemingly small gesture.

At the time of writing, the poster has been shared from the Muni Facebook page 205 times and has been viewed at least 22,000 times. That brings awareness about cigarette butt litter to over 22,000 individuals. Even being just AWARE of a problem plants the seed of change that may later translate to positive action and reaction. And I’m glad to have my work as part of this movement— it’s so much better than rolling my eyes and tsk-tsk-ing but not actually doing anything.

Thank you to Jen/Muni.PH for initiating change in this manner, and tapping me (along with other amazing Filipino illustrators) to contribute my visuals to help bring further awareness to the campaign. To know more, check out Muni.PH and their #CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign here.

Muni.PH Facebook page:
Check out the other illustrated posters in the #CutTheCrap #NoMoreButts campaign here.