COMETs are coming! (E-jeepneys now in Quezon City)

Just when I was starting to live like a total hermit (with occasional trips to the nearest shopping mall, the nearest supermarket, and church), hope sprung again when I saw this article online. There are many reasons to love Quezon City in the Philippines. There’s the city’s laid-back vibe as seen in areas like the Maginhawa Street food strip, Tomas Morato, UP Town Center, and the Trinoma and SM North Edsa mall area. The country’s two best universities are housed here. And then this: eco-friendly and rider-friendly e-jeepneys called COMETs (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) now ply the LRT Katipunan – Trinoma route!

But wait, there’s more. Thirty e-jeepneys are just the beginning. Soon, we will see more routes and more jeepneys, which will bring us an overload of good vibes:

  • An eco-friendly upgrade to the iconic Philippine jeepneys. Sure, it’s not as colorful and crazily decorated as the jeepneys we’d come to love, but that can be fixed. What’s important is that they now use lithium ion batteries which lessens too much dependence on oil. This also means (hopefully!) less transport strikes which cripple our movements around the city!
  • Safer jeepney design.  We passengers don’t have to worry about getting accidentally hit by upcoming cars on the road because the door is now located at the side of the jeepney, allowing us to board safely from sidewalks. And whenever the rains relentlessly beat the pavement and floods ensue, these jeepneys can still brave the roads, thanks to hydraulic wheels that can rise by one foot.
  • More orderly boarding and alighting, plus some creature comforts for the tech-savvy commuter. We all know that the way jeepneys (and other forms of public transportation) randomly stop at various parts of the road causes traffic. This behavior also reinforces lack of discipline among people, both drivers and passengers. It seems that a more orderly way of commuting is about to be institutionalized through the COMET. The COMET has designated stops which are actually followed from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma and vice versa. Passengers conveniently pay for the fare via a card that they tap-in when boarding and tap-out when alighting.  What’s more, this e-jeepney also housess some creature comforts for the tech-savvy: GPS and Wifi connection, flat screen TV that displays news and ads, CCTV camera for monitoring the safety of passengers, and continuous communication between the COMET command center and e-jeepney to effectively forsee and manage congestion to and from the destination. I like this a lot because it resembles my bus adventures while I was studying in Seoul. Very convenient!
  •  Better compensation for drivers. Gone are the days when jeepney drivers are unsure of how much they will bring home to their family – or if they will bring anything substantial at all. By being a COMET driver, they are given monthly salaries plus benefits. Here, drivers, passengers, and the environment wins. What’s good for one sector is also good for the others. A dream come true.

According to the aforementioned Rappler article, this is the COMET’s route. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m excited!

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

This morning’s interesting articles @ Environmental News Network

environmental news network logoEnvironmental News Network is a website that posts a comprehensive selection of environment-related news everyday. I’ve been a newsletter subscriber since 2010 or thereabouts, so I’ve always had interesting news to read in my inbox everyday since then.

Today I want to share two of the most interesting news items I found. Well, interesting for me, at least.

First is an article titled “Why It’s Important to Rinse Recyclables. It’s interesting for me because  it’s common sense to rinse recyclables for sanitary and health reasons, but it’s not always done. An article like this is a great reminder why it’s important. Among the reasons cited here are efficiency (it makes sorting recyclables at the recycling plant easier and faster), health and sanitation (you wouldn’t want to attract yucky molds and pests anywhere near your recyclables, right?), and higher income (the cleaner the recyclable, the higher the grade and consequently, the price).

But for me, the most important reason for rinsing recyclables is the health and sanitation aspect of it. We recycle to limit waste and unnecessary consumption, but more often than not, the health and sanitation aspect is forgotten. It shouldn’t be. It should go hand in hand. A healthy environment means having healthy people around, as well.

This is also the reason why I believe that reusable eating utensils (spoons, forks, plates) is better than disposable plastic utensils–to a certain extent. That is, reusable eating utensils is better as long as these are rinsed and kept well. After all, what’s good about using earth-friendly things if they are not clean and sanitary enough for human usage, right? Who wants disease with their burger and fries, right?

Second is an article titled “Disc or Download: A Virtual Energy-Savings Debate”. This one talks about how carbon footprint in consuming video games is surprisingly more efficient when you buy the Blu-ray version of the game rather than downloading it online. The common way of thinking is that it’s more environment-friendly to download it, because Blu-ray entails energy consumed from the production of the disc itself plus transportation costs. But a systematic study by the Journal of Industrial Ecology proved otherwise.

So those are new stuff I learned today. Hope you also learned something new from these, too! Happy reading!

Preference for eco-friendly products is on the rise in SG

This article from Channel News Asia says that preference for eco-friendly products is on the rise in Singapore. That’s good news!

The article cautions, though, that eco-friendly consciousness “will take a long time”.  Also, the preference for green products seems to be primary motivated by economic factors, such as saving energy. It’s good to note, though, that “eco-retail, fashion, food and beverage are also on the rise, even if slowly.”

Let’s also hope, too, that this won’t lead to the phenomenon known as greenwashing. Fingers crossed!

Reusable Water Bottle: A summer must-have

The summers of our childhood are gone. If before, all we needed were a fan and a big bowl of halo-halo with lots of shaved ice and a scoop or two of ube ice cream on top to keep us cool, these days not even an air conditioner’s coldest setting can beat the heat.  When we go out, the sun stings our skin and we get instantly thirsty. That’s why I’ve taken to bringing a water bottle when I know I’m going to be out and about for quite some time. Climate change is here and adaptation is the order of the day. So get a water bottle and fill it up with fresh water when you go outside. You don’t necessarily have to buy one, though. I noticed that it has become fashionable for companies to give water bottles as corporate giveaways. When you receive one, use it instead of buying another one. Not only will you save money, you will also get to practice restraint in a consumerist world. In Gandhi’s words, Live simply so that others may simply live.

My first sauna experience

Watching too many Japanese dramas has made me curious on how the sauna experience is. Atashinchi no Danshi, which I recently watched on the Net, has had too many sauna scenes that I had to grab the first sauna opportunity that came my way.

The window of opportunity came in the form of an office outing held last Thursday at Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal. Timberland is a residential community offering “mountain suburban living”. It has two farms, Mandala 1 and Mandala 2, and a swanky country club.

We went to the country club for our outing. Like most country clubs, Timberland had sports facilities, a library, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a salon, a spa, and sauna, among others. A geek like me would normally gravitate towards the library, but this time around, my sauna curiosity got the better of me.

We had our shower first before proceeding to the steam room. Because I’m too paranoid and shy to go in to this room with only my birthday suit, I opted to wear my swimsuit. I loved the peppermint smell that permeated the room, but I soon found it hard to breathe. I didn’t have colds or anything, but I had to go out of the room for a while to breathe fresh air. The therapist advised me to lie down while in the steam room, while my officemates let me park my butt at the little corner where not much steam came in. Those two things made the difference. And I enjoyed my steam room experience very much.

We went to the sauna after about 10 minutes, which was right across the steam room. It was a lot hotter, and it became hotter still when one of my officemates accidentally poured one extra cup of water onto the hot stones. This made us run as fast as we can outside. We felt like we were being roasted to a golden color.

We went back in after the temperature came back to “normal” sauna temp, and resumed our sauna session. We were probably the noisiest bunch of sauna goers as we talked about anything and everything we could think of. I felt beads of sweat sliding on my neck, and I felt my thighs getting a bit greasy. I almost panicked, but then I realized that silly me was in a sauna–It was therefore normal to sweat like a pig!

We stayed there for around 15 minutes, after which we took another shower. When we went back outside, we felt refreshed and revived. The feeling was great. It was exactly like what Internet articles said. I felt lighter, cleaner, better.

My first sauna experience made me realize that this is something I would want to do regularly. It’s supposedly a healthy practice as it detoxifies the body and is a form of exercise. The thing is, I have no idea where I can take affordable sauna sessions at a place that is easily accessible from home. Is there such a place? Could you recommend a good one for me? Many thanks in advance! ありがと!

Water footprint

I’ve heard of carbon footprint before, but today is the first time I’ve heard of water footprint.

According Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit, Chemistry professor and dean of the School of Science and Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines), in his essay Managing Water for a Sustainable Future water footprint is “the total volume of freshwater that is needed directly to produce certain goods or services, in terms of water consumption and pollution.”

I suppose then, that just as we must be mindful of our human activities that release carbon dioxide gases into the atmosphere, we must also be conscious of our day-to-day water footprint.

Dr. Dayrit illustrated water footprint thus: Imagine 1 kilogram of beef. That amount of meat actually has, according to him, a water footprint of 16,000 liters of water. Thus, eating beef will increase a beef-eater’s water footprint, whereas a vegetarian diet will have a smaller water footprint.

I suppose then, too, that aside from Buddhism’s peace-with-animate-beings lesson, another case for turning vegetarian would be to lessen one’s water footprint.

Dr. Dayrit’s article, by the way, can also be found at the book Agenda for Hope.

Hunger Fighter

I just want to say thanks to World Food Programme for adding me to their Twitter list of HUNGER FIGHTERS (or tweeps doing their bit to fight hunger) and BLOGGERS AGAINST HUNGER (or Bloggers who’ve joined http://wfp.org/bloggers-against-hunger to fight against hunger).

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This inspires me to be more and do more.

The Organic Geek is always happy to help.

Communication’s contribution to the environmental discourse

Today, after attending a forum on health care issues in the Philippines, I realized that the environment is a peripheral issue. The speaker did not focus on the environment, but he did mention how a polluted place breeds diseases and other problems.

This made me think of my required readings for my Environment, Culture and Society class for this week, and how sociology and anthropology are getting into this whole environmental discourse. And it’s not just sociologists and anthropologists, mind you. What used to be the sole domain of scientists decades ago are now engaged by people from all walks of life: economists, policy-makers, lawyers, journalists and many more.

In one of my readings, this anthropologist advocated for a multidisciplinary approach in facing environmental issues.  I suppose it means that people must contribute to this discourse according to their core competencies and expertise, the way anthropologists are contributing to the discourse by way of a sound cultural understanding of the issues.

As someone in the field of communication and public relations, surely I have something significant to contribute, right? Well, I hope so.

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An “Aha! Moment” in Communication while in my Environment, Culture and Society class

I am a M.A. Communication student interested in environmental issues. Yesterday, while my teacher was telling us how most Western societies treat the environment as an entity to be conquered and used (totally the opposite from the East, where Buddhism was born), I began thinking of how my English Literature classes in high school and college spoke of conflict in terms of Man vs. Man, Man vs.  Society, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Machine and (gasp!) Man vs. Nature.

We see this Man vs. Nature conflict frequently in Hollywood movies, the most recent of which is “2012“. I think it is interesting not just how Westerners regard nature as an adversary, but how this idea and culture is spread in light of globalization. How much impact do Hollywood movies have in other cultures, especially those in Eastern, developing countries? And what kinds of impact do these movies have?

Ah, that is research that excites me. I. Will. Investigate. I guess, if no other compelling issue catches my interest, that someone now has a topic for her individual paper in class! LOL! =)

Beyond buying Filipino

Beyond "Buy Filipino" at www.organicgeek.wordpress.com

We need to go beyond Buy Filipino.

Yesterday I almost bought face powder at a known Filipino beauty store, but balked when I checked the label. It listed too many chemicals — Would I really want all those scientific-sounding ingredients to seep into my skin?  The answer, of course, is no.

A year ago, I would have no second thoughts at whipping out my wallet for a Filipino-made product like that. But my new-found environmental and health consciousness is making me re-examine my “Buy Filipino” belief. Is the fact that a product was made by a Filipino company enough reason to support it? Are efficacy and affordability enough? What about safety? That is, safety in terms of our health and our environment?

At which point I realized that it is simply not enough to Buy Filipino. We need to go beyond that. We need to support Filipino companies that are committed to providing us with quality products that are safe both for us and for the earth.

In relation to that, we also need to support Filipino companies that are committed to taking good care of their employees by giving fair compensation packages and ensuring good working conditions. That’s the primary way of keeping their products and services topnotch.

We are, after all, willing to support their products because we believe in their ability and commitment to provide us with our needs. Shouldn’t we receive the same support in terms of personal health and environmental sustainability?