The harmful effects of smog

Smog, a name coined from the words smoke and fog, is a kind of air contamination produced by the photochemical interaction of light with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that are dispensed into the atmosphere by vehicular emissions and postindustrial gas. Studies have found that the effects of smog can be serious and lasting. 

While several people recognize smog as a form of air pollution, others may call it as a haze in the ambiance or assimilation of gases. Perhaps the most apparent evidence of cities stifled by smog is the colored and soot-covered windows, walls, drapes and curtains, and other open surfaces.

The earth’s atmosphere is naturally consist of 78.08 percent nitrogen, 20.95 percent gas, 0.93 percent argon, 0.03 percent element pollutant, and 0-4 percent irrigate suspension.  There are also small amounts of more or less twoscore trace gases such as ozone, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and neon in the atmosphere.

The existence of minimal amounts of these trace gases is relatively harmless, until the balance is tipped and its accumulation rises beyond tolerable levels that makes the air we breathe toxic.

Generally, there are two types of smog.  One is called industrial smog, which is typified by vast achromatic smokestacks emanating from chimneys of factories.  Its primary pollutant is sulfur dioxide, a compound that causes acid rain.

The other type of smog is called photochemical smog, which primarily comes from the combustion process of moving vehicles, and the constant use of fossil fuels for heating, industry and transport.

Moreover, slashing and burning of trees, and agricultural organic wastes cause enormous emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides. These are two of the main air pollutants.

When these direct pollutants interact with sun, they create various dangerous chemicals, peroxyacetyl nitrates (PAN) and tropospheric or ground-level ozone, which are notoriously known as auxiliary pollutants.

In addition, the unabated accumulation of smog in the air has increasingly become alarming significantly because of its hazardous chemical content. For one, it compromises human health by considerably weakening our respiratory and immune system. Though its effects may differ according to certain factors like age, state of health, extent of exposure, and dosage, its typical symptoms involve coughing, sneezing, headaches, tiredness, irritation, nausea, and hoarseness of the throat, nose, and eyes, and chest constrictions.  These effects, withal, are only short-term.  Once exposure to smog stops, the symptoms also stop.

It is the long-term impact of air pollutants that are likely to put human health at high risk since these are ofttimes the gravest.  The most serious effects of smog are associated with the respiratory system.

Smog components have been proven to cause damages to the mucociliary system.  Besides, smog causes, and even aggravates, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.  It also causes eye irritation and weakens the body’s defense system against colds and lung infection.

People who are more prone to acquire smog-related ailments are the

  • aged
  • children
  • expectant women
  • those with heart and lung conditions
  • smokers
  • those who exercise outdoors
  • those with allergies

Aside from adding stress to the human body, smog particularly reduces the lung’s working capacity of the asthmatics and those suffering from chronic ailments.

Moreover, toddlers and young children are vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are not yet fully developed. Since they breathe more air per unit of body weight than their adult counterparts, they are prone to greater risk of getting sick and acquiring long-term damage to their lungs.

Besides, since children ofttimes breathe through their mouths, much smog enters their lungs because the mouth, unlike the nose, has no natural filtering system that reduces the amount of hazardous chemicals.

Such ailments are rather common in urban centers, where postindustrial emissions from automobiles and factories are extensive.

Urbanization is beside the question. But the irony of this is that, along with progress comes also deterioration. However, all is not lost yet.  We still have time, although not that much anymore, to do something to reverse the situation.  We can actively participate in programs and activities that support sustainable development.

Eco-friendly bamboo-made houses

Bamboo-made houses are a common sight in the Philippines and some countries where bamboo plant is in abundance. It’s cheap to construct and yet it can resist an earthquake.

Bamboo house

The buoyant bamboo is one of the oldest and most environmentally-friendly construction material commonly used in regions where bamboo plant grows in abundance, like the Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Researches and trials have proven that certain bamboo species are sturdier than concrete, as strong as steel, and a lot cheaper compared with other construction materials.

And because of bamboo’s high elasticity, houses made of this material are ductile and would just sway back and forth during an earthquake without damaging its poles.


Bamboo plants
Bamboo plants

Bamboo is readily available in commercial quantities in the market. And it’s easy to grow, too. It’s a very fast-growing plant with a growth rate of one hundred centimeters in 24 hours.

Also, a bamboo plant reaches maturity three times faster than hardwood, which takes decades to be a profitable source of building material. And unlike trees that once felled down, its outgrowth can no longer be used, bamboo can grow new shoots each time an older plant is cut down. Because of this property and due to its complex root system, bamboo can also effectively slow down deforestation, reduce soil erosion, and desertification.

Likewise, it’s worth noting that bamboo cultivation has these significant features:

  • bamboo can thrive even on degraded land
  • it can survive on less water
  • it does not need any fertilizer and pesticides
  • a grove of bamboo releases around 35 percent more oxygen into the atmosphere than a similar stand of trees.
  • it matures faster and can be replanted within seven years; while a stand of trees mature in 30 to 50 years.

Moreover, bamboo is a renewable and sustainable resource because of its ability to self-replenish.

Bamboo house 2

So, if you are planning to build your own bamboo-made house, you may refer to the manual¹.


¹“Manual on Building Bamboo Houses”. Village Volunteers. n.d. PDF 22 September 2015

CNN Travel picks Tubbataha Reefs as 8th best dive spot

CNN Travel names Tubbataha Reefs among the best dive destinations in the world, ranking it 8th of the top 50 underwater spots.  The reefs are home to several hundreds of coral and fish species, and protector of one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds.  

The top 50 dive spots

The complete list of the “Top 50 Best Dive Spots in the World” cited by CNN Travel includes:

  1. Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
  2. Yongala, Queensland, Australia
  3. SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt
  4. Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
  5. Richelieu Rock, near the Surin Islands, Thailand
  6. Gordon Rocks, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  7. Great Blue Hole, Belize
  8. Tubbataha, Palawan, Philippines
  9. Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt
  10. Maaya Thila, Maldives
  11. Sistema Dos Ojos, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  12. Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, Polynesia
  13. Point Murat Navy Pier, Australia
  14. Shark and Yolanda Reef, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
  15. Silfra, Þingvellir, Iceland
  16. Antons, Sodwana Bay, South Africa
  17. Kailua Kona, Hawaii, United States
  18. Middle Arch, Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
  19. North Horn, Osprey Reef, Australia
  20. Elphinstone Reef, Red Sea, Egypt
  21. Liberty, Bali, Indonesia
  22. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands
  23. Cod Hole, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  24. Manta Reef, Tofo, Mozambique
  25. Bajo Alcyone, Cocos Island, Costa Rica
  26. Sha’ab Rumi South, Sudan
  27. Batu Bolong, Komodo Island, Indonesia
  28. SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu
  29. Elephant Head Rock, Similans, Thailand
  30. Ulong Channel, Palau, Micronesia
  31. Layang Layang, near Borneo, Malaysia
  32. The Cathedral, Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius
  33. Great White Wall, Taveuni, Fiji
  34. Banua Wuhu, Mahengetang, Indonesia
  35. Manchones Reef, Cancun, Mexico
  36. Cocklebiddy Cave, Australia
  37. La Dania’s Leap to Karpata, Bonaire, Netherlands
  38. Scotts Head Pinnacle, Dominica
  39. Yonaguni Jima, Yaeyama Islands, Japan
  40. Raja Ampat, Irian Jaya, Indonesia
  41. Jackson Reef, Straits of Tiran, Red Sea, Egypt
  42. Perpendicular wall, Christmas Island, Australia
  43. Aliwal Shoal, Umkomaas, South Africa
  44. The Canyons, Puerto Galera, Philippines
  45. Japanese Gardens, Koh Tao, Thailand
  46. Grand Central Station, Gizo, Solomon Islands
  47. Aquarium, Mnemba Island, Tanzania
  48. Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta
  49. Burroo Ned, Isle of Man, United Kingdom
  50. Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Aside from the Tubbataha Reefs, another Philippine dive site named in this CNN Travel list is The Canyons in Puerto Galera, at the 44th rank.

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park


Considered as one of the Philippines’ oldest ecosystems, the Tubbataha Reefs are Marine Protected Areas (MPA) situated within the Coral Triangle in the middle of Sulu Sea. Because of its distance to habitable land, the reefs become a convenient and safe refuge for several marine life species, and habitat for different kinds of animals.

Tubbataha map

Declared as a national marine park by former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, and acknowledged as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the whole area is now officially known as The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. The reefs sprawl across an area of 130,028 hectares, including the North and South Atolls which are separated by an 8-kilometer deep and wide channel.  Each of the atolls has a lagoon and small sandy islets.

The North Atoll is bigger with an area of 16 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide; while the South Atoll covers an area of only 5 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide. There’s also a smaller reef, called Jessie Beazley Reef, approximately 20 kilometers north from these two atolls.


Spectacular corals spread over two-thirds of the area and the water surrounding the reefs is home to an assortment of marine life, including:

  • 374 species of corals, or almost 90% of coral species found in the Philippines
  • 11 species of cetaceans
  • 11 species of sharks
  • approximately 500 species of fish, including the iconic and threatened Napoleon wrasse
  • the highest population densities of white tip sharks
  • pelagic species like manta rays, tuna, barracuda, jacks,  whale sharks, and other different species of sharks.

Tubbataha 4Also, the reefs and the sea serve as a nesting and resting ground for the endangered green and hawksbill turtles. The Bird Islet and the South Islet are favorite breeding places for the seven resident and endangered species of seabirds, and host to the critically endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird, which frequently visits the area.

The presence of top predator species, like the tiger and hammerhead sharks, offers an ecological balance in the marine park.


The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is essentially protected by the Philippine National Protected Areas legislations and other environmental bills.  Tourism activities there requires careful planning and management to ensure the preservation of the entire natural system as well as the safety of visitors.

Up to the present, there is only one means to reach Tubbataha – and that is, by liveaboard. Since it is remotely located, going to the marine park requires significant logistical preparation, well-equipped people with operational boats, and sufficiently trained staff or tour guides to ensure a strong and responsive presence on the water.

The diving terrain at the marine park is characterized by extensive and continuous reef platforms, sandy lagoons, spectacularly perpendicular walls that drop to over 100 meters. It also has an enormous area of deep sea, the average depth of which is 750 meters. Currents along the North Rock are unpredictable.  But, the flow at the South Islet is quite predictable and friendlier, making it suitable for drift-diving.

Moreover, since The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park display a rich coral reef formation and support a significant number of marine species, it makes an ideal natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes.  It can also be a conducive demonstration site to study how the natural reef system respond to the impacts of climate change.


However, just like any other tourist spots, The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park faces a number of threats, like marine litter, over-fishing, shipping activities, marine pollution, and oil exploration.  In fact, there had been three cases where ships ran aground onto some parts of the reefs, causing considerable damage on the corals and other marine creatures.

Internationally-supported legislations should be enforced and effective buffer zone arrangements are required to protect the entire area from another shipping tragedy.  Also more stringent policies should apply against marine litter and fishing activities.

What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is the ongoing reduction in the basicity of the earth’s ocean as a result of the uptake of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere over an extended period.

Ocean - acidity

Global warming, as we all are aware of, is one of the major concerns that the present generation has to deal with.  It is primarily caused by

  • our constant emissions of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas
  • burning of vegetation

Such emissions pose a threat to the very chemistry of ocean water and considerably alter marine life within the span of a single human lifetime.

Of all the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the air, a quarter of which is absorbed by land plants, and another quarter is taken up by the oceans. However, studies show that since the Industrial Revolution period, around half of all CO2 that mankind ever generated has already gone down into the oceans, adversely affecting life therein.

The oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere in order to achieve equilibrium by direct air-to-sea exchange, which process normally takes place in hundreds to thousands of years. Because of the ocean’s generosity to absorb CO2 emissions, the effects of global warming are remarkably reduced.  

Ocean - shells dissolve

But then, just like any being or entity, the oceans, too, can only take so much. Once CO2 is dissolved in the ocean, a carbon atom stays there and reacts with the ocean water to form carbonic acid. This reaction process is called ocean acidification. Over time, carbonic acid eventually causes the basicity level of the oceans to dramatically decrease; consequently making seawater more acidic.

The Potential Hydrogen (pH) scale measures the acidity and basicity of an aqueous solution, where zero indicates the most acidic, and 14 the most basic, or alkaline. Ocean water has the value of 8.16 on the basic side of the pH balance scale.  It is even more alkaline than fresh water, which holds a value of only 7.0, or neutral. Because of the increasing level of carbonic acid, the oceans’ pH has tipped towards the acid side of the scale, which value now has dramatically dropped to 8.05 since the start of the Industrial Revolution. This is, indeed, an alarming shift compared to any period in the 650,000 years prior to that era.

It should be noted that the pH scale is logarithmic, which means that a slight shift is equivalent to a 30 percent rise in acidity.  Any alteration to the oceans’ pH balance level, no matter how slight it may be, can adversely affect marine life as well as on mankind’s fishing and other industries. For example, the ocean’s alkalinity plays a vital role in building strong protective shells for mussels and skeletons for corals. Likewise, pH alteration interrupts whale navigation, and exhausts plankton supply at the bottom of the food chain.

Unfortunately, many of the effects of ocean acidification are irreversible. Scientists have predicted that if mankind continues to be indifferent about the carbon dioxide emission issue, the world’s oceans will become 150 percent more acidic by the end of this century.

Watch the documentary video and see the frightening effects of ocean acidification.

Why are mangroves important?

Mangroves are often called coastal bioshield because of its crucial role in the ecological system. They provide a safe refuge for aquatic organisms, protects mankind from storm surge, and secures economic livelihood of coastal communities. At the same time, mangroves significantly facilitates in moving organic matter and energy from the land  to marine ecosystems.

What are mangroves?

Mangroves are those plants that thrive along coastlines, lagoons, and estuaries in the tropics and sub-tropical regions. These salt-tolerant plants make significant socio-economic and environmental contributions as they protect the coastal and inland areas from severe conditions, like erosion, wind, waves, water currents, tsunamis, and storm surge.

Mangrove plants are classified into two groups, namely:

  • The true or exclusive mangroves species. This refers to those species that grow only in mangrove environment. They are physiologically, morphologically, and reproductively adapted to waterlogged, saline, and anaerobic condition. You’d never find them extending into terrestrial plant community.
Mangrove - Avicennia marina grey mangrove
grey mangrove

There are 110 recognized mangrove species, but only about half of it are considered true or exclusive mangrove species. The rest belong to the second group.

  • The associated species. This refers to the plants that grow in terrestrial environment, and; pure halophytes, or those plants growing only in salty water.

Mangroves used to cover three-fourths of the world’s coastlines before they were exploited for timber for building construction, boat-making, and fuel wood for heating and cooking. Southeast Asia hosts the greatest diversity, while the Americas is home to only 12 species. These plants grow in varied sizes, from small bushes to the 60-meter giants, which are found in Ecuador.

Roles of mangroves to the ecosystem

Mangroves, or mangrove forests, are highly valuable ecosystem that provide a thousand and one benefits to humans, other living organisms, and the environment.

Coastal stabilization.  Its dense root systems

  • dissipate waves by absorbing wave energy and reducing water velocity
  • trap sediments carried by incoming currents and high tides
  • control water flow
  • serve as important catalyst in reclaiming land from the sea; thus, contributing to land building
  • stabilizes the substrate and the coastline
  • prevent uncontrolled shifting of the coastline sand

role of mangrovesMaintain coastal water quality.  By its abiotic and biotic retention ability, and cycling of nutrients, pollutants and particulate matter, mangroves effectively purify and preserve water quality in coastal areas. They also protect rivers and streams from pollution. Because of this, mangroves are now used for treatment of aquaculture and receiving areas of sewage effluents.

Coral reef protection and nutrients source. Since they filter out sediments, mangroves significantly protect coral reefs and seagrass beds from being smothered in such deposits, as well as keep shipping paths safe from siltation. Mangroves also sustain coral reefs and seagrass with necessary nutrients for its production and general health.

Habitat of aquatic animals and fisheries, and wildlife refuge.  A mangrove forest is home to a large variety of shrimps, fish, crab, mollusk species, and many wildlife species of birds, mammals, honey bees, reptiles, amphibians, commercial fish and crustaceans. Its roots and branches are perfect shelter for varied animals, including many migratory species.

Mangroves provides safe rookeries, or nesting places for coastal birds like the roseate spoonbills and pelicans, and; set a perfect nursery for many fish species, including the coral reef fish.

Help against climate change and slow down global warming. Its strong root systems act as bioshields, reducing the impact of severe conditions that approach the shores like storm surge, hurricanes, wind, landslide, and erosion. Thus, protecting people living near the shores and keeping properties and structures, like sea wall, boats, and buildings from damage. Mangroves also prevent entry of excess water into farm lands that can potentially destroy productivity or land use.

Mangroves can clear away and keep greenhouse gases from the earth’s atmosphere. They remarkably contribute in minimizing carbon dioxide in the air.

Food source and livelihood for coastal communities. These fisheries serve as an essential source of food and income among people living in coastal areas.

Tourism. The diversity of life in mangrove systems and its proximity to coral reefs and sandy beaches make these areas an instant tourism destination. And as they draw tourists, divers, snorkelers, as well as scientists and students, mangroves indirectly pave the way for other businesses to flourish in its surroundings.

Useful products. Mangrove wood makes a suitable material for construction, furniture and other household item-production; telephone poles; heating, and; cooking because it is resistant to rot and fungi, and borer attacks. While some sectors harvest mangrove forests for wood chip, pulp, and charcoal production, local residents near mangrove areas find certain mangrove species medicinal and good fodder source for their animals.  (More on this later)

Mangrove species

A mangrove forest is usually composed of a few different species occupying particular niches. But you cannot expect to find all species in any given mangrove.  Plants that are tolerant to tidal soakings thrive in the open sea, sheltered bays, and on fringe islands; while, those that are adapted to drier and saltier soil grow farther away from the shoreline. You can also find mangroves inland along riverbanks where freshwater current meet with sea tides.

Many of us, including me, are not familiar with the names or species of trees and plants that grow in mangroves.  And so, for the benefit of us all, let me share with you some of the species.

Avicennia marina. This specie is commonly called the grey mangrove or white mangrove. It belongs to the Acanthaceae plant family, which was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae or Avicenniaceae group, and thrives in intertidal zones of estuaries.

You will recognize this specie for its yellowish-green leaves, small and fragrant pale-yellow flowers, heart-shaped fruit, and pencil-sized peg type above-ground roots.

Mangrove - Avicennia marina
Avicennia marina

Bruguiera cylindrica.  Known by its common name, small-leafed orange mangrove and Bakau Putih in Malay language, the Bruguiera cylindrica specie grows in swamps in Southeast Asia. It belongs to the Rhizophoraceae plant family, and also known for its other names, Rhizophora cylindrica, Rhizophora caryophylloides, and Bruguiera caryophylloides.

This small, erect, evergreen specie has a lanceolate-shaped, long, shiny and dark green leaves with knee-like above-ground breathing roots. Its small flowers are white, and its scaly-bottomed bark is light to dark grey or pale pink in color.

Mangrove -Bruguiera cylindrica
Bruguiera cylindrica

Bruguiera gymnorrhiza. Belonging to the Rhizophoraceae plant family, this specie is known for the common names Oriental mangroves, Large-leafed mangroves, and Black mangroves.

Each tree is small to moderate in size with simple, leathery, dark green leaves. Its bark is thick, hard and rough that comes in pale grey or reddish-brown color. The black mangrove is a protected specie in South Africa.

Mangrove - Bruguiera gymnorrhiza
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza

Bruguiera sexangula. Commonly called as the Upriver Orange Mangrove, this shrub belongs to the Rhizophoraceae plant family.  It is also known by its synonyms, Rhizophora sexangula and Bruguiera eriopetala.

This single-stemmed, multi-branched mangrove is characterized by yellow-green leaves with shorter stalks compared to that of the Bruguiera gymnorrhiza.  Its flowers have pale yellow-green to pinkish-orange calyx with 10 to 14 lobes, and white or brown 10 to 12 bi-lobed petals.  Its bark comes in smooth, grey-brown shade.

Mangrove - Bruguiera sexangula
Bruguiera sexangula

Ceriops tagal. This is another specie belonging to Rhizophoraceae family and known by its synonyms, Ceriops candolliana, and Rhizophora tagal.  Its common name is Yellow mangrove.  But it is also called as the Indian mangrove; Indiese wortelboom in Afrikaans, and; Isinkaha in Zulu languages, respectively.  This is a protected specie in South Africa.

The specie is an evergreen tree with shiny and inverted egg-shaped dark green leaves. Its bark comes smooth and pale grey to reddish brown when it’s still young; and turns deeply fissured and flaky at the bottom as it grows older.  It is also characterized by a knobby above-ground roots.

Mangrove - Ceriops tagal
Ceriops tagal

Excoecaria agallocha. This belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family.  Because it is a prolific specie that can be found in mangrove swamps from northwest India to Australia, Excoecaria agallocha has earned varied common names including, blinding tree, blind-your-eye mangrove, river poison tree, milky mangrove, and Thillai, mostly referring to its blinding or poisonous nature.

This specie is recognizable for its shiny, leathery with pointed tips and sharp toothed-edged leaves. The leaves are pinkish that gradually turns to green and, eventually, to bright red when it’s about to fall off.  But what makes it distinct from the other species is that it exudes a milky sap when its branches or leaves break, or when the bark is damaged.  The sap can cause intense pain and blistering when it comes in contact with your skin.  Or worse, it can cause temporary blindness if the sap gets into your eyes.

Mangrove - Excoecaria agallocha
Excoecaria agallocha

Heritiera littoralis Aiton. Belonging to the Malvaceae family, the Heritiera littoralis Aiton is commonly known as the looking-glass mangroves.  This is a medium to large evergreen tree.  You will easily recognize this specie for the silvery scales on the underside of its leaves.  Its bark is greyish, scaly, and fissured; while its wood is remarkably tough that locals use it as a material in boat-building.

Heritiera littoralis Aiton
Heritiera littoralis Aiton

Lumnitzera racemosa Willd. This specie, which belongs to the Combretaceae family and named after the German botanist Stephan Lumnitzer, is commonly known as the Black mangrove.  Its presence is widespread and common in South Asia, Australasia, East Africa, and the Middle East, but its population has been declining over the years due to coastal development.

You usually find this black mangrove in upstream zones in the middle to high intertidal areas, and also along sandy beaches.

Lumnitzera racemosa Willd
Lumnitzera racemosa Willd

Pemphis acidula. Commonly known as the Iron wood, Pemphis acidula is a member of the Lythraceae plant family.  This specie is not very common, but its presence is far ranging from eastern Africa, Indian Ocean coastlines, to the Pacific regions.

The iron wood specie is a slow growing shrub with no prominent aerial roots. Its lower branches are persistent and rigid and the twigs are angular and hairy.

Pemphis acidula
Pemphis acidula

Rhizophora apiculata Bl.  This is a specie belonging to the Rhizophoraceae plant family. It is commonly found in Australia, Guam, India, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Micronesia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.  In the Philippines, this specie is called bakhaw lalaki.

Its leaves are narrowly elliptic, apiculate, and smaller compared with other Rhizophora species; while its bark is either grey or dark grey, and sometimes longitudinally fissured.

Rhizophora apiculata Bl
Rhizophora apiculata Bl

Rhizophora mucronata.  This member of the Rhizophoraceae family is commonly called loop-root mangrove, red mangrove, or Asiatic mangrove.  Found on the coastal areas and river banks in the Indo-Pacific region, this specie is locally called rooiwortelboom in Afrikaans; isikhangathi in Xhosa, and; umhlume in Zulu languages, respectively.

The Rhizophora mucronata is characterized by an evergreen, medium to tall trees with several multi-branched, hoop or pile-like stilt roots looping from branches and stems.  Its leaves are leathery, broadly elliptic to oblong-elliptic in shape with very dark black dots on the underside.  Its bark is smooth and sometimes scaly brown or reddish.

Rhizophora mucronata
Rhizophora mucronata

Sonneratia caseolaris. Commonly known as Crabapple Mangrove, or Mangrove Apple, the Sonneratia caseolaris is a member of the Lythraceae plant family.  You will easily recognized this specie, especially at night, because fireflies often congregate on it.

Its leaves are simple and shiny with a reddish-pink base; while its bark is grey and flaky with spongy outer surface.  The external appearance of its fruit is like that of the persimmon fruit.

Sonneratia caseolaris
Sonneratia caseolaris

Xylocarpus rumphii.  Belonging to the Meliaceae family, this specie bears the common name, Cedar mangrove.  It is characterized by a small, evergreen tree with no prominent above-ground breathing root.  It has compound leaves with ovate to cordate leaflets that are long and shiny.  Its bark is brown, rough, and fissured.

Mangrove - Xylocarpus rumphii
Xylocarpus rumphii


Environmentally friendly alternative materials to plastic

It’s high time that we should seriously consider using alternative materials to plastic to improve our quality of life and a healthier environment.

Anywhere you look, you see plastic – from feeding bottles to grocery goods container to food storage to credit cards.  It is indeed ubiquitous.  

Because plastics are lightweight, easy to carry, and cheap, many people prefer them over other materials especially for their daily use. But then, as consumers, we should be conscious about the fragile reality that lies behind the plastic products we utilize. While it may be a convenient option for its undeniable durability, plastic also poses threats to both humanity and the environment.

Although there are certain areas and circumstances where the use of plastic cannot be avoided, there are also countless alternative materials and ways by which to minimize them, if only to improve the quality of life and to have a greener and healthier environment.

Here are some alternative materials to plastic that you might want to consider.

Glass. This is a considerably useful option to use especially for many household purposes, like storage containers, dishes, mixing bowls, and cooking vessels. It can also be used for milk and feeding bottles.

Besides, glass can best protect its liquid content from chemical reactions. It is least likely to change the taste of food or the drink it holds. Easily recyclable without having to be re-manufactured, glass can be reused almost instantaneously than plastic or carton containers. Glass actually makes a more environmentally friendly packaging material.

Metal.  I think you’d agree with me that the long-lasting stainless metal makes a better option for different usage in the kitchen, like steel water bottles, pots, pans, mixing bowls, and storage for uncooked foods like coffee, rice, and pastas.

Ceramics.  This is another environmentally friendly household material for

  • tableware
  • mixing bowls
  • salad bowls
  • serving dishes
  • storage containers
  • cookware
  • …. and a lot more.

Ceramic cookware can either be made with clay base or with a metal body covered in enamel.  It also comes in different colors that can be matched with your kitchen décor.

Also, ceramics is commonly used in building construction. Ceramic tiles for finishing material brings minimal impact on the environment even as its production requires less water and reuses its waste water in the process.

Eco - bamboo steamer

Bamboo. This fast growing and highly environmentally friendly plant has numerous uses that can conveniently replace plastics, such as:

  • bamboo plates, which are practical replacement for polystyrene disposable plates
  • cutting boards
  • brushes
  • buckets
  • chopsticks
  • cooking utensils
  • tableware
  • food steamer
  • toothpicks
  • firewood
  • charcoal
  • baskets
  • fences
  • bicycle frames
  • bird cages
  • blinds
  • boats
  • bridges
  • canoes
  • fishing rods
  • carts
  • fans
  • umbrellas
  • furniture
  • handicrafts
  • garden tools
  • pipes
  • scaffold
  • roofing
  • toilets
  • walking sticks
  • paper
  • pens
  • toys
  • hats
  • clothing
  • diapers
  • incense
  • musical instruments

Other environmentally friendly alternative materials to plastics include wood, paper, cardboard (box), and fabric.

Watch out for the revolutionary Rolltop laptop

The revolutionary Rolltop laptop is set to make a new trend in portable computer. It’s not just a futuristic gadget. It’s ergonomic.

Rolltop laptop - carrying mode

Get ready to welcome the newest invention in portable computer. Developed by the Munich-based design firm, Rolltop, the revolutionary laptop carries the concept to serve the purpose of designers, architects, and everyone seeking an ergonomic instrument. Rolltop laptop incorporates latest high-tech devices with new design techniques to produce optimum quality and productivity of the user.

Particularly, the revolutionary laptop is said to feature Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) functionality. OLED refers to those ultra-thin panels coated with an organic compound that emit light based on the amount of electricity they receive. Since the panels are very small, they can be mounted on flexible surfaces. With the OLED technology, you can enjoy wider viewing angles and superior color reproduction.

Rolltop - laptop

In addition, the new device features a multi-touch display, so you can use it as a 13-inch laptop screen, or a full 17-inch monitor with a stand attached to it.

And unlike the typical laptop, Rolltop laptop does not require a bag, anymore. It’s like a ‘magic scroll’. You can roll up the screen into an 11-inch tube, as it folds around a base tower containing the loudspeaker, web camera, and the detachable power supply and cable. The cable itself serves as a shoulder strap. All other computer utilities, such as interactive pen, and the rest are all integrated into the laptop, making it very convenient to carry everywhere.

To give you an idea of how the Rolltop laptop works, watch the video.

At this point, production of the revolutionary laptop is on its finalization stage. It will be released anytime soon, the designer firm promised. So, watch out for it! And when it comes out in the market, be the first to try the ‘magic scroll’ device.

Coffin out of banana sheaves available

Have you heard of coffins made of banana sheaves? Well, this may raise a few eyebrows among skeptics.  But it’s true!  Some funeral homes have now turned to promoting eco-friendly coffins as alternative to the conventional wood material.  This is their share of helping reduce the impact of climate change – by minimizing the use of hard wood and non-biodegradable options.  Surprisingly, too, advocates of these eco-friendly coffins are steadily growing.

banana casket 2

The serious threat of climate change has led many of us to devise ways to help in whatever way we can to reduce its impact.  Because, we believe that if everybody did his part, no matter how little it may seem, we can have a snowball effect.

Alternative to conventional caskets

Perhaps, the idea of having a coffin made of banana sheaves would initially elicit varied reactions.

But actually, it’s not a remote idea, at all!  If we recall, in the 1950s and ’60s, woven baskets were used by funeral homes in transporting dead bodies from health institutions.

And so, I presume that aside from the climate change issue, the inventor of banana sheaves coffin might have taken an idea from such practice. Or, it could also be that, in the process of searching for cheaper solutions to burial costs, he has seen the potential of banana sheaves, which would have otherwise ended in landfills, or converted into animal feed.

Anyway, whatever the inventor’s goal for coming up with such an innovation might be, he has somehow hit two birds with one stone.

Aside from being way cheaper than its conventional counterpart, banana sheaves coffins are completely environmentally friendly.  It decomposes with the body it contains. I’m not saying that wooden coffins don’t decompose. It’s just that wood decomposes longer, and many forest trees are sacrificed for this purpose.

How are banana-sheave coffins made

Except for its base, which is usually made of eco-ply board, a banana coffin is derived from dried banana trunks, called sheaves, woven together into ropes before they are formed into a coffin.  Its production process neither uses glue, metal fastener, formaldehyde, chemicals, pesticides, or other preservatives.  Thus, making it very environmentally friendly.

Banana coffins are now referred to as “ecoffins”, coined from the words ecologically friendly and coffin.  This type of ecoffin decomposes in six to twenty four months after the burial.

What makes banana coffin more amazing is that it is sturdy enough to accommodate even up to 325 pounds.  And yet, it is lightweight when empty.

Currently, production of banana coffins is primarily done in Indonesia, where its basic materials are found in abundance.

Other ecoffin materials

Aside from banana sheaves, there are now other ecoffin materials available, such as

  • recycled papers
  • cardboard
  • plain wooden box

Now that people are becoming more active in the preservation of Mother Nature, it will not take long anymore to make these environmentally friendly caskets popular.

Personally, I would be glad to use banana sheaves for my own burial box.

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