Attempted Beer Debt

Considering how alcohol and diving don’t mix, I am amazed by the frequency and volume of beer consumption that I routinely witness. In addition to drinking beer together, scuba diving professionals also incur “debts” among each other, and these debts are paid off in beer.

For example, someone is supposed to do something around the dive shop but doesn’t, that person’s “discipline” is owing someone else a beer. The debt might belong to an IT person, or a manager, or just about anyone else, it seems.

Then, one day, I was accused of not doing something. I’m not even a dive professional, but that didn’t seem to matter.

I was tasked with forming a group, and I left one person out. The group consisted of individuals who had all not done something. The one person left out, who tried to assess me a debt of one beer, was intentionally left out because she had been the only one to do what they were all supposed to do.

So, I got out of my beer debt for three reasons:

1. I didn’t forget to include her, as she had accused me of doing.

2. I had actually been given a list from someone else of people to include… blame him!

3. I don’t buy beer.

I told her, had I been guilty, that I would buy something strong enough to allow her to see through time and space, but I would never buy beer. Wild Turkey barrel stock, OK. Bacardi 151, OK. But, I’m going to get power for my pesos….

Fish Wall

This is one of my favorite underwater photos. Admittedly, however, I have many favorite underwater photos.

We were drifting along a wall in the Hilutungan Channel (between Mactan and Olango islands, Cebu Province, Central Visayas, Philippines) when a school of fish started to pass in between me and the wall. I took many photos of these fish, but this one stood out from the rest.

It wasn’t until I looked at the photo on land that I noticed the indentation in the wall, and that the fish were swimming in a manner such to fill in the groove. If you look quickly, as I did the first time, it looks as if the fish are actually part of the wall!

Seeing Red at 40 Meters (130 Feet)

One of my favorite dives was the last dive of my Deep Diving course. There wasn’t a wall at the dive site, so we swam out from the beach and headed straight out until we reached a depth of 40 meters.

Then I saw the color red.

As you can see above, this is what the color red looks like at 40 meters with a flashlight.

However, I did not have a flashlight with me.

Therefore, as you can see in the unlit image above, there is no way I saw the color red at a depth of 40 meters. That wavelength of light is absorbed by the water. Notwithstanding the impossibility of my observation, I nonetheless saw the color red at 40 meters.

I didn’t bring a camera on that dive, because I knew the available cameras would shut off at that depth. I also thought to show my instructor, but she was narced up and drifting away from me. I had no way to get her attention without sprinting over to her, which would’ve consumed alot of gas at that depth.

When we surfaced later, the first thing I told my instructor was that I had been so narced up I saw the color red at 40 meters. We both really enjoyed that dive actually. I then took the written test and completed my Deep Diving specialty.

Fake Plastic Straw Ban

I briefly got excited when I saw this sign at a local McDonalds. Sadly, I quickly realized it is meaningless.

  1. They proposed reducing the use of plastic straws for only one day
  2. The targeted audience was only dine-in customers; take-out customers presumably still got plastic straws
  3. There are straw dispensers on the counter; dine-in customers don’t ask for straws, anyway, they simply take them

Therefore, this one-day event probably resulted in absolutely no reduction in straw usage. This sign continues to sit on the counter near the straw dispensers, from which anyone can still take as many plastic straws as they wish.

You can do better than this, McDonalds.

Turn Plastics Into Pesos!

Filipinos can trade plastics for pesos at the Plastic Bank in Barangay Balatas, Naga City! That’s right: they will pay you to bring them plastic. Their mission is to clean up the streets and waterways while alleviating poverty.

I’ll be honest: I was hoping to have a precise location and more information by now. Sadly, I can’t seem to find anyone willing to investigate this opportunity. Even Filipinos with zero income have expressed zero interest, even if they live relatively near Naga City.

So, I’ve decided to do this backwards. I will try to raise awareness of this opportunity first, and hopefully someone will eventually seize it. Once someone earns real pesos off of turning in plastics, then the news will hopefully spread far and wide. After all, sadly, there is more than enough plastics (future pesos) lying around and floating around everywhere.

Get Swaggr

I got excited the other day when I saw a tweet about Swaggr (@GetSwaggr on Twitter). Swaggr are athletic socks that “are made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles.”

But, Jacqueline Macleod (@TalamhLifestyle) had a great question: won’t microfibers from these socks end up washing out of our laundry and into our oceans? Yes, but @GetSwaggr has an answer for that!

Through their research, @GetSwaggr has come across GuppyFriend, which they say is one option that can be used to help prevent microfibers from entering the water system.

GuppyFriend washing bags (@patagonia on Twitter) help collect the microfibers that are released in wash cycles. This pertains to all your laundry, not just your Swaggr socks.

So, the only remaining question at this time is, “what do we do with the microfibers collected in our wash cycles?”

I have made two suggestions to @GetSwaggr:

1. Include microfiber collection bags with the socks; at least make it an option, anyway.

2. Allow customers to return the microfibers to them so that they can be re-recycled into more socks, something else, or anything else.

The company has been very responsive to these suggestions.

With the disclaimer that I do not yet own either the socks or the bags, I am going to publish the following “sock math” equation:

Swaggr + GuppyFriend + (pending microfiber disposition solution) = an environmentally-friendly sock solution.

No, this doesn’t solve all our plastic problems. However, it would reduce the number of post-consumed single-use plastic bottles out there while also preventing microfibers from the recycling solution from becoming an even worse problem.

Got better ideas? As stated above, the company seems very responsive.

FYI: Swaggr launches on Indiegogo on Wednesday, October 17th.

DISCLAIMER: There are no paid-or-otherwise-compensated endorsements in this blog article. I hate plastic pollution.

The Philippines’ 1st Ecostore

Scuba diving has turned me into such an ecowarrior, I have opened what is probably the first environmentally-friendly sari-sari store in the Philippines. It’s not perfect, sadly, because perfect products are not available. But, we sell only the most ecofriendly products that we can find. For example, we sell bars of soap in cardboard boxes, instead of the sachets that litter the countryside and ocean floor.

Laundry detergent and fabric softener are almost universally sold in sachets, as well. As much as I hate the amount of garbage produced, at least I found sachets that are labeled “recyclable.” Competitive products are not labeled as such, so we do not stock them.

Paper stem cotton swabs are hard to find in the Philippines, but you can find them at Robinsons supermarkets. Tragically, they are packaged in single-use plastic. However, I would rather convert my neighbors to using paper stem cotton swabs in single-use plastic than allow them to continue to use plastic stem cotton swabs in single-use plastic.

Like paper stem cotton swabs, it’s hard to find biodegradable wet tissues in the Philippines. And even though the wet tissues are biodegradable, the packaging is not. These are occasionally bundled on sale in single-use plastic, but I buy them individually and pay full price to avoid the unnecessary extra plastic.

We also offer refills at low rates. We ask customers to bring reusable containers, and we keep our prices lower than buying sachets or small bottles elsewhere. Plus, the bottles we purchase are recyclable.

Sadly, I don’t believe the Philippines actually recycles anything. However, I am confident that these recyclable products will eventually find their way into the North Pacific Garbage Patch, where Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup will retrieve them for recycling.

The best part of this experiment is that it is slowly working. Our location and prices make it a better choice to buy these products than to walk some distance to pay a little bit more for previously-preferred, environmentally-damaging alternatives.

It is important to note that most of our customers rent rooms from us or family members, which allows us to offer competitive pricing. Whatever the cost is to us, we only round up to the nearest whole peso. We are not operating for profit, but exclusively to change Filipino purchasing behaviors to the extent we can.

Beware Unscrupulous Dive Centers

It has been peak season teaching English, so I have, sadly, been too busy to dive for too long. However, I have had quite a few students try scuba diving and even get certified during their respective stays in the Philippines. This has allowed me to at least talk about scuba diving during my extended surface interval.

While it is understandable that students would seek out the least expensive dive centers, I have discovered that there are some outright dangerous dive centers around. I actively warn my students about these dive centers, but seemingly to no avail. Fortunately, no one has drowned yet. Unfortunately, I think this is merely because luck has been on their side.

Of most concern, is learning to share air with a fellow first-timer. I learned to share air with a professional instructor, who was ready for every eventuality. Consequently, I had a safe experience. Many of my students, however, told me stories of swallowing considerable water because they and their inexperienced partners made mistakes.

Perhaps you could argue that it is good to train with others, because you never know who you might have to share air with in the real world. I agree. However, I would counter-argue that you should practice first with a professional, become comfortable with the exercise first, and then practice with others. The fact that they swallowed considerable water and I swallowed none indicates to me that my training was considerably safer than theirs.

I think the number one sign that you should avoid a dive center is when you see photos of guests molesting marine life. Whether this means removing sea stars from the ocean or agitating pufferfish or whatever, violating the “don’t touch anything” rule is a good sign that they only want your money. And if money is priority one, safety necessarily isn’t.

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