Archive for June 2011 | Monthly archive page

San Luis Obispo has a sense of humor.  Where else can you spend the night in a caveman-themed hotel room or eat a five pound hamburger solely for sport and the respect of your peers?  In addition a visit to the Madonna Inn and a meal at Sylvester’s Burgers, residents of San Luis Obispo enjoy a fledgling circus scene.  From clowns to aerial dancers, the county is home to a surprising number of performance artists.

Suspended Motion: Ever dreamed of flying?  Now you can spin, flip and glide through the air with classes from Suspended Motion, a collective of Central Coast aerial dancers. These  performers offer instruction in aerial silks, hoop, trapeze, net, rope and hammock. Exhilarating and challenging, aerial performance is a creative way to build strength and flexibility through the arts.

Bike Happening: Each first Thursday of the month, after Farmers Market, bicycles, tall cycles and unicycles swarm downtown.  Decked out in costumes in accordance to each month’s theme, riders make a loop beginning at the Mission and extending through Higuera and Marsh streets. For themes, routes, and rules of the ride, visit the Bike Happening Facebook page.

Juggling and Circus Skills Club: Every Friday afternoon, join jugglers, acrobats, unicyclists, hoopers and spinners meet for skill training  and hang-out sessions on the Cal Poly campus near the Architecture building. Practice begins  at 5:30.  Come trade tricks and have a great time learning something new!

Circus Vargas: This month, the circus is coming to town!  Circus Vargas will be pitching a tent at the Madonna Inn from June 30- July 4.  Marvel at the flying trapeze, laugh at clowns, and thrill over the death-defying feats of acrobats, contortionists and motorcyclists.  Tickets are on sale now.

If all of those diversions weren’t exciting enough, keep an eye out in the coming months for Circus Open-Mic nights, tall-bike riding pandas and subversive whoopee cushions — you never know where they’ll strike next!



Meet Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and Executive Chair of the Ford Motor Co.  As the head of a large auto company, one might not think he would have many environmental proclivities.  However, from a childhood filled with fishing trips through the lake country of Michigan to an early fascination with H.D. Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, Ford has held nature as a powerful and formative influence on his life.

Hoping to leave a legacy that extends beyond gridlock and pollution, he hopes to institute smarter urban traffic systems, cleaner cars, and more efficient, smarter vehicle communication technologies.  Once thought to have ideas too radical for the company’s old school corporate culture, Ford was told at one point in his career to stop associating with environmentalists.  Now, his views concerning lowering emissions and untangling global congestion problems are attracting attention.  To hear what Bill Ford plans for the future of his company and the worldwide auto industry, watch his TED talk, “A future beyond traffic gridlock“.

What are your thoughts?  Can a car company lead the way for a more sustainable future, or do profit margins obstruct any positive progress?  Should we invest in restructuring our cities to accommodate new vehicles, or work towards a higher quality public transport system?  As a developed nation, do we have a responsibility to adopt cleaner technologies as a way to set an example for rapidly growing, undeveloped countries?

Bambu Batu is proud to announce our newest bamboo t-shirt designs printed with sustainable, environmentally friendly inks, brought to you by local printer, Rebellious Nature.  This San Luis Obispo company offers affordable rates for simple designs and small-batch orders for hoodies, shirts, long sleeve tees, kids clothing and tote bags.  Each item is hand-printed on a manual press, ensuring a high level of quality and attention to detail.  Rebellious Nature uses PVC and phthalate-free inks, recycles their textiles, and uses only US made organic materials for their private line of apparel.  For a peek at some of their handy-work, check out  AnarchTee Political and Social Activist T-shirts and Bambu Batu’s Be happy and San Leisure Obispo tees.

Why are pthlalate-free inks a better choice for your health and the environment?  Pthlalates are petroleum-derived chemicals used to soften PVC based compounds.  They were first introduced in the 1030’s and became more widespread beginning in the 1950’s.  They are found in a number of products including toys, adhesives, flooring, detergents, cosmetics and other personal care products.  Combined with pigment and PVC resin, they compose most of the plastisol inks utilized for conventional textile printing.

Studies have linked a class of these chemicals called ortho-pthlalates to disruptions in the endocrine system, reproductive problems, learning disabilities and cancer.  Several of these compounds have been banned from use in products marketed to children, while others have been severely restricted.  Due to the possibility of these chemicals leeching into their environments and causing harm to both producers and consumers, many have started to use more environmentally friendly, vegetable based inks.

Enjoy peace of mind and comfort of body by wearing sustainable, natural fabrics with safe, earth-friendly inks!

Ahhh, summertime on the Central Coast. The season of Frisbees, flip-flops and beach volleyball. Wait a second… isn’t that all year round here? Yes, we are spoiled. We are never more than a half-hour’s drive away from some of the most breathtaking coastline that California has to offer. And as seasoned beach bums, we’d like to share a few tips to help you keep your shores clean, your bodies healthy, and all your seaside experiences fun and invigorating.

Wear sunscreen: Sunburns are bad enough without the added worry of possible skin cancer.  To avoid the pain and anxiety altogether, active Californians make sure to slather on ample amounts of sunscreen.  We recommend organic brands such as Elemental Herbs which we carry here at Bambu Batu in SPF 20 and 22.

These natural sunscreen formulas are a healthier alternative than those that contain chemicals such as octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone 3 and octocrylene, which can soak into the deeper layers of your skin.  These chemicals can leave top sections of skin vulnerable and also react with UV light to create damaging compounds called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).  ROS can cause cell damage, premature aging, environmental pollution, and hormone disruption.

Leave no trace:  No one likes stepping on a cigarette butt or discarded plastic Dorito bag when frolicking in the sand and surf.  When picnicking, we make sure to take what we brought to the sand back out with us.  This includes everything from bottles and cans to orange peels and liquids.  To help keep stuff organized, a reusable tote bag or backpack helps to consolidate and pack out our food, toys and trash.  To cut down on unnecessary waste, Bambu Batu offers stylish reusable bamboo bottles and to-go wear utensils for sustainable beach cookouts.

Play around: For some good exercise and fun outdoors, bring a football, kite or volleyball along with a couple of friends or four-legged buddy.  We particularly enjoy a toss of the Frisbee® with the Brothers Be’s genuine Wham-O Ultimate Frisbee, made from recycled polyethylene plastic!  You can catch one of these beauties here at Bambu Batu all summer long

Surfing, wakeboarding, building sandcastles, poking around tide pools and kayaking are all Central Coast favorite activities.  Local businesses such as Central Coast Kayaks and SLO Coast Kayaks offer tours and rentals throughout the season.  Van Curaza Surf School teaches lessons to grommets from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay.

Check out flora and fauna: Tidepooling is a wonderful way to get up close and personal with ocean life!  Check out cool new phone apps such as the Audobon Mobile Field Guides to identify birds and other critters hanging out by the water.  Be careful to keep your distance with marine mammals, like the California elephant seal and sea lion, as they are protected under the law and can become dangerous. If you see an animal in trouble, call the Marine Mammal Center for rescue assistance.

Where do you go for a little surf and sun?  What is your favorite beach activity?

The Bamboo Bottle Company has got eco-friendly style figured out.  Their attractive bamboo, glass and plastic reusable drink container is durable and perfect for both hot and cold liquids.  Functional as well as fashionable, the materials used in the bottle’s construction are sustainable, easy to clean, and non-toxic.  The company has put an enormous amount of thought into creating a great-looking and environmentally conscious product, and Bambu Batu is proud to have these beauties gracing our shelves!

Some cool features:

The bamboo: The exterior is made from Mao Tzu, or Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens), a fast-growing species that can reach 90ft in 9 months.  The plants are hand-harvested to allow the flowering strands to keep growing and to minimize the impact on the soil from heavy machinery.  After cutting and boiling out the sugars using equipment powered by bamboo sawdust, the sticks are dried, shaped, and pressed together to form the outside of the bottle!

As a material, bamboo is renewable, produces 35% more oxygen than most trees, and can trap 12 tons of CO2 per hectare.  Topsoil is not depleted by harvesting, and removal has little impact on wildlife.  Possessing a higher tensile strength than many steel alloys, bamboo is enormously strong.  What a great choice for durability and insulation!

The glass and plastic: The little plastic included in the construction of the bottle is BPA-free, made from food-grade materials, and dishwasher safe.  The company plans to keep improving its design so that plastic can be eliminated or replaced altogether.  The glass interior allows for a clean, fresh taste that does not leech or contaminate liquids.  Best of all, the glass cylinder can be removed and washed with ease and can be reused time after time.   Each of the components is recyclable, and ultimately they cut down on plastic and Styrofoam waste by eliminating your need for disposable beverage containers.

Conscious business practices: The Bamboo Bottle Company has partnered with several sustainable organizations that donate to charities, offset their CO2 emissions, fund biomethane projects and family farms, and use a green credit card processing company that contributes to Their blog regularly advocates for social justice, responsible commerce, and environmental causes.

Swing by Bambu Batu and pick up your Bamboo Bottle today. Drinking never felt so good!

We owe a lot to our fathers.  In addition to half of our genetic material, we can credit our dads with the clothes on our backs, the advice in our brains, and the love in our hearts.  They have taught us how to ride our bikes, repair our cars, and turn off the lights after leaving the room.  This Father’s Day, Bambu Batu offers a few ways to show your pop a little appreciation!


Cutting boards: For the Master of the Kitchen, Surf King or Rockstar, check out our durable bamboo cutting boards in the shapes of wine bottles, surf boards and ukeleles.

Bamboo boxers:  Mr. Practical doesn’t want too much of a fuss.  You know, “Just get me something I can use”.  How about a pair of super-soft, comfortable bamboo boxers?  Everyone could use a pair of underpants, and even the most utilitarian of dads will admit that a little luxury now and again can be as much of a necessity as food and shelter.

Lounge Pants:  What dad doesn’t enjoy a good lounge now and again? With a fabulously soft, buttery feel, these pants are great for hanging out, practicing yoga or just sleeping in dreamy bliss!

T-Shirts: Whether he wants a cool, short-sleeve basic top for summer, a stylish icon top from Arbor, or something to rep his SLO pride, Bambu Batu has got your dad covered.  Show him you care with simple and sustainable fashion!

Give your father the gift of bamboo, a symbol of strength, flexibility, resilience and sustainability.  He helped to make you, now help make him happy!

When pondering the future of farms and their ability to feed a growing world population, many large businesses and governments support practices developed during the so-called Green Revolution.  These methods favor the large-scale, mechanized, fossil-fuel and pesticide dependent approaches to cultivation that we are familiar with today.

Since the post-WWII era, it was generally assumed that the best way to maximize food production was to rely on large monocultures that required pesticides, fertilizers, and machines to plant, harvest and process the crops.  While some yields have increased, the benefits of greater tonnage came at the expense of diversity, both in the natural environment and in regards to heirloom, traditionally planted species.

The article, “How Agriculture Can Provide Food Security Without Destroying Biodiversity” featured in The Bioscience Research Project’s website, cites several new studies debunking the previous Green Revolution mindset that productivity through monoculture is superior to biodiverse ecology in feeding the masses.

Brazilian and Cuban examples are held as evidence of communities that retain the variety of the ecosystem through low-input farming while still being able to feed expanding populations and protect the environment.  The piece mentions investigations featured in the journal Agriculture and Human Values that assert it is indeed possible to support substantive numbers of human beings on smaller, organic and sustainable farms that reject large, industrial methods of cultivation.

Why is this good news?  It means that we can have our multi-layered cake and eat it too.  Productivity in the farming world does not necessarily have to exclude a thriving biosphere, and may in fact support diversity.  Farming need not only be thought of in terms of productivity.  Growing crops also creates jobs, supports cultural diversity and traditions, helps with carbon sequestration, and contributes a vital part of watershed ecology.

In the scheme of things, the technology used to transform our farms into large-scale industries is a relatively new development in human history.  It could be argued that big-business agriculture is not as fruitful as we believe because its outputs are skewed by subsidies.  Realizing that we do not need to depend on polluting, unsustainable practices to feed our ever-increasing human family could ensure the health of our global life support systems for years to come.

Bon appetit!



Before the Internet, if you wanted to attend a lecture given by a world-renown scientist, business mogul, or performer, you had to be enrolled in a University or in possession of a costly pair of tickets for admission.  Now, thanks to TED talks, all you need is a computer and about twenty minutes.  The private non-profit, TED (Technology, Education and Design) challenges a wide range of speakers (ranging from Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to Bill Gates and J.J. Abrams) to present their work or thesis in 18 minutes or less.  This brief format creates engaging, creative presentations that cut to the core of what the lecturer has to say and introduces millions of viewers to ideas that they may have never otherwise been exposed to.

Launched in 2007 by the Sapling Foundation, TED now offers over 900 talks that are available for free online, taking advantage of a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.  The organization believes that ideas shape and transform our world, and that this information should be accessible to all of those who seek to enlighten themselves.  Under the slogan of “ideas worth spreading”, TED supports a number of different programs including annual simulcast conferences in Palm Springs, a yearly gathering in the UK, discussion forums, open translation projects that subtitle materials for non-English speakers, fellowships, a blog, smaller scale community-based lectures, and themed symposiums around the globe.

Now, for a note of sobriety; TED has some major big business backers.  How do they influence the selection of guests, if at all? Some companies have used the organization as a platform to express their interests, such as a talk that posited the idea that big brands could possibly save biodiversity by becoming sustainable (See Jason Clay, president of the World Wildlife Federation).  Some participants of the discussion boards have noted representatives of larger corporations jotting down one or two of their own ideas in favor of their agendas.  Can this be considered just the normal occurrence of an open forum or unfair advantage?  For those of you familiar with TED, have you ever come across material that you would consider in favor or a major sponsor?

In the opinion of this self-proclaimed Student For Life, TED is as close as it gets to a good college lecture.  While the talks may not be as long as I would like on some subjects (what? you mean we can’t spend three hours discussing fungi?) the material is nearly always fascinating and the speakers engrossing.  Discussions on the boards are generally informed and intelligent, and although they may not replace the human interaction that a university setting would provide, they are a wonderful way to do what TED has set out to achieve: share ideas and form connections with minds across national and cultural boundaries.

Do you have any favorite TED talks?  Who would you like to see speak?  If given the chance, what would  you talk about?

Whether you are a fan of organic farming, urban redevelopment, social justice, or just plain good writing, you will thoroughly enjoy Novella Carpenter’s Farm City. Detailing her move to the ghetto of Oakland and her adventures as an urban farmer, Novella writes with humor, candor, and lyricism that would impress any critic regardless of topic.

Her chronicles of late night dumpster dives to feed her pigs, rabbits and chickens, reflections over her complex and mixed emotions over killing and preparing animals she has raised and defended, and the character sketches of the people inhabiting her neighborhood are all extremely engaging.  Carpenter’s work inspires conscious and deep reflection on how food is produced and appreciation for the effort and emotion required to put together a meal.

Before beginning Novella’s account of city crop cultivation, I wondered to myself about what kind of personality would be willing to move from idyllic Portland, Oregon to the concrete jungle.  My preconceptions ranged from the Flighty Hippy and the Idealistic Environmentalist to the Anarchist Off-the-Grid Warrier and Starving Activist.  Surprisingly, I found Carpenter as someone I would be delighted to have a close friend.  Her passion for food and its connection to community and social justice is evident through her generosity.  She shares her harvests with neighbors, inner-city literacy programs, friends, and anyone off the street interested in her garden.

Her sense of humor and clear-eyed observations of her neighborhood cut through any bucolic delusions of saving the world through a backyard vegetable plot.  She acknowledges the hardships and squalor or Oakland’s gang and drug scene, poverty, and urban decay.  Bleak profiles of city life are contrasted with impressions of nature trying to eke out an existence along with the inhabitants of the ghetto, stories of charity and potlucks, and self-effacing evaluations of her own personality.  Carpenter is candid with her joys as well as her anger, frustrations and disappointments (see the story of her possum “murder” or vitriolic description of the woman who butchered her pigs).  A lady who can raise her own food, learn to cure her own meat, dumpster-dive for scraps with a headlamp and brave the inner-city with grace and humor is someone I can respect.

Farm City is a fairly quick read, and a great choice for a summer book.  Who knows, you may be inspired to catch your own swarm of bees, plant a rare breed of watermelon, or order poultry through the mail!  I’m contemplating some raised veggie beds and a compost heap as we speak…

Let us know if you have any further book review suggestions!

Living on the coast of California, residents of San Luis Obispo County are lucky to have access to fresh, delicious seafood.  Being conscientious of our own personal health as well as that of our oceans, we offer the following tips on how to reel in the healthiest dish without driving any sensitive marine habitats the way of Atlantis.

Be on the lookout for fish, crustaceans and mollusks that are sustainably harvested and products of robust ecosystems. And try to keep an even keel: avoid bottom-feeders (like catfish) that can act like catch-alls for mercury and other heavy metals, and, for the same reason, be wary of top-feeders (like swordfish) that eat just about everything.

When shopping or ordering from restaurants, here are a couple of tips and resources to help you make wise choices for both your body and the environment:

1.  Buy smart. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has just launched a new Seafood Watch App for Andriod and iPhones to aid consumers in making wise purchases.  Now, in addition to its small, laminated card advising which fish to avoid and which are safe to eat in a sustainable manner, the Watch’s application allows you to share restaurant locations, markets, and businesses in an effort to start building a network of mindful eaters.

Fish are rated with “Avoid”, “Best Choice” and “Good Alternative” rankings to guide decisions.  Designations are based on the level of harm done by fishing gear used during harvest, the impact on the species’ population, the amount of bycatch produced, and how well the fishery or farm is managed.  The site also offers recipes featuring their “Best Choice” fishes, such as the delicious pan-seared tilapia with kale and lemon vinegarette and Pacific cod tacos.

Want even more detailed profiles of your favorite fruits of the sea?  Check out NOAA’s Fish Watch for the skinny on the most common species found on your plate.

2.  Make sure your food is fresh. Once you know what to purchase, make sure that where you buy your catch is clean and properly maintained.  NOAA lists a number of standards your seafood section should meet, such as verifying that the fresh fish display is properly iced, that the fish is arranged belly down so that melting ice drains away, and that there is no strong fishy, ammonia or sour-like smell.  As for the animal itself, the eyes should be clear (with the exception of cloudy-eyed fish like walleye pike) and bulging slightly.  Fillets are to be firm to the touch while a whole fish should have bright skin and red gills.  Do not buy meat that is dull around the edges, turning brown, green, or yellow, or mushy.  Avoid shellfish with cracked or broken shells, and when buying live molluscs, tap them to ensure that they close when provoked (or else you are just harassing a dead and possibly rotting animal).

If you opt for frozen, check to make sure that packages are in tact and positioned above the freezer’s frost line.  If you can see into the plastic, take a look for ice crystals.  Frost on the food may indicate that it has been thawed and refrozen, a possible sign that there could have been enough time for spoilage to occur.

3.  Read labels carefully.  While this may seem like common sense, it is vitally important to take heed of warnings and processing notes.  This is especially true in the case of shellfish, where the FDA requires harvesters to certify that these bottom dwellers were handled in accordance to safety controls.  Checking the area in which the animal was caught may also indicate the health of its habitat, whether or not it was farmed in a sustainable fashion, or how it was harvested.

4.  Be aware of allergies and special needs.  Needless to say, if you are allergic to shellfish, make a point of asking after the ingredients of the Daily Special or a friend’s potluck dish.  If you are a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding, there are a number of warnings that you should consider before ingesting any product of the ocean.  The presence of heavy metals that accumulate up the food chain creates the possibility of neurological,  nervous, and developmental problems in babies.  Pregnant women would do best to steer clear of sword fish, shark, mackerel, and tilefish due to high levels of mercury.  Some smoked fish exposes moms-to-be and those with immune deficiencies at risk of listersosis, a food-borne illness.  For a list of safe fish for mothers, browse the FDA’s Food Safety Guide for Moms-To-Be to find out what is safe to eat.

5.  Be an informed fisherman.  All recreational anglers out there want to be careful of where and when they drop their lines.  In addition to obtaining the proper licenses and permits, the concerned fisherman can ascertain catch-limits, look into fishery closures, and keep up to date on important bulletins by visiting NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program.  Keep an eye on local conditions by monitoring beach health, sewage spills, red tide and algae blooms.

What are some of your summertime favorite seafood recipes?  Anything on your “fish-list” that makes your mouth water?