Archive for September 2011 | Monthly archive page

Even without a thorough knowledge of white sage’s (Saliva apiana) mystical characteristics, simple observation of the plant will impress upon the onlooker a profound sense of respect and reverence.  Its long, grey-green leaves are covered with hundreds of soft, silvery hairs and emit a powerful, earthy smell.  In the right light, white sage almost shimmers, and when in bloom, white or pale purple flowers erupt from stalks that can reach several feet in height.  White sage tends to grow in full sun, in dusty or rocky soil, and is extremely drought resistant.

White sage (we’wey) has been used by the Chumash for thousands of years in order to primarily heal the spirit, which they believe in turn aids in the body’s ability to recover.  When smudged, the smoke is used to purify the patient’s central nervous system and calm the psyche.  Smudging is typically used with prayer and formal ritual, but a constant dose of sage and its benevolent properties can be ensured every day by maintaining gardens where the plant holds a prominent position.  During blessings, the smoke from white sage is said to bring prayers to God and invite divine benevolence into the healing process.

Leaves can be collected in conjunction with prayer to create a tea or placed directly in the mouth to soothe sore throats.  Sage contains cineole, which is an anti-inflammatory, as well as active diterpenoids, which are compounds that have been shown to combat bacterial infections, and reduce allergy symptoms.  White sage can also be added to a sweat bath, used to treat fevers, made into a poultice, and ingested to aid in the treatment of ulcers.

Bambu Batu is now fortunate to have bundles of sage available in the store.  Wild-crafted from the hills behind Big Sur, the leaves are ready for smudging or to be made into infusions.  Continue a tradition of healing and blessings with this remarkable plant!

Hot off the presses (for a hot topic here in Central California) are Bambu Batu’s “Fight the Power” t-shirts depicting our own Diablo Canyon Power Plant on organic bamboo/cotton.  These shirts are printed locally with non-toxic inks by concerned citizens who are uncomfortable with the proximity of large nuclear generators close to their communities.  Located in Avila Beach, the two Westinghouse 4-loop pressurized-water nuclear reactors are operated by Pacific Gas and Electric. Both units were brought online in the mid-eighties and licensed to run through the year 2025. Diablo supplies electricity to about 2.2 million consumers across the state.

There are many reasons to be a bit nervous about having a nuclear reactor in your backyard.  For starters, Diablo Canyon is built on top of a well-known fault line, and is vulnerable to seismic activity and tsunamis.  Ground acceleration, or tectonic shaking, could possibly cause submerged fuel rods to spill and ignite upon coming in contact with the air. The plant uses seawater to cool its rectors and has to constantly deal with maintaining its system free of kelp and marine animals.  In the past, massive jellyfish blooms and other irregular marine occurrences have gummed up the works of the reactors and have compromised the safety and efficiency of plant, even taking it offline for several days.

Blueprints for Diablo Canyon that were supposed to provide structural reinforcement in the event of earthquakes were found to have major errors.  In 1981, PG&E discovered that only one set of plans was used in the construction of both reactors, meaning that where workers were supposed to have switched the design off in the second reactor, they failed to do so.  This  resulted a “backwards” configuration, and needless reinforcement of certain areas where others were left unfortified.  Currently, PG&E has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Committee not to renew its license in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster until it can complete more seismic studies. This decision was partially due to repeated appeals from SLO Rep. Blakeslee asking that the renewal applications be withdrawn earlier this year.

While the probability of a catastrophe is difficult to determine, it only takes one perfect storm to cause long-term, terrible damage.  Anyone within a 10 mile radius of a meltdown would be subject to direct radiation exposure through airborne fallout, and those within a 50 mile radius would be at risk of contamination from ingesting radioactive food and water.  The half-life of isotopes affect the environment for generations afterward, leaving a legacy of pollution and risk of serious illness.  Community grassroots efforts, such as those undertaken by the Abalone Alliance, have for years been trying to halt the construction of new plants in the state as well as closing existing ones.  Those of us who wish to see a nuclear-free future for our society are supporting these endeavors by promoting cleaner forms of energy, writing our representatives, joining community forums, and wearing our hearts and thoughts on our sleeves.

Most of us are familiar with the term “carbon footprint“, or the overall impact human industrial activities have on global climate change with respect to the release of carbon into the atmosphere.  Launched in September 2010 as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative,  The Plastic Disclosure Project introduces the idea of a “plastic footprint” which attempts to formally calculate the effects of plastic use and consumption on the ecosystem.

Considering that nearly 90% of plastics worldwide are not recycled, many of these synthetics find their ways into the environment by way of landfills, improper disposal, leeching and degradation.  The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that 7,000,000 tons of garbage reaches the sea every year, the vast majority of which originates from land.  Large aggregations of man-made debris or “garbage patches” accumulate in and around major oceanic currents, some encompassing areas nearly twice the size of Texas.

Beginning this year, annual reports will be compiled from data contributed by participating industries and companies who volunteer to disclose their plastic use.  These documents will then be made available to governments, public and educational agencies in order to spread awareness of plastic utilization and assess its economic and environmental repercussions.  Almost any company can sign on as a participant of the PDP, although most of the investigation’s focus will be centered on the private goods sector.

It is the PDP’s hope that once listed companies agree to join the study, that enough information can eventually be collected to generate a picture of how plastics are being employed and what alternative technologies are available.  By generating a plastic footprint using baseline metrics, the PDP strives to encourage industries to reduce production waste, choose alternative materials, improve design, incorporate more recycled content into their products, recycle, and decrease the gross amount of plastics entering the environment.

At Bambu Batu we offer reusable bamboo utensils, plastic-free water bottles, organic cotton produce bags, and bamboo canvas tote bags, and we encourage our customers to carry their own reusable shopping bags. How do you on an individual level try to decrease your use of plastics?

Sorry Oscar, but I HATE trash.  Case in point; marine garbage patches.  What exactly are these giant, floating messes?  Technically, these suspended litter heaps are concentrations of debris (usually consisting of small pieces of plastic) concentrated within a common area.  Contrary to popular belief, there are no permanent “islands” being created in the middle of the ocean that can be detected via satellite.  These collections of rubbish are, however, extremely harmful to marine ecosystems and enormously difficult to contain, clean and manage.

There are several massive known aggregations throughout the world, identified as the Eastern Pacific (between Hawaii and California), Western Pacific (off the Coast of Japan) and North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone (north of Hawaii) garbage patches.  There are also Atlantic equivalents to the Pacific concentrations (as debris will collect around major gyres, or large circulatory currents), although research is comparatively thin compared to those in the Pacific.  While these are not the only places flotsam accumulates from human activities on the mainland, they are by far some of the biggest and the subject of great concern. Since their size and shape changes daily or seasonally, estimates of location and span are at time difficult to pin down in exact terms.

The vast majority of the masses are made up of plastics.  From single-use bags to water bottles, plastics are responsible for chemical pollution through degradation, choking marine life who mistake objects for food (see the Guardian’s photo essay on Albatross death), and endangering entire ecosystems by disintegrating into tiny pieces which are taken up through the bottom of the food chain.

These  particles are then accumulated upwards into the tissues of larger organisms, eventually reaching top predators and human beings who consume animals lower down on the food chain.  Plastics are very hard to remove from the oceans as sunlight may reduce them into pieces unable to be captured by nets. Where trash collects, so does marine life, and attempts at skimming debris might also harm the creatures swimming amongst the junk.  Major clean-up efforts would also use a large amount of fossil fuels to locate, process and haul the detritus out of the sea.

Luckily, as individuals, we have the power to make decisions that can have large-scale effects.  Water bottles and plastic bags, who are common occupants of these floating landfills, can be replaced with multiple use items such as cloth grocery sacks (like Blue Lotus’s stylish produce bags), thermoses, canteens and reusable water bottles. At Bambu Batu, we dig the sustainable and attractive Bamboo Bottle. We also offer an attractive assortment of re-usable bamboo utensil sets and sporks, to further reduce your dependency on disposable plastics.

Reducing the amount of plastics we use, as well as recycling and properly disposing of what we purchase, can go a long way to stem the flow of trash making its way into our oceans and food chain.

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