Archive for October 2012 | Monthly archive page

Feeling uncomfortable about handing out overly-sugary candy to trick-or-treaters this year?  Before you go out an buy a bag of high fructose corn syrup, consider some fun and tasty alternatives to the usual bowl of holiday diabetes.

Mandarin madness- Create your own mini jack-0-lanterns by inserting cloves into the skins of mandarin oranges. The burst of citrus and spicy smell of cloves will make your mouth water, and the little faces will give your kids an excuse to play with their food.

You must be nuts- Small bags of salted or roasted nuts are a nice, protein-filled alternative to candy bars. Make your own trail mix in small cellophane bags for a personal touch!

Hello honey- Little honey sticks are bright, colorful, sweet, and can be found in health foods stores in bulk.  Support your local beekeeper and enjoy a treat that dates back to antiquity.

Pop culture- Salty, buttery and crunchy, popcorn is a fast and easy treat that is full of fiber.  Stuff freshly popped organic kernels into non-latex gloves with candy corn at the fingertips to make “witches hands” and creep out the neighborhood kids.

Frightening fruit- Hand out some organic or low-sugar juice-boxes to keep the trick-or-treaters hydrated as they hoof it about town.



Here at Bambu Batu, we figure we know bamboo pretty well.  Yet, even we were surprised to see the incredible gadgets out there that are incorporating bamboo into their design.  Able to be as versatile as the minds behind these beautiful and objects, bamboo is the perfect choice for durability, looks, and sustainability.

-With some species growing at a rate of almost 3 feet per day, bamboo is a hard-working plant. With Lexon’s line of renewable office products, you can show the same growth potential as the super-grass! The collection offers a number of stylish choices for the workplace, including pens, solar-powered calculators, crank-powered AM/FM radios, and LCD clocks, all fashioned from bamboo.

-Want to cruise in sustainable style?  Check out Antoine Fritsch’s T20 Bamboo Bike.  The cycle features and electric motor, and can reach speeds of up to 21 miles per hour with a range of 24 miles. Acceleration is provided by the rider, who pushes off the ground to kick-start the bike. After a small initial amount of effort, the T20 is ready to zip you around town!  Despite looking a bit delicate at first glance, anyone familiar with bamboo will recognize that the flexibility and toughness of the frame is not to be underestimated.

-Let bamboo brighten up your day with Green Tuna Design’s bamboo lamp. The style of the piece is reminiscent of craftsman architecture, and has a lovely natural finish that almost glows when lit. Powered by an LED bulb, the light helps save on energy while looking good in the process.

– If you are a fan of bamboo, why not have a fan made out of bamboo?  The Haiku Satori ceiling fan possesses blades from the lightweight grass, and comes equipped with an infrared remote control to modulate speed.  Incredibly efficient, at its lowest setting, the fan uses half the energy of an 8W CFL bulb.  The Electronically Communicated motor with digital inverter allows for amazing savings in energy, consuming 60-80% less energy than a traditional ceiling fan.

– No gadget list is complete without accessories for your computer.  Take a look at Impecca’s hand-carved KBB500 bamboo keyboard and mouse.  Helping to reduce the amount of electronic waste entering our landfill and polluting our environments, the set also adds a natural aesthetic to modern electronics. The mouse is a standard three-button optical model, and the keyboard is your average 104-key layout.



Halloween is right around the corner, and that means time to break out the sugary snacks, decorate the house in spider webs, and gouge a gourd or two.  The Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, based out of New York City, have a couple of tips to ensure that your jack-o-lanterns will not only become monstrous masterpieces, but also last longer than your Halloween candy.

Picking a pumpkin- When looking for your canvas, choose a pumpkin with a symmetrical shape and even skin texture.  Make sure your specimen has a good stem, for keeping the top intact will help your pumpkin continue to draw nutrients and decompose slower. (When it comes time to scoop out the innards, you’ll actually want to make the opening from the back, not the top.)

Prepping your pumpkin- Before getting ready to carve, wash your pumpkin in soap and water.  Cleaning the exterior will help prevent infection once you begin to cut into the skin.  Do not make the rookie mistake of scooping your pumpkin at this point!  Wait until after you have created your design and carved the front of your pumpkin.

Sketching the scary- Before digging in, sketch out your design on a piece of paper.  Remember that what you are drawing is a negative, and the pieces that will be cut out will eventually be the lighted, brighter parts of your image.  Once ready to transfer onto your gourd, you can either freehand the design, or tape the paper to the surface of the pumpkin, and use a piercing tool to create guidelines along your pencil marks.

Piercing your pumpkin- The Maniac Carvers use a host of tools, depending on the intricacy of their design. Anything used for carving is fair game, including woodworking tools, small handsaws, X-Acto knives, and kitchen utensils.  Remember that the further you carve into the outer shell, the lighter the image will eventually become. Once you begin to carve, the pumpkin begins to decay.  You can delay the process somewhat by spraying a mixture of lemon juice and water onto the surface as you cut.  Once finished, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin for scooping.  After hollowing out the innards, replace the door, and seal the outside of the pumpkin with either vegetable oil or Vaseline to minimize exposure to air.

Juicing your jack-0-lantern- Instead of candles, the Maniac Carvers recommend LED or CFL bulbs which run at cooler temperatures.  For a flickering effect, you can purchase battery-operated candle bulbs that will not burn your pumpkin or heat transform it into an orange petri dish.

Now you are ready to place your creations on the porch, throw on a costume, and get ready to scare the snot out of the neighborhood children.  Happy Halloween!


Bambu Batu is excited to welcome Poppy Soap Co. to the store!  Handcrafted in Los Osos, the soap is made from certified organic ingredients, essential oils, and are free of petroleum, animal products, artificial fragrances and dyes. In addition to supporting healthy skin, Poppy Soap Co. also helps to sustain a healthy community by donating one bar for each one purchased to a local women’s shelter.  Their Bar-for-Bar program is a personal and heartfelt way to show kindness to victims of domestic abuse and their children.

Founder Lindy LaRoche came to crafting soap by way of a career in medical sales.  After her son was born, she decided to leave the sales field in order to pursue a passion where she could live mindfully and sustainably, and give back to the community.  Through Poppy Soap Co., she hopes to spread the holistic lifestyle where her products can help heal both the body and the planet naturally.  We are enthusiastic to work with such a wonderful individual and carry her fantastic soaps here at Bambu Batu!


On Friday, October 26th, come and learn about the 21st Century Abolitionist Movement at the Mountainbrook Community Church (1775 Calle Joaquin, SLO) from 7-9:30pm.  The screening of the film, Call + Response will be free and open to the public.  Focusing on social justice issues surrounding human trafficking, the documentary made in 2008 features first hand accounts from such notable figures as Cornel West, Madeleine Albright, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, and Nicholas D. Kristof.  In addition to testimony, Call + Response also showcases the talent of musicians Imogen Heap, Cold War Kids, Matisyahu, Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Talib Kweli, and many others.

Director and musician Justin Dillon began by hosting benefit concerts for nonprofits and organizations tackling the problems surround the 27 million people each year who are forced into modern day slavery.  His efforts became the “rockumentary” Call + Response, a blend of investigation, testimony and musical performance used as a tool to help overcome the injustices of human trafficking.  Since its release, the film has been profiled by major news networks and screened in communities, colleges, and cultural institutions across the country.  To date, over 350,000 people have viewed the movie, raising over $250,000 for groups helping to free slaves.

Dillon’s organization, Slavery Footprint, has recently partnered with the State Department to establish an online platform that allows consumers to see how their purchasing habits affect working conditions as well as offering a means through which buyers can communicate with companies about how they would like to see their goods produced.  In addition to outreach, Slavery Footprint is also actively engaged in supply-chain research, mobilization programs, and on-the-ground projects to help end slavery in the modern era.


Native plants are fantastic choices for landscaping your yard.  Perfectly adapted for the climate, they are hearty, water and nutrient efficient, and provide habitats for local fauna.  In San Luis Obispo, residents are fortunate to wander amongst some of the most beautiful and unusual plants in the country.  Drought tolerant, aromatic, and attractive, our sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodland, dune, and riparian ecosystems produce incredible specimens that would be the pride of any garden.  Sadly, due to over-development, many of these habitats have been destroyed and are at risk of disappearing.  Fortunately, there are a number of organizations and individuals committed to preserving and propagating the flora of SLO.  Many of them have native plants sales and educational seminars throughout the year.  Here are a few opportunities to take home new additions for your home!

Nipomo Native Gardens- Located between Camino Caballo and Osage streets in the community of Nipomo, the Nipomo Native Garden will be holding a plant sale this Sunday, October 7.  Plant-lovers and green thumbs will have the opportunity to get their hands on indigenous species and cultivated hybrids, and to talk to experts. In addition to the sale, the Garden also holds workdays every first Saturday of the month from 9am to noon.  For more information, contact Greg Doudna at (805) 929-6649.

CNPS- The California Native Plant Society will be holding its plant sale on Saturday, November 3 from 7am-2pm.  CNPS is a state-wide nonprofit that focuses on preserving California native plants.  Members enjoy talks, field trips, and regular informative newsletters celebrating the incredible botanical diversity of the Golden State.  They are currently looking for volunteers to host the fundraiser, and interested participants should sign up for a shift via their website.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden- The 2012 plant sale held by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden begins this September 29 and will run throughout the month of October form 10am-4pm.  Just in time for the planting season, start off autumn with a new native or Mediterranean plant.  Choose from over 5,000 plants and 400 varieties.  The Garden stands as the largest retail offering of natives on the Central Coast, and is worth the drive to view the site and support the Santa Barbara Botanic fund by making a purchase of a new potted pal.

Of all of the ingredients hiding in cosmetics these days, from parabens to phthalates, you may never have guessed that many of your favorite shades of lipstick, shadows, and blushes contained bugs.  Yes, that’s right, our good old six-legged friends from the insect world are widely used to produce carmine, or a bright red color extracted from their tiny little bodies. And you’ll find it nearly everywhere, except on the cruelty-free shelves of Bambu Batu, where we now carry All Good Lips SPF18 Beauty Tints, the newest product from Elemental Herbs, which is 100% carmine free (relying instead on mica for coloring) and boasts the same healing properties as their organic lip balms, made with five medicinal herbs.

The cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) bug is a scale insect of the suborder Sternorrhyncha, a parasite that lives primarily on the nutrients and moisture of cacti.  The red color used for dye is known as carminic acid, and is manufactured by the cochineal bug as a defense against predators. To prepare carmine for use in the cosmetic or food industry, the powdered insects are boiled in either ammonia or sodium carbonate, filtered to remove the parts that cannot be dissolved, and added to a clear salt solution to create a red aluminum salt.

The insects can also be boiled with water and treated with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate to create a salt.  We know this salt as “carmine lake”, “crimson lake”, or “natural red 4”,  and it can be found everywhere from yogurt and Jell-O to the products we apply to our faces. There are some who are allergic to the dye, and these individuals must avoid foods and cosmetics with lake colors for risk of developing anaphylactic shock, asthma, or hives.

The dye itself has been used in Central America since the 15th century to color fabrics, but did not become an international export until the period  of  colonization beginning in the 1700s.  The demand for cochineal dye fell during the 19th century as synthetic dyes began to take the place of naturally produced coloring agents.  Currently, cochineal dyes are sought as alternatives to man-made chemicals, although many are wary about allergic reactions and killing 70,000 bugs to make one pound of dye.  In the US, carmine is approved by the FDA as safe to use, but must be clearly labeled on packaging as an ingredient.

Now that you know where that lovely red hue is made, would you still wear that favorite shade of rouge or drink that bottle of pink lemonade?  Aside from health concerns, what are the ethical implications of carmine in cosmetics and foodstuffs?