Archive for February 2013 | Monthly archive page

There are plenty of reasons to opt for natural, organic fibers. Not only are they better for human health, but they are less harmful to the environment. In addition to using less pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the material itself is able to break down safely after being washed or discarded. Synthetics, on the other hand, persist and accumulate long after they enter our landfills and ecosystems.

A report published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology traced “microplastic” marine pollution from 18 beaches across the globe, and found that every one of the samples was contaminated. When looking at the total amount of plastic pollution, nearly 80% was made up from smaller bits of plastic, much of it coming from polyester, acrylic, and nylon fibers. The data also showed that the highest concentrations of contamination was close to large urban centers. An experiment conducted by co-author of the report, Dr. Mark Browne from UCSB and colleague Prof Richard Thompson from The University of Plymouth in the UK found that washing machines extracted an average of 1,900 fibers per garment every washing cycle.

Microplastic is a major concern to the health of marine animals, who can ingest the compounds, accumulate in their cells, and make its way through the food chain. Smaller than 1mm, they move through the environment quickly and could potentially be harmful to humans. Clothing fibers are just one of many sources of these contaminants, with other major contributors including disintegrating trash, cleaning agents, cosmetics, and raw plastic pellets used to make everyday objects. While most of us are aware that it is important to recycle and ensure that our garbage does not make its way into the oceans, we must also know be conscious of what we wear and how we launder our garments. Just another good reason to go natural when purchasing apparel!


Across the US, hydraulic fracturing has been the source of a raging debate over domestic energy policy. While some tout “fracking” as a way to generate local power and provide jobs and money in a time of economic hardship, the act of  shattering shale to extract gas and petroleum have many worried. From exploding wells and flammable tap water to toxic chemicals contaminating aquifers and earthquakes, fracking has major consequences for the environment. California stands as the 4th largest gas and oil producing state, and even though new existing wells are already being exploited by fracking technology, the process is almost completely unregulated.

In response to the exploitation of land and natural resources, the Global Exchange has organized California Communities Rising Against Fracking, a speaking tour of the Golden State that exposes the realities of the extraction technology. The tour will largely target those areas that would most strongly impacted and stops include Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Culver City, and Los Angeles. Each stop will host a day of action preceded by a local media plan and outreach groups. Former Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania councilman Dough Shields will be scheduled to speak as one of the first to enact a “rights-based” ban on fracking in the nation.

The Global Exchange launched the Community Rights Program challenging corporate power five years ago to confront the unjust laws that value big business over the rights of citizens. The have partnered with organizations such as, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, EarthWorks, and Transition Towns to fight for the health and well-being of Americans through grassroots efforts. Currently, they are working towards banning fracking in San Luis Obispo county, following the examples of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Mexico who have outlawed the process.

For more information on the tour, contact Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Program Director for the Global Exchange at (415) 575-5540 and

Mudflower Creations Cob Oven

For some architects and designers, the old materials are the best materials. Cob, or a mix of earth, sand, straw and clay, has been used for centuries to construct everything from habitations to ovens. Containing no toxic materials or synthetics, cob is a great green alternative for those looking for a sturdy, well-insulated and earthquake resistant structure. Involved in all things cob, Mudflower Creations is a Central Coast business that specializes in custom fabrication, construction, creative design, and handmade crafts, especially cob ovens. Founded by couple who met at UC Santa Cruz while attending its Natural History program, Mudflower Creations uses cob as a vehicle through which they can give back to the environment in a hands-on and holistic way.

Mudflower offers several standard types of cob ovens to choose from, but is open to commissions and custom jobs. Pricing depends on the availability of materials whose costs range from about $100-500. They are available to hold building workshops or can install the oven for the client. Depending on whether you choose to add the roof of the oven yourself, the total price generally falls in between $500-$4,500. Understanding that an undertaking of such size and expense is a commitment, the team is open to negotiation with anyone who is interested.


Just thinking about how much paper is wasted to produce millions of Valentines each year is enough to make you lose that lovin’ feeling. Save a tree and show some affection to your sweetheart and the planet by purchasing fair trade and bamboo products! As always, Bambu Batu has got you covered with a wide range of clothing, stationary, and accessories that will be sure to inspire a little romance.

-Good Night and Good Luck- Who needs scratchy lace lingerie when there is soft, sexy bamboo? For the ladies we carry bikini, thong, and boy-short underwear in a variety of colors from Devil May Wear. The gentlemen have the option of boxers or boxers briefs from Spun Bamboo, all guaranteed to be flattering and comfortable.

-Light My Fire- Give the night a warm glow with beeswax candles from Big Dipper Wax Works. Made in Seattle by some hard-working bees, the lights are scented with essential oils and are available in tapers, tea lights, pillars, and apothecary styles.

-Good, Clean Fun- Before you snuggle in close, make sure you smell your best! Poppy Soap Co. can help you scrub up and get nice and squeaky clean for your date. Made in nearby Los Osos, Poppy Soap will donate a bar to a women’s shelter for each bar purchased to spread the love around.

-Holding all the Cards- As a little token of your affection, send a fair trade card by Sanctuary Spring made in Africa by local artisans. We also have a selection of paper goods painted by San Luis Obispo area residents.

Forget the need for the Keystone XL pipeline or Diablo Canyon’s nuclear reactors. San Luis Obispo’s very own Cal Poly is paving the way for a green energy future thanks to some hearty  microorganisms and the contents of a toilet bowl. A research team dubbed the Algae Technology Group (ATG) has recently been awarded a $1.3 million grant by the Department of Energy to develop biofuels made from municipal wastewater and algae. The tiny plants not only help to clean water efficiently and inexpensively, but also produce energy and sequester carbon. Local governments will soon have a new method to purify water and can even sell to algae feedstock to refineries for a little extra revenue.

The ATG began back in 2006 and has since been working with faculty and students to research water reclamation and energy production. Their current project will use nine large “raceway” style ponds that cover about half an acre at the San Luis Obispo Water Reclamation Facility on Prado Road. Algae will grow in the ponds, using little inputs other than wastewater and sunlight. Some electricity is needed to circulate the water and run related equipment, but engineers believe that much of that energy could come from renewable sources in the future.

While still an emerging technology, the ATG estimates that with only ten percent of the market share in California, algae biofuel could reduce rate payers’ bills by an accumulated $240 million a year. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that the nation could produce 21 billion gallons of algae biofuel annually. So, between dirty and expensive fossil fuels or cheap energy made from microscopic plants, which alternative would you choose?