Archive for March 2013 | Monthly archive page

 I will admit that most days, I am powered by little other than a bad sense of humor and a very strong cup of coffee. Who knew that there were mechanical contraptions that rely on caffeine to operate as much as I do? They say that a good cup of java increases creativity, and it looks as though there are a couple of inventors and engineers out there who have been hitting the percolator pretty hard.

Lean, mean, bean machine- Surprisingly, there are a number of coffee-powered vehicles out there in the world, and some of the best of them were built by Martin Bacon and his team out of Manchester, England. In February, their Bean Machine set a Guinness World land-speed record for a coffee-powered vehicle. Commissioned by the Co-Operative Food to commemorate their 10th anniversary to switching to fair trade joe, the converted Ford F100 burns waste coffee chaff pellets in a process called “gasification” to run. Clocking in at 65mph, the truck not only publicized the non-profit’s commitment to ethical beans, but also gave two trembling thumbs up to the gasified automobile as a viable form of green transportation.

Espresso on the go- I’m not going to lie, there have been times when I have been on a bike and thought to myself, “This commute would be a heck of a lot easier with a shot of espresso or two.” Clearly, I am not alone. The Velopresso is a pedal-powered mobile coffee shop designed by two Royal College of Art students, Amos Field Reid and Lasse Oiva. Constructed on top of an old tricycle frame, the gears have been re-engineered to either push the cart forward, or power the coffee grinder. Hot water is provided through an on-board boiler fueled by a gas canister. The team is currently considering using recycled coffee grinds in ethanol production to make an even more eco-friendly configuration.

After a long day in the salt mines, it is a great relief to return to a warm, comfortable, and beautiful living space. To keep your eyes happy, body relaxed, and eyes excited, take a look at New York-based designer Meredith Goodwin’s amazing bamboo furniture! The KURV coffee table (pictured above) is a modernist appointment that is incredibly held together by tension alone. The body is composed of bamboo plywood that is certified under the 6.0 Section of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resource Point System. Designed with only a few connections, the KURV is available to be ordered and shipped flat, and can be easily assembled at home.

Equally beautiful is Goodwin’s HALO LED-lit dining room table. Also constructed using bamboo, the entire piece is lit by small, energy-efficient bulbs to create a little bit of modernist mood lighting for your living room. Like the KURV, all pieces arrive flat-packed, ready to be assembled for a much more environmentally friendly piece than you could find at particle-board loving IKEA.

Nothing says ‘relaxation’ like a good, long soak in a bathtub. Those looking for a little sustainable serenity may enjoy the Air Bubble Massage Bathtub from Xianning Yanshan Bamboo Industry, Co. Ltd.  Equipped with a pillow, faucet, hand shower, jets, massage device, and chair, the luxurious tub is made completely out of water-tight bamboo. Sustainable and possessing a low-carbon footprint, the hearty grass makes a warm, attractive alternative to porcelain or tile. The surface is treated with a nanometer level oxide compound material that deodorizes, sterilizes, and releases anions into the air. Adhering to the standards of the Ergonomics Association, the tubs also come in barrel and portable models.

Forget the national debt, don’t worry about the next election cycle, no big deal if you can’t drop those extra couple of pounds before swimsuit season. As a species, climate change is the largest challenge we face. So why then are our elected officials doing almost nothing to address a phenomenon that could make the planet uninhabitable for human beings? Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently sat down with Bill Moyers to discuss the public’s understanding and reactions to global warming.

Lesierowitz has identified six groups of American by levels of knowledge about and  engagement with the issue of climate change. As a specialist in the psychology of risk and perception, he explains how climate change is almost the perfect challenge for human beings. While we are wired to deal with immediate physical survival, global warming and its causes are practically invisible. For the most part, we cannot see the greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere, and the gradual changes we have made since the Industrial Revolution tend to escape our notice. Only by amassing large amounts of data taken from a variety of sources across the world can we begin to understand our effects on the planet.

Part of the difficulties climate activists face is working amidst a very vocal and well connected association of deniers and special interests that dominate the political discourse. In addition to clarifying the science for those who still do not believe in the myriad of reports and drastic weather conditions affecting the country, each of the six groups requires a completely different type of social engagement. The best way to connect with each demographic is to identify their core values, and meet their concerns on terms that are familiar.

The stakes are high, the problems that we are causing are getting worse, and are on track to escalate in intensity. At the heart of the dilemma is how human being see themselves in relationship to the natural world. What are our responsibilities to nature and one another? How do we organize to tackle such a huge problem? What is the best way to sound the alarm and put climate change at the top of the agenda?

The first step is come together. Check out and other movements that are working towards shifting our political system and economy to take action!



For those of us living in the United States, we mostly assume that slavery disappeared at the end of the Civil War. Surely, no other countries have subjugated a group of people in the same manner since the 19th century? Sadly, modern day slavery exists in the form of forced labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. In order to draw attention to the atrocious conditions in which over 27 million people are forced to live an work, the Mountainbrook Abolitionists will be holding the Stand for Freedom rally on Friday, March 15 at 6pm in front of the SLO County Courthouse.  For 27 hours, participants will meditate for those in slavery, collect signatures and funds for the International Justice Mission (IJM) and participate in learning activities.

The IJM is a human rights non-profit that is committed to aiding those who are victims of abuse, violence, and exploitative social and economic systems. Investigators, lawyers, and social workers identify and take action for individual cases. By pushing these issues through the legal system, they use prosecution as a means to uncover corruption, lack of resources, and weaknesses within the community. They seek to work on behalf of victim relief, perpetrator accountability, survivor aftercare, and greater structural transformation across the globe. Founded in 1997 by US Department of Justice lawyer, Gary Haugen, the organization now boasts over 500 lawyers, investigators, and staff members, a majority of whom are native to the countries they serve.

“Violence against the poor is not driven by the overwhelming power of the perpetrators – it is driven by the vulnerability of the victims. This violence can be stopped when the power of the law is brought to bear on behalf of those who need it, and when people of good will contribute their financial and professional resources to insisting it stop,” asserts the IJM on their website.

Following in the traditions of abolitionists such as William Wilberforce and leaders like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., the IJM and Mountainbrook Abolitionists strive for a just and equitable society in which to live.

As a part of Bambu Batu’s ongoing fundraiser for marriage equality, the next recipient of our Kale shirt donations will be The All Family Project. Based out of San Francisco, the non-profit encourages social equality by countering negative stereotypes of the LGBT community with videos and photographic essays featuring gay and lesbian families.

Their primary audience is middle America heterosexuals, and since that demographic is unlikely to visit their Facebook page or YouTube channel, they have decided to take their message to them. Depicting same sex couples and their children on billboards across the nation, The All Family Project hopes to encourage tolerance and familiarity. For those inside the LGBT community, they seek to complement other organizations focused on empowerment and awareness and to show the unsure that it is possible to raise a happy and healthy family.

To prove that same sex couples are not just a “coastal phenomenon”, they invite families from all over the world to pose for photographic essays. Other than names and general geographic area, no personal information is given, allowing the smiling faces to tell their stories. They also encourage participants and supporters to host grassroots parties to help spread their message of love and acceptance.

As in any campaign challenging traditional, narrow-minded notions, the Project was faced with resistance when trying to establish their ads. In Salt Lake City, Utah, they tried for 7 months to install transit ads on 12 buses. Eventually, their photos were accepted, but were forced to remove their copy reading, “2 Moms + 1 Child = Family”. Even though the transit system was funded by the government, the decision to erase their message was a direct result of pressure from the LDS community. Regardless of the church’s views, however, the Project still maintains that, “We are all, after all, all family”.


Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative

Planting and harvesting bamboo is not only good for the environment, but can also be beneficial to the community that supports its cultivation. Founded in 2003, the Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative is a biodynamic and sustainable bamboo nursery on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. Certified organic by Stellar Certification Services, the company is home to a number of bamboo species as well as tropical hardwood. They offer a range of timber bamboo including black bamboo in diameters from one to four inches. A plant nursery grows hedging bamboos and landscape vegetation for the garden. Whispering Winds also sells kit structures that use bamboo to create sheds, shade structures, carports, caddies, and even housing for bee hives.

As a result of the Ola Honua mission, the employees at Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative purchased the business from the original owners, turning it into a cooperative. Apprenticeships are offered on site, and the employees are all dedicated to replanting and restoring native flora on the plantation. With the notions of community engagement and social responsibility in mind, Whispering Winds provides its workers with fair wages as well as affordable housing for the people of Kipahulu.

Morro Bay Orchid Outriggers

There are two great things that stand out for me as a resident of San Luis Obispo. The first is the incredible natural diversity in the county, and the other is the caliber of the people who live and love the landscape. One evening, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike, one of the gentlemen involved with Orchid Outriggers, a company out of Los Osos that offers tours of the coast by outrigger canoe. What began as a short mention of the wildlife in our backyards became a long conversation over the variety of species that can be seen from the boats, how to identify birds in mid-air, and how it was much easier to photograph animals from the stability and comfort of the outrigger. A printer by trade, he and his fellow boaters take the time and effort to pick up trash from the estuaries, cleaning and caring for the ecosystems they love.

Tours go through the Morro Bay Estuary and are led by naturalists and birders with years of experience under their belts. Gliding through the water with a view of Morro Rock, tons of feathery friends, and the entire coastline, the experience is one that will be remembered for lifetime. The outriggers themselves are 17-4 Koholu’a boats which are small composites of Hawaiian canoes. The modern incarnation of a design refined over hundreds of years are sturdy, fast, and easily maneuverable. No wetsuit is needed for the ride, as the boats are dry and large enough to stow a good amount of gear.

You don’t have to be a tourist to take advantage of the gorgeous place in which we live and make good connections with the locals. Go explore your backyard with some wonderful neighbors with Orchid Outriggers!

Nowadays, if you have a smartphone and a thumb with the slightest hint of green, you can wire your garden to produce high yields, monitor conditions, and even remind you when to water and fertilize. There are a whole host of new gadgets, applications, and technologies that can help create the perfect backyard farm, regardless of size or skill level.

HarvestGeek- Automate your entire setup with HarvestGeek, a web based application that allows you to not only keep track of soil, water, air, and temperature conditions, but also automate equipment like watering timers, fans, and lamps to switch on and off. Designed by Mike Alt, the HarvestGeek uses the HarvestBot sensors to keep tabs your plants and alert you via social media, email, or smartphone when adjustments need to be made to create the highest yields possible. The HarvestGeek platform also allows users to talk to other gardeners, sharing tips and methods as well as aggregating data that can be used to predict when to plant and when to harvest.

Flower Power- Enabled by Bluetooth, the Flower Power  by Parrot is a twig-shaped sensor that you can stick directly into the soil. It keeps an eye on moisture, sunlight,, humidity, temperature, and fertilizer levels. The corresponding application holds the optimal growing conditions for over 6,000 plants, and will send you reminders on your smartphone when it is time to give your plant a little TLC. It is powered by a simple AAA battery that remains charged for 6 months.

Future Tech  Farm- For those with restricted space, Future Tech Farm takes advantage of limited areas with their modular gardens. The small, aquaponic grow systems are connected to the internet, and once they fill the units with water, fish, and plants, they can plug them in and watch them flourish. Participants can track all of their info online, and compare with a community of other techies.