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.

Muflower 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 ratpayers 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?

Swan Sisters Tea

The time of year is upon us where the sound of coughs and sneezes are as common as bird calls. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so in the spirit of heading off cold and flu germs at the pass, Bambu Batu is offering free Swan Sisters Winter Warmth Herbal Blend tea with every purchase. This fantastic blend is mixture of organic peppermint, echinacea, ginger, and licorice root for a tonic that will help keep your immune system strong. The mint helps to boost oxygen levels in the blood, the ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties, licorice softens mucus membranes, and the echinacea helps prevent sickness and halves recovery time. Stay well this season, compliments of your friendly neighborhood bamboo store and Swan Sisters Tea!

Swan Sisters builds Communi-tea

A local company that launched in 2004, Swan Sisters Tea has a long history of providing delicious, organic and fair trade tea here in San Luis Obispo County. Since Didi Yeh took over the company in 2012, Bambu Batu has enjoyed an increasingly enjoyable partnership with this conscious purveyor of fine beverages. Swan Sisters Tea is a regular feature at Art After Dark, our monthly shindigs that showcase local artists and musicians, the first Friday of each month. Their tea is also featured at special events and in my very own tea cup all throughout the year. Try their Jasmine Pearls or the Crescent Moon herbal blend, and you’ll never look back!

Wood Thumb Ties

When it comes to tying a tie, there are some of us who could swear we were working with ten thumbs. Why not skip the whole mess altogether and don a wooden necktie or bow tie from Wood Thumb?  The lightweight wooden ties are held together with an elastic cord, making them supple and flexible. They come in two sizes, and start at $34 a piece.

In addition to offering uniquely crafted gifts, Wood Thumb is an enthusiastic member of their community, holding weekly community dinners and beer-drinking events. Proud residents of the Dogpatch area of the city, they are always up for a good conversation with other artisans and businesses. For their next endeavor, may we suggest bamboo? Based in San Francisco, each of their accessories are hand-made in the USA using reclaimed redwood sourced from around the Bay Area.


Bamboo DNA

Through their sustainable, high-performance bamboo structures, Bamboo DNA supports arts and culture around the world. Founded by New York artist and designer Gerard Minakawa, the company specializes in building sets and stages for a network of performers, as well as sculptural installations for museums and galleries. Minakawa holds BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and has had previous experience teaching classes and studying under indigenous craftsmen in Bolivia. Bamboo DNA has created installations and sculptures for such big events as the Coachella Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Burning Man, and LACMA Muse.

When choosing the right bamboo for a project, Minakawa carefully selects each pole and panel, paying attention to the slightest variations and personality of the material. Taken together in a cohesive whole, the bamboo takes on certain performance characteristics that exemplify strength, organic shape, and versatility. While intuitive for him, he finds the greatest challenge is teaching others how to identify these traits. The initial stages involve plenty of team collaboration, sketches, and 3D computer models.

Once the bamboo is selected, it is time to build on site. While some installations are custom-made, several are “kits” that can be re-used for multiple festivals. From mandalas to gigantic spiders, each endeavor takes a new set of skills and requirements. Regardless of size or scale, Bamboo DNA  is committed to showcasing the dynamism of one of the earth’s most amazing plants.

Climate change is perhaps the single biggest issue facing the health of our communities. Severe weather conditions threaten the crops on which we depend for food and a thriving economy as well as the safety of our neighborhoods and health of our landscape. In San Luis Obispo, we have historically seen weather patterns consistent with a Mediterranean climate where we experience long, hot and dry summers with rainy, wet winters. Many of the native plants are drought-tolerant, and the cold waters and upwelling of nutrients off of our coasts provide us with a stunning amount of marine biodiversity. With greenhouse gasses on the rise, what can we expect for the seasons to come?

The Coast: According to a report released by the California Academy of Sciences in June of this year, Central California’s waters are already showing the effects of a warming planet. Surface waters have increased in temperature, sea levels are higher, winds are stronger, upwellings are more intense, there is increased ocean acidification, and shoreline erosion has accelerated. As a result, ecosystems have been thrown out of balance and organisms are struggling to adapt.

The study states that the most severe ecological disruption will come from the changes associated with upwellings, ocean temperature, sea level rise, and acidification. Upwelling appears to be increasing because of more rapid heating of land in contrast to the ocean which creates pressure gradients and strong winds, driving the process. Researchers worry that stronger currents may carry the larvae of fish and other animals out to sea, disconnecting whole populations and threatening the food web. Warm surface temperatures have heated bays and shallow waters, making for steep temperature gradients from east to west. Warmer surface waters also inhibit the vertical mixing of water and nutrients which can result in plankton blooms and areas of low dissolved oxygen, killing certain species that need oxygen rich habitats to survive and aiding in the takeover of invasive organisms.

Sea level rise has accounted for a large amount of coastline erosion as well as the change in tidepool ecosystems. Rising waters affect the ability of marine mammals to reproduce and rest, changing the living patterns for these top predators. As CO2 continues to be absorbed by the sea, waters have become more acidic, creating conditions where shelled animals cannot form their exoskeletons or even dissolve.

In regards to broader weather patterns, the El Nino oscillation cycles are expected to continue with higher temperatures than in the past. La Nina years will be wetter and warmer than average with heavy downpours becoming more frequent.  Days of high fire risk are going to become more common with an extended fire season brought on by hotter temperatures and increased evaporation. Flooding and erosion from sea level rise and lack of vegetative cover will deposit more soil and sediment into freshwater systems, eventually affecting marine ecosystems as they flow out to sea.  Saltwater is also expected to flow into freshwater systems as the oceans rise.




What is there not to love about an Airstream trailer? Resembling a giant metal Twinkie, the shining aerodynamic RV’s look almost exactly as they did when the company began producing them back in the 1930s. Classic icons of Americana, the reflective metal exteriors bring a nostalgic tear to the eyes of even the hardest of road warriors. Wonderful in their own right, a good Airstream parked in a beautiful location is the epitome of the traveler’s dream. This is why this little wanderer would love to take a road trip to the Santa Barbara Auto Camp, a hotel made up of four vintage renovated Airstreams located just a short walk from State Street in gorgeous downtown SB.

Named after the Channel Islands, the four Airstreams were renovated by Matthew Hofmann of Hofmann Architecture. Each suite features a full bathroom, kitchen , sleeping area, flat screen TVs, Internet, outdoor grill, and two beach cruisers to explore the surrounding area. Sustainable wood flooring, VOC-free finishes, recycled glass tiles, and efficient lighting give the Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Anacapa, and Santa Cruz trailers eco-friendly marks.

The crown jewel of the trailers may be the Santa Rosa, a 1973 Sovereign that boasts Brazilian koa wood floors, a queen sized pillow-top mattress with 1,000 thread count sheets and down pillows, claw foot bathtub and shower, and recycled glass tile. On par with a luxury hotel room, the Santa Rosa is truly a unique accommodation.




According to a report by the NRDC, the United States wastes a staggering 40% of all food produced. That works out to $165 billion of uneaten food each year! Organic matter is the largest solid component of our landfills, and between unsold produce and tossed meals, we glut our dumps and fritter away precious resources. Luckily, some enterprising chefs and bloggers are working towards changing attitudes and practices towards how we treat what we eat.

Culinary Misfits- Hailing from Germany, catering company Culinary Misfits uses fruits and vegetables that the supermarkets and restaurants reject. Misshapen or discolored, the produce is still perfectly good, and suited for such meals as “crooked parsnip” or “twisted cucumber soup”. Founded by Lea Emma Brumsack and Tanja Krakowski, the duo began their careers studying product design. After becoming interested in the urban consumerism and the waste surrounding food production, they opened their business in 2012. Presenting their creations on rescued thrift store dishes, the Culinary Misfits transform unloved vegetables into delicious fare.

Waste Cooking- Usually, you associate reality TV with gross-out antics and poor social behavior. Yet, in Waste Cooking, enterprising dumpster divers and chefs look to Austria’s organic waste bins for materials to make amazing meals. Creator and director David Gross was appalled at the amount of perfectly good food he found chucked into the trash of his native country, and decided that he needed to do something to publicize the nearly 105,000 tons Austrians discarded each year. The episodes, which can be found online through their website, begin with divers roaming the streets by bicycle at night to “shop” for their ingredients. Later, blogger and cook Tobias Judmaier crafts the produce, meats, and cheeses into meals presented in a public place. Upon learning the food’s origins, some are enticed, others are disgusted, but all are more aware of their consumption habits.

GleanSLO- A little closer to home, GleanSLO takes advantage of the bounty of the Central Coast and harvests unwanted fruits and vegetables around the county for the SLO Food Bank. A group of dedicated volunteers gather at farms for a couple of hours throughout the week and donate their time and labor to help feed to hungry. In addition to the feeling of a job well done, participants also get to meet their fellow community members and often take home excess food for themselves. The farmers get a tax credit and cleanup, empty stomachs get healthy and high-quality groceries, and gleaners get a great workout and some treats to take with them.

Bamboo sounds like a great idea for the music industry. It’s cheap, sustainable, and a great way to amplify vibration. Just take a look at the cheekily-named “loudbasstard“, a zero energy amp made for iPhones, iTouch, and later version Android smartphones. Created by Koh Onozawa and Franz Ignacio, each pair is cut and dyed by hand in Cebu Philippines. Both a way to promote environmentally friendly design and empower the Philippine community, the loudbasstard takes advantage of native craftsmanship and materials to project your favorite tunes.

A simpler, more rustic version of the node speaker is also available through ibamboo. Open at both ends, the cylinder creates a “pseudo-stereo” effect for Apple phones and devices. Rough-hewn and with a black or natural finish, the grass with its own carrying case and recyclable box. Originally began as a Kickstarter campaign, the product has been so successful that it has been featured in the New York Times and is temporarily out of stock.

On a similar note, the iBam 2 combines high quality bamboo with efficient design. With a waterproof carrying case and carved box, the speaker is a perfect low-tech device to take on beach trips or anywhere it might be difficult to find an outlet. As an added bonus, every purchase helps workers and the reforestation effort in Southeast Asia.