No Child Left Inside Act

This week, I was shocked to learn that Congress did something worthy of approval. Both Democrats and Republicans came together to write and introduce the No Child Left Inside Act of 2013. Headed by Congressmen John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), the bill is intended to acquaint students in grades K-12 with nature.

Of course, as a formal environmental educator and current nouveau hippie, I am all for getting kids up off the couch and out exploring the landscape. Making sure that children get their daily dose of green not only helps to cultivate an understand of the world around them, but also improves test scores, alleviates stress and anxiety, and reduces symptoms of ADHD. Studies have shown that even a couple days of outdoor learning can improve science test scores by 27 percent. The hope for this legislation is to spur the next generation of scientists and conservationists as well as equip the youth with some pretty enormous environmental challenges that they will undoubtedly face in the future.

At the moment, schools across the country are pressed for resources, but at least the NCLI Act will begin to motivate educators to bring Mother Nature into the curriculum. There are some nationwide organizations available to help, including the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program, Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and the No Child Left Inside Coalition. For those living in San Luis Obispo and neighboring counties, the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) is an excellent place to find out what schools, camps, and preserves are in the area.

Fingers crossed for the passage of some enlightened legislation!

Seeds of Hope

For many of us in the Western world, potable water flowing from a tap is such a common occurrence that we barely think twice about turning a handle for one of the most vital resources on the planet. Rarely do we consider that millions of people around the world lack basic access to clean water due to poverty, lack of infrastructure, and environmental pollution.

Imagine being able to take concrete steps toward ending the spiral of poverty for vulnerable communities in Africa. Seeds of Hope International Partnerships is a non-profit organization that seeks to transform neighborhoods with the use of community development and holistic practices. They work towards bringing knowledge of water-borne diseases through education and increase quality of life. The organization was founded back in 2003 when Seeds of Hope Director, Kirk Schauer, visited Zambia with a group of pastors from California.

After witnessing the appalling state of the water infrastructure in the country, he became determined to make a difference. Seeds of Hope began a collaboration with Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology to implement methods of sanitation and to conduct trainings. Through BioSand Filters, community wells, AIDS/HIV lectures, Seeds of Hope is transforming local infrastructure from the grassroots.

On August 3, the Mountainbrook Community Church will host a Walk For Hope as an extension of the mission presented by Seeds of Hope. Adult tickets are available for $20 or $25 with t-shirt. Children under 12 are free. Participants will meet in the Mountainbrook parking lot at 8am.

Organic cotton parody shirt



Whatever happened to the good old days when deciding what to eat didn’t have to be a political statement or involve enough research to qualify for a doctoral dissertation? Now, if you want to be sure that you are consuming food that is free of pesticides, genetic modification or the influence of big agribusiness, it’s necessary to be hyper-vigilant about what goes into your body. Among the major offenders to the environment, small farmers, and decency in general, is Monsanto, the maker of Roundup and a number of GMOs that have infected other crops, created superweeds, and potentially affected the health of millions around the world.

From its poisonous pantry of industrial seed stock, Monsanto boasts a wide variety of “Roundup Ready” crops — including soybeans, alfalfa, corn, sugar beets, canola and cotton — whose DNA has been altered to withstand heavy doses of their own trademarked herbicide. This allows farmers to spray their fields with toxins, eradicating the weeds and  leaving behind nothing but their cash crop, albeit laden with Roundup®. These Roundup Ready crops grow prolifically in the United States, although they have been banned throughout the European Union and much of South America.

Here at Bambu Batu, we like to wear our hearts on our sleeves and our convictions on our shirts. We are now featuring a proudly organic (and non-GMO) cotton t-shirt that cheekily proclaims, “Roundup: Its whats for dinner!” For each shirt we sell, we will donate one dollar to Millions Against Monsanto, run by the Organic Consumers Association. The front side sports the chemical composition for glyphosate, the weed-killer sold as Roundup®.

Make a strong statement by using a little sense of humor! Start a conversation and a revolution to take back control of our food supply. Roundup may be what’s for dinner, but Monsanto will get their just desserts.

NOTE: Although our parody of Monsanto is protected by the Fair Use Act, we have opted not to list this t-shirt on our website, due to biotech behemoth’s notoriously aggressive legal practices, regardless of what side of the law they are on. Please contact us directly to order a “Roundup” shirt, and we’ll gladly send one your way.

Brendan Smith is saving the planet with seaweed

Modern man has been awful rough on the oceans. With climate change acidifying the seas, and through overfishing, pollution, dead zones and resource extraction, humans have done an amazing amount of damage to the world’s aquatic ecosystems. Brendan Smith encountered many of these challenges as a commercial fisherman. After realizing that most current fishing practices were unsustainable, he decided to settle in Long Island Sound and raise oysters. As of last year, he integrated kelp into his practices, creating a 3D farm that could take advantage of the entire water column. Once he added the green-blue algae, he found that the seaweed and shellfish had great economic and environmental benefits.

Now the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, Smith is looking to expand his 3D farm and educate others as to the applications of kelp and shellfish. Known as the “rainforest of the sea”, kelp is able to capture an incredible amount of carbon at almost five times that of land based plants. His 2o acre farm alone can sequester up to 134 tons a year. Seaweed and oysters can also filter out nitrogen which is the main cause of dead zones created by agricultural runoff. His Thimble Island Oyster Co. farm sucks up 164kg of nitrogen annually, purifying the water and converting the nutrients into a healthy source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Kelp also possesses the added bonus of being a terrific feedstock for biofuel. According to the US Department of Energy, a kelp farm the size of Maine could potentially produce enough algae to replace petroleum for the entire country. Farming kelp has the ability to jump-start what Smith describes as a “Blue-Green Economy” that could not only help to repair damaged ecosystems, but create valuable jobs and revamp a crumbling infrastructure. Instead of drilling and contaminating the water supply, why not take advantage of natural processes that allow life to flourish?

Hop on beer tours

In San Luis Obispo, it sometimes seems as though the vineyards get all of the love. Sure, we have fantastic wines, but we also have an impressive collection of small breweries and pubs. For those who would like to sample a wide array of fine brews while also learning a bit about the Central Coast, Hop On Beer Tours offers a relaxing and safe way to enjoy some suds.

Owned and operated by Brant Meyers, the company is currently crowdsourcing on Indiegogo to finance the whole operation. Whether you are a tourist or simply wish to explore your big backyard, Hop On Beer Tours takes advantage of Meyers’s ample knowledge of beer culture and experience in the industry. Mix in a great sense of humor, close relationships with the producers, and a biodiesel passenger van, and you will be assured a fun and memorable day.

Hop On Beer Tours visits 14 breweries and 5 pubs with diverse beer selections. Prospective beer browsers can visit the Indiegogo site to reserve space for the first expeditions being offered with a minimum donation of only $50. Whether it is a private guided excursion or an adventure with friends, Hop On Beer Tours promises to give the beer industry in our community the respect and love it deserves. Cheers, and may your glass never run dry!

Jade Beall photography

The modern media landscape is crammed with images of Photoshopped bodies and faces that look more like oil paintings than depictions of real life. What most people hardly ever see is the variations and idiosyncrasies of the female form throughout motherhood, particularly during and after pregnancy. Unless they are studying the captivating imagery of Jade Beall.

Arizona photographer Jade Beall became fascinated with the maternal figure after the birth of her son in 2012. Although the birth was uncomplicated and joyous, she fell into a postpartum depression because she felt ugly, ashamed, and unattractive. After taking nude self-portraits of herself with her child and posting them on her website, she received hundreds of positive comments. Realizing that her work could be used as an agent of healing and reclamation of one’s physical self, she began the “A Beautiful Body” project. Through the series, she photographs her sitters for free, allowing them to heal from years of self-loathing, abuse, and disease.

Her first volume “A Beautiful Body” is primarily focused on mothers and their families. The book, which will be available in January, is the first of several which will deal with birth, aging, death, and beyond. Her edition is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, which has already exceeded its target goal. Offering her talents to act as medicine for both subjects and viewers, the black and white photographs are powerful reminders that beauty lies in the ability to give and sustain life, love, and the embodiment of compassion.


Staying cool amidst global warmth

The signs of summer are appearing here in San Luis Obispo.  The students have left for the season, the tourists have arrived, the hills are a crispy golden brown, and residents are escaping to the ocean whenever they can find a free moment. As the thermometer rises, it is important to remain healthy and comfortable by reducing overall body temperature, conserving energy, and recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke. Here are a few hints for the sweaty masses out there to help with staying cool as a cucumber.

1. Dress appropriately – This is no time to break out your velour track suit, no matter how fly it may make you look. Wearing light fabrics, such as organic cotton and bamboo, helps to keep air flowing around your body as well as wick away sweat and discourage the growth of bacteria. Avoid darker colors and materials that trap warm air close to your figure.

2. Stay hydrated – Sure, an iced coffee sounds like a fantastic idea, but remember to drink plenty of water after that cup of joe. Caffeine is a diuretic, and will prompt your body to let go of precious moisture. Keep a good canteen of H20 with you at your desk, on walks, and especially during physical activity. If you have been sweating a lot, grab a drink that contains electrolytes, such as sports drinks, fruit juices, coconut water,  or smoothie.

3. Adjust your routine – If you are going to meander through the hills or go for a run on your daily exercise routine, consider going during dawn or dusk when the sun is lowest and breezes are more likely to be present. If you have to be out when the sun is the most intense, carry a lot of fluids and drink constantly. Find shade whenever possible, and move slowly.

4. Recognize the signs of heat stroke – No matter how careful you may try to be, there is always a possibility that your body temperature can reach a dangerous 104 degrees and cause serious damage to your system. Symptoms of heat stroke include heat cramps, lack of sweating, flushing, exhaustion, dizziness, chills, nausea, racing heart rate, and confusion. In order to avoid harming your internal organs, find shade or a cool place, and remove excess clothing. Place ice packs or water on the head, neck, armpits and groin. Drink water, and if the condition is truly serious, seek immediate help from a doctor.

5. Cool treats – Thank heavens for modern refrigeration technology! Have a good time keeping your core temperature down by exploring the wide world of frozen treats such as iced cream, sorbet, popsicles, and iced drinks. Take advantage of the amazing fruit selection at your local farmers market and create your own goodies at home by either blending a smoothie, making juiced ice cubes, or simply snacking on iced pieces.

6. A/C and fans – While AC is a nice luxury to have, there are a lot of business and homes in SLO that remain without units or cannot afford the energy bill. Good insulation goes a long way to maintaining a constant temperature, and double paned glass can not only keep structures warm in the winter, but comfortable in the summer. Vegetation and shade trees around the home retain moisture and drop the temperature as well as provide a replacement to asphalt. Fans circulate air and keep interiors from becoming stagnant. Open doors and windows in the evening to let in a good breeze.

7. Take a dip – For a little relief, make your way to the pool, dunk your head in the frigid Pacific ocean, or run through some sprinklers. A cold shower is a fantastic way to wash away sweat and quickly lower body temperature. Be careful of creeks and rivers that are slow or stagnant, as they are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and pests. Heed beach warnings for contaminated water as exposure could cause infection, sickness, and more problems than just a sweaty body.

Farmgram SLO

Local CSAs are a great way to eat healthy, support local farmers, and renew a connection with the land. However, what happens if you run out of ideas for all of those veggies? Often times, too many pieces of produce end up rotting in the compost bin because you either have no clue what to do with them, or cannot bear to look at the same ingredient for the third week in a row.

Farmgram San Luis Obispo is a project designed to deliver fresh food from the county as well as provide ideas and directions on how to use them. Each box follows a theme, such as the “breakfast box”, “juicing box”, or “meals with friends box”. In addition to vegetables and value-added items such as eggs, nuts, honey, or bread, the Farmgram comes with a chef’s recipe, starter kits for projects, and discount coupons. The canvas boxes are delivered directly to the home or office, making grocery shopping a breeze. Buying a Farmgram also helps those in need with funds each box sold used to donate fresh produce to hungry families in San Luis Obispo.

The project was started as a collaboration between three 5th year Seniors at Cal Poly. The trio hopes to encourage customers to learn new ways to enjoy the agricultural heritage of their homes, bolster local businesses, and promote food culture across the county. The Farmgram project is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, and is looking for donations to get off the ground! A pledge of $35 will secure you the first pre-order box. Contribute now to go on a culinary adventure that is good for the body, community, and creative spirit!

conflict-free smartphone

Between signing up for a two-century-long cell contract and buying a smartphone, it seems as though purchasing a mobile device is laden with guilt. Many contain metals from conflict areas and are assembled where working conditions are poor, so looking for a green and socially conscious alternative can seem like an epic quest into researching each step along the supply chain. Now, an international team of developers have created the Fairphone, the world’s first open-source, conflict-free smartphone.

The Fairphone runs on the Android Jellybean 4.2 platform and contains dual SIM cards, a Mediatexk 6589 chipset, and possesses 16 GB of internal memory. Dragontrail glass keeps the touch screen free of scratches, and two 8MP cameras are able to take pictures from the front and rear. As an open-source device, the phone can be programmed by those who are familiar with Firefox and Ubuntu code. Even more importantly, Fairphone works with organizations in Rwanda, Indonesia, and Zambia. They have partnered with groups such as Solutions for Hope, the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative, Action Aid, and Friends of the Earth. Each comes with a Bill of Materials that lets the consumer know where each material has come from. The units are assembled in China at a factory where a fund has been created to improve worker wages and comply with environmental regulations.

The company’s ultimate goal is to have a phone that is made completely from recycled materials. Until that day, they have committed to reclaiming old, obsolete devices. Each Fairphone can either be donated or sold back, and for every one purchased the company contributes €3 to removing waste from Ghana. The Fairphone costs €325, and although it is currently only available for sale in Europe, its success could set a new standard for tech giants around the globe. Of the 20,000 machines already built, half have already been claimed. In a world where e-waste, social welfare, and environmental health challenge even the most well-intentioned of consumers, it is heartening to see a group of people willing to create a product that cares for both people and the planet.

Living in an age of rapidly developing technology and planned obsolescence, most of us can admit to still hanging on to a random assortment of old or broken electronics. Finding a place to recycle e-waste can be a bit of a hassle during a busy workweek, and attempting to regain a little of the money spent for our phones, tablets, and music players can lead to obsessively checking your email after posting twenty different Craigslist ads. Then along came the ecoATM.

Sitting in the Santa Maria Town Center is a novel new machine that can give you cash for your old gadgets in a matter of minutes. The ecoATM allows you to scan your gear, check its global market value, and safely deposit your mobile device. To ensure that the items are not lost or stolen, a valid ID and thumbprint scan is required for each transaction. All deposits are monitored by staff through two cameras, the serial number is extracted and stored, and all devices are held for 30 days before being sold for extra security.

Since its debut in 2011, the company estimates that only 1 out of every 4,000 units have been reported lost or stolen. Most people walk away with at least $25, but some can earn up to $300 for a smartphone in good condition. No personal information is ever taken from the gadgets, and all are either sold to a third party to be repurposed or recycled in facilities that are certified by R2 Solutions or e-stewards.

The inventor of the ecoATM, Mark Bowles was inspired to create his clean kiosk after observing the success of the Coinstar change machines. Seeing as the US trashes over 384 million units of e-waste each year, he knew that selling defunct electronics to refurbishers could mean big business. ABI research sees the market for electronic waste at $15 billion by the end of 2014. About 350 ecoATMs have been placed in 24 states, and Bowles has plans to expand to international markets as well as working on technology to also accept computers.

Now there is no excuse not to grab your gear and do a little e-cycling for some extra cash and an environmentally friendly way to dispose of your unwanted electronics.