Archive for the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ Category

Zero Waste Shop in Northern California

The story of zero is a long and arduous one. The Mayans dabbled in it, the Ancient Greeks resisted it, and not until the 13th century did Europe fully embrace it. You might argue that it’s good for nothing. You might even say it’ll never amount to anything. But I beg to differ.

Putting aside the whole binary revolution, the zero today plays a vital part in one of the 21st century’s most progressive and common sensical innovations: the Zero Waste Shop.

What is Zero Waste?

The phrase “Zero Waste” refers to a certain lifestyle choice that involves trying in every possible way to reduce your production of trash and recycling by composting more and avoiding packaging and things like single-use bags and utensils.

Realistically, living Zero Waste is not an all-or-nothing affair. Zero Waste is an ideal. The fact is, it’s next to impossible to live in this world without making an occasional trip to the garbage can. No, reverting to hunting wild game and gathering berries is not the solution. But taking small steps forward is, small steps toward the ideal.

And it’s a philosophy we fully support at Bambu Batu. Our reusable bamboo sporks and bamboo utensil sets are a perfect example of how you can eliminate your need for disposable plastic utensils.

What is a Zero Waste Shop?

In order to accommodate this growing lifestyle choice, eco-entrepreneurs are increasingly opening businesses to cater to and promote the Zero Waste mentality.

For the most parts, these Zero Waste shops are grocery stores that use as little packaging as possible. They encourage you to bring your own reusable containers — glass jars, cloth bags, etc. — and fill them with bulk goods. Pretty much any health food store you visit will have a bulk section offering grains, legumes, granola, and more. But some will go a step or two further, giving you the option to refill your own shampoo bottles and almond butter jars.

Where can I support some Zero Waste shops in California?

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

With locations in Arcata and Eureka, the North Coast Co-op is fully committed to the reduction of waste and often sponsors local events encouraging others to do the same. The grocery stores feature a vast array of bulk goods, including nuts, grains, pasta, maple syrup, soap, shampoo and much more. They also offer an extensive selection of locally grown vegetables and dairy products.

In Nevada City, S.O.A.P. touts itself as Northern California’s original eco friendly refill shop. Since 2010 this progressive business has been encouraging its customers to bring in and refill their own containers. In their crusade to eliminate the need for single-use plastics, SOAP estimates that they have helped their clientele refill more than 35,000 reusable bottles.

A truly pioneering retail shop, Refill Madness is a family owned and operated soap refillery and gift shop in Sacramento. The store offers an immense selection of ecological products for personal hygiene, household cleaning, and so much more. They always encourage customers to bring and refill their own bottles, and they try their best to only carry products that use biodegrade packaging.

THE BAY AREA

The San Francisco Bay Area is teeming with forward thinking health food stores with a growing emphasis on bulk goods and refillable containers. Sprouts and Rainbow Grocery are couple prime examples, but you can find dozens of smaller shops and food co-ops as well.

Fillgood.co offers a truly unique Zero Waste delivery service throughout the Bay Area. Basically, they’ll provide you with the reusable containers for a countless variety of groceries and household items. On delivery day, you leave your empties outside in their special reusable black bag, and they come in the hybrid-powered delivery vehicle to refill or replace as needed. When necessary, dirty containers will be taken, washed and sterilized to be used again. Check their website for complete details on how their service works and what products they offer.

CENTRAL COAST

Small but progressive, San Luis Obispo has a fabulous Natural Food Co-op. Over the years, their bulk section has steadily grown, and today you can even refill your containers with fresh nut butters, local honey and local olive oil. Of course, they also offer a wide array of local, organic and non-GMO produce.

The Secret Garden is a tiny but terrific resource for top quality teas, herbs and traditional medicines, all sold in bulk. Remember to bring your own jar.

If you’re looking for additional ways to reduce waste, Bambu Batu in downtown San Luis Obispo has a great selection of reusable utensils made from durable, sustainable bamboo. Also check out their water bottles and stainless steel lunch box sets.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

In Ventura, the Refill Shoppe has a great selection of bulk products for the bath, home and body. Refill your own containers with soaps, shampoo and household cleaners, and revel in their eco-friendly assortment of natural cleaning products.

The SustainLA Refill Station is a mobile operation that provides refill service at different farmers markets and events throughout the southland. In their effort to eliminate disposable plastics, they can refill your containers with packaging-free soaps, shampoos and other cleansers. Visit their website to see their schedule and learn more about their services for catering and special events.

A newer Zero Waste shop, just opened in 2017, BYO Long Beach offers a sensationally sustainable selection of reusable personal items, like water bottles, bamboo utensils, and stainless steel straws. The also carry bulk teas, soaps and cleaning products. As their name suggests, you are expected to Bring Your Own containers.

ELSEWHERE

If you’re not in California, a quick online search will provide you with a wealth of Zero Waste resources in your area, as the movement is spreading quickly across the U.S and Europe. Waste no time and do it today!

Why is Zero Waste so important?

Some years ago, when I was a junior writer at the SLO New Times, I took a trip to the Cold Canyon Landfill. I was working on what I thought would be a hopeful, uplifting story about the county’s fabulous new recycling program. Instead it was a shocking, eye-opening revelation, one that would leave me with permanent psychological scars.

The sheer magnitude of this modest-sized garbage dump, for a small college town with a population of 40,000-ish, was enough to send shivers through my brain. I watched the trucks come rolling in, one after another, hour after hour. And I could see that our accumulating waste was literally transforming the landscape. I tried as I could not to ponder the number of similar dumpsites littered across the state, the country, and the planet, but to no avail.

Not only is our garbage creating actual mountains, large enough to rival some of the county’s most stately landmarks. No, it’s worse than that. Of course, for anyone or anything downwind, the stench is unspeakable. And the land itself will be permanently poisoned and unapproachable, for centuries anyway.

But no, it’s even worse than that. Landfills like this are major producers of methane. Methane comprises about 20 percent of the greenhouses gases in our earth’s atmosphere. And what’s more, as a greenhouse gas, methane is about 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

And the landfills (as we so affectionately call them) are just where the responsible people’s garbage ends up. Don’t even get me started on the litterbugs and the islands of plastic and manmade detritus drifting across the world’s many oceans. Scientists currently estimate the Pacific Garbage Patch to be somewhere between the size of Texas and the size of Russia!

As you can clearly see, our clever species is literally smothering the planet with garbage. And the Zero Waste movement is but one simple and elegant approach to counteracting this calamitous trend. So what are you waiting for?

Seeded German Sourdough Bread

A big part of healthy living is definitely healthy eating. After taking a couple of classes from Virginia at Vert Foods, we’ve been on a sourdough kick. A healthy sourdough starter on the kitchen counter and endless possibilities at your fingertips.

Here’s a super easy recipe that I adapted, replacing the commercial yeast with my starter. There are many reasons why you want to use the wild yeasts of a sourdough starter over the commercial yeast available in every grocery store. If you follow Vert Foods on their Facebook page, you’ll learn about this and much more.

But now to the recipe:

Ingredients: 1c fed sourdough starter 200g (7oz) white flour 200g (7oz) whole wheat or rye flour 325g (11 fl.oz) filtered water 9g (~1.5 tsp) sea salt 3g (~0.5 tsp) bread spice* 150g (5oz) seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax,…)

*For making the bread spice, grind 2tsp fennel seeds, 2tsp anise seeds, 2tsp caraway seeds and 1 tsp coriander and mix. Store in an airtight container. This makes enough for about 4 loaves.

ingredients, note: I didn’t have enough whole wheat flour when I made this loaf, so I added some oats and soaked them in the sourdough starter overnight.

active sourdough starter

Instructions: The night before you want to bake, mix all ingredients EXCEPT the seeds into a loose dough ball in a non-reactive bowl (glass). It’ll be very sticky. Cover and let it rise overnight.

mixed ingredients

In the morning (or whenever you’re ready), deflate the dough, which will be significantly bigger and bubbly by then, and fold in the seeds. The dough is very wet, but it should stick together more than sticking to the bowl.

sponge after overnight rise

adding seeds to the sponge

Grease a bread pan (mine is a 5.5” x 10.5” pyrex pan) and sprinkle it with corn meal or wheat bran (optional).

prepared bread pan

Poor your dough into the pan, sprinkle it with a bit of flour, cover it with a towel and keep it in a warm spot. I use the same towel for this every time. It has flour on it and I keep it in my proofing bowl.

After an hour or so, test the dough by poking it gently with a finger. If the hole dent pops half way back out, you’re dough is ready for baking. If it pops right back out and disappears, let it rest a little longer. (Read more here about the myth of “double in size”) Depending on how warm your selected spot is, this takes 30 min to 2h.

ready second rise in bread pan – before

About 15 min before you think you’ll be ready to bake, preheat your oven to 450º.

second rise in bread pan – after, sprayed with water and sprinkled with oats, ready for baking

When your loaf is done proofing, mist it with water and sprinkle more seeds, oats, etc on top. Put it into the oven and bake for 20 min. Then turn your oven down to 400º, mist the top of the loaf again and return to oven for 25 more min.

baked bread

Let it sit for a few minutes, then take it out of the pan. Wrap it into a towel and let it cool down completely before you cut into it. We have great selection of awesome bamboo cutting boards and I also highly recommend a good bread knife.

Seeded German Sourdough Bread – perfect for sandwiches. And although it has spices, it tastes great with savory AND sweet toppings

My German grandpa always said: “A good bread only needs butter on top.” This bread really doesn’t need anything else…

I’m just starting out with sourdough baking, so if any of you seasoned bakers out there have any tips on how to improve this recipe, please chime in and share your secrets!

What’s your favorite sourdough recipe? Please share!

*EDITS & NOTES:* You can make a simpler bread by just using water, flour, salt and sourdough starter. Leave the seeds and bread spice out, or just sprinkle some seeds on top before you put the bread into the oven. It’s just as yummy, I promise!

Also, you don’t have to put corn meal or wheat germ into the pan either. Just grease it generously, and when you’re bread comes out of the oven, let it sit in the pan for a few minutes. It should come out relatively easily.

Bamboo Sporks be with you

Last night we took the kids down to the beach for an end-of-summer picnic, and picnics always remind me of how much I love my reusable bamboo Spork. So I figured, what better time than now to honor and reflect on one of our all time coolest products.

So simple, so functional, and so aesthetically pleasing, the reusable Spork is the epitome of sustainable simplicity. Crafted from bamboo scraps at the Bambu® factory where so many of our bamboo kitchenwares are produced, each Spork rescues a sliver of bamboo from the waste heap, and then, over the course of its long life, goes on to eliminate the need for thousands of disposable plastic utensils. With just a few basic tools, the individual scraps of bamboo are readily shaped into Sporks — no glues or wood stains required.

I always keep a Spork behind my desk here Bambu Batu, and believe it or not I’ve been using the same one for about 5 years now. And the thing is good as new. Whether I’m picking up lunch from one of our cafe neighbors or bringing in some snacks from home, my trustee Spork is always here, ready to get the job done. And it didn’t take long at all to train the cafe staff NOT to put the usual plastic forks and spoons into my take-out lunch.

If you need to improve your workplace utensils, or want to be prepared on your next picnic, road trip, or backpacking excursion, we have several options to meet your needs. For the serious Spork enthusiast, check out the Spork n Cork (a bamboo Spork in a stylish cork carrying case). Or step it up a notch with the To-Go Ware utensil set, comes complete with bamboo fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks, in a handy case with velcro closure and carabiner clip.

To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set

Bamboo Spork and cork carrying case

 

 

 

bioneers

There is no doubt that the earth and human beings are intertwined. However, our species certainly has a knack for pretending as if this were not the case. The Bioneers Network brings together leading thinkers from around the world to help heal the divide between nature and people.

→ Read more

Travelers to San Luis Obispo come to the area to relax, take in the scenery, and engage with the community. While there will always be the sort who prefer a hotel or spa, many tourists are choosing to stay in unique, rented spaces provided by residents of their destination. Visitors get to sample a little local flavor at rates significantly less than many large establishments or chains, and property owners can find a use for old rooms, boats, apartments, or cottages. Sites such as Airbnb help parties find one another and list their accommodations. However, many cities have laws that restrict this kind of transaction, and San Luis Obispo citizens are asking to be able to lease their living rooms.

Change.org is hosting a petition to amend San Luis Obispo’s housing code to allow for short term rentals. The backers of the petition to City Council estimate that the county could see a $7.6 million annual increase in revenue as well as attract a wider demographic than just the wine drinking set. Homeowners are able to supplement the high cost of living in the county, and get to share their love of the region with others. Would you rent out your space?

 

In the Hindu pantheon, goddesses represent strengths, beauty, compassion, good fortune and creativity. While the female figures elicit great respect from worshipers, their earthly counterparts sadly do not receive the same degree of respect. In India, gender is a major determinate for mobility, social status and personal safety.

According to Save the Children India, over 68 percent of women who live in  the country are subject to domestic violence. To draw attention to their plight, the organization created a media campaign called “Save Our Sisters”. The anti-trafficking series of images aims to shed light on the exploitation that many young women and girls face. Pictures of traditional goddess representations are altered to show the figures as subject to abuse, reminding society that no one is safe from aggression and discrimination.

The pictures are intended to resemble old oil paintings in the tradition of hand-crafted devotional illustrations. Models were photographed and digitally manipulated to create the striking images. The normally serene, dignified expressions of the goddesses are replaced by tears and wounds, connecting the actions of human beings to the divine. Far from just a problem in India, the ads allow the global community to take note and consider their own relationships with trafficking and violence against women.

When it comes to caring for the environment, we would all like to do the right thing. Whether it’s installing a solar array or buying an electric vehicle, the cost of the new green technologies can sometimes be prohibitive. Luckily, there are some incentive programs to make modern living both sustainable and affordable.

Lawn be Gone – Living on the Central Cost, residents enjoy a Mediterranean climate. Characterized by long hot summers and short rainy winters, the native vegetation has adapted to become drought tolerant and hardy. With suburban development, much of the endemic flora has been replaced by water hogging lawns and golf courses. The county suffers from water shortages on an almost consistent basis, and this has spurred some cities to offer compensation for replacing grass with xeroscaping. Paso Robles, for example, will give homeowners up to $500 to convert their yards into gardens that use rocks, succulents, and other drought tolerant plants.

Energy Extras – San Luis Obispo is blessed with an abundance of sunshine. What better part of the state to take advantage of solar panels and heating systems? The California Solar Initiative provides assistance and cash back for those in PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E territories who wish to operate off of the grid. The program takes you through an energy efficient audit, helps you find a solar installer, and apply for the rebates that apply to your home or business. The CSI program has a total budget of $2.167 billion between 2007 and 2016 and a goal to install approximately 1,940 MW of new solar generation capacity, meaning that there is a pretty deep funding pool for those who qualify.

Cars and Cash- Hybrid and electric vehicles are undoubtedly the wave of the future, but the sticker price can send some prospective shoppers into shock. However, California is home to a number of programs that take a little pain out of making an enlightened decision. The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project from the Center for  Sustainable Energy California provides up to $2,500 to consumers for the purchase of a zero-emission or plug-in vehicle. Federal tax credits for plug in-hybrids and EV’s can reach as high as $7,500 if bought after 2010.

Guadalupe Dunites

 

It seems as though every California city has at one point in its history been home to an eclectic group of residents. The Guadalupe Dunes, located in Oceano, once boasted a unique community of intellectuals, mystics, artists, and vagabonds who called themselves the Guadalupe Dunites.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, a collection of disenfranchised sand worshipers claimed the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes as their own, salvaging the wood and scrap materials from an ill-conceived boardwalk and resort town built during the turn of the century. The Dunites were comprised of a number of odd personalities, including Spanish-American war veteran Edward St Claire, notable author and Socialist gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair, recovering alcoholic and evangelical naturalist George Blais, artist Elwood Decker, and Gavin Arthur, astrologist and grandson of President Chester A. Arthur. The members published their own alternative magazine with contributors such as Ansel Adams. Dune Forum only lasted for five issues as its expensive price of 35 cents during the Depression and Bohemian content proved to be a hard sell for the majority of the population.

In addition to being the refuge for society’s outcasts, the Oceano Dunes is an Official Archeological Site that is the resting place for Cecil B. DeMille’s massive “Ten Commandments” set, a wildlife sanctuary, and recreation area. Visitors interested in exploring this amazing landscape can delve into the area’s history at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center. For more information, check out Norm Hammond’s book, The Dunites for a comprehensive history of men and women who survived on nuts and fruit, dressed in loincloths to go to town, and wandered around the sand as modern mystics.

 

Ever feel a bit guilty that you are using what once used to be a stately tree to wipe your behind? The American obsession with soft tissue has been responsible for the clear-cutting of forests across the world, and all just to keep clean in between showers. Simple solution? Bamboo toilet tissue!

According to Simple Ecology, Americans use 50 pounds of tissue paper per person each year. Each household will use two trees a year to fulfill their needs, translating into 200 pounds of paper. This figure is nearly 50% more than in Western Europe and Japan. Furthermore, the processing of the tissue is a major contributor to air and water pollution as well as habitat destruction. The industry is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and uses many cancer causing chemicals. With a full two-thirds of paper used at home, individuals can do a lot to help reduce their ecological footprint.

Finally, there is a green alternative for your bathroom break. The Tian Zhu Paper Group Co. offers bamboo pulp toilet tissue that is soft, strong, and sustainable. Established in 2006, the company is located in Jinhua Industrial Park, Chishui and operates out of a 70 acre facility. They take advantage of fast growing bamboo to create everything from toilet paper, to facial tissue, napkins, hand towels and kitchen towels. While there is a definite concern over the energy used to transport the paper products, bamboo toilet tissue is a great substitute for the devastation of old growth forests.

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!

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