Archive for the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ Category

There are plenty of reasons for concerned citizens to be wary of companies like Monsanto and Koch Industries. Between pollution, public deception, and political manipulation, these are corporations that have permeated our society with their GMO’s, chemicals, and corrupt policies. As consumers, we tend to believe that we can at least choose not to purchase the goods they are peddling. However, identifying the makers behind popular foods and cleaning supplies are nearly impossible at the grocery store without having to do a multi-hour internet search beforehand.

Instead of lugging around your own compendium of brands to avoid, you can turn to a much more manageable smartphone app called, “Buycott“. Invented by 26-year-old Ivan Pardo, the program scans the barcode of a product, determines its manufacturer, and cross-checks the item against campaigns you have joined to see if it conflicts with your principles. The campaigns you can join either choose to avoid or promote certain goods or causes. The application already has a large database, but users can contribute information for those items that Buycott does not recognize.

So far, Buycott has experienced a rush of new users, speaking to the concerns of communities across the nation. Although these businesses are massive and influential, this may be the first grassroots step in the effort to topple their hegemony.

polluting your backyard

In the effort to combat climate change, we carpool, scale back our utility use, purchase carbon credits, and do our best to source our power from clean technologies. Yet, if we pay tuition, donate to non-profits, or have a stock portfolio, we may still be contributing to dirty energy. Many universities, local governments, and religious institutions have endowments or investments that benefit financially from fossil fuels. Seeing the support of coal companies, oil giants, and mining projects as antithetical to their moral and political proclivities, organizations across the nation are divesting from these markets.

The Fossil Free campaign helps to organize and support those who wish to give non-renewable resources the boot. Over 300 colleges have already started their own campaigns, including Brown University who is slated to vote on axing 15 coal and mining companies from their endowment this month. Major cities, such as San Francisco have decided that exacerbating climate change was not in the best interest of the planet or the Bay. Those interested can visit the website and either begin a petition or join an already existing call to action. In addition to hosting a platform to collect signatures, Fossil Free also provides relevant articles, charts, and studies to help make a strong and well-informed case.

As a strategy, taking away a source of revenue may be one of the quickest and most effective ways to halt fossil fuel infrastructure. Seeing as much of the industry has bought influence in Congress and around the world, pulling money away from conglomerates is one of the most powerful means of stopping a number of pipelines and mountaintop removals at one time. While it is true that companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal make billions of dollars and that the dissent of only a few small institutions may not at first make a huge dent, it is important to back up beliefs with concrete action. Not only igniting discussion and creating a PR nightmare, large endowments are responsible for billions of dollars themselves, and can make their voices heard if they decided to gather together to send a message and hit polluters where it hurts. Money could then be apportioned to back renewable energy and bolster a healthier, greener economy that would not only ease the burden of climate change, but give birth to a vibrant new market that benefits more small businesses and communities.

The time has come to tell the fossil fuel giants that carbon is so very last century.

STEAM Carnival will change they way you think about carnivals

Chances are, if you are attempting to talk to a child about math and science, you will receive a look of mild boredom at best and outright disgust at worst. Yet, if you throw in the words “video games”, “robots”, “lasers”, or “fire”, you are sure to grab their attention. Confident that learning can be a fun and engaging experience, co-founders of Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus, Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman, have launched a spectacle that is certain to dazzle kids and adults alike. Prepare yourselves for the STEAM Carnival, a synthesis of entertainment and education that uses cutting edge technology and showmanship to delight and inform.

Currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, the STEAM Circus is hoping to raise funds to establish a state-of-the-art big tent affair complete with games, prizes, food, live entertainment, and the latest technology to inspire children to get excited about the arts and sciences. STEAM, or “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math” seeks to encourage kids to explore the world around them and become more involved in education. According to Naval STEM, only 33 percent of eighth graders show an interest in the disciplines, and a scant 6 percent of high school seniors will seek a major in the fields. With attractions like the motion capture mechanical bull, ignition ring toss, and human asteroid games, who wouldn’t be thrilled to participate in the sciences?

Through digital art galleries, musical robots, fashion shows of wearable electronics, and a healthy dose of fire, the STEAM Carnival hopes to give the world of science a much needed boost in PR. Kids will be able to also sign up for a special kit that they will be able to take home to jumpstart their careers as future inventors. Slated to open in the spring of 2014, the event will begin in Los Angeles before traveling to San Francisco and cities beyond. Two Bit Circus is working towards raising enough money via crowdsourcing to invent new activities, reach out to schools, secure locations, and finalize production. Contribute today in order to bring the Carnival to life!

World Bicycle Relief

May means flowers, stellar weather, festivals, and bicycles. Every year, bikes take over San Luis Obispo to celebrate National Bicycle Month. All around town, you can witness cyclists of all ages and backgrounds pedaling their way to work, on errands, or simply out to play. There are always a ton of fun events centered around the pedaling population planned by the San Luis Obispo County Bike Coalition, including the popular World Bicycle Relief poker run. Taking place on Saturday, May 11 beginning at 9am, participants will compete for prizes. Starting at the Central Coast Brew Parking lot, players will wheel about downtown, stopping in at local businesses to collect cards and see who earns the best hand. Tickets can be purchased at most SLO bike shops, as well as right here at Bambu Batu!

World Bicycle Relief is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide bicycles to rural developing nations. By designing frames specifically for rugged terrain, assembling them locally, deliver them to those in need and establish a maintenance network, WBR hopes to improve the lives for people who need inexpensive and efficient transportation. Founded in 2005 by F.K. Day and Leah Missbach Day in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, WBR collaborated with aid workers to distribute 24,000 bicycles. Soon after their success in Sri Lanka, other aid organizations based in sub-Saharan Africa looked to the group to establish a bicycle culture among the population. At present, WBR has helped to donate 120,000 bicycles and trained over 200 field mechanics.

Not just for recreation, bicycles are essential to the health and economies of many developing communities. Bicycles allow children to attend school (70% of students that receive bikes are girls), make it possible for families to travel for groceries or water, help provide work and create jobs, and care for the environment. Healthcare workers are better able to visit communities affected by HIV/AIDS, and educate patients on how to prevent the disease. WBR partners with a number of other organizations that help to plant trees, conserve wildlife, and contribute to education. All of this made possible by generous, hard-working people and the beautiful and beneficial bicycle!

Toyota was one of the first major manufacturers to embrace hybrid technology with their well-known Prius model. Now they are taking the idea of sustainability and green engineering one step further with the introduction of their ME.WE concept car. The sporty, compact vehicle uses a tubular aluminum frame and its panels are composed of polypropylene plastic. The body is completely recyclable, and at 1,653 lbs, very lightweight. The design allows the panels to turn the car from a sedan into a convertible, and an extendable rear deck can transform the configuration into a tiny pickup truck. The all-electric car is powered by four in-wheel motors and a lithium-ion battery mounted under the floor.

What really gets our knocks our viscose socks off is that almost the entire interior is covered in silky soft bamboo! In collaboration with French designer Jean Marie-Massaud, the concept was revealed at a Paris event this week. Sadly, the maker has no intention of mass-producing the car. OK fine, but if you’re feeling generous, I know a hard-working bamboo shopkeeper in San Luis Obispo who could use a company car…

Jayson Fann Spirit Nest

There are times when all you want to do is shed the trappings of a modern life and head for the trees. Californian artist Jayson Fann understands the desire to reconnect with nature in a direct and meaningful manner. Through his Spirit Nests, the artist constructs giant structures inspired by birds. Using local sustainably-harvested woods, each dwelling is completely unique to its location. He begins construction by finding the wood on site, and strips the branches of leaves and twigs, scattering them to reduce the risk of fire. Fann then fits each piece of wood into spiraled pattern, using the tension of the configuration and counter sunk screws to hold the composition together. To support the nest, he builds a base that is capable of supporting a 2,000 lb load.

Fann has created nests for a variety of places throughout the state, including the famous Esalen Institute and Treebones Resort in Big Sur. In addition to his installation work, he also runs the cross-cultural arts organization, Big Sur Spirit Garden. Located between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the facility offers arts education courses, training, and booking for special events. It boasts three outdoor stages, sculptures, murals, tropical gardens, and of course, the famous Spirit Nests. Hoping to foster understanding, creativity, and connection through the arts, the Big Sur Spirit Garden and its unique projects embody the energy and vitality of the region.

Here at Bambu Batu, we have a great appreciation for natural fibers. Yet, there are some textiles that it can be a little hard to wrap our heads around. Case in point: hagfish slime. Yes, scientists have been working on developing thread from the defensive mucous of the eel-like marine animal. It turns out that the goo is affordable, abundant, and rivals spider silk in strength. Researchers at the University of Guleph in Canada were the first to take a good long look at a substance that most people do their best to avoid.

The slime contains a number of proteins that are 100 times thinner than a human hair. After isolating the threads, the scientists found that they were 10 times stronger than nylon. The team will not have to only rely on harvesting the substance from hagfish as they can engineer bacteria to synthesize the proteins. Efforts to make spider silk this way has met challenge as the proteins are larger and difficult for the bacteria to create. Goats had been modified to produce the proteins in their milk, but using mammals greatly increases the cost of the material.

One of the advantages to the slime lays in the fact that it can become a durable, organic alternative to petroleum-based cloths like polyester or Kevlar. And, if you really think about it, could wearing sea snot be all the much more gross than sporting silk? Would you wear a suit of slime?

 

“No snow.  No ski.” asserts the Soul Poles website.  The company, based in Utah, makes ski poles out of bamboo and knows all to well the impact that global warming is having on the levels of alpine snow. Acknowledging the fact that climate change directly influences the success of their business, Soul Poles has committed itself to being as environmentally responsible as possible.  Founded by former members of the U.S. Ski Team racers, the equipment is fashioned by hand in the United States, helping to create local jobs and and curb emissions that contribute to the rise of greenhouse gasses.

Poles are available in models suited for both skiing and trekking.  Fabricated using bamboo, recycled plastics, and recycled aluminum they are available in a natural finish or customized colors that use a low VOC water-based paint and clear coat.  Sturdy and attractive, the body of the pole is 100% biodegradable. Ranging from $110-350, Soul Poles are a fantastic alternative to non-recyclable synthetic materials.

In an effort to help the ski and snowboard industry become a little more green, Soul Poles has partnered with Recycle Utah to educate consumers on how to safely dispose of their unwanted gear.  The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet, a non-profit that contributes a portion of total revenue to environmental organizations.  Soul Poles also partners with World Cup Dreams, a group that assists winter sports athletes to achieve their goals as professional competitors, and Protect Our Winters which focuses on uniting and engaging the global snow sports community.

Nothing says “I love you” and “screw this whole Black Friday mess”  like putting the time and effort into hand-making a gift or holiday decoration.  Why go to a big box store and buy something that everyone else will have under their tree this year? Instead, grab your power tools, sewing box, and craft kit, throw some spiced cider on the stove, and get ready to create a little holiday cheer!

Tree for all – When celebrating the magic of Christmas, show a little love to your floral family by sparing the tree this year. If you are still pining for the smell of pine, pick up a potted tree to spruce up your home, and start the tradition of planting you new friend in the garden or park after Christmas. If you are a little short on cash, arrange your books into the shape of a tree in your shelves, or construct a faux fir from recycled cardboard and bottles. For those living in close quarters, wall stickers and frames make for a space-saving and attractive 2D tree. Even an old ladder from the garage can create an excellent frame for lights and ornaments!

For the light show, consider using low-energy, efficient LEDs. Not only do they shine brightly in a myriad of different colors, but they don’t kick out as much heat or waste electricity. Consider putting them on a timer to shut them off while you sleep and wait for Santa.

Spirits of the Season- Concoct your own top-shelf flavored alcohol this season with easy at-home recipes. Depending on how savvy you are around the still, it may be best to buy a base such as rum or vodka from the store and add ingredients to infuse into the booze. Favorites include Limoncello, Mocha Cream Liqueur, and Sangria.  For the infused liqueurs, make sure to start ahead of the holidays, as some require some time to marinate in the bottle. When finished, present a bottle as a gift, crack it open at your next gathering, and count the minutes until your crazy uncle dons a light-shade for a hat.

Deck the Halls- The closest thing that those of us on the Central Coast will get to snow is making our own from paper and scissors. Office cooler cups can be arranged to make some pretty stunning, snow-white stars, and you can never beat the classic cotton ball for a fluffy drift. (Bonus points if you use organic cotton!) Reclaimed wood, screws, and old ribbon can make a simple and attractive patterns for five or six pointed stars, and even old PVC pipes can be repurposed into s surprisingly lovely holiday wreath.

Bamboo feeds, clothes, adorns, and can even save lives. Growing up in Afghanistan, inventor Massoud Hassani used to play in raging war zones and fields studded with landmines. He and his brother would construct small spheres from scrap metal that would roll along the desert floor, powered by the wind. Sometimes, their contraptions would travel dangerously close to the bombs.

For his final project at the Design Academy of Eindhoven, Hassani drew upon his childhood experiences to create a giant version of his old playthings. Nearly 20 times bigger than the original, the heaver and sturdier Mine Kafon is made from bamboo and biodegradable plastic. Propelled by the wind, they can meander through dangerous terrain, saving lives with each mine they trigger. It has been estimated that through conventional methods, its costs up to $1,200 to remove a single landmine. Hassani’s design costs only 40 Euros, and can be used multiple times before needing to be replaced. With every explosion, the Mine Kafon looses only one or two legs, allowing it to keep moving and remove up to three or four explosive devices in a single journey. He hopes to track his inventions by GPS, monitoring their paths and keeping tabs on how many bombs they clear.

Massoud’s work can currently be seen at the MOMA in New York and will be shown at Gallery Slott in Paris later this year. Visit the link to see the Mine Kafon in action!

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