Archive for the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ Category

Residents and visitors to San Francisco know that space is a highly valuable commodity.  Finding a parking space anywhere in the City by the Bay can be nothing short of a miracle, and owning a car feels more like a liability than an advantage.  Car shares such as Zipcar have become popular in recent years, allowing customers to pay a monthly fee to use vehicles on a trip-by-trip basis, letting someone else take care of maintenance, insurance, and garage space.

Now, for those looking for a more hip, compact form of transportation can rent a scooter from Scoot Networks for a fee that costs only slightly more than a MUNI pass.  Riders use their smartphones to locate the electric scooters in their area.  Once claimed, the phones sit in a special dock on the dashboard, unlocking the scooter and displaying information on speed, range, and direction.  Reaching top speeds of 20-30 mph, the scooters are perfect for short hops around the city, and have enough battery life to last for a work day before recharging back in their home parking spots.  (At the moment, scooters must be returned to their original pick-up points, but once the fleet expands, Scoot Networks hopes to facilitate more one-way jaunts.)  To rent a moped, California drivers do not need to obtain a special endorsement on their licenses, and the company plans on offering training for customers who are unfamiliar with operating the vehicles.

By taking advantage of China’s huge investment in electric vehicles, CEO Michael Keating has been able to benefit from the volume of moped production and pay only $1,000 per vehicle.  This relatively small price-tag will let Scoot Networks turn over its fleet every year so users can avoid worrying about mechanical problems due to wear.  Scoot Networks will begin by providing rides to private corporate clients before taking their service public by the end of the year.  Next time you visit the Land of Fog and Clam Chowder, look for the newest trend in city travel!

Meditation has always been a wonderful way to calm, center, and focus the mind and spirit.  Evidence out of UCLA suggests that this kind of quiet, directed introspection could also strengthen the connections between neurons and increase the amount of folding in the layers of the brain.  A study by the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging shows that long-term meditators have a higher rate of gyrification, (or the amount of folding found in the cortex), which may allow practitioners to process information faster and integrate emotional and rational intelligence more efficiently.

Furthermore, there was a direct correlation between the amount of years spent in a variety of meditative disciplines, including Zen, Samatha, and Vipassana, and the total folding of the cortex.  After scanning thousands of points across the brain, the researchers also noted pronounced increases in gyrification in specific regions of the brain, most interestingly within the insular regions.  This might suggest a relationship between the area’s autonomic, affective, and integrative aspects and mediation’s goals of self-control, awareness, and introspection.

Following a form of meditation can also help manage physical pain.  A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Emotion, reported that research out of the of University Montreal discovered that Zen meditators had more grey matter than non-mediators.  This meant that through thickening certain areas of their cortex, particularly the anterior cingulate which regulates pain, they were able to reduce their levels of sensitivity.  Even their perceptions of physical discomfort were less pronounced, as their emotional reactions were more controlled and they experienced less anticipation an anxiety.  Zen thought can even help re -focus someone back to their task at hand after being interrupted by distraction much more quickly.

With such amazing results, why not take a quiet moment or two to recite a mantra, do some yoga, or take a deep breath and ponder the mysteries of the universe?  Your brain may fold in on itself with joy!


With the amount of lady’s yoga wear and equipment on the market, you might assume the practice in the United States was a bit of a girl’s club.  However, yoga was originally brought to the west from India by a line of male instructors, and it has only been within this generation that women have been adopting more influential and powerful roles.  This influx of female energy has transformed the way in which yoga is currently being taught by focusing more on intuition, connection, family flow, community, and activism.

HopeDance, in conjunction with Bambu Batu, presents the film YOGAWOMAN this March 21 at the Palm Theater from 7pm-10pm.  The documentary, narrated by Annette Benning,  interviews many of the world’s leading female yoga practitioners and teachers, including Patricia Walden, Sharon Gannon, Shiva Rea, Angela Farmer, Cyndi Lee, and Seine Corn.  With additional testimony from progressive medical professionals such as Dr. Sara Gottfried and Dr. Shirley Tells, YOGAWOMAN is the first feature to bring together these amazing women and their message of peace and self-empowerment.  To view the trailer or find showtimes in your area, visit the HopeDance website for more details.

HopeDance, a project headed by Central Coast local Bob Banner, seeks to exhibit films and hold workshops that feature pioneers and exceptional individuals that are committed to creating a new world.  HopeDance also publishes material that encourage sustainable ecological practices, community-building, holistic healing, and work designed to inspire hope and stimulate meaningful dialogue.  Come and join your fellow curious minds and open hearts for YOGAWOMAN!

There are certain actions that as a decent human being, you would never consider doing.  You wouldn’t hit a someone with glasses, steal candy from a baby, or sue a guy who promotes kale on a t-shirt.  Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont artist and supporter of local agriculture, has for more than 10 years created shirts that encourage the world at large to “Eat More Kale”.

  Somehow, the people at Chick-fil-A, a company that the New York Times points out is a business large enough to sell over 530 sandwiches a minute, got wind of the shirts and decided to send a cease-and-desist letter to Muller-Moore.  They assert that his t-shirt tagline infringes on their ads that feature the motto “Eat mor chickn”, words written by cows looking to direct attention away from beef and sell more nuggets.  The fast food giant stated that the kudos for kale “is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property.” Yet, Chick-fil-A has no stores in Vermont, Muller-Moore’s shirts predate the chicken campaign, and only someone who has difficulty differentiating a vegetable from an animal would have trouble with telling the two businesses apart.

Luckily, Muller-Moore has a lot of grassroots support.  Labeled by admirer as a “Vermont institution”, his legal support has been provided for free, a petition on set up for him by a local soup company, and he is being assisted with publicity by a former aide to governor Jim Douglas.  Peter Shumlin, the current governor, has also offered to appear with him at a news conference in order to back his cause.  In a state where community, artisanal food, and local businesses are taken very seriously, “Eat More Kale” has become a rallying cry to those who value quality, the environment, and the social implications of what people consume.

Currently, Muller-Moore is are planning to trademark his merchandise.  True to his green and proclivities, each shirt is printed on a Comfort Colors garment, dyed in Vermont by an environmentally-minded shop using a process that takes 2/3 less water than conventional methods and recycles liquid runoff.  The shirts are then hand-screened, one at a time, in a garage over Muller-Moore’s home that his wife helped him to build.  All of his stencils are cut individually, and the water-soluble ink is heat set for a flexible, durable design.  For stickers or clothing, visit the EMK site to wear your love for the earth, craft, and the people who work to make community happen where they live.

In addition to smoking cigarettes and making toast in the bathtub, you may now put paraffin candles on your “to avoid” list.  Lighting one of these wax candles can release toxins such as toluene and benzene into the atmosphere.  Far from the relaxing or romantic gesture that these flammable favorites are intended to represent, paraffin could in fact cause cancer, dizziness or asthma if used on a regular basis.  In 2009, researchers presented their findings to the annual American Chemical Society’s meeting in Washington, and identified paraffin candles as a previously unrecognized source of indoor air pollution.  The National Candle Association maintains that paraffin is not toxic as it is approved by the FDA, but those with allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or other concerns about the use of petroleum products would do best to purchase beeswax or soy candles.

Soy candles made from hydrogenated soybean oil, and beeswax produced by the bodies of the humble insect, are clean-burning, last longer than paraffin, are environmentally friendly, and do not drip or leave sooty deposits.  Beeswax in particular produces negative ions, which have been shown to increase the production of serotonin in the brain and elevate mood.  As a business that is concerned with the health of the human animal and the spaces they inhabit, Bambu Batu carries a only soy and beeswax candles, including scented and unscented lines from Big Dipper Wax Works, VegePure and Sparx.

Now that you have been enlightened and want to get rid of those old paraffin offenders, there are a few resources that may help you to dispose of them with the minimum of environmental impact.  “Take-back” programs such as the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth, MN  or accepts old paraffin candles or crayons via the post and recycles them into campfire starters or new drawing tools.  Earth911 is an excellent site that allows you to find the appropriate resting place for just about anything, or if you are feeling crafty, you can even make your own ski wax with old candles.

Lighten your load and get rid of the old oil-based tea lights and tapers for something a little more natural!

Ewok Village Tree House

Star Wars fans, tree huggers, and perpetual children rejoice, an Oregon man living in Cave Junction has done what many of us have long dreamed of doing.  Michael Garnier has built what might possibly be the largest concentration of treehouses in the world.  Dubbed the “Ewok Village“, the collection of houses complement the state’s “tree-mendous” and “tree-riffic” forests.

After leaving the Army from his post as a Green Beret medic, Garnier decided that he wanted to make a living off of the scenery without having to cut it down in the process.   He loved to work with wood, and began crafting picture propellers that use the eye’s natural responses towards the rapid shift between light and shadow to produce what he refers to as an “organic, psychedelic kaleidoscope”.  After trying his hand at constructing fences, pole barns, and furniture, Garnier found that renting his treehouses as vacation lodgings allowed him an income and a way to give people a new perspective on how to use the land. He also sells the parts and plans of his own invention for those who wish to construct their own mansion in the branches.

Designed to work with the tree’s natural biology, each house incorporates techniques that allow for the structures to become a part of the plant’s anatomy.  Eventually, attaching bolts and supports merge with the trunk and branches, creating the least obtrusive and strongest possible foundation for the dwellings.  Interconnected houses utilize sliding brackets that accommodate for wind and growth.  Complete with furnishings, spiral staircases, toilets, and windows opening onto the canopy, the houses resemble comfortable, upscale cabins.  Bridges connect each residence, and luggage and cleaning supplies are hoisted from the ground by ropes and pulleys.  His own house is an 1800 sq foot building that is supported by seven trees and may be the largest treehouse ever constructed.

Between Garnier’s prolific use of tree puns, amazing houses, and reportedly amazing meals cooked at this unique bed and breakfast, I am longing for an excuse to visit rural Oregon.  Branch out from a boring, tradition hotel or camping tent and leaf for a trip for the world’s most incredible treesort!

Visit the Tree Houses website for complete details.

Give some people lemons and they will make lemonade.  For the founders of the Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company, give them elephant, cow, horse or panda droppings, and they will make stationery.  With the belief that products should fit into a cycle of responsibility and sustainability, the Company fashions tasteful paper products from the less than tasteful leavings of fiber-munching animals.  Beginning by using elephant dung as their material of choice, the Company intended to raise money and awareness for pachyderm well-being as well as provide jobs for those living in communities near parks and reserves.

The paper itself is made from dried dung pulp, a substance generally high in fibrous materials.  After collection, the poo is rinsed, leaving only the bamboo, fruits and veggies that the animal has consumed.  The remains are boiled for sterilization, and color is added.  Then, pulp from bamboo, banana trees and pineapples are mixed in to bolster the mush and to produce strength and thickness.   The wet pulp is separated into flat cakes and pressed against screens which are left out in the sun to dry naturally.

As a bamboo store with a sense of humor, there was no way that Bambu Batu could pass up the opportunity to carry their line of Panda Poopoopaper, featuring a graphic of panda nibbling on a piece of what will soon become material for the most unique stationery set you will ever own.

“What on earth will it take?”

HopeDance FiLMs 2011 and Bob Banner present the movie Thrive, on Wednesday, November 30 at 7pm at the Palm Theater in San Luis Obispo.  This unique and thought provoking documentary reveals the consolidation of power fueled by money and globalization.  Weaving together developments in science, arts, politics, and the current waves of activism, the movie strives to offer solutions and suggestions for our ailing institutions, and strategies for taking control of our common future. Featuring commentary from visionaries and activists such as Amy Goodman, Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, and Vandana Shiva, the film hopes to enliven, inspire, and educate a world yearning for change.

In his journey to understand the devastation of poverty pervasive across cultural boundaries, Foster Gamble has discovered a code derived from UFO technology that has been embedded and represented in nature and human social systems throughout the centuries.  He believes that this information is a blueprint for finding a clean, limitless supply of energy that could completely revolutionize the way people live.  Gamble asserts that power could potentially be extracted from the space surrounding us, and therefore stands as a direct threat to our largest and most powerful economically influential industries.  By following greed and corruption through diverse sectors of our society, he makes the case that this information has been deliberately suppressed in efforts to control governments, banks,  businesses, housing, medicine, and educational institutions.

Through renewable energy, popular political will, and communication, can we come together as a people and not just survive, but thrive?

Boycott Nestle Badge

When you hear the name Nestle, you may imagine a cold winter night warmed by a steaming cup of hot chocolate, a blistering day soothed by the kiss of ice cream, or a hungry infant finding solace in a nurturing bottle of baby formula at 2am.  However, if you are an informed consumer like Annie, author of the blog PhD in Parenting, you see misguided and dangerously misleading ad campaigns, detrimental environmental practices, and socially unjust working conditions.  Since her first post in 2009 after attending a Nestle Family event at the company’s headquarters in California, Annie has been an advocate for transparency in Nestle’s operations and a supporter of a now 30-year-old-boycott of all of the conglomerate’s brands.

As one of the world’s largest food companies in the world, the conscious consumer may have to avoid a great deal of the supermarket shelf in order to take a stand against Nestle.  Why refuse a Butterfinger or pass up a Toll House cookie?  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind on your next shopping trip:

Nestle has been involved in union busting and denying the rights of workers to collectively bargain. The company has promoted misleading strategies that violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, creating dangerous dependencies and on formula and health problems in poorer nations. Many of the brands source from suppliers that violate human rights including the use of child slaves and buying products from governments headed by violent dictators. The abuse and control of local water sources in bottling practices and the support of environmentally destructive agricultural methods. The marketing of unhealthy foods, especially towards children.

With a rap sheet that long, why spend your hard-earned pay check to support a company that encourages institutional corruption, human rights abuse, environmental degradation and poor health?  Instead, opt for fair-trade, organic brands or a farmers market.  Who knew that breastfeeding, purchasing local products and cooking a meal at home could be political statements?

The people at Big Dipper Wax Works of Seattle are crazy about honey bees, and for many good reasons.  Aside from being keystone species that pollinate a number of plants including the fruits and vegetables we consume, these hard working insects produce such miraculous substances as beeswax honey, propolis, royal jelly and bee pollen. Bees have complex codes of communication, are expert engineers, and master navigators.  It is no wonder that Big Dipper has such respect for the labor and amazing biology of the humble bee.  This ethic permeates the business, and is evident in the care and consideration they take when producing their candles.

Big Dipper sources its wax from beekeepers throughout the Pacific Northwest where crops contain the lowest levels of pesticides possible.  The wax Big Dipper uses is filtered by a natural clay  process that removes impurities while retaining color and aroma.  Depending on the the flowers the bees are pollinating, the candles can range in color from bright gold to dark brown.  Beeswax is naturally dripless and smokeless, allowing for a clean burn that produces negative ions that help to clear the air, instigate seratonin production, increase oxygen flow to the brain, and regulate the endocrine glands.  All dyes are eco-friendly and cruelty free.

Like a good hive, the Big Dipper Wax Works values a commitment to the community and the environment.  As  Green America Approved Business, the company values social responsibility and ecological awareness.  A total of 10% net profits from candle sales are donated to promote sustainable beekeeping and support local schools, community health and research organizations, animal shelters, and sports teams.  All of the materials used in making the candles are locally sourced, biodegradable and undergo no chemical processing.  Big Dipper recycles and reuses reuses shipping materials, uses minimal packaging that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, encourages their customers to reuse their glass and tin containers by selling bulk refills, and composts organic matter.

Bambu Batu is proud to carry Big Dipper’s candles!  Choose from tapers, tea lights, pillars and garden candles that come with seeds and biodegradable pots!  Give the gift of warmth and light this holiday season with beeswax candles from a great company with a clean conscience.