Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

Build your own Bamboo Living Home

Imagine a house built entirely from bamboo. Natural yet modern, simple yet elegant, rustic yet secure. Maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island, but I can already hear the palm fronds rustling in the breeze, the bamboo canes clonking softly, and the bonobo chimps making monkey love in the distance. Almost as arousing as the size of my minuscule carbon footprint.

But is it just one great tree-hugging fantasy, or can you really build a house entirely out of bamboo? Well, it probably depends on your definition of a house, and what you mean by entirely.

If you want to sleep in a grass-roof shack like Gilligan and the Skipper, then, yes. You can do that entirely with bamboo poles. Although you might still want some palm or sedge thatching for a bit more insulation. But if you’re looking for a modern family home with all the amenities, then you’ll have to talk to the Professor.

The Bamboo Gurus

When it comes to bamboo construction, there are a few names that stand out, genuine experts in the field. So let’s head to Colombia.

Engineer and architect Simón Vélez has been designing incredible bamboo structures and pavilions around the world for decades. A number of his buildings and installations have received prizes, and his name is almost synonymous with bamboo housing. In fact, his book, Grow Your Own House, is one of my favorites on the subject.

Less renowned, but certainly prolific, Estaban Morales is a civil engineer, also from Colombia, with a very impressive resume of bamboo construction projects. Specializing in bamboo, earth and wood building, he has participated in the design and construction of hotels, houses, restaurants, temples and other buildings throughout Colombia and Latin America.

©Filosofía Renovable y Arquitectura Mixta

Estaban’s website showcases a beautiful collection of building that he’s worked on, including the Izakaya Restaurant in Mexico, pictured above.

Thinking outside the Cubo

Now let’s head to the Philippines, where 23-year-old engineering student Earl Forlales is making history with his cutting edge housing solution. Inspired by the bamboo huts that cover his native islands, Forlales developed the Cubo, a simple, modular bamboo house that can be manufactured in a week and assembled in about four hours for a meagre $10 per sq.ft.

Judges from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors awarded Forlales first prize in the Cities for the Future competition in November 2018. His incredible design aims to address the critical housing shortage facing the Philippines. Forlales now has his eyes on some land on the outskirts of Manilla, and we’re all eager to see the Cubos go into full-scale production.

Next stop, Nepal

Bamboo houses are nothing new in tropics of southeast Asia, nor in the shadows of the Himalayas. Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit organization dedicated to building houses for families in need, recently launched a program to build a series of bamboo homes in Nepal.

Framed partially with concrete columns, these simple, affordable homes rely almost entirely on locally harvested bamboo for their structural integrity. Volunteers, coming primarily from western countries, assembled the homes alongside a team of more experienced local builders. Together they cleaned, split and weaved the bamboo to construct the rustic but solid walls.

Later they mixed a kind of plaster from mud, straw, water and dung, which they used to coat the floors and walls, inside and out. Corrugated metal sheets served as the roof, and the end result was some wonderfully inviting housing, completed in less than two weeks. Check out YR Architecture Design to see the complete story with dozens of photos.

Do-It-Yourself Bamboo Homes

Now let’s say you don’t have the ingenuity of the Professor or the wherewithal of Thurston Howell III, and you lack the means to design and construct one of these masterpieces of green-building for yourself. Or you live in a country with much stricter building codes. No problem.

After all, you’re probably not looking to build a house of god, although some of Simón Vélez’s bamboo temples are pretty spectacular. You just want a modest family home with a little bit a of style and the least environmental impact possible. It’s all possible, and you don’t even have to relocate to a developing country in southeast Asia.

Introducing Bamboo Living Homes, based in Hawaii. For 25 years now, partners Jeffree Trudeau and David Sands have been paving the way for bamboo home enthusiasts around the world. Not only are these innovative homes easy on the eyes and soft on the earth, they’re also light on the pocketbook. What’s more, Bamboo Living is the first company in the world to design bamboo houses that meet international building standards.

Their prefab bamboo structure come as small as 100 square feet, making an ideal tea room or meditation space, starting at a paltry $8,300. You can assemble these small models yourself in as little as two days. But from there, the options go through the roof. Bamboo Living offers some 3 and 4 bedroom models with over 2,700 sq. ft. feet, plus porch space of up to 1,100 sq. ft. Check their website and feast your eyes on all the magnificent models and designs.

To date, the company has provided more than 350 bamboo homes on the islands of Hawaii and elsewhere around the world. The style of construction is ideal for tropical habitats, aesthetically and in terms of climate. Every model has the option of single-wall construction for temperate climates or double-wall with space for insulation in hot and cold zones.

If you’re looking for the most eco-friendly and sustainable bamboo house possible, that’s also reasonably priced and permitted by building regulations, look no further. For those of us who live and breathe all things green, Bamboo Living Homes are like a dream come true.

Once the home is built, you can fill it with bamboo furniture and stock the rooms with sumptuous bamboo towels and bamboo bedding. Then, of course, you’ll have to invite your friends over for piña coladas and a three-hour tour.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other websites, so that if you purchase any items through those links we may receive a small commission. This helps to finance the website, but we do not allow it to bias our opinions and recommendations. And we do NOT receive commissions from Bamboo Living Homes; our enthusiasm is perfectly genuine.

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?

How to grow kaleCheck it out!  DIY Garden presents The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Kale! This superfood boasts deep, earthy flavors that can range from rich and meaty to herbaceous and slightly bitter. And it is easy peasy to grow!  Here’s the link.

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Kale!

waterwise

Yes, we got record amounts of rainfall this week, for this time year. But no, the drought is not over. Not by a long shot. We probably used more water wiping the spots off our windshields than we received in the form of rain. Estimates for most parts of SLO County indicate something between one and two thirds of an inch fell on Tuesday, so drought conditions remain as severe as ever, and so there’s no better time than now to get waterwise.

If you haven’t already started taking fewer and shorter showers, please do. If you haven’t already removed your fuzzy green lawn, or at least let it whither away by natural causes, then what are you waiting for? These are simple steps we all should’ve taken by now, minor inconveniences to our lazy lifestyles. But there’s plenty more we can do, especially if you’re not enamored with that golden brown front yard of dead sod.

Master Gardener Mary Wootten is hosting a workshop on Waterwise Gardening later this month, June 25th, at the Paso Robles demonstration garden to provide creative tips on more efficient and socially responsible gardening strategies. Topics will include drought-tolerant landscaping, grey water recycling, and drip irrigation. With her waterwise words of advice, you can enjoy a beautiful garden without taxing our diminishing water tables. Workshops are free; check out the flier for complete details.

Eco Fashion Show 2015

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and San Luis Obispo’s natural fiber fashionistas know what that means. The 5th annual Eco Fashion Show is just days away, taking place at the Odd Fellows Hall at 520 Dana St., on Friday May 29, at 6:30 pm. A yearly fundraiser to benefit Humankind Fair Trade, a non-profit gift shop on Monterey Street, this year’s Eco Fashion Fashion will feature several local purveyors of fine organic and re-used apparel.

Of course, no SLO Eco Fashion Show would be complete without showcasing outfits from Bambu Batu, Hemp Shak and Maule Wear, pillars of our local natural fibers community. Live Local Apparel will also be on the scene with their locally inspired and locally produced t-shirts and caps. Second hand clothiers like Curio, Ruby Rose, Threads and Castaways will also take part, touting the ecological benefits of used clothing. Re-use and reduce! A new addition this year, Eco Bambino will be representing the fashion trends for the little ones.

Good-looking models have been recruited from the community to show off five outfits from each participating business. Bambu Batu will feature a number of new styles, including our top-selling Felicity Dress, as well as other perennial favorites for men and women.

Be sure to stop by and see what else is new this season in the world in the eco fashion. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 at the door, and proceeds benefit Humankind Fair Trade, a non-profit shop that provides income to artisans and farmers in the developing world. Also check out the vendor fair before the show, and don’t miss the silent auction, with some exceptionally nice gifts from each of the participating businesses.

Heidi Harmon

 

Yesterday, hundreds—perhaps thousands, but surely a dismally small number—of U.S. citizens went out to the polls to participate in this American experiment we call representative democracy. Today we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that another season of mudslinging is behind us. But more importantly, I’d like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to one of the few real winners in this election cycle.

Her name is Heidi Harmon, and she ran what was probably the cleanest, most honest and respectable campaign I’ve ever seen. For the first time in my life I had the privilege of casting a vote for a someone I genuinely believed in, someone I honestly believed to be a real person with a heart and soul, an artist, a mother, and a citizen of the planet, willing put the collective interests of her planet ahead of the political and economic interests that have always set the rules and defined the playing field.

At the end of the day, Heidi’s opponent, the incumbent Katcho “I-sell-gasoline-for-a-living-so-don’t-ever-expect-me-to-take-a-stand-against-big-oil” Achadjian (R) had more votes, and will thereby keep his Assembly seat for the 35th district. But anyone who’s ever spoken with Heidi, or attended any of her rallies, or met any of her team of grassroots supporters, or read any of their numerous letters to the editors that have been published in the local papers over the recent months, must know that regardless of vote tallies, Heidi Harmon will always represent the winning side.

Taking the gas station entrepreneur head on, Heidi ran as a self-identified “climate change candidate” and set herself apart from nearly every politician from either major party. In neighboring Santa Barbara County, Big Oil demonstrated its might by soundly defeating Measure P, which would have banned fracking and certain other form of oil exploration, outspending the ban supporters to the tune of $7.6 million to $284,000. On a brighter note, Northern California voters passed Measure S in Mendocino County, effectively banning fracking in that county and giving the citizens—not corporations—the final say in their local water use policies.

Let’s just hope Mendocino, and not Santa Barbara, will serve as the bellwether for future fracking controversies around California and the nation. And let’s also hope for a future in which we are less often forced to settle for the lesser of evils, and more often given choices we can be proud of.

 

Central Coast Bioneers

The 5th Annual Central Coast Bioneers Conference is coming to SLO later this month, October 24 & 25, at the SLO Grange Hall, 2880 Broad St. The locally hosted event takes place in conjuction with the 2014 National Bioneers Conference and features recorded presentations of all the keynote speakers, addressing topics of Climate Justice, Women’s Leadership, Indigenous Knowledge, Biomimicry, and more. Among the highlights will be noted author Naomi Klein, who’s currently on tour to promote her newest book, “This Changes Everything.”

Local participants can also attend innovative workshops on community building, environmental stewardship and ethical investing.  You’re also encouraged to join field trips to local points of interest, to study bird watching at Hi Mountain Condor Look Out, community planning at Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, and the future of farming at Kukkula Winery in Paso Robles.

For pricing details and a complete schedule of local and national events, check the Bioneers website. Tickets available online and in-person at Bambu Batu.

greenhouse

What could be a more appropriate use for salvaged wood than use in a recycled greenhouse? Once a thriving organism in its own right, timber rescued from wine barrels, barns, old doors and retaining walls can become a shelter for developing seedlings. A Place to Grow | Recycled Greenhouses recognizes the potential in scrapped wood and bestows upon the material a new life as an environmentally conscious greenhouse, shed, or outdoor studio space.

Operated by San Luis Obispo residents Dana and Sean O’Brien, the company prides itself in finding a solution to construction waste and creating beautiful bespoke structures. Dana boasts a finance degree from Cal Poly SLO, over 20 years as a government employee, and an active role in Habitat for Humanity. Sean graduated with a degree in computer science from Cal Poly, has been a software engineer for more than 25 years, and possesses a California contractor’s license. Together, the O’Briens created their business to pursue their passions for eco-friendly building.

A Place to Grow has been honored by the Martha Stewart American Made Contest, and has created greenhouses for Sage nursery in Los Osos and private residences up and down the Central Coast. For more information, contact A Place to Grow through their website, or email Dana at dana@recycledgreenhouses.com.

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

Looking for some light summer reading to keep yourself entertained while also staying informed on matters of international and scientific importance? Look no further. “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change”, by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman, is now available. You may remember these characters from their fully-illustrated yet unlikely literary debut, “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics”, which elucidated the dismal science with whimsical clarity. Think of it as a cross between “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar” by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein and “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi.

Their latest joint venture takes the most contentious topic in contemporary American politics and spells it out so plainly that even a Tea Party member could understand it. Students, skeptics and scaredy-cats could all stand to gain from a close reading of these climate change comics. Check your local book store or order online today. “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change” is sure to be a hot seller.

 

Jewelry is a purely ornamental aspect of style and unique representation of personal style. Worn to accentuate the features, each pair of earrings, bracelet, or ring enhances an outfit and serves an example of human craft. Sadly, accessories are all too often sourced from materials surrounded with environmental or political origins. Artistry can be replaced by forced labor, and transform a product from a thing of great artistry to a disposable fashion industry trinket. Takobia jewelry offers beautiful sterling silver and iron jewelry that gives back to a worthy cause. The Waterville, Maine-based company is a contributor to Seeds of Peace, the Love and Understanding Program, and Vietnam Relief Services. Each elegantly simple design is created to inspire confidence in the wearer and instill a sense of pride that their purchase goes towards helping those in need. Bambu Batu is proud to carry a wide selection of gorgeous Takobia earrings, perfect for a holiday gift or just for treating yourself!

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