Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category
Did you know that 380 million tons of plastic were produced in 2018? That brings the total quantity of plastic up to about 6.5 billion tons since its introduction in the mid 1950s. Yeah, that’s a lot of dixie cups.A PLASTIC APOCALYPSE
Generous estimates say that first world countries manage to recycle about 25 percent of their plastic waste. If it’s disposed of responsibly, the remaining waste should end up in the landfill.
But I would encourage you to visit your local landfill and see for yourself just how responsible it is. Like the holocaust museums in Germany, they are something every citizen of this planet should be aware of.
Civil society has found a way to make it look like our garbage simply disappears at the end of every week. But that’s not actually how it works. Talk about burying the truth.
Meanwhile, we know for certain that astronomical quantities of plastic and packaging are ending up elsewhere. How do we know that? Because there are multiple islands of litter floating around the sea, and they are larger than some countries. And I don’t mean Malta or Liechtenstein. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, though difficult to measure, is at least the size of Texas or France, and some estimates say many times larger.
But the plastics don’t just sit there, floating about harmlessly like a few olives in a salty martini. If only.
For several decades now, birds and marine life—not trained to be on the watch for harmful particulates—have been consuming this toxic debris at a brisk and predatory pace. Biologists estimate that 90 percent of birds now contain particles of plastic. And by 2050 there will likely be more plastic in the seas than fish. Let me say that again: More plastic than fish.URGENT ACTION NEEDED
You would have to be numb and heartless not to recognize this as the global crisis that it is. And I would have to be somewhat naive and Polyannaish if I told you not to panic. By all means, if there were ever a time to panic, this is it.
We should be panicking in the streets. We should be panicking at the mall. We should be panicking in classrooms. We should be panicking in the halls of Congress.
Perhaps you feel helpless. Perhaps you don’t think there’s anything you can do as a single individual that could make a difference. But we need to do more than just panic. And we can. These ginormous garbage patches are nothing more than a conglomeration of single individual pieces, and we as individuals need to start doing something. Now.REDUCE YOUR WASTE
A lot of people are talking about zero waste these days, and that’s a good thing. But don’t be put off by the fact that you will never actually be able to reduce your waste down to nothing. The point is, there are dozens of simple things you can do to drastically reduce your waste.
Two of the biggest sources of waste are packaging and single-use plastics like cups, straws and utensils. And these are some very easy things to scale back on with just a minimal adjustment of your personal habits.REUSABLE BAGS & CONTAINERS
We’ve known for years about bringing our own shopping bags to the grocery store. This is basically square one. It might take a few trips to get into the habit, but your best bet is simply to keep some extra bags in your car at all times.
Nowadays, you can find flimsy tote bags just about anywhere. But if your goal is to reduce your waste, then you’ll want heavy duty canvas (non-plastic!) bags that are going to last. Check out this set of three cotton canvas grocery bags from Amazon. Or this set of organic canvas and jute tote bags.
Shopping bags are the first step. Now what about produce bags? If you’re still putting your bananas into a disposable plastic bag at the grocery store, I need to tell you something: STOP! Please. Bananas already come individually wrapped. Nature’s packaging is perfect. Don’t mess with it.
But you might still want to bag your grapes, your lettuce and your broccoli. You could easily go through 5 or 10 of those bags every week, and they disintegrate quickly so they’re almost impossible to reuse. But you can find lightweight reusable bags for that too. A set of 9 cotton mesh produce bags can eliminate the need for hundreds of disposable bags each year, in your household alone!
When you’re really ready to step up your game, you can start bringing your own jars and containers for the bulk dry goods section, for pasta, grains, cereals and so on. When you think about it, almost every single thing you eat comes in a package, but it doesn’t have to, and it sure doesn’t have to be a single-use package.
More and more grocery stores are expanding their bulk sections and zero waste stores are increasingly offering a wide range of bulk goods and cleaning products. Just bring a container and refill it with granola, honey, shampoo, tooth paste, you name it.
I’m partial to glass jars, and a set of 6 32-oz. jars will definitely get you started on converting your pantry into something closer to zero waste. For smaller servings I usually just save and re-use old jelly jars.REUSABLE UTENSILS
When it comes to disposable living, one of my biggest pet peeves has to be the single-use plastic utensil industrial complex. Throwaway forks, throwaway containers, and my greatest nemesis, throwaway straws.
Make a habit of keeping a set of bamboo utensils in your car, in your purse, in your desk, or all of the above. Our family has been using re-usable To-Go Ware utensil sets for years and we love them. They are durable, easy to clean, and come in a nice carrying case that includes fork, spoon, knife and a pair of chopsticks. They also make sets for the kids, ideal for the lunch box.
But for true minimalism, you have to love the bamboo spork. The pinnacle of efficiency, with its sleek design and low profile, nothing can rival the functionality of the bamboo spork. You can even find them at Bambu Batu with a handsome cork carrying case. And yes, they make perfect gifts. More sporks means less waste, so give generously!
Finally, stop throwing away those pesky plastic straws after one use. Instead, you can order a set of 8 stainless steel straws that basically last forever. The set even comes with nice little brush keep the straws clean.
You might ask, with 8 billion people, what difference can I make with my one little straw and my one little spork? But if 8 billion people all ask the same question, and come back with the right answer, then of course we can make a difference. So go ahead, get started today, and be a part of the solution.
Learn more: For more tips on earth conscious consumption, check out the following links.The best zero waste shops in California The best bamboo towels The best bamboo sheets Bamboo Q & A
Disclosure: Bambu Batu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that helps pay for the maintenance of the site. When items are purchased through our links, Bambu Batu receives a small commission at no additional cost to the customer. It’s a free and easy way for you to support a small, family-owned business like ours.
The world of bamboo is vast and fascinating. With so many varieties, so many uses, and so much to know about this remarkable plant, we never seem to run out of questions, myths and misconceptions.
So let’s cut to the chase and answer 12 of the most common questions about bamboo that we hear all the time from our readers and customers.1. Why is bamboo called a grass?
Botanists classify bamboo as a grass because of its perennial, flowering, monocotyledonous growth habit. Like all grasses, bamboo has stems that are mostly hollow except at the nodes, and grows with leaves that form a sheath around the stem. The grass family, Poaceae, includes about 12,000 species, with approximately 1,500 species of bamboo belonging to more than 100 different genera.2. Which bamboo is non-invasive and easy to contain?
Most bamboos propagate themselves with underground roots called rhizomes. We call these types of bamboo “runners” because of how the rhizomes spread quickly and aggressively. Other varieties of bamboo have a more compact growth habit and we call them “clumpers”. Most species of the Bambusa genus are clumpers, including the very popular Oldhami. Alphonse Karr is another popular clumper.
For more suggestions, check out this article on the 10 Best bamboos for your garden. We also have an article on How to contain and control your bamboo, because even the clumping varieties will spread over time.3. Which bamboo grows the fastest and tallest?
Bamboo is famous, in some cases infamous, for how fast it grows. Some varieties can grow up to two feet a day, but that’s under optimal conditions (usually in the tropics) and only during the new growth season. The genus Phyllostachys includes some of the most vigorous species of running bamboo. The tallest and thickest varieties of bamboo are generally referred to as timber bamboo; some are runners and some clumpers. Phyllostachys vivax and Olhami are among the most popular timber bamboo.
Again, check out our article on the 10 Best bamboos for your garden.4. What species of bamboo is Lucky Bamboo?
Sorry to burst your bamboo-loving bubble, but Lucky Bamboo is not actually a bamboo at all. Rather, it is a species of the temperate houseplant, Dracaena. But don’t fret, almost all varieties of bamboo are lucky by their very nature!
You can read our article on Dracaena sanderiana for more details.5. Will bamboo grow in Canada and cold climates?
Good news! Even if you live in Canada, Minnesota or the heights of the Rocky Mountains, you can find an assortment of cold hardy bamboo species that will thrive in your area. The most cold hardy varieties belong to the genus Phyllostachys (mostly runners) or the genus Fargesia (mostly clumpers).
Definitely take a look at our article on the Best cold hardy bamboos. You can check your local nursery, or you may want to order specific varieties of bamboo online.6. Will bamboo grow indoors?
Generally, bamboo does NOT grow well indoors. Being a grass, bamboo requires a lot of fresh air and sunlight. Some bamboos prefer shady places in the garden, but not inside the house. You can keep bamboo in a sunny window for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, but it will not thrive. White flies, spider mites and other pests can become a problem. If it has to be indoors, better to stick with Lucky Bamboo. (See above.)7. Why is bamboo eco-friendly?
Bamboo’s incredible rate of growth and self-propagation makes it an incredibly renewable and sustainable resource. And its versatility makes it an ideal substitute for timber, cotton, even steel. Unlike most crops, bamboo grows naturally in dense “mono-crop” settings without the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Furthermore, an area of bamboo can produce 35 percent more oxygen than the same area of trees, making it an excellent remedy for carbon pollution.8. Can you eat bamboo?
Absolutely. Asians have been enjoying the nutritional benefits of fresh bamboo shoots for thousands of years. Not every species of bamboo has tasty shoots, but a few of the more popular edible varieties are Bambusa oldhamii, Phyllostachys edulis, and Phyllostachys bambusoides.
To learn more about the history and nutrition of eating bamboo, you can read our article on Edible bamboo shoots.9. What kind of bamboo do pandas eat?
There are roughly 40 different species of bamboo that make up the diet of the giant panda bear. None of these includes Moso bamboo, which is the Chinese variety used most widely for commercial purposes, including bamboo clothing and bamboo flooring.10. When does bamboo flower?
Different species of bamboo have different flowering schedules, which can vary dramatically. Many varieties only flower once every hundred years or so. Interestingly, in many cases, almost every specimen of given species, anywhere in the world, will flower at the same time when the blooming cycle comes around. In some cases, the bamboo will die after flowering. Because bamboo typically propagates itself by spreading its roots, the flowering is not so important for survival the way it is in other plants.11. Can you grow bamboo from seeds?
Bamboo can be grown from seed, although it’s not the standard practice. It’s much easier to propagate bamboo by taking root cuttings and dividing established clumps. To grow bamboo from seed is more of a novelty for real bamboo and botany enthusiasts. Growing from seed can result in a slightly different strain, rather than the identical copy you get from a cutting.12. What’s so great about bamboo clothing?
Bamboo has gained increased attention in recent years with the advent of bamboo clothing and textiles. The benefits of bamboo clothing are almost too numerable to list. To begin with, bamboo’s tenacious growth habit makes it incredibly renewable and sustainable. As mentioned above, bamboo grows quickly, requires no pesticides and herbicides, and needs no replanting after harvesting. This is in sharp contract to conventional cotton which is extremely pesticide intensive.
In addition to the ecological advantages of bamboo, anyone can easily feel the difference when they handle a luxuriously soft bamboo t-shirt or bamboo bath towel. Not only is bamboo fabric soft, but it has antimicrobial properties that make it hypoallergenic and resistant to odors. You will also discover the temperature regulating qualities when you wear a bamboo shirt or sleep on a set of bamboo sheets — warm in the winter, cool in the summer!Further reading
To learn a great deal more about bamboo, check out fundamental articles:What’s so great about bamboo? Growing Bamboo: The complete how-to guide The best bamboo varieties for construction
Photo Credit: David Clode (Unsplash)
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 this 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.
Today bamboo homes are springing up all over there world. And they are not just ramshackle bundles of thatching and canes. For affordable housing in the developing world, and for stylish sustainability in more upscale communities, bamboo buildings are not what they used to be. And from how-to books, to intensive workshops to full-service architecture firms, bamboo resources are everywhere.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.The Best Bamboo Buildings in Bali
Anyone who’s ever visited Bali knows that bamboo is everywhere on this Indonesian island. And this tropical paradise features some of the most impressive bamboo construction you’ll ever find.
John, Cynthia and Elora Hardy, a family of architects and designers, have formed IBUKU, a cutting edge design firm committed to sustainable building with bamboo. In addition to some of the most spectacular private homes, the IBUKU family has collaborated to help build the world’s only all-bamboo campus at the Green School of Bali.
Specializing in environmental awareness and global stewardship, the Green School is the only educational institute of its kind. The school, founded in 2006 by John and Cynthia Hardy, provides K-12 instruction for forward thinking students from around the world.©IBUKU
Pictured above is the Sharma Springs residence, the crowning glory of all IBUKU’s bamboo houses. The tallest bamboo structure in all of Bali, Sharma Springs has six level with commanding views of the surrounding jungle. Inspired by the shape of a lotus flower, this astonishing home is both magical and majestic.
Most recently, IBUKU has launched Bamboo U, offering intensive workshops in bamboo design and construction. If you want to learn, you may as well learn from the best! (See below.)Bamboo Housing Solutions for the Philippines
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.Building with Bamboo in 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.Bamboo Housing by KZ Architecture
Based in Miami, Florida, KZ Architecture designs modern homes and offices with a clear focus on sustainability. Committed to excellence and environmentally sensitive solutions, they have created some of the most sophisticated green homes in the country. Their stunning houses feature modern elegance in combination with superior materials, passive heating and clean energy sources.
Most recently, the company has drawn attention with its award-winning proposal for low-cost homes in the Caribbean, built mainly from bamboo. Designed specifically for high-risk flood and hurricane zones, these innovative homes are resilient, attractive and economical. They feature zinc roofs for passive heating and cooling, barrels for rainwater catchment, and solar energy systems for hot water and electricity.
Elevated on concrete piers, the homes are built to withstand flooding, but the flexible Guadua bamboo frame will also perform well in earthquakes. And not to overlook the importance of outdoor greenery, the plans also include generous spaces for personal gardens and bamboo hedges for both privacy and erosion control.
Affordable to easy to assemble, the 600-800 sq. ft. dwellings come with a price tag under $10,000. This includes all material and labor, as well as water tanks, solar panels, batteries and pumps. And after a grand total of $8,107, residents should have plenty left over for furniture and appliances.
Guadua bamboo is a neotropical genus indigenous to the Central and South America. This clumping timber bamboo makes an ideal building material, being cultivated widely in Colombia, Ecuador and throughout the New World.Bamboo U Design and Construction Courses
When you’re really serious about building your own home from bamboo, you’ll want to sign up for an intensive course at Bamboo U in Bali. Bamboo pioneer John Hardy launched the program in 2015, and now hosts 11-day workshops throughout the year, for aspiring bamboo builders from around the world.
With a couple decades of experience in bamboo construction in Indonesia, Hardy is eager to share his knowledge with other bamboo enthusiasts. He and his family have been creating incredible, one-of-kind bamboo structures with the architecture and design firm known as IBUKU. And by collaborating with others, they hope to see the innovations continue.
Check out Bamboo U online for a list of upcoming courses.Advice for Africans
A new book, entitled Bioclimatic Architecture in Warm Climates: A Guide for Best Practices in Africa, presents a comprehensive, hands-on approach to eco-conscious construction. The thorough study places emphasis on sustainability and bioclimatic design. To promote more sustainable practices, the authors take a close look at cultural aspects, affordability, and urban planning.
Among other things, they strongly encourage the use of more local, renewable construction materials, particularly bamboo. Using local bamboo, as they point out, strengthens the local economy and reduces the dependency on foreign imports. In addition to lowering overall building costs, it also empowers local farmers and community.International Efforts for Bamboo Construction
As more and more bamboo construction projects get underway around the world, one organization has been working to advance this up-and-coming industry as whole. The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR) is a multilateral development organization promoting sustainable development around the world.
Since 1997, INBAR has made grade strides in improving living conditions, especially in the Global South, through the use of safe, resilient and affordable bamboo materials. The organisation consists of 45 members, predominantly in Africa, Asia and South America. In 2018, INBAR attended the UN General Assembly for the first time, and was active at a number of UN events.
To guide its work towards a green economy over the next decade, INBAR has identified six Sustainable Development Goals:End poverty in all its forms Provide affordable, sustainable and reliable modern energy services for all Access to adequate and affordable housing Efficient use of natural resources Address climate change Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems
More recently, INBAR has set up a Bamboo Construction Task Force, to coordinate companies and organizations engaged in research and commerce with bamboo construction. Their overall mission is to raise awareness and improve standards to bring affordable, high-quality bamboo building into the mainstream.Things to know about bamboo building
Before you jump head first into bamboo construction project, you need to know what you’re getting into. In many respects, bamboo is green architect’s dream come true. But to make that dream a reality, there are some things about bamboo to be aware of.Selecting your bamboo
First of all, most experts recognize at least 1200 different varieties of bamboo. And there may be as many as 2000. And it’s true that bamboo is a remarkably useful and versatile plant. But not all is created equal.
While some bamboo looks beautiful in a Japanese zen garden, other varieties are excellent for construction. Some types of bamboo are even useful for a variety of purposes. But then there are bamboos that just take over your backyard, but you can’t really make anything from it.Genus Guaua
So if you want to build a bamboo house that will hold up over the years, you will need to work with the right kind of bamboo. If you’re doing bamboo construction in a developing country, in Asia or Latin America, you will want to use local bamboo. But not just any local bamboo.
In Central and South America, the builder’s choice is definitely Guadua. There are a dozen or so species of Guadua growing throughout the continent, and it’s easy enough to come by. The locals have been building with these clumping bamboos for centuries, and you know it will last.
Most members of this genus are giant timber bamboo, some growing over 100 feet tall and more than 6 inches thick. The thick walls of this bamboo make it resistant to cracking and ideal for building.
If you want to build anything of significance from bamboo, Guadua is going to be your best bet. Even if you’re in North America and want to build a durable bamboo structure, you probably want to got some Guadua poles to work with. You can get them shipped from Colombia.Genus Dendrocalamus
On the other side of the world, where bamboo tends to be growing nearly everywhere, you might be tempted to build with whatever variety of bamboo is within reach. For best results, however, you will want to build with Dendrocalamus bamboo.
With numerous species indigenous to India and Southeast Asia, Dendrocalamus grows to great heights and girth. Their culm walls are also very thick, and in drier climates they grow almost solid. In Bali, they have built some of the most astonishing bamboo structures with D. Asper, all grown on the island.Preparing your bamboo
Just because you are working with one of the strongest materials in the natural world, it doesn’t mean nature has done all the work for you. Before you start building, it’s necessary to dry and cure the bamboo poles thoroughly. They also need to be treated to prevent rot and termite damage.
This is especially critical in wet climates and when you are building with local bamboo. Some suppliers will treat their bamboo before they sell it. In other cases, you’ll be responsible for taking care of it. Typically, borax is used to permeate the bamboo and eliminate the risk of critters.Conclusions
If you’re interested in building a house or any other serious structure from bamboo, it can absolutely be done. And there are a great range of resources at your disposal.
If you’re concerned about creating a bamboo home that will measure up to strict building codes in Europe and the United States, there’s no need to worry. Bamboo Living Homes has done the painstaking work to overcome those bureaucratic obstacles, delivering the ultimate in green housing.
Throughout the developing world, non-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity as well as the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization have been very active in promoting the research and construction. Bamboo building projects and taking place across the globe. And most builders and architects are very happy to share their knowledge and experience in this exciting new area of green construction.
It’s ironic that we’re calling bamboo construction a new industry, as it is surely one of the very first building materials to be used by humans. But the renaissance of bamboo, in our post-industrial world, is opening up new possibilities new before realized or fully appreciated.
In many parts of the world, bamboo construction still has a negative connotation, as a sign of poverty. Moving out of the bamboo house and into something made of solid wood or concrete is an indication prosperity. But the new era of bamboo construction is changing that point-of-view. Today you can enjoy the sustainability of bamboo without comprising on safety and aesthetics.
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.
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.
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?
1)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
2) 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.
3) 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.
4)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.
5) 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.
6)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.
7) 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.
8) 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.
9) 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.
10) 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.
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!
Also be sure to visit our article on Going Zero Waste with Bamboo and Stainless Steel.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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.