Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’


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

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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.

Need some more convincing that bamboo is the tops? The super-grass can not only clothe, feed and shelter, but it can also save lives. In Vietnam, where major floods are common, H&P Architects have created affordable housing made from local bamboo that is constructed atop recycled oil drums, allowing the buildings to float. The thatched homes are attached to the ground with anchors, keeping them in place when the waters arrive. The frames, roofing, and walls are arranged between steel piles, securing the structure. The floor is elevated, keeping animals outside was well as allowing space for the drums. Triangular cuts open the up the dwelling, creating cross-breezes and taking advantage of natural light. Horizontal doors open to form patios and awnings, but can be shut once the storms sweep through, keeping the inhabitants safe. Suspended bamboo planters on the outside walls help grow vertical gardens that can be used for food, and rainwater collection systems that have the option of being inactivated during wet weather. Each home can be configured to accommodate families of six, or expanded for more people. Able to be assembled on site, each costs about $2,000.

In the event of an earthquake, like the one that struck Central China in May of 2008, the government found themselves in need of temporary shelters. Bamboo to the rescue! Featured in San Francisco’s Urban Re: Vision five years ago, Ming Tang designed the beautiful Folded Bamboo Houses in order to provide protection from the elements. Lightweight, strong, and readily available, the plant was the perfect material of choice for his origami-inspired buildings. Poles are connected together in rigid, geometric shapes, creating modular forms that can be easily shipped and assembled to where they are needed most. Once built, they are then covered by post-consumer recycled paper.

When both earthquakes and typhoons hit, bamboo has literally got you covered. A group of Indian architects made up of Komal Gupta, Vasanth Packirisamy, Vikas Sharma, Sakshi Kumar and Siripurapu Monish Kumar entered plans for the 2011 Design Against the Elements Competition that envisioned an eco-community that consisted of a cluster of housing units, community centers, a library, meditation spaces, and green areas. They also added locations for retail, rainwater collection, greywater systems, and plantations to make the project a vibrant mixed-use living neighborhood. The three-story houses were built on stilts with an element resistant core that holds water and power lines, bathrooms, kitchens, and staircases. Living pods rotate out from the core, made completely of bamboo.

Wood Thumb Ties

When it comes to tying a tie, there are some of us who could swear we were working with ten thumbs. Why not skip the whole mess altogether and don a wooden necktie or bow tie from Wood Thumb?  The lightweight wooden ties are held together with an elastic cord, making them supple and flexible. They come in two sizes, and start at $34 a piece.

In addition to offering uniquely crafted gifts, Wood Thumb is an enthusiastic member of their community, holding weekly community dinners and beer-drinking events. Proud residents of the Dogpatch area of the city, they are always up for a good conversation with other artisans and businesses. For their next endeavor, may we suggest bamboo? Based in San Francisco, each of their accessories are hand-made in the USA using reclaimed redwood sourced from around the Bay Area.


Versatile, attractive, and even decorative, bamboo is certainly a treasure. Perfect for clothing and as a building material, the grass is also an beautiful and sustainable choice for adornment. Why wear precious stones or valuable metals that need to be extracted from the earth when you can decorate yourself with one of the fastset growing plants in the world? Bamboo is renewable, and generally far less expensive than most costume or fine jewelry.

-Designer Yvonne Hung uses a lasercutter to create her gorgeous geometric and organic sets of earrings and necklaces. Highly graphic in appearance, Hung first began her work with the lasercutter in architectural school working with models. Inspired by patterns from both nature and human-made structures, her line of jewelry looks modern in composition while still retaining a warm texture.

-For its engraved pendants, SilverBug Studio uses bamboo as the perfect canvas for lasercut illustrations. From lotus flowers to trees, each creation is lightweight, lovely, and inexpensive.  Beginning at $24, the charms are great gifts that will go will find a place in almost anyone’s wardrobe.

-Folia Design based in San Francisco works exclusively with bamboo, pairing the pendants and earrings with gold-filled hardware. Fashioning insect wings, leaves, plant pods, and grids from the hearty grass, Jessica Coleman has a wide assortment of designs to choose from.

-Looking for a rustic wood aesthetic with a sustainable twist? Cabin + Cub Design brings the great outdoors into the home and onto your person with their collection of whimsical earrings, brooches, and tie pins. Featuring forest creatures, maps, and quirky quotes, this is accessorizing with a sense of humor.

-For the gentleman, a bamboo watch will certainly make a sustainable statement. Reveal’s bamboo watch sports a casing and wrist band made from the material, trading in metal or leather for an organic, earthy look.  As an added bonus, energy giant BP has partnered with the watch-maker to raise money with each purchase to continue with the Gulf spill cleanup efforts.

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!

You see them everywhere they are not supposed to be.  Plastic bags  have become an irritating part of the landscape, lining the highways, caught in tree branches, floating in the ocean.  The buggers jam recycling machinery, block drainage systems, languish in landfills, and are mistaken for food by wildlife.  Fashioned from petrochemicals, these bags are highly resistant to degradation.  While some can be collected and recycled, and all can be re-purposed as garbage and storage bags, these seemingly convenient plastic sacks generally wind up as fodder for the dump or become one of the main ingredients for marine pollution.

While the plastic bag has its friends in high places, such as the American Chemistry Council, ExxonMobil, and Dow Chemical, cities across the country are beginning to let the flimsy film know that it is not welcome.  A quarter of the world’s countries have either restricted, taxed, or outlawed single-use plastic bags, and the United States is slowly starting to follow suit.  San Francisco began the trend in 2007, and was copied on the local level by other cities including Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

San Luis Obispo is considering a bag ban with an additional tax for plastics, but has experienced opposition from well-funded lobbying groups and those that believe a bag restriction comes as an infringement to freedom of choice and as a burden to business owners.

One of the simplest and most effective methods of reducing your plastic footprint is to bring your own cloth or sturdy reusable bag with you to the local supermarket, restaurant, or retail store.  Here at Bambu Batu we carry cloth totes and Blue Lotus reusable produce bags for conscious shoppers.  All of your purchases from the store are bagged in recycled paper, and we are always enthusiastic to see customers bring their own backpacks, purses and satchels.

What do you think?  Should San Luis Obispo ban the bag?  Tax plastic?  Recycle reusables?  Are cities overstepping Constitutional boundaries when imposing levies on these products?  Are environmental risks enough to consider outlawing single use bags altogether?


On the evening of November 1st, 2010, San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood witnessed a procession of activists towing three faux-Chevron executives wearing gigantic, inflatable spheres atop hay bales pulled by their loyal, Hazmat suit-clad employees.  Streaming behind them were angry figures in skeleton suits and a number of passers-by that were encouraged to join in the strange parade.  Upon reaching Market and Castro and framed by a Chevron station in the background, the CEO’s explained that their unusual attire was a defensive measure that would help them to ensure their survival against the future calamitous repercussions of climate change.  Their large, silver “grub suits”, also known as  “Survivaballs”, were intended to help protect our society’s “most valuable citizens” from rising sea levels as well as violent retribution from other suffering, “less fiscally responsible” members of the community.

The November protest was created by the Yes Men, an absurdist performance-based activist group who utilize guerrilla theater tactics to call attention to the socially abhorrent behaviors of certain large corporations.  This particular event was intended to satirize recent political actions made by the CEOs of Chevron and the US Chamber of Commerce in relation to climate change policy.  The Yes Men originally began their social activism through the construction of parody websites.  After receiving substantial media attention over their sites lampooning then Presidential incumbent George W. Bush’s homepage and the World Trade Center’s “official” site in 2000, Yes Men founders Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno began to formulate a series of “identity correction” stunts.

The Yes Men, to their self-admitted surprise, have participated in many high-profile talks and symposiums largely due to a gross lack of fact-checking or close inspection of their satirical websites.  Beginning with the WTO and later moving on to corporations such as DOW Chemical, Union Carbide and McDonald’s, these guerrilla performances were characterized by the creation of figures who were intended to be received as genuine, high-ranking members of each organization.  These spokesmen would espouse outrageous proposals to members of symposiums, business meetings and TV audiences based on the very real and immoral practices of the companies they putatively represented.  Almost all of their stunts were accompanied by long-winded speeches, computer animations, flow charts, food items, and outlandish costumes.

For video of their exploits, watch their first film The Yes Men,  and their most recent feature, The Yes Men Fix the World.  For a hilarious read, pick up their new book.  To become a Yes Man and join the ranks of concerned pranksters worldwide, visit the Yes Lab and say Yes to social reform!