Shopping at Urban Bazaar

As I was walking home the other day, I happened to stop by a new shop in my neighborhood called Urban Bazaar.  From the outside it looked like a colorful succulent nursery, but on the inside there was a vast selection of fair trade jewelry, home goods, beauty lotions and clothing.  Some of the items were made locally, like the Berkeley-based AngelMade infused coconut oil I bought, and the rest was from around the world, including an adorable owl-shaped trivet from India I picked up.

Unlike other fair trade stores I’ve been in before, Urban Bazaar carries items that I would honestly love to feature in my home (or wear!).  They are chic, sustainable and, though I think it’s important to support global fair trade workers, it’s just as critical to support the artisans living in our own towns and cities.

Image Courtesy of Urban Bazaar

If you’re in San Francisco this weekend, you’re in luck!  On Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 5pm, Urban Bazaar will be holding its “Vagabond Indie Craft Fair,” selling handcrafted goods from dozens of local artists.  Stop by for everything from artistic woodworking to vintage steam punk accessories.  I know I’ll be starting my Christmas shopping early.

Urban Bazaar is located at 1371 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122.  415-664-4422.

October 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm 1 comment

Beauty Benefits From a Whole Avocado

As avocado season nears its tail end in California, I brace myself for parting with what I consider to be the best beauty food around.  Whether I’m smearing it on my hair or spooning it right out of the peel, this vitamin-packed and healthy fat-filled fruit keeps my skin and hair smooth and moisturized.

So what’s a Greenista to do when winter rolls around? Find a beauty use for the avocado pits, naturally. I clean and collect them from spring until fall, ensuring I have a ready supply of phenomenal mini massage tools. Use the palm of your hand and roll the pit across your back and anywhere you feel sore – or swap massages with your partner.  It feels incredible!

Massage is known to promote blood flow, rejuvenate skin cells and eliminate toxins, which is especially great for skin during the drying winter months. Sometimes I’ll dip the avocado pit in nourishing sweet almond or jojoba oil to rub on my shoulders, but be forewarned: it can get slippery.

Now go prepare a bowl of creamy guacamole and partake in the many beauty benefits of avocados while you still can!

October 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

Eco Inspirations: Greenista Chat with Scott Cooney

When temperatures begin to dip, one of my favorite things to do is host Board Game Night with family or friends. Though we have fun and dependable standbys that we turn to again and again, like Settlers of Catan or Top Secret Spies, it’s always exciting to bring a new challenge into the mix. Enter: The Green Economy Board Game.

Describing itself as a “coopetition,” where cooperation blends with competition, this Green Business Owner project puts players in the role of impact investors in Hawaii working collaboratively to develop a green economy.  With a Monopoly-esque feel, players develop, buy and sell enterprises like geothermal plants, farmers’ markets and green construction companies.  Merging entertainment with intellectualism, the game aims to spur creative solutions for some of the biggest problems our world faces through play.

Current Prototype of the Board Game

Scott Cooney, the board game’s developer and author of “Build a Green Small Business,” talks about what inspired him to build the game and the impact he hopes it will have on real-world communities in the latest Greenista Chat below.

What personally inspired you to create this game?

I thought there was a critical missing element in sustainability education that really showcases how much fun sustainability can be. I saw some people playing board games one night and saw how much strategy they were learning and thought, “If they had to strategize about sustainable development, they’d be learning so much about sustainability and doing it in a way that makes them a fan of the subject,” and that’s really what we need…more people understanding that policies, dollars and entrepreneurship are going to drive us out of global economic and environmental meltdown and toward a healthy and sustainable future.

How did you come up with the various scenarios in the game?

I’ve spent a lifetime reading green business blogs, books and magazines, and following various people who are real changemakers in the world. One, for instance, is Shanah Trevenna, author of “Surfing Tsunamis of Change.” She is an engineer, educator and energy efficiency specialist who is working for Johnson Controls designing curriculum for Hawaii’s higher education. Her story is remarkable, and events from her past, which showcase how Hawaii can move forward on sustainable economic development, are in the game. Other occurrences are also based on real life events, such as Hawaii approving a feed-in tariff, which helps propel the solar industry. This happened recently, and it’s in the game. But a lot of it is realistic yet hypothetical and attempts to teach sustainability in a fun way, like the freak storms that shift oceanic circulation patterns and deposit plastic trash from the Pacific Gyre all across Hawaii’s beautiful beaches. If this happens, it would decimate tourism; so in the game, if that card comes up, ecotourism and hospitality businesses suffer. My hope is that the game reaches a lot of people who don’t even know what the Pacific Gyre is, and as a result of this, they reevaluate the plastic world that we live in.

How do you see the game’s model applying to other countries facing climate change challenges?  Why did you think Hawaii was the best test case?

The island state of Hawaii appears to be a metaphorical canary in a coalmine for the broader world economy. The state relies on oil for 90% of its electricity, imports 85-90% of its food, and has an economy largely dependent on tourism and the military. The resulting service industry jobs don’t provide the living wage that the state’s residents need, and the high cost of energy, food and housing leaves many people out of options. How the state transitions away from fossil fuels, landfills and imported food will be a tremendous learning opportunity for nations and people around the world.

There’s always the debate between what is better for society: government policy or private investment.  How does this game address these differing, but critical, viewpoints?

We need all hands on deck, and both of these models have their place. The state incentivizing solar installations makes sense on a lot of levels, but most importantly because it keeps money here in Hawaii, rather than shipping it offshore to Saudi Arabia or another oil company. For our state and county governments, that means job creation and economic development, which means more tax revenues. But the game really relies on private investment as the primary vehicle for advancing clean tech, sustainable food and green building. Policy in the game just affects these things’ profitability and viability a little…as it should.

Can you please give us some additional details on the game?

Green Business Owner (GBO) Hawaii has a short version (once around the board) and a long version (twice around the board), so the play time can range between an hour and two hours. The game can be played with 2-4 players and each time you play varies greatly. There are 50 different green businesses you can start, dozens of Chance Cards and Event/Policy cards, plus the chance factor of the dice, all which contribute to a wide variety of ways each game can go. We have play-tested this game many, many times, and each time has been different than the last. But it’s never been dull!

How long was the process for creating the game?

We have been developing GBO Hawaii for the last year and we are still hard at work! The game will be printed, published and ready to ship in the next couple of months in time for the holidays.

When and where can we buy the game?

The game is available for pre-sale via our Kickstarter campaign ( or via our website (

**If you’re itching to start playing, there will be a live online demonstration of the game tonight at 6pm PST (just enter as a Guest)!

October 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

Meatless Monday: Beans, Beans Good For Your Heart

Beans definitely live up to their name as the magical fruit, but not for the reasons you may think.  Packed with antioxidants, protein and fiber, these small nutritional legumes are surprisingly absent from most Americans’ diets, even though they are an extremely filling, low-calorie food that can help prevent heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

As an occasional fish eater (but mostly vegetarian), I have to be especially diligent about getting my iron.  Beans offer the perfect solution with minimal work.  The healthiest way to prepare any type of bean – from pinto to black – is to get organic dried beans and cook them yourself.  The vast majority of canned beans are spiked with the hormonal disrupter BPA, which lines the inside of metal cans, so I bypass this chemical soup by soaking beans overnight and simmering them the next day.

Ready to stir up a pot of beans this Meatless Monday?  See my recipe below and soon you’ll be singing the praises of this unassuming powerfood.

Greenista’s Bean Duo Salad
Serves 4-6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 75 minutes


4 large fistfuls of whatever beans you choose (beans roughly double in size when cooked, so adjust as needed).  I like to mix pinto and black beans I purchase from the bulk bins at Rainbow Grocery.

3 cloves of garlic

2 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes

¾ large red onion

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil and vinegar to taste

1 fresh bunch of cilantro

2-3 pinches of cumin to taste

Recipe Instructions

Soak beans overnight for 8-10 hours in a large bowl.  Make sure water is 2-3 inches above the beans and cover with a tea towel.

The next morning, pour out water and rinse soaked beans 2 times.  Place beans in a cooking pot and pour in fresh water, making sure water level is about 3-4 inches above beans.  Throw in 3 peeled cloves of garlic and drizzle in about a teaspoon of olive oil.

Bring water to a boil. Once it begins to boil, lower heat to simmering and let cook for 60–90 minutes, depending on the type of bean you have chosen. Sprinkle in about ½ teaspoon of salt 40 minutes into cooking the beans.

After 60 minutes, check beans for doneness.  In her book Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson recommends tasting 4 or 5 beans, instead of just one, to see if they are fully cooked.  This method really works for me and I recommend it.

While beans are cooling, chop up heirloom tomatoes, onion and cilantro.  I also take out the garlic that was cooking with the beans, mash it up and mix it back into the beans.

Combine all ingredients and drizzle olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, pepper and cumin to taste.

Store in fridge for 2-5 days.

**With the weather turning cold, I also cook up some fair-trade quinoa or brown rice to warm up the meal and add the Greenista Bean Duo Salad on top.

October 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm Leave a comment

Day Trip: Stopping by Soul Food Farm

A series of serendipitous events brought me unexpectedly to Soul Food Farm a few weeks back.  Situated on a country road in Vacaville, Calif, running parallel to the freeway, this chicken farm is the real deal.  Hens stroll about freely and you can pick up the most beautifully colored eggs. Or if you’re in the mood for meat, they have fresh pastured poultry available.

Image Courtesy of

The olive trees on the property enable owners Alexis and Eric Koefoed to produce a full-bodied, earthy organic olive oil.  I’ve been sprinkling it generously on my pasta and heirloom tomato dishes, and its flavor is so unique and strong that I really don’t need to add much else.  I was also able to buy a jar of deep golden honey, which is so sweet that I only drizzle a little bit into my tea – though with cold season coming up, I have been sneaking a spoonful every now and then as part of my natural flu prevention routine.

If you aren’t able to take a trip out to Soul Food Farm, they offer a CSA box for pickup throughout the Bay Area.  The farm takes a winter CSA break starting in December though, so sign up now if you’re interested in stocking up.  After all, I heard that Alice Waters sources items from Soul Food Farm, so if it’s good enough for Chez Panisse it’s definitely good enough for your kitchen!

Soul Food Farm is located at 6046 Pleasants Valley Road, Vacaville, CA 95688.  Prices may vary, but my eggs were $6, the olive oil was $20 and the honey was $12.  Cash or check only. If you want to make a day of it, the farm also holds various events and there is a herb and flower farm down the way, which was unfortunately closed when I visited on Labor Day.

September 19, 2011 at 6:33 am Leave a comment

Lured by the DIY Life?

Custom Order - Cream Wool Dotted Leg-warmers: From OurSunshine on

Hand-knit mittens and custom-crafted tables are just a few of the unique treasures found on, which connects talented DIY folks with buyers who value handmade products over the generic, unsustainable options found at the mall.

Spending money on commerce that supports small businesses and operates on human-scale economies (i.e. the amount of scarves that Jane Smith in Oregon can sell depends on how quickly her own two hands can knit, as opposed to The Gap who churns them out in third-world factories around the globe) can help shift us to a more genuine and connected way of living.  One of my favorite stores on is Soap Walla from Brooklyn, NY, and I can truly say I’ve never been so excited to buy deodorant as I am when I get their Deodorant Cream!  It feels more personal and I know I am getting a product that has been thoughtfully made.

But instead of just participating on the consumer end, why not be part of creating the new movement?  On September 18, the Hello Esty Summit is coming to San Francisco to help aspiring DIY sellers learn the ropes of setting up their own shop and creating a successful – and sustainable – small business.  In addition, thought leaders such as SFMade’s Kate Sofis and journalist Allison Arieff will provide their perspectives on the resurgence of local manufacturing. The summit is currently sold out at California College of the Arts, but another local Hello Etsy event will be happening at TechShop on Howard Street.  Register soon and be motivated to follow your dreams.  Let the bear in the cute video below be your inspiration!

Hello Etsy Summit events are taking place in cities all over the U.S., including Washington, D.C., Portland, OR, Brooklyn and Los Angeles.  And if you’re abroad, there is also one happening in Berlin, Germany!  Go to for more details.

September 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

A Stapler Without Staples?

Can saving the planet start with a stapler?  Well, maybe.  The designers over at Made By Humans create novel products – from a corn calculator to recycled paper vases – that may seem trivial at first but are actually very smart in design.  Case in point: I discovered the company’s Eco Staple-Free Stapler yesterday, which uses a strip cut into paper (i.e. the existing material) to stitch together up to four pages.  Extra waste in the form of metal staples is completely eliminated.

The stapler cuts out a strip from the sheets of paper and stitches them together!

Now, a staple-free stapler may sound like a minor victory for the planet, but it’s this type of innovative thinking that can help us see the potential in working with the materials we already have to create solutions.  I went on a stapling spree today with all my loose papers and have these tips for using the nifty device:

  • Be sure to press down hard!
  • I was able to staple together more than five sheets, but four really is the magic number (all the more reason to make sure you are printing double-sided).
  • Stapling vertically, instead of horizontally, makes the staple less susceptible to tears.

So should you go staple-free?  You may need your old stapler for bulkier paper sheets every now and then, but overall this product gets the job done!

*I purchased my Eco Staple-Free Stapler at MaiDo Stationery Store (415.567.8901) in Japantown for $9.95.  For more information go to

August 27, 2011 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

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