Keeping SLO’s creeks and beaches CLEAN!

September 14th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

by Susan McIntosh, Gaia Graphics and Associates

UPDATE: Please join Sammy Steelhead and friends on a beautiful Saturday in September this year to clean up our creeks and beaches! You can go to SLO County Creek & Coastal Cleanup Day for the most updated information. See you there!

Join Sammy Steelhead and good people from all over San Luis Obispo County to clean creeks and beaches on a beautiful Saturday in September!

UPDATE: In my original Creek Day post, I urged you to join family, friends and neighbors for a fun morning cleaning up San Luis Obispo County creeks before winter rains washed debris downstream. Thanks to many of you, San Luis Obispo County Creek Day 2010, on October 2, was a great success!

This short video captures a bit of the action. Watch it now, share it with friends, and plan to pitch in next year for Creek Day 2011!

Make CREEK DAY your day! from Sammy Steelhead on Vimeo.

Here’s the poster we designed for the Creek Day Committee, with fabulous artwork by Ben Lovejoy.

Check out our new interpretive panel about plastic trash and ocean pollution, created for the City of Morro Bay.

City Stormwater Runoff Now a Welcoming Wetland

July 13th, 2010 | Comments Off on City Stormwater Runoff Now a Welcoming Wetland

By Lindsey Collinsworth

Down the winding Bob Jones Bike Path in San Luis Obispo, past the Water Treatment Plant you will now find the City of San Luis Obispo’s newly constructed wetland. Thousands of native plants were put in the ground this spring with the goal of using stormwater runoff to create a wetland habitat visible from Highway 1, effectively stopping dirty water before it has a chance to harm the creek.

We had the pleasure of working with City Biologists Freddy Otte and Neil Havlik to create interpretive panels that illuminate the process in which the wetland was created, how a wetland functions, and how we can continue to preserve and protect our wildlife and remaining resources. These interpretive panels feature the California Conservation Corps, San Luis Obispo County Partners for Water Quality mascot steelhead kids, Samita and Sammy Junior, illustrated by Glenn Hiramatsu, and a visionary painting by Los Osos artist Jay Bonestell showing what we hope will be the result of all this effort. 

The City’s foresight and dedication to environmental preservation and education is just another reason San Luis Obispo is a wonderful place to live.

Plastic trash in the ocean is a slow oil spill

June 7th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

but with global reach
By Terre Dunivant

Captains David Robinson and Mark Kocina of SeaLife Conservation sailed the coast of California in late 2009, stopping in Morro Bay and other coastal cities to educate residents, City staff and Councils about plastic and ocean pollution. The evidence is shocking. People are taking action.

Damaris Hansen and the City of Morro Bay conceived this interpretive panel project to educate thousands of visitors and residents about ocean pollution prevention. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program funded a Morro Bay High School group to buy and offer free compostable takeout containers to local restaurants. Another grant will help Morro Bay’s venerable Harbor Festival keep cigarette butts and plastic trash out of our beautiful bay during the popular event.

Ruth Ann Angus, who helped research and write this panel, said she came away from the Captains’ presentation determined to see change. Shari Sullivan and Cheryl Lesinski, current and former MBNEP Outreach and Education coordinators, reviewed the panel and offered valuable suggestions.

We needed images that would tell the story, and one image in particular that would make this information matter. It took time to track down the images and secure permissions. We have access to millions of photos through our affiliation with stock sites like Dreamstime and specialty wildlife photo sites, but none had what we needed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to prevent ocean pollution, and we found some good, high-resolution images on the NOAA website. But the plastic trash problem is still largely invisible.

That one image was especially elusive. Then Save Our Shores posted Santa Cruz photographer Terry McCormac‘s otter mother trying to pull a plastic bag off her baby. All of the photos showing animals hurt by plastics are heartbreaking, though we made a big effort to keep it non-gory. But we love our sea otters on the Central Coast, and this is the image that will make waves. Terry told me everyone asks the same question: did the sea otter mother save her pup? She did.

This project was a challenge in other ways.

Interpretive panels are usually positive and focused on things you can see, such as birds or views. Becoming educated about the tangled, burgeoning enormity of damage being done by plastics to creeks, estuaries and oceans dazed me. I thought I knew something about the issue, but when I looked deeply, it was deeply shocking.

Bad trash habits. Los Angeles River, California. Stormwater carries
trash in gutters from all over the City. What is captured by booms
is scooped up and hauled to a landfill.  Photo courtesy
Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

We are surrounded by a steady flow of plastic. Beaches in San Diego, Hawaii, Guam, and the recently pristine Galapagos are piled with it, sometimes several feet deep.

The harm to wildlife is enormous, the threat to humans obvious. Albatross chicks by the thousands die of starvation with a belly full of trash. Toxins dissolve into seawater as different plastics break down under sunlight. Smaller and smaller pieces float a foot or two below the surface, looking just like a juicy mass of plankton to sea turtles and whales. Junk food, literally.

Unfortunately, California lawmakers recently rejected a bill that would have made the state the first in the nation to ban all plastic shopping bags. Bags alone amount to 70% of the plastic circling off our Pacific coast and around all the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing nets are a big part of the problem, but most of the plastic fouling our waters comes from disposables like bags, which might be used for 10 minutes and pollute for decades.

BP’s oil spill in the Gulf is a tragedy for all concerned. The whole Gulf of Mexico is slicked, dosed with experimental chemicals. The damage is enormous and likely to persist for decades.

Plastic trash is a slow oil spill, with far greater reach. Ten years ago the Pacific garbage patch was thought to be the size of Texas. Now it circles between the coasts of California and Japan. There’s another garbage patch orbiting the Atlantic. Yet plastic has been in use only about 70 years. It was only a century ago that cars became popular and oil use kicked into high gear.

Most people realize now that the true price of oil is much, much greater than the price at the pump. From control to extraction to refinery to product to disposal, oil threatens life on Earth. But the status quo is changing because most of us don’t want to live in a dirty, damaged world. We will reduce, reuse and recycle for our own good.

For those who need the economic motivation, oil will only get more expensive and limited as this finite resource gets scarce. Alaska, which taxes its oil wells, has a budget surplus again this year.  The great state of California, which does not tax its wells, might as well be sucking air.

Photo courtesy Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Try this: Save every piece of plastic you use for a month. Cut your use of plastic every way you can. Now save every piece for another month. I think you’ll be astonished, but don’t let it paralyze you. 

You can do something about it. When you eat out, bring your own takeout boxes. Ask the bakery to put your muffins in paper. Reuse the Ziplocs. Get creative. Do what you can. If you own a restaurant, you can have a big impact by switching to compostable containers and cutlery. Don’t get discouraged when you see for yourself how much plastic surrounds you. Keep cutting it out. Make sure your trash doesn’t get away from you. Support legislation that restricts disposable plastic products. Stay with it. Believe that we can fix this. We must.


























Biomimicry: How We Learn From Nature’s Success

December 22nd, 2009 | 5 Comments »

Janine Benyus is a science author who is full of great ideas. One of her passions is to promote the ingenuity and function in our products based on the performance of the nature around us. This process, called biomimicry, is one that aims to examine the systems and elements at work in nature in order to recreate them in our modern products and designs.

Designing something based on the functions and successes of nature is nothing new, but it is certainly something that we have drifted away from recently. To help challenge the conception that we have to conquer nature in our designs, Benyus helped create, a project to display nature’s problem solving skills so we can learn from and recreate them. By recreating the existing natural systems we can help preserve our environment, so that we can continue to learn from it in the future.

“The sophisticated, almost pro-growth angle of Benyus shows the great potential profitability of copying some of nature’s time-tested, nonpolluting, room-temperature manufacturing and computing technologies.”
– New York Times

The following video is from, standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It is a nonprofit that works to spread “Ideas Worth Spreading” at annual conferences in both California and England, as well as other conferences throughout the year. You can watch almost all of the talks at their website, on topics such as climate, phycology, education, genetics, and almost anything in between.


Nature and Design

December 1st, 2009 | Comments Off on Nature and Design

Richard Shilling is an artist who specializes in Land Art, a form of art which derives its design and inspiration from the natural materials in and around the site.  Focusing primarily on sculptures, whose existence are often temporary, allowing for the natural elements to reclaim what he has created, Richard’s pieces are made and then carefully photographed to capture the pinnacle of the sculpture’s short life.

While each sculpture is unique to the time and place it is created, they all reflect the notion that design in nature is all around us.  As a kid if you ever built a sand castle, only to watch it wash away with the rising tide, then you have participated in nature’s design.  If you ever raked a pile of leaves, only to jump atop it and watch them fall to the ground again, then you have also participated in nature’s design.  These moments of embracing design exist universally, and are worth the pause in the middle of an afternoon stroll to admire.
The next time you are out and about, stop and take a look at the trees above you, the rocks beneath your feet, the moss within the sidewalk cracks or the water running in the street, I bet their outward beauty will seem deliberately placed in front of you.

For more of his images, check out Richard Shilling’s website or flickr page.  All images posted here are owned and protected by Richard Shilling.

Comic Sans Misses “Font Fight”

November 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment »

Following the font conference, the typefaces involved met in an abandoned warehouse to “settle the score” and stage a typeface fight.  The leaders of the two gangs, Arial and Helvetica, attempt to win the fight to become the ultimate default.  Unfortunately, no one asked Comic Sans to join their gangs, forcing him to miss the typeface-off of the century.

For a good laugh, watch Font Fight, a short video made by, for viewers who think that typefaces have real personalities associated with them.

Tempers Flare at Font Conference

November 3rd, 2009 | Comments Off on Tempers Flare at Font Conference

During a conference of fonts held at an undisclosed location, the family of popular typefaces gathered to determine if the typeface Zap Dingbats should be offered membership into their elite club.  Their meeting was interrupted by Ransom, who was holding Courier and Curlz MT hostage with the hopes of getting placement in loads of programs font libraries.  The tables were quickly turned when an unlikely hero appeared to save the day, Comic Sans.

Watch the action
in this video was made by for viewers who think that typefaces have real personalities associated with them.  

Coffee Grounds Turned Into Ink

October 7th, 2009 | Comments Off on Coffee Grounds Turned Into Ink

Every morning when I wake up, one of my favorite parts of getting out of bed is knowing that I can have a cup of coffee to start my day off right, as well as jump start the neurons in my brain.  But morning after morning, cup after cup, it’s hard not to wonder what better use these grounds could provide in order to make them slightly more functional.  If you have a compost, they are great for that (even the unbleached coffee filters can be put in the compost as well!) but if you don’t have access to a compost, they most likely go into the garbage.  What if I was to tell you there might soon be a way to turn these used coffee grounds into ink for printing?  There might be a way to do such a thing sometime soon, thanks in part to the Greener Gadgets Competition.

This past year, Inhabitat and Core77 partnered to host the Greener Gadgets Competition in order to encourage designers to create environmentally friendly consumer electronic devices.  Because it is a competition, designers are forced to come up with ideas that are extremely unique and challenge what it means to be a “green” product.  People from around the world competed last year as it was cut down to the top 50 designs, judged by internet votes, industry professionals and the sponsors of the competition.

Entries this year ranged from bicycle powered lights to energy monitoring equipment to human energy capturing infrastructure.  One entry stood out as a radical approach to what most considered a waste product, meaning it has no further use beyond it’s initial purpose.  Introducing, the RITI Coffee Printer :

It is a simple product, allowing the user to insert coffee grounds into the provided filter/cartridge and compress it into ink.  The device does not require any addition power sources, as it is powered by human strength (just moving the cartridge back+forth to distribute the ink).
Production of this printer is unknown at the moment, but it did well at the Green Gadget Competition in 2009.  Stay tuned for an update on the upcoming 2010 Competition this coming February.
Next time you consider the lifecycle of the products you use, keep an open mind, any attempt at being creative and diverting waste from landfills is a step in the right direction and who knows, you might come up with the next great Green Gadget design!
(all images in this post via Inhabitat)

Leslie Bloom
LEED Accredited Professional

PaperStone Products

September 17th, 2009 | Comments Off on PaperStone Products

Choosing to use recycled paper products is a relatively simple way to reduce our impact on our waning tree population, and the people at PaperStone Products have some of the most eco-friendly materials on the market.  Using recycled paper as the main content in their hard surfaces in buildings has allowed them to become certified by the Smartwood program of The Rainforest Alliance to Forest standards.  Because it is made of 100% recycled products, it can also add to LEED (USGBC ’s rating standard for sustainable buildings) certification for buildings.  In addition to reaching certification standards, PaperStone was also included on the top 10 green building products list back in 2006.

There are different types of recycled content out there, don’t let the bombardment of the word “recycle” confuse you, here is a breakdown of what the terms mean:

Post consumer content: made from products that have already served their initial purpose to the consumers (me, you, offices, schools etc)

Pre consumer content: made from the waste+scraps in the manufacturing process (most likely the company you’re purchasing from)

Using 100% post-consumer products to create their line of surface products, Paper Stone Products is one step closer to closing the loop on our paper supply.  If we are able to embrace our increasingly digital world of communication, we can decrease our consumption of paper, allowing our trees to stand tall and soak up the large amounts of carbon dioxide in the air. 

Turning paper from this:
To these finished countertops:

We will most likely never stop using paper, but what we use can certainly have less environmental impact than it does now.  By using post consumer content, Paper Stone has found a way to recycle our “waste” and give it a new purpose. 

Leslie Bloom
LEED Accredited Professional

Holy font fans! Ecofont saves ink (free download)

December 27th, 2008 | Comments Off on Holy font fans! Ecofont saves ink (free download)

Appealing ideas are often simple. Netherlands-based design company SPRANQ decided to see how much of a letter could be removed while maintaining readability. After extensive testing with all kinds of shapes, the best results were achieved using small circles.

At this size it looks like rhinestones on mary janes, but used at a regular text size, SPRANQ claims you’ll use up to 20% less ink. Ecofont is based on the Vera Sans (like Verdana), an Open Source letter, and is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. Free to download, free to use.

Thanks, SPRANQ!