Finca La Isla Botanical Gardens


A highlight of our trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica was visiting a working tropical farm in the jungle. Here a father and son raise pepper, cacao, tropical fruits, and ornamental plants. We had a lesson and tasting of local fruits and learned how chocolate is made.

Continue reading “Finca La Isla Botanical Gardens”


Using newspaper for your garden

I like it when I can use materials I have laying around to make something useful. WikiHow has a great how-to article on how to use newspapers to make seedling pots.
Click here to learn how to make your own:

Brazilian city makes food a basic right, ends hunger

I am very inspired by what this small town was able to do. Belo Horizonte, Brazil declared that food was a right of citizenship. What a novel yet obvious action!

At that time, the city of 2.5 million had 275,000 people living in absolute poverty, and close to 20 percent of its children were going hungry. Since the declaration the city has all but wiped out hunger and only spends 2% of the city budget to do so. It’s all about working with the local farmers and the community. Why not here in Half Moon Bay?

Read more about it at

“The work an unknown good man/woman has…”

“The work an unknown good man/woman has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.”

— Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish Writer

I had to update Carlyle’s quote to include “an unknown good woman”, but I like the sentiment of his saying.

Some days I feel hopeless, as if what we do does not make much of a difference. I mean how do we go up against those that make decisions based on making more money for the rich? Those that make decisions that hurt the earth and the other residents on the planet?

I just read a piece on “resilience” by Carissa Wieler, a Integral Psychology student at JFKU. Her writing really resonated with me and reminded me of this important word. She says resilience is “the ability to be present in ambiguous situations with no clear outcome by developing realistic faith and hope and tempering the need to control.”

I get this concept of resilience when we garden. When we plant the seeds and have no idea if they are going to like our soil or if it will be sunny this summer or if the salty wind is going to affect the growth. We water and wait to see what comes up and are delighted when we see the green shoots peeking through the dirt. We continue nurturing the seedling till we can harvest the lettuce, tomatoes, chard, or whatever. There is great delight in eating what you have help create.

We want to sustain this resilient spirit by recycling the kitchen and shower water for the garden instead of letting it go down the drain. Ander is setting up rain catch so we can harvest what falls from the skies this winter and use it for gardening when it is dry. We hope to continue eating from our garden and using little energy, by living our small footprint live style. It is our small attempt at doing what is right for us in the world.

Does any of this make a difference in the world? Is the effort worth it? I believe it is with the many gardening folks doing the same thing in their backyards and on their balconies. Our resilience can pay off. Just putting your hands in the soil can change your energy and that of the land you live on. Connecting to the earth and her goodness can only make one smile and that has to be good!

Portable Light

This is a terrific product that can be used in the 3rd world, but also camping, and in emergencies. I’d love to use it to read in bed!

Portable Light is an interdisciplinary research, design and engineering project to create and implement new models for energy efficient electrical power and lighting. Portable Light applies creative processes and strategic integrative thinking to optimize existing semi-conductor technologies and create new applications to serve the large number of people—more than 2 billion—who do not have access to electric light or power. Portable Light is based upon the principle that global needs for technology development are inevitably interconnected. Knowledge, techniques, market solutions and data produced by the project benefit the “third” world and the “first” world where the need to imagine, design and develop energy efficient alternatives to the centralized and increasingly costly electrical grid is becoming ever more important.

The remarkable energy efficiency of high brightness solid state lighting (HBLEDs) means that a bright digital light of 80 lumens per watt (bright enough to read, work and illuminate areas at night) can be produced by a single miniature diode and powered by small areas of flexible photo-voltaic (solar panels). Portable Light expands the value of miniature solid state electronics by putting digital light into a textile medium to create cost effective, completely portable, off-the-grid light engines that can be deployed at a global scale wherever energy efficient electrical power and illumination are needed.

Find out more here

Go fly a kite and power 100,000 abodes

Who would have thought that something as fun as flying a kite could end up being energy producing! While pondering how to capture wind energy, scientists from the Netherlands went out and flew a giant kite. The 10-sq-meter kite was tethered to a generator and managed to produce 10 kW. With the success of this kite, they’re planning to test a 50 kW version of the kite, dubbed Laddermill, and if that succeeds, they’re proposing a multi-kite version that could get as much as 100 MW – enough for 100,000 homes.

The kite generates energy by pulling on is string on the way up. When it gets to the end of the string, it’s pulled back down and then sent back up for another flight. The amount of energy captured is maximized by flying the kite in figure eights, and bringing it down in a fall like a glider plane. Check out a video of it by clicking here and read more at ecogeek.

Would you drive 50mph?

I have to congratulate Spain on their pretty extreme plan to curve energy consumption. I guess some of their citizens are not too thrilled with the strategy. I would like to think that humans can alter their habits if it meant saving their country and their planet. Why is it so hard to slow down? We have no problem speeding up!

Spain has launched an ambitious plan to reduce energy consumption and save millions of euros on oil imports by cutting the speed limit to 50mph and handing out millions of low-energy use light bulbs.

With the introduction of a broad swathe of measures between now and 2014, Spain’s socialist government hopes to reduce Spain’s oil imports by 10% per year, cutting consumption by 44m barrels and saving €4.14bn (£3.25bn).

During the country’s sweltering summers, air conditioning systems in public buildings will be set no lower than 26C (79F). In winter, Spaniards will be allowed to turn the heating no higher than 21C (70F), with hospitals being the only exception.

Street lighting is to be reduced by up to 50% and the metro system in many cities will stay open later at weekends to encourage people to leave the cars at home. The government is also to introduce a pilot project for the manufacture of 1m electric or hybrid cars.

All Spanish government vehicles are to meet at least 20% of their energy needs through biofuels.

And in an unprecedented move, commercial airlines will be able to use military air routes to make journeys 20% shorter. The comes after Ryanair and easyJet announced they are to cut routes to Spain, blaming rising fuel costs.

Among European countries Spain has the highest dependency on fossil fuels, which meet 84% of its energy needs. In the past year, Spain spent €17bn importing oil.

The rising price of oil has led to inflationary pressures and caused the country’s trade deficit to balloon by 13% this year to €42.8bn.”

Check out the rest of the article at: The Guardian.

Delicate stylish solar lantern

I just got this beautiful, functional, AND energy saving light! Here it is during the daytime getting charged up. The lantern is constructed of silk-like material and creates a wonderful shimmering silhouette. It comes with dual LED lights, solar panel, AAA rechargeable battery and a stainless hanging handle – so it “weather” our misty coastside.

Here is how the lantern looks at night. I like the way it glows and moves in the evening breeze – sort of ghostly. Ander and I keep scheming how we can scare our neighbors into thinking it is a UFO – oops don’t tell them!

I purchased the Soji Solar Lantern at The Gardener store in Berkeley (if you haven’t been there, it is fabulous and one of my most favorite stores). It comes in 2 shapes, square and teardrop and in 3 colors – moss, slate and bronze.

Solar Trees

I found this design to be cool and functional.


10 percent of all the electricity used in Europe in 2006 is consumed by street lighting. This is equal to 2,000 billion KWh, and resulting in 2,900 million ton of carbon emissions.

The solar tree design went on display for four weeks in October on a busy street in Vienna, Austria. They were able to provide enough light during the night-time even when the sun did not show for as much as four days in a row.


from link: metaefficient

Make an Environmental Postcard

I just joined the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art and they are promoting a postcard show called “Sustaining our Environment”. I love some of the postcards already submitted that they are showing on the blog, WCA ArtWaves international. Check out instructions below to send in your postcard too which will benefit the UN.


This was done by friend Judy Johnson-Williams. A 3-D shaker box card, it is made from found/recycled foam core, tape, plexi, flowers, BART ticket and a butterfly.


A timely woven card from Donna Catanzaro of Windham, NH. She wrote,
“Made from just 3 of the hundreds of NH Primary Campaign junk mail pieces I received…and never read.”


By another coastsider I have not met yet – Alexis K. Manheim of Moss Beach, CA. It is made of used coffee filters, old tea bags and discarded tea bag strings.

Here are the details to enter. Sounds like fun. Do it!


Deadline Extended!!! February 15 2008
Theme: Sustaining Our Environment Postcards

Submit 4”x6” or Size 6 postcards made from recycled materials on the theme of “Sustaining Our Environment.” On the back of the postcard, provide your name, location (town, state and/or country) and materials used to make the card. Submissions will be exhibited during the February, 2008 WCA and College Art Association (CAA) annual conferences at Ft. Worth-Dallas, Texas. At the exhibition, works will be auctioned to benefit the United Nations. All entries will be documented on this blogsite.

No jury, no fee, no return. Postal delivery only.Mail postcards to P. Otani, Curator, Sustaining Our Environment, 263 Laidley Street, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA