We are having a “sneak preview” of the art we will be showing at our, soon to be opened, design store Telios Design House. The artwork featured is by James Fodor, an internationally exhibited artist. In his collaboration with Telios Design House, Fodor experimented with environmentally friendly plasters, clays and diatomaceous earth mixed with ochres and oxides and other natural materials to portray nature, specifically the California coast. These new works infused with light and pure color, draw viewers into a kind of communion with a beautiful creative energy.   We hope to see you there!

Santa Barbara Earth Day Celebration

This weekend there is a wonderful Earth Day Festival going at Alameda Park. The festival, sponsored by the Community Environmental Council, provides  a great opportunity to connect with a  variety of businesses and  non-profit organizations  doing work that in some way contributes to sustainable living.  There are all sorts of demonstrations and activities from worm composting to yoga class  going on throughout the day.  Take a look at the Earth Day schedule and guide on the CEC website before you go.  Be sure not to miss Mercury Press International’s inspiring  show “Eco-Portraits : Environmental Difference Makers”, a series of photographic profiles of environmental leaders by photographer Isaac Hernandez and journalists Nancy Black and Carlos Fresneda.

Eco Portraits at the Earth Day Festival

p.s.  that’s Harold Powell of Telios Environmental  in the photo on the right!

More on Water

Courtesy of National Geographic

Just thought I would let you know that  National Geographic’s new  issue  “Water Our Thirsty World”  is dedicated to the single issue of, you guessed it,  water.  From  World Water Day until April 9 you can download a free copy of the magazine.

World Water Day

Today is officially World Water Day. Of course everyday we depend on clean water  for our very survival, so it seems to me that being impeccable stewards of our freshwater supply would be at the top of our list of priorities. Unfortunately, this is not always  the case. Today the world’s freshwater ecosystems and the species they support are degraded and endangered to a greater extent than any other ecosystem type.   Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.  Clearly water is a central issue. The Nature Conservancy has a very interesting article on their blog on the role that water has played in catalyzing environmental progress.  It is very important that we understand where our water comes from, how we can keep it safe and clean, and use it wisely.

Things we can do:

Learn about our local watershed.

Volunteer on a creeks clean-up day.

Retrofit your home to be more water efficient.

Try to steer clear of chemicals and pesticides and be careful what you put down your drain

Put into practice as many of these everyday water saving tips as possible.

Heal the Ocean, and yourself

Heal the Ocean, is an incredible non-profit based here in Santa Barbara whose mission is to end ocean pollution. They have a very hands on approach, actually  funding their own scientific studies to find the sources of pollution and commissioning engineering studies and environmental assessments to determine the costs of clean up.  After five years of research, they  recently released the California Ocean Wastewater Discharge Report and Inventory. The report, which encompasses all the wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Pacific along the California coast, provides an unprecedented overview of the state of our wastewater system. When the study was started, the issue of bacteria in the water was the primary focus but as time went on, the problem of chemical pollutants took on an increased significance.  Apparently our wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to treat these pollutants, termed Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC’s).  As  more research was conducted, it became apparent that the source of many of these CEC’s was personal care products. Turns out that many products we use everyday,  (think  shampoo, lotions, toothpaste,  sunscreens, antibacterial soap, fabric, canned goods,  etc. ) are loaded with chemicals, and they are not only poisoning the ocean, but may be very harmful to us.  Katherine Engel, a research associate  with Heal the Ocean, has written an excellent paper  “Bad for the Ocean,  Bad for You” which details many of these  CEC’s and provides tips on how to avoid them. This is a must read as is  her companion essay, Personal Care Products- A Research Journey. The ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are not regulated in any meaningful way;  many of them include known toxins such as lead which has been found in many brands of lipstick.  Engel writes “consumers have NO idea they are bathing in toxins, smearing toxins on themselves, rubbing toxins into their hair,”  and when we are done with this toxic bath, the CEC’s “go down the drain from your house to a wastewater treatment plant, where for the most part they bypass the current treatment system and are discharged straight into the ocean.”  These chemicals also pose a threat to our drinking water . The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates 91 contaminants but it is estimated that there are over 60,000 chemicals used in the US.  While the wastewater treatment plants are not currently  treating these chemicals, it is possible that with higher levels of processing they might be able to effectively remove these contaminants. This would require an increase in funding, most likely through rate hikes on the sewer portion of our water bills.  I think that if people understood the problem they would support this. How much is safe, clean water  worth to you?   According to Hillary Hauser, the Executive Director of Heal the Ocean, ” A wastewater treatment plant is the most important environmental tool we have for the ocean, period.  And we have to help them.”   Heal the Ocean will be  hitting the road with their groundbreaking reports  and “will be talking to state water agencies, politicians, experts and regulators.”  Let’s help support them.  Obviously, if we can keep these chemicals out of the system to begin with we will helping to solve the problem and likely improving our health as well. These chemicals are ubiquitous in many of the products we buy, but they are not essential and often there are better alternatives available.


what's in your shampoo?


  • READ THE LABELS of the products you have been buying and if they are loaded with these CEC’s write to the company to see if they can change their formulas. If not, find a better replacement.
  • BUY WISELY Know what is in the products you buy and what went into making them. Support companies who are committed to the most  sustainable practices
  • VOICE YOUR CONCERN Let your representatives know that you care  about proper funding for our sewer systems

A big part of living a green lifestyle is being a conscious consumer.  Here is another chance to get it right.

Investment Company Sees the Gold in Going Green

Angel Franco/ The New York Times

According to a recent story in The New York Times, Jamestown Properties, a commercial real estate investment company based in Germany and Atlanta, is going green on all of  nearly 4 billion dollars worth of U.S. properties.  They will be spending 3 to 10 million dollars on these  green retrofits. Managing director and chief operations officer,  Matt M Bonfman says the executives at Jamestown believe that real estate will be increasingly valued for sustainability and environmental impact. Sustainability “will become a key factor to the point where, if you haven’t taken environmental measures, you will have trouble, whether it’s leasing your office building or what have you.” The company expects their investment will be repaid through energy savings, higher resale values, and the ability to charge higher rents. Just another indicator  that a green home or office retrofit  is not only good for the world, but might also be good for your pocketbook!

Green Kitchens, a great place to start

Innovative green kitchen by Ekokook

In our house, everyone is  always congregated in and around the kitchen.  I can’t tell you how many parties we’ve had where the beautifully decorated, comfy living room with the pretty views, will be empty, while everyone is standing around noshing in the kitchen. The wonderfully organized desk we built into the kid’s room,  eschewed, in favor of doing  homework at the kItchen table.   I guess it is because the kitchen is quite literally the room that provides us nourishment.  It is a place where we connect with each other, where we can be creative and where we foster  our own good health, and potentially, that of the planet.  We are facing huge problems surrounding our current production and consumption of food, with negative ramifications being experienced in our economics, politics,  the environment,  and our health.  We have an incredible opportunity to reexamine our modern relationship to food and redesign our kitchens to nurture more sustainable practices.  So, if you are going green, the kitchen is a very good place to start.   A green kitchen should be  designed  to maximize energy efficiency,   incorporate smart water use,  utilize the most eco-friendly and sustainable materials and support good health.  Whether you retrofit an existing kitchen or start from scratch,  there are lots of decisions to be made. Here are a few of the things you need to think about.

  1. Choosing the most energy-efficient appliances to meet your needs
  2. Lighting. Making the best use of  natural light and supplementing with energy-efficient lighting
  3. Water use strategies.  Low water use fixtures. Greywater systems
  4. Choosing materials that are durable, non toxic and environmentally responsible for cabinetry, countertops and floors
  5. Choosing non-toxic paints and finishes
  6. Incorporating strategies to encourage recycling and composting
  7. Incorporating food production
  8. Choosing non-toxic cleansers and food storage systems

Santa Barbara Green Home Makeover

Door Before

New Front Door and Skylights Allow More Light

Outdoor Shower

By Robin Bisio

When Harold and Dorrie Powell suggested some simple, fast strategies to spruce up my beach house, I accepted their leadership. I had seen their award winning green houses over the years, especially a beach house they renovated across the street on Shoreline Drive in Santa Barbara.I had house envy of their stylish, harmonious and beautiful abodes. Now it was my turn. Here is what happened in a month!

1. First step. Gulp. My girl is off to college so out went her backyard hogging trampoline. Harold and his crew replaced the play area with river rocks lined with large beach stones. Now when we go to the beach, we look for shells and stones to the to the backyard gathering spot. The plants have all been cut back (bringing more air and sunlight) and the mulch has been spread. (and the irrigation system fixed) so water use is much more economical. Some plants have been moved and I have been instructed not to over water next to the wooden house which can cause mold. We spread the stone motif to the front and side of the house over previously raked ground. (which tended to get muddy) Not only does everything look beautiful and beachy, there is much less sand and dirt tracked inside. Oh and we now have an outdoor shower conveniently attached to an existing fence  over the new river rocks with an elegant bamboo water line running from a preexisting water heater. It is amazing that just the presence of an outdoor shower invites more surfing, snorkeling, beach walks and kayaking.

2. Ah Yes. Mold. Ask anyone who lives by the beach– this is a big problem. Here are some of our solutions. We changed out a solid front door for a door with windows to bring in more light. We trimmed back light blocking bushes and vines next to windows and, in some cases replaced the plants with white roses redolent of shore front Maine cottages. Workers also scrubbed the dirty and somewhat moldy exteriors with a simple soapy solution. The house looks so clean now that the new paint job I was contemplating is off. Just certain areas that show weather damage will have to be addressed with a new coat of no VOC paint.

3. In the mold fight, we paid special attention to our attached guest cottage which had shown itself to be especially vulnerable to the seafront blight. First step was to throw away the futon which had a surprising but awful rim of mold where it had rested directly on the tile floor. In its place is a bed  designed by Harold made with reclaimed wooden corbels as legs which beautifully lifts the mattress off the ground and with the use of a slatted platform allows air to flow around all surfaces.  We replaced closet doors and cabinet fronts with fresh curtains to allow air to circulate. Banished was the toxic vinyl shower curtain. In its stead is a washable natural fiber curtain that does not output gas. Harold also put up a high curtain between the bedroom and bathroom to block steam from entering the room wholesale and contributing to the mold party. Everything was scrubbed clean with vinegar and repainted with no VOC paint. The results are so fresh and cheerful it is nothing short of a miracle.

4. Harold adjusted the washing machine to agitate properly and cleaned out the dishwasher with vinegar and other solutions to guarantee better use of utilities and power. He also refocused some vents so they do not blow directly against the house with their humid enterprises.

5. Now that there is so much light flooding into the house, we do not need the artificial variety all day long. Dimmer switches and energy efficient light bulbs are part of the new deal here. THe worm composters my daughter made for her senior project are in full kitchen use with another compost pile in the yard for leaves.

6. And I almost forgot the piece di resistance…a clothes line. It is portable so it can be taken down for a party, say, but everyday it reminds me of the past when family grandmas hung their wash out. It feels good to see this line in use just for those memories.

7. I look forward to our next phase which will be glassing in the front overhang to make a new sun porch. This will allow for more heat and light, and a place to hang hammocks. In the meantime, the house is renewed, a beacon of light on the coast that invites play and reflection.

8. My long-term to do list: as time and funds permit, there will be additional skylights, solar panels, bamboo flooring and a changing of the guard to more energy efficient appliances.

9. Your turn! Surely you will find the process as fun and educational as I did.