Tag Archives: Green

Replay 9/5/07: Crude Awakening

27 Aug

Crude Awakening

Over the past couple weeks, several people have found my blog by searching for Crude Awakening or for its creator, Dan Das Mann, so I thought I’d finally give everyone what they’re looking for. And I promise, this will be my last Burning Man related post for a little while.

You might ask, how does this massive Burning Man art piece connect to Oakland? Crude Awakening’s creator-couple, Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito have been toiling away in a West Oakland warehouse for years now, creating some of the most awe inspiring pieces of artwork in Black Rock City and beyond.

Passage

They even spent their honeymoon in West Oakland, creating Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of scrap metal, walking next to each other with hands stretched towards each other. Walking? Yes. Well, they didn’t literally move, but 50 concrete flaming footsteps followed behind them. I learned at the Crucible’s fire arts preview in 2005 that the couple had hoped to have 100 footsteps following the figures but realized that the weight of these footsteps would mean that their trucks would not have room for the metal figures!

So back to what you came here to read about… Crude Awakening. Imagine nine metal women, over five times the size of a human being, knealing, crouching, standing, praying before a 99′ tall oil derrick made of wood. Day and night, hundreds of burners climb the oil tower to look out from the top at a city the same size (distance wise) as San Francisco. After the sun sets, the art crew begins to light each of the figures. One has a flaming rosary. Another holds fire in her hands. Every where you look, you can see metal, flames, and people standing in awe.

I have to admit that I biked several miles, usually twice a day, just to look at and interact with this art piece. But all of that was overshadowed by the grand performance that took place on Saturday night.

After the man collapsed in flames (never my favorite part of the week), I grabbed my friends and walked across the desert to Crude Awakening. We sat down in the second row, the closest I’ve ever been to such a large burn, and proceeded to wait for an hour and a half. Luckily, we were in the good company of some sweet people from Toronto, who I proudly informed that the piece had been created in Oakland.

Again and again, rangers approached us and warned us that the explosion was going to be large and intense. We might want to cover our faces or duck down. It would last about 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and when the oil derrick collapsed, we were supposed to stop the crowd of tens of thousands of burners from rushing to the burning embers because there still could be some unexploded fire works lying around. But not to worry, the crew had assured them that we would be safe. As the artists at Dance Dance Immolation say, “Safety Third.”

The long wait was well worth it. The performance started with a truck circling around the art piece, sirens wailing, spreading a thick fog that soon entirely engulfed the nine figures and the oil derrick. For a minute, all lights were turned out. Then, out of the fog, a line of small yellow and blue fireworks emerged from the ground and music began playing. Strobe lights illuminated the figures, creating the illusion that they were moving towards the tower.

This was followed by 15 minutes of the most beautiful and varied fireworks I’ve seen in my life. But why tell you about it when I can show you?

You’ll see at the end of this video that that at the end of the fireworks show, the oil derrick lights up. Soon after, it started burning slowly. It needed some help. So why not create the largest explosion ever seen at Burning Man? Apparently, that wasn’t enough. The tower still burned slowly. So why not create a tornado of fuel, fire, and wind in the middle of the structure? The fire was so hot that it was white and blue:

Amazed is not a strong enough word for how I felt that night. Moved, elated, awestruck – those come closer.

There was a lot of talk after the explosion about whether it was worth it. Did Dan and Karen and their crew of nearly 200 helpers make their point? Or was it a worthless explosion that just polluted the environment?

I know Crude Awakening made me think, and considering that the amount of oil used was no more than a single driver uses in a couple years, I think it was worth it. Here’s an explanation from the artists, via a blog post on the Underwire:

The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.

The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito… says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.” The pair hopes the message will reach far beyond the 45,000 or so who might see the finale at Burning Man.

I know their message certainly reached me, and I’m proud to see such awe-inspiring art being created in Oakland. Now, if we could just convince our city to commission some of their art, like San Francisco commissioned Passage

Replay 8/10/07: Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City

26 Aug

It’s that time of year when I just can’t get Burning Man off of my mind, but lately I’ve been realizing that Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City. Sure, a good chunk of burners are from the Bay Area so it makes sense that the Bay would be similar to the third largest city in Nevada, but Oakland in particular brings me back to the desert.

The other day I got off the 1 bus several blocks early, at West Grand and Telegraph and walked down Telegraph to work. Maybe it was the hot sun beating down on me or the sublime beats, bass, and ambiance of Matrix and Futurebound on my iPod, but as I walked through uptown, I couldn’t help feeling that I could almost as easily be in BRC.

The Artwork…

Large cranes towered over me, slowly bring up the walls of the new Uptown apartment-condominium complex at 20th and Telegraph. The Fox Theater simultaneously is being deconstructed and reconstructed, preserving what the Friends of the Oakland Fox describe as “an interesting [architectural] mixture of styles: Indian, Moorish, Medieval (the gargoyles at roof level), and Baghdadian.”

Photo of Oakland's Fox Theater

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Oakland Fox

Above me loomed several massive pieces of architectural artwork, all incredibly unique. It reminded me of biking through the open playa at Burning Man, remaining fixated on a piece of artwork ahead of me, only until another art piece a few hundred feet to its left distracted me and pulled my bike in the other direction. Like Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of literally tons of scrap metal, or Sugar Cube, a 20’x20’x20 cube with three levels to stand on that started out blank and invited artists to paint, draw, write, and graffiti on its surfaces:

Sugar Cube, Burning Man 2006

The art’s not all massive. Like the bike-shaped bike rack featured on the header of this blog that I pass by several times a week. Or murals on walls and garages:

North Oakland Garage Mural

Or graffiti on highway overpasses. Or the various art cars found in both cities. Or the dozens of small art pieces scattered around the playa, like the Web of Hope and Fear or Phoenix and the Man:

Phoenix and the Man, Burning Man 2006

Community…

Though it’s a big city, Oakland often feels like a tight-knit community. Restaurant owners know my name and wave at me on the street. At the Temescal Farmer’s Market, which I frequent religiously, many of the farmers already know what I want. A couple weeks ago, as I approached the Hodo Soy Beanery stand, I was told that they had run out of tofu jerky (my favorite), but I could call him if I wanted him to save me some for the next week. And sometimes, random people on the street or bus say hello or start up a conversation.

I have to admit, though, that Black Rock City tops Oakland on community any day. There, a conversation turns into a friendship. As I bike down the street, my neighbors call out to me, inviting me over for a drink, something to eat, or a game of mini-golf. When a structure my camp mates built started blowing over in a terrible wind storm a couple years ago, two strangers who had just arrived came to my aid and helped me save the PVC and parachute from flying away.

The Unexpected Should Be Expected…

If you’ve ever been to Burning Man, you probably know that this is about the only thing you can count on. If you haven’t been, here’s some idea of what this is like: finding a life-sized chess board a half a mile out in the middle of the desert, running into a friend you haven’t seen since high school, a breeze-less sunny day turning into a harsh wind and dust storm, dancing to a nine piece jazz band playing on top of a hundred foot flower, stumbling into a bath tub filled with yarn, or discovering a literal oasis during the midday heat – complete with umbrellas, couches, and cold beer.

Bathtub of Yarn, Burning Man 2006

And you know what? Oakland’s catching up to BRC. In previous posts, I wrote about the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival that brings a massive scale of fire art to industrial West Oakland – the passer byers on BART were certainly surprised by huge flame throwers and fire dancers – and about being lulled to sleep in North Oakland by a neighbor playing the banjo. Sitting on the bus bench at 14th and Broadway recently, someone behind me put a hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. While this freaked me out for a second, I soon realized it was an ex-coworker and close mentor who I hadn’t seen for a long time. A few months ago, I was having a really hard time coordinating lunch with a friend of mine. We had been trying to make plans for weeks, and then one day, we both went out to lunch alone and ended up meeting up and finally having lunch together at Ichiro.

Greening the City…

This year, Black Rock City will join Oakland in its efforts to become a more environmentally-friendly city. Burning Man has been big on “leave no trace” for many years, employing staff and volunteers to clean up at the event and throughout the year. But for 2007, they’re taking it to the next level with the theme of The Green Man. The Burning Man infrastructure will be powered by large solar panels, which will be donated to the neighboring town of Gerlach after the event. A long time burner convinced some large market chains in Reno and other Nevada cities to host 24 hour recycle drop-offs after the event, while CoolingMan is attempting to offset the entire carbon footprint of the the 2007 event. A lot of the funded art this year will also be green, and there’s going to be a giant “green pavilion” under the man, highlighting renewable energy technology. Pre-event, BM’s hosting an Enviroblog to help burners make their camps greener. Some ideas from the blog: ditch disposable plastic watter bottles, run power off of a car instead of using a generator, and leave nut shells and live plants at home.

Still, it will take a while for Burning Man to catch up with Oakland. In April, Oakland was ranked #1 in the production of renewable energy, out of all U.S. cities, according to RenewableEnergyAccess.com:

Leading the nation with 17 percent of its electricity produced by sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, most renewable energy generation in the city comes from commercial and residential photovoltaic (PV) systems.

According to City of Oakland Energy Engineer Scott Wentworth, the city is undertaking many important projects including: working with San Francisco State University, Marin County, and the City and County of San Francisco to create tools for assessing solar potential of commercial and residential properties; conducting wave and tidal power studies in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute and other California cities; and outfitting new municipal buildings to accommodate solar systems — even if the resources are not available to install the system immediately.

Oakland’s currently in the process of updating its Bicycle Master Plan, to be issued this fall, as part of its robust program to encourage Oakland residents to bike and walk. There’s also the city basics, like recycling, waste diversion, hazardous material cleanup, green building, and air cleanup, all of which you can read about on Oakland’s website. Not to mention, Oakland is full of farmers’ markets, organic and local food, mass transit, and many residents who are concerned with environmental sustainability. Both cities certainly have a long way to go, but it’s clear that the environment is not simply an afterthought for their citizens or government officials.

Feeling at Home…

Ultimately, what I most love about both of these cities is that I feel at home. I can be myself and feel like a part of a community. So while I’m getting impatient for my trip to Black Rock City, I have Oakland to comfort me and keep me busy.

Living in My Neighborhood

10 Sep

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my neighborhood. Partly, I’m trying to drive less and walk more, but I also just like North Oakland and all that it offers.

The streets are really beautiful and filled with trees, gardens, and whimsical public art created by Rockridge and Temescal residents…

nature-path.jpg

bike.jpg North Oakland Garage Mural

Every Sunday morning, I walk to the Temescal Farmer’s Market. When I go out to dinner, I walk to restaurants in Rockridge, like Flavors of India, Great Wall (the first Oakland restaurant I ever ate at, many years ago), Somerset, or, if I’m feeling lazy, I walk a few steps to Addis Ethiopian Cuisine. For an incredible chai and a relaxing place to read, I hang out at A Cuppa Tea. And if I want to grab a drink, I head down to the White Horse and never have to worry about who’s the designated driver.

On my many walks, I’ve realized that my definition of neighborhood is pretty expansive. Mine stretches from Shattuck to at least College, and from 50th to Ashby. Yes, my neighborhood even includes some of South Berkeley, mainly because of Whole Foods and Ici (mmm, local, organic ice cream). I’ve defined my neighborhood based on places I walk frequently. And it seems so huge to me because after eighteen years of living in LA, a part of me still thinks of neighborhoods based on how far I would walk when I was a teenager (I really used to drive to a friend’s house who lived four blocks from me!).

So what about you? How big is your neighborhood? Am I crazy for defining my neighborhood so largely? Or is this a completely normal part of Oakland living?

Crude Awakening

5 Sep

Crude Awakening

Over the past couple weeks, several people have found my blog by searching for Crude Awakening or for its creator, Dan Das Mann, so I thought I’d finally give everyone what they’re looking for. And I promise, this will be my last Burning Man related post for a little while.

You might ask, how does this massive Burning Man art piece connect to Oakland? Crude Awakening’s creator-couple, Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito have been toiling away in a West Oakland warehouse for years now, creating some of the most awe inspiring pieces of artwork in Black Rock City and beyond.

Passage

They even spent their honeymoon in West Oakland, creating Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of scrap metal, walking next to each other with hands stretched towards each other. Walking? Yes. Well, they didn’t literally move, but 50 concrete flaming footsteps followed behind them. I learned at the Crucible’s fire arts preview in 2005 that the couple had hoped to have 100 footsteps following the figures but realized that the weight of these footsteps would mean that their trucks would not have room for the metal figures!

So back to what you came here to read about… Crude Awakening. Imagine nine metal women, over five times the size of a human being, knealing, crouching, standing, praying before a 99′ tall oil derrick made of wood. Day and night, hundreds of burners climb the oil tower to look out from the top at a city the same size (distance wise) as San Francisco. After the sun sets, the art crew begins to light each of the figures. One has a flaming rosary. Another holds fire in her hands. Every where you look, you can see metal, flames, and people standing in awe.

I have to admit that I biked several miles, usually twice a day, just to look at and interact with this art piece. But all of that was overshadowed by the grand performance that took place on Saturday night.

After the man collapsed in flames (never my favorite part of the week), I grabbed my friends and walked across the desert to Crude Awakening. We sat down in the second row, the closest I’ve ever been to such a large burn, and proceeded to wait for an hour and a half. Luckily, we were in the good company of some sweet people from Toronto, who I proudly informed that the piece had been created in Oakland.

Again and again, rangers approached us and warned us that the explosion was going to be large and intense. We might want to cover our faces or duck down. It would last about 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and when the oil derrick collapsed, we were supposed to stop the crowd of tens of thousands of burners from rushing to the burning embers because there still could be some unexploded fire works lying around. But not to worry, the crew had assured them that we would be safe. As the artists at Dance Dance Immolation say, “Safety Third.”

The long wait was well worth it. The performance started with a truck circling around the art piece, sirens wailing, spreading a thick fog that soon entirely engulfed the nine figures and the oil derrick. For a minute, all lights were turned out. Then, out of the fog, a line of small yellow and blue fireworks emerged from the ground and music began playing. Strobe lights illuminated the figures, creating the illusion that they were moving towards the tower.

This was followed by 15 minutes of the most beautiful and varied fireworks I’ve seen in my life. But why tell you about it when I can show you?

You’ll see at the end of this video that that at the end of the fireworks show, the oil derrick lights up. Soon after, it started burning slowly. It needed some help. So why not create the largest explosion ever seen at Burning Man? Apparently, that wasn’t enough. The tower still burned slowly. So why not create a tornado of fuel, fire, and wind in the middle of the structure? The fire was so hot that it was white and blue:

Amazed is not a strong enough word for how I felt that night. Moved, elated, awestruck – those come closer.

There was a lot of talk after the explosion about whether it was worth it. Did Dan and Karen and their crew of nearly 200 helpers make their point? Or was it a worthless explosion that just polluted the environment?

I know Crude Awakening made me think, and considering that the amount of oil used was no more than a single driver uses in a couple years, I think it was worth it. Here’s an explanation from the artists, via a blog post on the Underwire:

The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.

The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito… says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.” The pair hopes the message will reach far beyond the 45,000 or so who might see the finale at Burning Man.

I know their message certainly reached me, and I’m proud to see such awe-inspiring art being created in Oakland. Now, if we could just convince our city to commission some of their art, like San Francisco commissioned Passage

Almost as Fun as Burning Man…

27 Aug

bart-tracks-2.jpg

I’m leaving tomorrow for Burning Man for a week so this will be my last post for a while, but if I wasn’t headed to Black Rock City, I know what I’d be doing this weekend – riding BART all night!

Over the past couple years, the Bay Bridge has been shut down a few times for construction during weekend nights. With the bridge shut down, BART is forced to run all night. Hourly, from 1 a.m. until the regular schedule starts up in the morning, BART runs in all directions at select stations.

Last time it ran all night, I organized a large group of East Bay and San Francisco friends to hang out in the West Bay for the night. A dozen of us rode BART to Oakland at 4:00 a.m. It was great.

That weekend, I read in the Chronicle that BART ridership DOUBLED over that weekend. Yes, keeping BART open all night doubled ridership. Sure, there’s the small factor of drivers not being able to use the bridge at all, but still.

All of this makes me wonder, if BART can stay open all night for a few weekends a year, why can’t it stay open all night every Friday and Saturday night? Or how about just running until 3 a.m. (well past bars and clubs closing) Thursday-Saturday?

I know, I know. BART’s full of excuses, the main one being that they need time for maintenance. Unlike New York’s subway system (and many others), BART doesn’t have extra tracks to reroute trains on so they need to shut down the whole system for maintenance. But it still seems that this maintenance could be done Sunday-Wednesday nights.

At least AC Transit has expanded it’s Night Owl all night service, but the truth is that people who don’t regularly ride the bus aren’t going to start in the middle of the night. I’ve gotten some pretty weird looks when I’ve suggested riding the bus at 2 a.m.

Think about the benefits of late-night BART service… decreased CO2 emissions, fewer drunk drivers on the roads, not having to leave SF at midnight… who knows, some West Bay residents might even decide to cross the bay to spend the night in Oakland.

Well, until BART wises up and starts running trains until more reasonable hours, we’ll just have to enjoy these random weekends of Bay Bridge closures. So if you’re not at Burning Man this weekend, go clubbing, bar hopping, or just go visit some friends in the West Bay without having to worry about an expensive cab ride or crashing on a couch. Ride BART all night all weekend long.

Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City

10 Aug

It’s that time of year when I just can’t get Burning Man off of my mind, but lately I’ve been realizing that Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City. Sure, a good chunk of burners are from the Bay Area so it makes sense that the Bay would be similar to the third largest city in Nevada, but Oakland in particular brings me back to the desert.

The other day I got off the 1 bus several blocks early, at West Grand and Telegraph and walked down Telegraph to work. Maybe it was the hot sun beating down on me or the sublime beats, bass, and ambiance of Matrix and Futurebound on my iPod, but as I walked through uptown, I couldn’t help feeling that I could almost as easily be in BRC.

The Artwork…

Large cranes towered over me, slowly bring up the walls of the new Uptown apartment-condominium complex at 20th and Telegraph. The Fox Theater simultaneously is being deconstructed and reconstructed, preserving what the Friends of the Oakland Fox describe as “an interesting [architectural] mixture of styles: Indian, Moorish, Medieval (the gargoyles at roof level), and Baghdadian.”

Photo of Oakland's Fox Theater

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Oakland Fox

Above me loomed several massive pieces of architectural artwork, all incredibly unique. It reminded me of biking through the open playa at Burning Man, remaining fixated on a piece of artwork ahead of me, only until another art piece a few hundred feet to its left distracted me and pulled my bike in the other direction. Like Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of literally tons of scrap metal, or Sugar Cube, a 20’x20’x20 cube with three levels to stand on that started out blank and invited artists to paint, draw, write, and graffiti on its surfaces:

Sugar Cube, Burning Man 2006

The art’s not all massive. Like the bike-shaped bike rack featured on the header of this blog that I pass by several times a week. Or murals on walls and garages:

North Oakland Garage Mural

Or graffiti on highway overpasses. Or the various art cars found in both cities. Or the dozens of small art pieces scattered around the playa, like the Web of Hope and Fear or Phoenix and the Man:

Phoenix and the Man, Burning Man 2006

Community…

Though it’s a big city, Oakland often feels like a tight-knit community. Restaurant owners know my name and wave at me on the street. At the Temescal Farmer’s Market, which I frequent religiously, many of the farmers already know what I want. A couple weeks ago, as I approached the Hodo Soy Beanery stand, I was told that they had run out of tofu jerky (my favorite), but I could call him if I wanted him to save me some for the next week. And sometimes, random people on the street or bus say hello or start up a conversation.

I have to admit, though, that Black Rock City tops Oakland on community any day. There, a conversation turns into a friendship. As I bike down the street, my neighbors call out to me, inviting me over for a drink, something to eat, or a game of mini-golf. When a structure my camp mates built started blowing over in a terrible wind storm a couple years ago, two strangers who had just arrived came to my aid and helped me save the PVC and parachute from flying away.

The Unexpected Should Be Expected…

If you’ve ever been to Burning Man, you probably know that this is about the only thing you can count on. If you haven’t been, here’s some idea of what this is like: finding a life-sized chess board a half a mile out in the middle of the desert, running into a friend you haven’t seen since high school, a breeze-less sunny day turning into a harsh wind and dust storm, dancing to a nine piece jazz band playing on top of a hundred foot flower, stumbling into a bath tub filled with yarn, or discovering a literal oasis during the midday heat – complete with umbrellas, couches, and cold beer.

Bathtub of Yarn, Burning Man 2006

And you know what? Oakland’s catching up to BRC. In previous posts, I wrote about the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival that brings a massive scale of fire art to industrial West Oakland – the passer byers on BART were certainly surprised by huge flame throwers and fire dancers – and about being lulled to sleep in North Oakland by a neighbor playing the banjo. Sitting on the bus bench at 14th and Broadway recently, someone behind me put a hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. While this freaked me out for a second, I soon realized it was an ex-coworker and close mentor who I hadn’t seen for a long time. A few months ago, I was having a really hard time coordinating lunch with a friend of mine. We had been trying to make plans for weeks, and then one day, we both went out to lunch alone and ended up meeting up and finally having lunch together at Ichiro.

Greening the City…

This year, Black Rock City will join Oakland in its efforts to become a more environmentally-friendly city. Burning Man has been big on “leave no trace” for many years, employing staff and volunteers to clean up at the event and throughout the year. But for 2007, they’re taking it to the next level with the theme of The Green Man. The Burning Man infrastructure will be powered by large solar panels, which will be donated to the neighboring town of Gerlach after the event. A long time burner convinced some large market chains in Reno and other Nevada cities to host 24 hour recycle drop-offs after the event, while CoolingMan is attempting to offset the entire carbon footprint of the the 2007 event. A lot of the funded art this year will also be green, and there’s going to be a giant “green pavilion” under the man, highlighting renewable energy technology. Pre-event, BM’s hosting an Enviroblog to help burners make their camps greener. Some ideas from the blog: ditch disposable plastic watter bottles, run power off of a car instead of using a generator, and leave nut shells and live plants at home.

Still, it will take a while for Burning Man to catch up with Oakland. In April, Oakland was ranked #1 in the production of renewable energy, out of all U.S. cities, according to RenewableEnergyAccess.com:

Leading the nation with 17 percent of its electricity produced by sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, most renewable energy generation in the city comes from commercial and residential photovoltaic (PV) systems.

According to City of Oakland Energy Engineer Scott Wentworth, the city is undertaking many important projects including: working with San Francisco State University, Marin County, and the City and County of San Francisco to create tools for assessing solar potential of commercial and residential properties; conducting wave and tidal power studies in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute and other California cities; and outfitting new municipal buildings to accommodate solar systems — even if the resources are not available to install the system immediately.

Oakland’s currently in the process of updating its Bicycle Master Plan, to be issued this fall, as part of its robust program to encourage Oakland residents to bike and walk. There’s also the city basics, like recycling, waste diversion, hazardous material cleanup, green building, and air cleanup, all of which you can read about on Oakland’s website. Not to mention, Oakland is full of farmers’ markets, organic and local food, mass transit, and many residents who are concerned with environmental sustainability. Both cities certainly have a long way to go, but it’s clear that the environment is not simply an afterthought for their citizens or government officials.

Feeling at Home…

Ultimately, what I most love about both of these cities is that I feel at home. I can be myself and feel like a part of a community. So while I’m getting impatient for my trip to Black Rock City, I have Oakland to comfort me and keep me busy.

A Cheat Sheet for Eating Locally

4 Aug

When I moved to the Bay Area from LA 7 years ago, I had never knowingly eaten something organic. And the concept of food miles didn’t even exist.

Things have changed a bit since then. Maybe it was watching An Inconvenient Truth, or maybe it’s all the food blogs I read, but lately, I can’t purchase food without thinking about where it came from. Is it organic? How many miles did it travel to reach me? Is it made by a huge corporation or a small business?

It can get kind of exhausting so I thought I’d make it easier for those of us in the Bay Area. I know I’m tired of making my head hurt in the bread aisle, trying to figure out what’s local and what’s organic.

So here’s a hopelessly incomplete list of local farms and companies in the extended Bay Area that make delicious food. I’ve left off the obvious – produce, beer, and wine – because there are dozens of local options to choose from (and I just wouldn’t know where to start). Enjoy:

Name

Location

Organic?

Products

Notes

Acme Bread Company

Berkeley

Yes

Bread

You can find this bread just about anywhere in the East Bay.

Clover Stornetta Farms

Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino

Many Products Are

Milk, Cheese, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt

They win the prize for cutest mascot. You can find their products in most stores that carry natural foods.

Cowgirl Creamery

Point Reyes

Yes

Cheese!

Visit them at the SF Ferry Building and sample away.

Galaxy Granola

Marin

Yes

Take a wild guess…

Just discovered them – try the cranberry orange granola. I’ve only seen this at Whole Foods.

Ginger People

Monterey

No

Ginger candy, ginger cooking sauces, ginger juice, ginger beer

Their Sweet Ginger Chili sauce with Hodo Soy’s tofu jerky is a great combination.

Hodo Soy Beanery

Somewhere in the 415

Yes

Yummy flavored tofu, plain tofu, soy milk, soy custard, soy noodles, soy chocolate mousse

I can’t live without their tofu jerky and sesame tofu strips. They’re at all of the major Bay Area farmer’s markets.

Ici Ice Cream

Berkeley

Yes

Ice cream, sometimes of the wildest flavors, including earl grey, stout, peaches and cream, rhubarb, rose petal, lavender….

Only available at their store on College. You might have to wait in line for a half hour, but trust me, it’s worth it! The person who started it was the pastry chef for Chez Panisse so you know it’s got to be yummy, local, and organic.

Numi Tea

Oakland!

Yes

Tea, tea, and more tea. I recommend trying one of their variety packs.

I live by tea, and Numi’s one of my favorite. Many stores and cafes carry their teas.

Phoenix Pastifico

Berkeley

?

Pasta, ravioli, pasta sauces

Pricey, but worth the treat once in a while. You can find their pasta at many farmer’s markets, and at their small store in Berkeley.

Redwood Hill Farm

Sebastopol

No

Goat cheese and yogurt

Not certified organic yet due to lack of availability of organic feed. Still, no GMO or pesticides used.

Santa Cruz Organic

Santa Cruz

Yes

Juice, Soda, Apple Sauce, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Sauce

I can’t get enough of their lemonade during the summer. Most stores carry their products.

Strauss Family Creamery

Point Reyes

Yes

Milk, Yogurt, Butter

Their butter is heavenly. I’ve mostly seen their products at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl.

Three Twins Ice Cream

San Rafael

Yes

Ice cream

Way too tasty. I’ve only seen this at the Berkeley farmer’s market, but I know some stores carry their ice cream.

Not convinced about eating local? Check out this this great YouTube video I found on the Eat Local Challenge blog, and learn to watch your (fo)odometer: