Green Graffiti by Edina Tokodi Brings Nature to the City


Urban art installations and murals can challenge authority and subvert establishment, or just decorate a bleak concrete landscape. Sometimes, they can earn their creators wealth and fame. But the most compelling works show us a new way of seeing the world around us. They make us ask questions about our environment and our role in it.

We’ve covered the reverse graffiti trend, which seeks to build a conversation about the urban disconnect (and land a few ad jobs in the process). Today, I want to show you another vision of eco street art: the work Edina Tokodi.

Born in Hungary and now based in Brooklyn, Tokodi brightens the streets of Williamsburg with living moss murals. Check it:

Green graffiti by Edina Tokodi

According to Tokodi’s web site,

Her site-specific installations are inspired by Japanese Zen gardens and informed by the space’s environs, whether organic or man-made. Often sheathed in steel, glass, pavement and stone, the installations provide an unavoidable contrast to their surroundings. It is within this contrasting atmosphere, that her installations invite interaction, thus reclaiming the human bond with nature.

Eco street art by Edina TokodiTokodi is the founder Mosstika, “a NYC based collective of eco-minded street artists, using guerrilla tactics to evoke the call of man back to nature.” By bringing nature into the urban experience, the moss art leads us to wonder, What if this were not concrete and bricks, but trees and grass? How would that change things? 

Eco street art by Edina Tokodi

Just as intriguing are Tokodi’s living portraits–intricate designs made entirely from succulents. Like Impressionist paintings, the patterns seem somewhat abstract up close; at a distance, they come together to form a clear image. Squint and you can almost imagine you’re looking at a photograph.

At its best, a stenciled mural is inherently superficial. Even when designed to show depth, it’s still just a wall with paint on it. Tokodi’s pieces, on the other hand, are part of the physical environment, not just decoration. They are meant to be touched.

You can see more of Edina Tokodi’s green graffiti at, or on the Behance Network. And, as always, I’m interested to hear what you think about “living” art and the role of street art in our society. Can urban murals go further than expression and affect culture more deeply? How might green art translate to green activism?

[Images: Mosstika on Behance]


The Hobbit House Revisited, in Honor of the Upcoming Film

After watching the trailer for The Hobbit, don’t you find yourself longing to live (or at least vacation) in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, maybe in the Shire, in a cozy house built under a hill?

What, you dont? Well, even if you’ve never dreamed of hanging out with elves and dragons, you have to appreciate this “Low Impact Woodland Home” (aka Hobbit house).

You’re not looking at a movie set. Simon Dale built this eco-friendly house into a hillside in Wales–all for less than $5,000. Just three zeros–that’s not a typo.

But don’t let its low cost fool you: the home is packed with green features, including locally sourced wood, a composting toilet, a turf roof, and solar panels for energy. Like an earthship, the Hobbit-house is designed with nature in mind. The owners explain:

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature….Building from natural materials does away with producers’ profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

Hobbit house interiorThis sustainable approach might not be too far from Tolkien’s vision of the Hobbit’s Shire. While not exactly an environmentalist, the famous author was distrustful of industrialism (he despised automobiles in particular). Tolkien’s Hobbits live in a peaceful, agrarian community, in harmony with nature. Through them, industrialization is presented as a nightmare.

As I wrote in 2009,

The villains of Middle-Earth fell ancient trees and burn them to fuel forges, which are used to build machines and weapons of war.  Orcs ravage the forest indiscriminately, and Sauron, the supreme enemy, is infamous for laying waste to once-beautiful lands.  In TLotR, these actions are portrayed as purely evil, yet they are not so different from the exploitation of nature by today’s industries.

The Hobbit House, under construction

In short, Tolkien would probably approve of the Hobbit house’s philosophy. It’s enlightening to see that sustainable architecture doesn’t require expensive technology or a LEED plaque.

Mr. Dale insists that this style of home is relatively easy to build. He even provides Hobbit house plans and construction techniques on his site, in case you’d like to give it a try.

And why not? If you’ve ever wanted to create your own eco-friendly home, The Hobbit’s new pop culture status should give you a great excuse.

Photos: Simon Dale

Green Indie Products of the Month: Krochet Kids Hats + Biodegradable EcoTensils

Knitwear Hats with a Mission by Krochet Kids

Think of Krochet Kids International as the next evolutionary step beyond TOMS. Founded by a trio of college students, Krochet Kids has a goal of empowering people in developing nations to break out of the poverty cycle with sustainable economic development. They began this effort in Uganda, teaching women in refugee camps how to crochet and then paying them to use their new skills. The Ugandan women get a fair wage and greater independence; consumers get stylish, handmade hats.

Krochet Kids knitwear

The Krochet Kids model of social entrepreneurship has attracted quite a bit of attention, landing the nonprofit a collab with Volcom and an appearance on last year’s Bing SuperBowl commercial. Recently, Krochet Kids raised enough money through Kickstarter to launch a new project in Peru.

If you’re shopping for socially conscious headwear this year, be sure to check these indie products out. Hats from $21.95,

Biodegradable Spoons by EcoTensil

Back in the summer (ah, the summer!), visiting the farmers’ market was a regular part of my schedule. Although I wrote a lot about the virtues of fresh, local produce, I have to admit that the best part was not the vegetables, but the ice cream. When the heat index is inching toward one hundred, homemade peach ice cream beats tomatoes by a long shot.

EcoTensils are a biodegradable alternative to plastic spoons.One thing bothered me, though. The ice cream was served with a disposable, plastic spoon. Have we discussed disposable plastic spoons? They violate the essential tenet of green design: Things that last forever should be useful for a long time, and things that are only meant to be used once should break down quickly.

EcoTensil biodegradable spoons

That’s why I was interested when I found out about EcoTensils, a biodegradable alternative to plastic spoons. Invented by packaging designer Peggy Cross, EcoTensils are made of paper board (FSC-certified, of course), so they break down quickly–according to the Web site, the spoons biodegrade in three to five weeks.

Definitely a huge improvement over plastic.

This is part of a series of monthly posts featuring sustainable and independent brands from around the web. If you want to see your favorite indie seller on the Green Lens, get in touch via the contact page or @thegreenlens.

Tips to Make It a Green Halloween

With Halloween around the corner, there are a million and one advertisements for costumes, candy, and decorations. If you’re making a conscious effort to go green, all the consumerism might be a bit discouraging. But it turns out you can enjoy the holiday without ignoring your eco-instincts. In this guest post, Chris Keenan offers some handy green tips for Halloween.

    • Instead of investing a lot of money in a throwaway costume, why not make your own costume? If you don’t have the sewing prowess for the task, thrift stores are your friend. And places such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army often offer used quality costumes at very affordable prices. Another option is participating in a costume swap, where you can meet similar-minded people and maybe snag a unique outfit.

    • When it comes to candy, the aisles of Snickers and Reese’s might seem alluring, but have you considered giving out healthier treats? If you shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you’ll be sure to find organic treats that kids can still enjoy (granola bars always work!). If you’d prefer not to hand out candy altogether, organic markets usually offer small trinkets that are made by environmentally conscious organizations.

    • Looking for earth-friendly ways to adorn your home? Sustainable decorating isn’t as tricky as you might think. While stores offer plastic skeletons and fake cobwebs galore, you can find plenty of inspiration for green decorating at your local farmer’s market. Keep things spooky by carving pumpkins (and making pumpkin snacks), or give your home a friendly festive touch with the help of cornhusks, bales of hay, and gourds. For more Halloween accessories, try stopping at the thrift stores. You could even decorate your garage door with Halloween fabrics that you have lying around your house. Also, be sure to store your decorations safely so they can be re-used next year.

    • Want to enjoy an autumn feast complete with candlelight? Remember that traditional wax candles can emit toxic chemicals like benzene–soy candles are healthier and longer-lasting.

    • When your kids go trick-or-treating, don’t forget to arm them with reusable canvas bags like the ones you might take to the grocery store. Plastic pumpkins are unnecessary and are a waste of space since they’re often only used once a year.

    • Finally, consider reverse trick-or-treating, a new project being promoted by Global Exchange. The idea is for children to hand out fair trade chocolates and cards to adults to raise awareness about the environment–visit the site for more information.

I hope these tips will help you stay green this Halloween! Do you have any more tips on staying eco-friendly this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Chris Keenan is a green and general blog writer. He writes for many sites including Precision Garage Door. Chris also maintains a personal house and garden blog.

Photo credit: Sister72, some rights reserved.

Farmers Markets: Fresh Food Movement Reaches Beyond the Eco-Scene

“Don’t tell me y’all grew these,” the woman said, examining a basket of plump tomatoes, as bright and smooth as any from a supermarket shelf.

Across the table, the woman tending the booth chuckled. “If we had’na grown ’em, they’d throw us outta here.” Even a small-town farmers’ market has rules. One of them is that you can only sell produce you’ve grown yourself.

The chuckling woman goes on to explain how she manages to grow perfect tomatoes, even this late in the season. She and her husband, a slim farmer with a scraggly gray beard, are fond of handing out advice to their customers, right along with the rattlesnake beans and eggplants. In fact, they seem to enjoy talking about vegetables as much as selling them.

Last week, the bearded farmer warned me with particular zeal against weeding watermelons, something he says should never be done. Never. 

He seemed to know his melons, so I bought one from him, along with some eggplants. The eggplants were especially good, some of the best I’ve had. Today, I tell him as much.

“How’d you cook ’em?” he demands. He and his wife listen with genuine interest before sharing their own recipe.

Farther down the line of tables, another farmer is selling jars of bay leaves from his twenty-five-year-old tree. Every year for more than two decades, he tells me, he has carefully pruned his bay tree and collected and dried the leaves. The trees grow real slow, so there’s a bit of history in those jars.

Conversations like these are what you come to expect from a local farmers’ market, but they’re simply impossible in the supermarket system. In the Wal-Mart age, we’ve almost done away with face-to-face, farm-to-table food shopping. While we’ve gained convenience, we’ve lost personality, and I don’t think it’s a fair trade.

I’m not the only one. Nationwide, there are enough local foodies to support over 7,000 farmers’ markets; the number has increased 150 percent since 2000. And they’re not just popular in green strongholds. Even in Alabama, where the recycling rate is appallingly low, farmers’ markets are everywhere. Buying fresh and local is something we all can get behind.

To many greens, local food and sustainability go hand-in-hand. But unlike many aspects of sustainable living, farmers’ markets have not been colonized by politics. People don’t go to make a political statement; they go because they want to buy fresh food from real people they can get to know. That’s part of what makes farmers’ markets successful throughout the country.

The social aspect of farmers’ markets runs deep. Your food dollars stay in the community and help independent growers stay independent. The money goes to the growers themselves, not to faceless corporations. And until you’ve experienced it, you don’t realize the value of actually knowing your farmer.

Some folks who have been around a bit longer than I might be amused that the idea of buying food from an individual is suddenly new and progressive. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that people visited the barber, the dentist, the grocer… Then came fast-food culture–an example of progress taking a wrong turn.

In recent years, the trend has been toward convenience, at the cost of quality and personality. But if we want to build sustainable communities–not just companies with social responsibility statements–we need to shake the drive-through mentality. We need to take a good, long look at our food priorities.

Why choose food out of so many pressing issues? Food has one thing that solar panels and Priuses do not: a universal connection. In other words, everybody has to eat, and most of us would rather eat something good. As a result, many people with no interest in being green are turning back to real, fresh food. It’s this group, as much as the granola types, that has made farmers’ markets popular.

In short, food brings families and communities together. Because of that, it is powerful.

Image credit: Natalie Maynor