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Screen printing goes green 

Cal Poly alum markets environmentally friendly shirts

Freshly out of Cal Poly in 2003 with a degree in business finance, Peter Imai faced a challenge familiar to many new alumni upon entering the job market: how was he going to put his new credential to work?

“Like many people, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” said Imai. “I didn’t want a corporate finance job, and I found that entrepreneurial work was more my thing.”

- GREEN SCREENER :  David Whitaker, who owns Left Coast T-Shirt, and screen printing manager Christie Greening use inks that help minimize pollution. -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER IMAI
  • GREEN SCREENER : David Whitaker, who owns Left Coast T-Shirt, and screen printing manager Christie Greening use inks that help minimize pollution.
After a few years in real estate, Imai joined forces with longtime friend David Whitaker—founder of Left Coast T-Shirt Company in San Luis Obispo—to launch, an informal collaboration between the two that markets and sells environmentally friendly screen printing for T-shirts.

“We found a water-based ink made by a company in Australia that allows for all aspects of the screen printing process to be environmentally sound,” said Imai. “I’d began getting involved in e-commerce in 2006, and so I put my business degree to use by starting a new business venture online.” uses Permaset Aqua, a 100 percent water-based, solvent-free ink made by the Australian company Permaset. Most screen printers use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic-based inks, a plastic that is described by Greenpeace as “one of the most toxic substances saturating our planet and its inhabitants.”

Imai said, “Use of PVC inks, which 90 percent of the industry uses, poses significant health and environmental risks and has been an issue in the industry for a long time. There really haven’t been any alternatives until recently, and this presents a big change from what most of the industry is doing.” The ink he uses surmounts the problems that have prevented the widespread use of water-based inks by screen printers. Traditionally, water-based inks had been difficult to use and performed poorly with regard to color and opacity.

“Permaset Aqua is not only soft to the touch, but is surprisingly durable and in some test cases would actually protect the fabric where exposed garment fibers have shown wear,” Imai said. “And while our fabrics will cost a little more because they’re produced in an environmentally friendly manner, customers can find comfort in the fact that their clothing is produced sweat-shop free and is coming from an ecologically responsible company.” operates as the online business of Left Coast T-Shirt Company. Imai added, “We’ve derived much of our business from ecologically minded companies, from yoga shops to eco-fashion companies.” More information can be obtained by visiting


Fast facts

San Luis Obispo Grassroots Democracy will be holding an Inaugural Ball to celebrate President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20 at the Graduate in San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo Grassroots Democracy, an independent political action group, will feature a DJ, dancing, a raffle, and appetizers and desserts for attendees, who are invited to dress up in formal attire.

“President Barack Obama’s inauguration will be a historic event, and we believe that our community should celebrate the occasion with our own Central Coast Inaugural Ball,” said Marilyn Armstrong, spokeswoman for SLO Grassroots Democracy.

Tickets are available with a $10 donation per person. The event will begin at 5:30 pm and is co-sponsored by Democratic Women United, SLO County Democratic Central Committee. Tickets are available by visiting …

More than 35 restaurants throughout the county will be offering delicious meals at appetizing prices as a part of the second annual San Luis Obispo County Restaurant Month, the latest push for culinary tourism.

Beginning on January 2, participating restaurants will offer special menus that feature three-course prix fixe menus for $30 per person, which can be paired with award-winning wines from Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo wine country for an additional charge. The event will highlight fine dining establishments known for innovative menus and dishes that feature local ingredients.

“Restaurant Month gives us an opportunity to introduce our American ‘Bistro’ style restaurant to new patrons while highlighting the abundant local, organic, and sustainable food that San Luis Obispo County has to offer,” executive chef Chris Kobayashi of Artisan Restaurant in Paso Robles said.

Call the SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau at 800-634-1414 or visit for details.

Intern Aaron Gaudette compiled Strokes&Plugs this week.  Send news about your business or nonprofit organization to

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