terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

My new Rain Barrel July 18, 2007

Filed under: conserve, garden, reduce, reuse — terra @ 5:21 pm

IMG_7435My new favorite thing… rain barrels. They collect water from your gutters via the downspout and store it for later use. It is beneficial to the plants, which don’t need cold, treated tap water. Rain barrels also help you save money on your water bill, and re-use a resource that otherwise goes to waste.

I recently installed a rain barrel in my back yard. I am thrilled! My barrel holds 50 gallons, and originally held Greek pickled peppers. I plan to use it to water my wilting flowers, and keep the lawn more green than yellow. Mine cost $80 for the “blemished” barrel + $24 for the downspout diverter. I put it on a hose box, so the hose and the barrel are in one place, and to get more pressure from the elevated barrel.

The picture shows water rushing into the barrel, just minutes after we set it up. It took about 5 minutes in a heavy downpour for the barrel to fill, so it’s important to have a hose diverter to move the water away from the house. The downspout diverter I got is nice because when the barrel is full, I just close it and the water flows down the downspout as normal.

Make your own!
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is having a workshop in August on making your own rain barrel.

Tip of the day: Lower your thermostat 2 degrees in winter, and raise it 2 degrees in summer.


Solar Powered Zoo July 18, 2007

Filed under: education, energy, environment, solar — terra @ 5:20 pm

IMG_7511I went to the Cleveland Zoo last week and was thrilled to see that they are powering their speakers with solar panels. I love to learn about animal conservation, and to see energy conservation in use at the same time!

Solar is a renewable energy and is pollution free when used. Contrary to popular concerns, solar will still provide benefits when the sun isn’t shining… When it is sunny, you’re usually at work, and not using a lot of energy in your home, so the energy is stored for later use. When your solar storage runs out, you’re back on the “grid” until the sun shines again. Imagine the $$ this could save.

Germany is currently leading the rest of us in solar power generation. (Germany is not exactly the sunniest place on Earth.) “It was not fear of power outages, high gas prices or tripled power bills, but economic incentives that jump-started the solar revolution in Germany…Producers of renewable energy get 43 cents for each kWh (kilowatt per hour) of solar power generated and 7 cents per kWh of wind energy generated.” They’re leading the way. I hope we follow soon!

Tip of the day: Reduce junk mail by visiting the Direct Marketing Association’s “remove me” site.


Efficient Cars = More Jobs for Ohioans July 18, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy, government, local, reduce — terra @ 5:19 pm

“Ohio is among seven states that would gain the most if car manufacturers would improve fuel economy, according to a study released Wednesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a national nonprofit organization in Massachusetts.”

If the car industry had a fuel economy standard of 35 mpg by 2018, Ohio would gain 10,500 new jobs. These jobs are not only from the auto manufacturing sector, but many would be the result of consumers saving money on gas and spending it on retail, restaurants, and new homes. More fuel efficient cars may cost more, allowing the automakers to invest their revenue in new technology. As with some hybrids today, the gas savings would offset the higher price of the vehicle.

- Beacon Journal article.

Tip of the day: Buy fresh food instead of frozen. It takes 10 times more energy to freeze food.


Itsy bitsy progress July 18, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy — terra @ 5:17 pm
I’ve read a couple of exciting things lately in the efforts to bring consumers a choice on their automobile energy sources. I love these ideas because they don’t rely totally on gas, they’re American, or they move us in a totally new direction.

Google.org announced it is offering $1 million to anyone who can create a 100-mpg plug-in hybrid, and another $10 million to develop the car. Love it! I would like to get off oil completely, but I really like the idea of a plug-in car. It is so much less expensive for the consumer. And once we start using solar and wind power, the plug-ins have absolutely no emissions. (Plug-ins currently would use your home’s electricity, which is coal-based) Check out the video. A plug-in hybrid would allow you to use zero gas for your work commute, plus the flexibility to take longer trips without stopping at an outlet.

aircarSaturn has created the hybrid Vue. While Saturn is the company that ditched the all-electric EV-1 a few years back (for no good reason) I applaud their development of hybrid technology. It’s the first American hybrid. This is an SUV, so it gets an estimated 27 city, 32 highway mpg. Not great, but not too bad. I look forward to more exciting, green American cars.

Best for last… an Indian company, Tata Motors, will soon begin selling a car that runs on air! (pictured) It can go 68 mph and expected to have a range of 125 miles. Then you fill it with compressed air at the gas station!! (more articles) It seems there is talk of a air-car hybrid that uses compressed air most of the time, and a “bio-energy system” for more extended driving. The MiniCat and CityCat will cost less than $10,000.

(originally posted on The Chief Source)

Tip of the day: Combine shopping trips to reduce commute time.


Petri Burger July 18, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 5:16 pm

hamburger helperA team of scientists has figured out a way to make meat without slaughtering farm animals! Instead, they’re growing them in a laboratory. Here’s how it goes: they take a few muscle cells from a live animal and let them grow and divide in a vat that maintains the animal’s body temperature. Then it’s continually stretched to keep the cells growing. A few weeks later, a sheet of meat can be peeled off and rolled into hamburger. Tada!

Sound gross? C’mon, the meat sold in stores now is already filled with so many chemicals, people would probably be better off having it grown in a petri dish. In fact, because cows are being fed corn and grains instead of grass, they have to be pumped full of antibiotics just to keep them alive. Those transfer to you when you eat them. It may not sound too bad to get your antibiotics with your meat, but remember, this is 1,200lb cow-grade antibiotics – not meant for a 150lb human.

However gross this new meat sounds, it will reduce the number of factory farm animals, which would mean a reduction in land and water pollution (1.6 billion tons of manure per year). The Dutch have invested nearly $5 million and plan to have the ground meat product in 6 years. The question is, would you eat it?

(originally posted on The Chief Source)

Tip of the day: Keep your car tuned up and proper tire pressure to increase efficiency.


It’s Gettin’ Hot In Here July 18, 2007

Filed under: conserve, education, environment — terra @ 5:15 pm

temp Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is a must see. It felt strange to pay to see a slideshow presented by arguably one of the most boring speakers ever, but it was excellent, and well worth the $6. Gore was funny, and truly sincere. The most important part was that everything he presented was fact. Scientists have been studying the earth’s temperature and the output of CO2 for years, and the results indicate that humans are truly having an impact on the temperature of our planet. It’s true that the planet has gone through periods of heat and cold, but we are at record-breaking high temperatures, which follow almost exactly, the amount of CO2 released into the air. We are thickening the atmosphere through greenhouse gasses, which forces heat to stay inside our atmosphere. Some other notable facts:

Over 928 scientists have written academic papers and studies regarding the effect of greenhouse gasses, and the human contribution to the problem, on our atmosphere. The number of times they’ve disagreed? 0. None. Nada. Zilch. 0. Our media has presented articles about the same topic. They presented doubt 53% of the time. Where are they getting their information? Certainly not from scientists. Perhaps they were told by Bush’s Environment Chief, who was previously from the Oil Lobby. (When it was discovered he was editing documents, he resigned and went to work for ExxonMobil.)

Energy Consumption
Our use of fossil fuels is part of the problem. We must find alternative sources of energy. Not just to be rid of our dependence on foreign oil, but on oil altogether. But here’s what the President of Shell Oil said: “I think energy independence is going too far.” Wrong. Our country should be leading the development of new technology in energy – then we could sell our product all over the world, instead of relying on others to provide it for us.

What We Can Do
The technology is here to make a real and lasting impact. Here are several steps you can take to make a difference.

(originally posted on The Chief Source)

Tip of the day: Use more recycled paper products, including napkins, paper towels, notebooks, etc.


Electric Car July 17, 2007

Filed under: alternative, conserve, energy — terra @ 12:03 pm

telsa I recently watched “Who Killed the Electric Car.” I highly recommend it – the movie and the car. Unfortunately, after GM built the EV1, a car that had very few mechanical problems, maintenance issues, and zero emissions, they pulled the cars off the streets and destroyed them all. Brilliant move. California also played a role by easing up on its Zero Emmission Vehicle Mandate, under pressure from car manufacturers, oil companies, and the Bush Administration. (source) I don’t feel so bad for the big American car companies for being dominated by foreign carmakers. They had a chance to be a real leader and they literally crushed it themselves. And we’re all suffering for it. Thanks GM.

Back to the car… It held it’s charge for 60-120 miles, which isn’t a lot. However, most Americans travel an average of 29 miles per day. The car didn’t get oil changes, or some of the other routine maintenance that earns $$ for the car companies. It drives a lot faster than regular gas cars – with no emissions. I looked into electric cars, knowing that people have got to be converting their own cars, or building new cars. (Check the Electric Auto Association)

sparrowIt turns out that a company in Tallmadge makes electric cars! ** Myers Motors ** Right here in NE Ohio! This car costs less than $25,000. It seats 1, and gets 30 miles on a charge, but it looks cool, has no emissions, and is like a motorcycle – but safer.

(Akron’s Stanford Ovshinsky created a car battery that goes over 120 miles on a charge. The Telsa – the red hottie pictured above – gets 250 miles per charge.)

While I firmly believe the electric car is by far the best option we have for transportation, here are the others: (My preference is the electric car, which you plug into your house, which is powered by solar and wind power… it’s coming)

Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen cars cost about $1 million, and the fuel is very expensive and produced using non-renewable resources. A national hydrogen fuel infrastructure must be created in order for people to have ready access to fuel the cars. There’s already an electricity infrastructure in place.

This is a better source of fuel than both gas and hydrogen, and could be even better by recycling and using overproduction, rather than growing crops strictly for biodiesel. The good news is that if you own a diesel car, you can convert it to biodiesel right now. Sources of biodiesel include the grease used by restaurants, (which they currently pay to have removed), algae, corn, manure, etc.

Plug-in Hybrids
These are plugged in and use a battery for 60 miles before the car requires gas. Its best feature is that it travels farther than most purely electric cars. (and gas companies aren’t totally opposed b/c you still have to use their product so it’s possible) Experts say plug in hybrids can help the electricity grid because you plug it in at night when electricity is cheaper. It might also push electric companies to use alternative/renewable sources of energy. My question to the car companies who abandoned the electric car because they “can no longer service it”… isn’t it more difficult to service an electric/gas combined – you have 2 sources of power to deal with?

Until you get yourself an electric car, check out these tips.

(originally posted on The Chief Source)