terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Friday Recipe – Mashed Potato Burritos August 31, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 11:25 pm

Mashed Potato Burritos

4 large potatoes, peeled (or not) and diced
6 large tortillas
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk
grated cheese

1. Preheat oven/toaster oven to 400F.
2. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover,and simmer gently until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven.
4. Combine drained potatoes and milk in a mixing bowl and mash well.
5. Divide mashed potatoes among the tortillas, spreading some down the center of each. Spread a little bit of salsa over the potatoes, and sprinkle with the optional cheese. Roll up snugly and enjoy.

(We skipped the oven and just used the microwave – save energy)

- The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

Bonus: Banana Pudding

Mash a banana in a freezable container and freeze overnight. Pack it in your lunchbox, and by lunchtime, you’ll have banana pudding. Fun!


More on pet waste… CATS August 30, 2007

Filed under: pets — terra @ 7:49 pm

The best choice for cat waste is a natural kitty litter. There are many options - some made of pine chips, newspaper, corn, and wheat. Treehugger highlights Swheat Scoop as a good “green” litter, and readers share other options in the comments.

Clay litters are bad news all around because they must be strip-mined, which is bad for the environment, and it later ends up in the landfill. Plus, the dust is bad for kitty, and you.

Over 2 million tons of non-biodegradable cat litter made from clay that is mined ends up in municipal landfills each year.

Thurston County, WA is concerned with pet waste, and gives suggestions for disposal. One suggestion is to flush dog and cat waste down the toilet. There has been some confusion about toxic cat waste, and whether flushing is a good solution. Do not flush if you buy clay litter. It must be flushable. If so, it is perfectly safe to flush. Some people even train their cats to use the toilet. The concern with cat waste is from feral cats who relieve themselves outside, which will seep into ground water and sewer water.

Here are some other ways to “green” your pets. Some people are actually converting cow poop into energy, which can power an entire farm!


By popular demand… a post on pet waste: DOGS August 30, 2007

Filed under: pets — terra @ 10:59 am

Dog waste is hard to get rid of because the plastic bags aren’t exactly biodegradable. Some say they are (here’s one), but as I’ve learned, our landfills are designed in such a way that nothing really biodegrades. We walk our dog every day, and she usually dumps on the walk, but sometimes does it in the backyard, which is where a waste removal system would be most beneficial. There are a couple of ways to design a backyard dog waste remover: a Doggie Dooley, a home-made dog waste compost, or a flushing system.
The Doggie Dooley is a pre-built waste disposal system that you put in your backyard. You add enzymes to get the stuff to compost, and the rest is history. It seems pretty simple, and you don’t have bad smell, bugs, or garden contamination.

dogVisit the City Farmer.com for a step-by-step guide to making your own dog waste composter. All you really need is a garbage can and a shovel. Cut out the bottom of the garbage can, dig a deep hole, bury the garbage can, dump the poop inside, and cover with the garbage can lid. You can add enzymes to start the composting process. Since this method reaches the soil, make sure you bury it away from food gardens.

This site, Pet Habitats, designed a dog waste flusher that may work for you. It connects to the sewer line and uses your outside hose to flush the waste down, bags and all. They say it doesn’t clog the pipes. Pet Habitats offers these environmental facts about their product.

I like the home-made composter and the Doggie Dooley. They’re both good options for people who want an easy set-up and low cost. Pet Habitats attempts to meet the needs of dogs like mine, who “go” on walks instead of in the backyard. They are all interesting options for getting rid of your dog waste in a environmentally friendly way.


Guest Post on Fair Trade August 29, 2007

Filed under: education, social consciousness — terra @ 3:05 pm

This is a guest post from my husband, a high school social studies teacher. In his personal studies, he has become very interested in Fair Trade, and loves to share what he’s learned.

What in the world is Fair Trade? In actuality, there is no concrete definition of Fair Trade. However, the term generally refers to the movement to ensure that producers in developing countries receive more of the benefits from products sold to consumers.

Companies certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) ensure a minimum price for farmers, for example. The theory being that the “minimum wage” will help assist those struggling regions to develop into an economically productive region. As a side note, some products claiming to be fair trade might not dedicate themselves to a minimum price, thus allowing adjustments as they see fit.

The Fair Trade market might be small, but it is growing quickly (perhaps more quickly in Europe than America).

Advocates applaud Fair Trade’s pricing. By cutting out the middleman, Fair Trade seeks to relay more of the money back to the producer. In addition, producers learn about the market, trade and exporting. While advocates point to the possibility of Fair Trade’s assistance in eradicating poverty, critics claim Fair Trade’s weak impact, saying that Fair Trade helps a small few, while not really helping the big picture at all. Similarly, critics proclaim Fair Trade as counter-productive by delaying the inevitable—the need for developing nations to diversify their economies.

There definitely exist concrete pros and cons to Fair Trade. There is good reason to think its impact is too small. However, Fair Trade possesses one more unmistakable positive—the power to educate and enlighten. Sure, perhaps its impact is minimal. That’s for the individual consumer to decide. But the fact that Fair Trade is in stores and people are asking questions about Fair Trade creates a discussion.

The true concept behind Fair Trade is to build awareness about the poverty in the world. So maybe you hate Fair Trade and its coffee, teas, chocolates and clothes, but we can’t deny the fact that Fair Trade brings to light a greater question: What are we doing to assist the poor of the world?


Ohio Flooding August 29, 2007

Filed under: local, social consciousness — terra @ 11:05 am

Please keep Ohioans in your thoughts as some regions recover from severe flooding and other thunderstorm damage. If you are able, you may consider donating to the Red Cross, who is helping flood survivors in Ohio. You may direct your gift to the Ohio Floods specifically.

Earlier this week, a string of severe thunderstorms caused significant flash floods, mudslides and dam breaks throughout Ohio. As families and individuals wade through deep waters towards shelter, the rains continue. Local chapters immediately opened shelters for the hundreds of people that had to evacuate their flooded homes. Over 700 Red Cross disaster workers are serving hot meals and snacks, as well as distributing clean up and comfort kits to affected residents. – Red Cross


Vinegar Cure-All August 28, 2007

Filed under: alternative, cleaning — terra @ 2:50 pm

It’s hard to find a good cleaning product that is safe for you, your children, pets, and the environment. Many products look and smell clean and pure, but you can never be too sure. And most are needlessly tested on animals. Here’s one product you can use with confidence – vinegar!

Vinegar and water can be used with great success to clean just about anything (test a spot if you’re nervous). Clean windows, countertops, mirrors, wall smudges – the list goes on. It may smell at first, but the smell goes away. You could also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your vinegar spray bottle to lessen the smell. Vinegar is excellent for getting rid of ants or fruit flies – wipe everything in the affected area with a sponge dampened with vinegar-water and they’ll be gone before you know it.

Combine vinegar with baking soda and you’ve got an excellent scrubbing cleaner that’s not harmful to the environment, you, or your pets. (use equal parts vinegar and baking soda, and let the foam settle first)

To get rid of weeds, spray the area with undiluted vinegar on a sunny day. They’ll shrivel up in no time. (Remember, every chemical you use in your yard could end up in groundwater… would you rather have vinegar, or Weed-B-Gone?)

Apple Cider vinegar can be used to cure anything from allergies to acne and high cholesterol. It can even help dogs and cats.

I put a bowl of apple cider vinegar with a touch of fruity dish soap near my fruit, and the fruit flies are gone.

Bonus – vinegar is very inexpensive, and a big bottle will last a long time!


Make a mini recycled dry erase board August 27, 2007

Filed under: reuse — terra @ 10:47 pm

I’m stealing this straight from Treehugger

Put your old cd cases to good use – make a mini dry erase board. It’s great to entertain kids on a long car ride, hang it on the fridge for grocery lists, or jot down quick notes. I love it!

Instructables lays it out for you.


Using Technology to Save Plastics August 27, 2007

Filed under: energy, reduce — terra @ 2:11 pm

Many treehuggers are encouraging people to use techie devices like iPods, mp3 players, and other online downloads to save on plastics. If you download a song or cd, you don’t waste materials (and money) on the plastic packaging.

Check this out:

every month in the United States some 100,000 pounds of CDs become outdated, useless or unwanted. Every year, more than 5.5 million software packages go to landfills and incinerators. -earth2tech

Computer software is another element that is being moved to the web almost entirely. By the time a CD-based software program hits the shelves there may be updates, so you can save packaging, and maybe some money, by buying software online.

At my house, we have just moved from the VHS tapes to DVR and I’m excited about not having to buy tapes, and throw them away when they get overused. We record every episode of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, so we’ve gone through a lot of tapes in 3 years (when we got cable). With the DVR, we don’t produce excess waste, and it saves energy because the “box” and the VCR can be turned off, and still record our 2 favorite shows.

Other technology like the TiVo/Amazon Unbox is similar. You can rent movies that download directly to your TiVo. Slightly better than Netflix (although more expensive, I think), this saves on production and transportation entirely. Netflix is competing by offering “Watch it now,” where you can watch movies on your computer.

The wireless competition is good for us reducers. But I like to keep the end result in mind. The computer, tv, and mp3 player will eventually run its course. When that happens, be sure to recycle it – Earth 911, Dell, Techsoup, etc.


Penguins at the Akron Zoo August 27, 2007

Filed under: pets — terra @ 12:30 pm

Akron Zookeepers let the new penguin chicks choose their own names! The zoo held a contest for people to submit names for the Humboldt Penguin chicks, and received over 640 names. The zookeeper wrote the names on a paper fish for the penguins to select. They chose:

Poquita – “Little one”
Aletta – “Winged one”
Fausto – “Lucky”
Guapo – “Handsome”

Humboldt penguins are warm climate penguins, unlike their Antarctic relatives. Humboldt penguins are commonly found in more temperate cpenguinslimates like Peru and Chile.

They are an endangered species, with some estimates giving them 10 years of existence. Akron Zoo worked with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan to breed the chicks.


Saturday Toilets and Scooters August 26, 2007

Filed under: alternative, conserve — terra @ 1:09 pm

My toilet was leaking from the tank to the bowl – wasting water and money. So, instead of messing with the rusty, corroded old tank pieces, I replaced the whole toilet tank contraption. No more float ball for us. A few observations from the experience – if your toilet is leaking, you should fix it to save water; “hand tighten” is different for plumber hands and little girl typist hands; I now understand why plumbers charge $100+ an hour; it is possible to fix a toilet yourself. Anyway, our toilet is no longer leaking, and it’s all cleaner than it was before.

After fixing the toilet, we drove to Cleveland to check out some scooters. I’ve always loved motorcycles, but they seem a little dangerous. I recently discovered how economical scooters are on gas. They get over 90 mpg!! So, we’re looking into getting one for my daily commute. That way, I’ll take the 100 mpg scooter, and my husband can drive the 42-44 mpg hybrid. Scooters range in price from $1,500 to $4,000+. We went to Pride of Cleveland Scooters in Lakewood to check out the Bajaj Chetak, Genuine Scooter Buddy, and of course, the Vespa (just to look at, not to buy). Scooters have plenty of storage, and the one I’m thinking of gets over 100 mpg, has a cell phone charger so I don’t have to charge at home, and goes up to 60 mph. It weighs about 200 lbs and I can hold it with one foot on the ground with very little effort. We also checked out the Honda Metropolitan, but it just isn’t the scooter for us. I think I’ll go with the Genuine Scooter Buddy.

Driving around Cleveland neighborhoods was fun. My husband loves dive restaurants, so he kept reading the names of the restaurants as we passed – “Old Fashioned Hot Dogs,” “Joe’s Hot Dog,” “Hot Dog and Chili,” everything “hot dog.” It’s so interesting to see the different places and wonder about the people who live there. We passed Arabic neighborhoods, the Cleveland EcoVillage, a Jerusalem jewelry store next to a Middle East eatery, Irish pubs, poverty, junk yard dogs, and lots of stuff we don’t see in Akron.


More innovations from Wozniak August 24, 2007

Filed under: conserve, energy — terra @ 4:04 pm

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is building an energy-efficient house. His design …

… uses the right kind of wood that serves as a heater and as an air conditioner, combined with some other techniques in how the wood is assembled to operate energy life pressure. You don’t have to add energy into a house after you build it. I love that concept. It’s like the way I used to make computers. I want to build it myself.

His home will be built from Southern Yellow Pine, which maintains a temperature of 71 degrees. He said that more Souther Yellow Pines are planted each year than are cut down. Read this article to learn more. This engineering is fascinating – it is well worth your time!

Wozniak makes some good points here.

One aspect of conservation is to use less so that there is more to go around, either to more people or for a longer time. I disagree with this concept pretty strongly. Personally I want to conserve but I wouldn’t push that concept on others as a “right” way to live. I only want to serve as an example. I don’t want to tell others that they are bad people or doing “wrong” things. That’s not a good way to keep open communication.

It’s definitely a good idea to live by example, and to share ideas about what we’re doing to reduce our impact on the environment. Pick what works for you, and do that. You’ll save $$ and feel pretty good, too.


Friday Recipe – Cucumber Water August 24, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 3:02 pm

Cucumber Water

Add some cucumber slices to your ice-water for a refreshing change.

Stay cool!


No Left Turn August 24, 2007

Filed under: conserve — terra @ 12:45 am

Here’s a fun, challenging way to save gas – avoid left turns! Left turns use more gas by idling while you wait for an open spot to turn. UPS is reorganizing its delivery routes to minimize left turns, hoping to save money and avoid accidents. The environmental benefit is an added bonus!

“Everyday drivers can adopt some of our best practices to ease their pain at the pump, reduce exposure to accidents and lessen their own environmental impact,” said Robert Hall, UPS’s fleet environmental manager. With a travel makeover from UPS, a family of four recently shaved 84 miles a week off its driving. Using the routes mapped out by UPS, the family discovered it could save $3.69 a day, or almost $1,000 a year, on weekday travel alone.

$3.69 a day? That’s $25 a week!

Plan ahead to try to save gas (and $$) by combining errands and reducing left turns at the same time. Remember, too, your car uses more gas to idle for 10+ seconds than to turn it off and back on.


Corn is not the answer August 23, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy, environment — terra @ 2:51 pm

In the search for alternative fuels, ethanol creates a lot of discussion about its potential to generate cleaner, renewable fuel for cars. This is great. The discussion gets us moving in the right direction. However, using alternative fuel should not mean higher food prices, crop soil destruction, and forest clear cutting (to make more land to grow corn). A good alternative to using fresh corn for ethanol is to use cooking grease, and turn it into some form of biodiesel. Alternative fuel entrepreneurs, a.k.a. hippies, have been using grease in their cars for decades.

Another solution to the renewable fuel puzzle may be sugar cane. To succeed corn, it should be cleaner, cheaper, and not destroy land in its wake. Here are a few sugar positives:

  • “it’s also easy on the atmosphere, releasing a fraction of the carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that add to the world’s steamy greenhouse”
  • “making sugar ethanol requires only a fifth of the gasoline and diesel it typically takes to make fuel from crops like corn”
  • Brazilian sugar cane is “efficient, brewed without the official price props or government handouts that are common in Europe and the United States”

sugar caneOpponents fear sugar cane may present many of the same problems as corn – namely the clear cutting forests and destroying native crops to make room to grow sugar cane. It may also eventually force farmers to grow more sugar to meet demands, driving up the price of food crops. However, sugar cane doesn’t grow well in rain forest conditions. “To show they’re going the extra mile, many [sugar cane companies] have signed a pact to gradually put an end to the slash-and-burn method of harvesting that has been a sooty hallmark of sugar cane farming.” With this approach in mind, sugar cane may be better than corn ethanol. Either way, let’s keep this discussion going.
- Newsweek

We’re a tough crowd – those of us who want alternative energy that doesn’t do more harm than good to the environment. (My favorite solution is still an electric car that you plug in to your solar-powered home. I’m a dreamer.)