terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Bioneers This Weekend October 18, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, conserve, education, environment, local, social consciousness — terra @ 7:34 am

If you live in NE Ohio, I hope you will consider attending at least one day of the Bioneers Conference in Cleveland. It’s Friday through Sunday, at Cleveland State University. The costs are very reasonable, and the content promises to be exciting and educational.

Here are some other Bioneers sites, and what others have said about Bioneers:

Great Lakes Bioneers
The Northern Rockies Bioneers Conference is focusing on local food this year.
Marc from Green City Blue Lake summarizes the Cleveland schedule.
Robert F Kennedy Jr will be appearing at the MA Bioneers Conference for a Thursday night preview.
The New York Times discusses last year’s Bioneers Conference.

Here are all of the Beaming Bioneers Conferences, in case you don’t live in NE Ohio. See if there’s a conference near you.


Alternative Fuel Part 2 October 17, 2007

Filed under: alternative, reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:17 am

Biodiesel - made from domestic renewable resources, such as crops. It doesn’t originally contain petroleum, but it can be combined with diesel to produce a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel has met strict Clean Air Act guidelines for health and safety. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable energy with lower emissions than petroleum, and it biodegrades easily. The cons of biodiesel include soil erosion, and the production of crops for fuel instead of food. It’s a good start, but not quite perfect.

Ethanol is produced from plants. It is an alcohol that can be used for energy. It can be combined with gasoline to make E85, which newer Chevy cars are able to use. Also a renewable resource, ethanol burns cleanly and biodegrades quickly. However, it has the same negative effects that biodiesel has, namely, growing crops for fuel instead of food. Corn is a popular source of ethanol, but as we’ve learned previously, sugar cane may be a more practical alternative, as long as forests are not clear-cut to produce the plant. Rolling Stone points out the perils of rushing to “produce” a new fuel.

Essentially, vegetable oil can be used in any diesel engine, biodiesel is made from crops and combined with petroleum, and ethanol is made from plants and can be combined with gasoline to fuel cars. Biodiesel and ethanol both require an energy-intensive refining process, while vegetable oil can be used as is.

There are other sources of fuel, such as hydrogen, electric, fuel cells, and hybrids. As a consumer, I’m happy to see choices. Now, let’s see some of these cars on the road!


Alternative Fuel Breakdown October 16, 2007

Filed under: alternative, reduce, reuse — terra @ 8:14 am

I just watched Big Ideas for a Small Planet on the Sundance Channel – this one focused on Fuel. They highlighted vegetable oil, biodiesel, and ethanol. I’ll define each and lay out the pros and cons. They seem so similar, so it’s easy to get them confused. I wish they would have touched on the electric car… maybe next time.

Vegetable oil – Precisely. Collect used vegetable oil from local restaurants (Asian food is reportedly best), and put it in your diesel engine. Most cars that run on vegetable oil typically have a two-tank system, which uses diesel to start and allow the car to get warm, and then switches over to vegetable oil.

Vegetable oil produces less harmful pollution, and is originally made from plants, which absorb CO2, so it really is an environmentally-friendly fuel. It’s recycled, which means that nothing new must be created to use this fuel. You could literally deep fry a chicken, and then pour the oil into your car and drive home. Diesel engines were originally created to run on vegetable oil.
Diesel is also about 40% more efficient than gasoline, so the cars are efficient and utilize renewable sources for energy. Some companies, like Greasecar, sell a do-it-yourself conversion kit for around $1,000. Check out Grease Not Gas to learn about one man’s 15 cross-country trips to promote grease not gas. He spent nearly nothing on fuel for 200,000 miles! And don’t worry about freezing temperatures – that’s what the back-up diesel tank is for. Is this brilliant or what?

( I’ll highlight biodiesel and ethanol later today or tomorrow)


Gift Wrapping October 16, 2007

Filed under: conserve, reduce, reuse, social consciousness — terra @ 7:30 am

You can choose thoughtful gifts, but keep the planet in mind when choosing your wrapping. Over 25% of trash is generated during the holidays. Here are some ways to reduce your impact:

Reusable wraps

Give your gifts inside a reusable wrapper. You could use towels, or a cozy blanket to wrap presents. Or, put all your loved one’s gifts in a reusable bag that they can use later. Put small gifts in a reusable water bottle – 2 gifts in one! Reusing gift bags is a great way to pass on some excellent wrapping that you’ve enjoyed. Here are some fabric gift bags for any occasion.

Recycled wraps

Recycle old wrapping paper for new gifts. Or, using the comic section of the newspaper as your gift-wrapping. If you insist on ‘new’ wrapping paper, check out Paporganics, which makes its gift wrap out of recycled paper.

Get creative

Find fun, interesting, and personal ways to wrap gifts for your friends this year.


Blog Action Day October 15, 2007

Filed under: environment, social consciousness — terra @ 12:10 pm

Today is Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world are focusing on one topic: the environment. I try to write about the environment, and ways to reduce your impact, every day, so I thought I’d highlight some ideas floating around the bloggosphere today:

The Butterfly Effect – “In plain language, tiny changes within a complex system lead to results that are impossible to predict.” This theory stems from the idea that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world could cause a huge storm in another part. Essentially, the Butterfly Effect would encourage us to be mindful of our actions, knowing that a small action, like throwing a gum wrapper on the ground, could have huge implications for our planet, if millions of people do the same thing. Read the post for some inspiring hypotheses on the effects of humans (butterflies) on Planet Earth.

Things you never thought to recycle. Items like car batteries, cell phones, iPods, cds, drywall, jeans, etc. The list goes on, with helpful details, at Dumb Little Man.

Adopt the Sky. Users can adopt a square mile of the sky, for free, and communicate with the EPA and others about the importance of each square mile of the sky. Great idea! (My piece of sky is over Oklahoma, where over 53,000 kids and over 150,000 adults have asthma.) Behance has a nice interview with the creators of Adopt the Sky.


Green Giving October 15, 2007

Filed under: conserve, gifts, reduce, reuse, social consciousness — terra @ 7:17 am

The holidays are coming up, and 25% more trash is generated during the holidays. To reduce this waste, choose gifts wisely, and wrap with reusable wraps. Teaching kids to choose gifts wisely inspires them to be less materialistic. Here are some gift ideas to please both your loved one and the planet!

Consider giving to a charity. Keep your recipient’s interests in mind, and give to something they’re passionate about. This month’s Vegetarian Times highlights Dress for Success, which helps low-income people find professional attire for interviews; American Rivers, to protect and restore rivers; Farm Sanctuary, which rescues farms animals to fight factory farming and prevent animal abuse; and CARE to empower women to overcome poverty. Visit a charity watchdog to make sure your gift is used wisely: Caritynavigator.org, Charitywatch.org, Give.org, and changingthepresent.org.

Give special food or drink. Maybe your loved one likes tea, or special hot chocolate. Consider introducing them to Fair Trade certified chocolate or coffee. Or give a gift certificate to a special restaurant they wouldn’t normally treat themselves to. Top it off with a night on the town – treat them to an experience, such as a play or a sporting event they enjoy.

Renewables are the gift that keeps on giving. Give some personally decorated canvas shopping bags, or a bag with some markers for them to decorate themselves. A reusable water bottle is a great way to cut the bottled water habit, which will save your friend money and help their health at the same time. What a gift! Tupperware (etc) is great to reduce plastic bags. Or, find a cool lunch box, which reduces the need for a paper bag every day.

Sponsor their favorite animal through your local zoo (or theirs), or through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Or give to their local Humane Society, if they like pets.

Reuse gifts by shopping throughout the year at yard sales or reuse shops. You can often find designer fashions for a fraction of the cost. Or make your own. Learn to knit, crochet, or make jewelry or sock monsters and make your own gifts, which will save you money and add a special personal touch to your gift.

The idea is to take the environment into consideration. Have fun with some new ideas to reduce your impact, and remember to think about your wrapping, too. (more on wrapping later)


Nobel Peace Prize goes Environmental October 12, 2007

Filed under: education, social consciousness — terra @ 11:10 am

Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, and one that we should all be involved in. It is no longer a political issue, but a human issue. The efforts of Gore and the IPCC are intended to positively affect all our lives. Their intention is to make the world a better place by showing us what we can do to reduce our impact on the planet.

Energy and food production are the largest contributors of CO2 and other harmful pollutants. Currently, consumers have limited choices for their energy providers. Expanding research and availability of energy choices is not only more beneficial to the environment, but emphasizes some benefits of capitalism – competition and consumer choice. Demanding healthier food, and fair working conditions for those who produce it is another way for consumers to positively impact the planet.

As the environment continues to be a hot topic, I look forward to seeing continued efforts to improve our abilities to positively change the way we see energy and consumption.

Congratulations to Al Gore and the IPCC!


Friday Recipe: Penne with Corn and Cherry Tomatoes October 12, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:08 am

Penne with Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

12 oz. penne pasta
1 dried chioptle chile, soaked in hot water 10 minutes (I omitted the chile)
2 TBS olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. goat cheese or feta, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1. Cook pasta according to directions.

2. De-seed the chile and chop finely. Heat 1 TBS oil in skilled and saute chile and garlic for 1 minute. Stir in cheese and 1/3 cup water, and cook 2-3 minutes, or until smooth sauce forms, stirring constantly. Simmer 2 minutes more, then remove from heat and add cilantro and remaining olive oil.

3. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tomatoes, corn and cheese sauce. Toss in extra cheese, if desired.


- Vegetarian Times


Get crafty to reuse October 11, 2007

Filed under: reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:05 am

You can create a recycled plastic shopping bag by cutting strips of your plastic bags and knitting them together to create a reduce and reusable shopping bag. Beautiful!

Here’s a toilet roll seed-starter project. Stock up now and you can start your entire garden with reusable toilet rolls!

Make a water bottle holder out of an old t-shirt.


It is critical that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) are recycled. They cannot go in a regular garbage. Here’s what you can do to safely recycle your CFL’s. (CFL’s last about 5-7 years)

Target sells Swheat Scoop kitty litter for about the same price as PetsMart. That will save me a trip!


Nature’s Design: Aerodynamics October 10, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, education, environment — terra @ 7:31 am

One element of Bioneers that I really appreciate is how they encourage us to ask questions. Instead of asking, “how can we make airplanes aerodynamic,” Bioneers would encourage us to ask “how does nature design aerodynamics.” It’s easier to look at something that has been done effectively for millions of years, than for us to try to create something new. There are no design recalls in nature. Sure, there are evolving improvements, but nature has a pretty good system worked out. Here’s a fun example:

whaleHumpback whales have bumps on their bodies and fins, which makes them more aerodynamic. Researchers have replicated this design to try to improve the aerodynamics and efficiency of airplanes. Wind tunnels tests have revealed that the bumpy flippers are more aerodynamic than anything the aeronautics industry has created. “Bump-ridged flippers do not stall as quickly and produce more lift and less drag than comparably sized sleek flippers.”

The sleek flipper performance was similar to a typical airplane wing. But the tubercle flipper exhibited nearly 8 percent better lift properties, and withstood stall at a 40 percent steeper wind angle. The team was particularly surprised to discover that the flipper with tubercles produced as much as 32 percent lower drag than the sleek flipper.

Airplanes with similar bumps would have greater maneuverability, smoother lift, and would be more efficient overall. This design could also be applied to helicopters, small airplanes, and ship rudders.

“The idea they improved flipper aerodynamics was so counter to our current doctrine of fluid dynamics, no one had ever analyzed them,” researcher Frank Fish said.

Scientists who study nature’s designs have access to information that has been time-tested and proven effective. I look forward to more inspiring ideas at the Bioneers conference next weekend (10/19 – 10/21).


Portugese Wave Farm October 9, 2007

Filed under: alternative, environment, reduce — terra @ 10:01 am

Portugal is building a wave farm to harness power from crashing waves, and convert it to electricity. They expect to use the wave farm to generate power for 2,000 homes.

Finavera in the US is also pursuing wave technology, and has some farms along the West Coast.

Ocean waves can provide a lot of energy, and while this technology needs to be researched further for its impact on the ocean ecosystems, it’s an option, and that’s what I like.


Solar Tour Sunday October 8, 2007

Filed under: alternative, education, energy, local, reduce, solar — terra @ 7:48 am

I did the Akron – Ohio Solar Tour on Sunday. There were Solar Tours all over the United States this weekend. (only 3 states did not have a Solar Tour today) I would love to have have gone to Cleveland Saturday, but Sunday’s tour of Akron was really nice. Hot, but nice.

We began at the Crown Point Ecology Center, which I will definitely visit again. The highlight there was passive solar heating for a barn/workspace. Passive solar heating consisted of utilizing a south-facing wall of the building, and collecting solar heat in a 6 in. space between the barn wall and a layer of greenhouse building materials. The inside of the workshop has windows at the top and bottom of the wall, which can be opened to circulate the warm air. Larry Jarvis, Property Manager, said that on days when the temperature was in the 30’s or below, he can heat his workspace comfortably (over 80F) using just the solar collector.

Next was the Starre Residence. This home was built specifically to honor the earth. Every consideration was made to conserve energy and resources. Most of the building products were recycled, and insulation was a priority. It is built into the side of a hill, creating an “earth berm,” which helps regulate temperature. The home also featured passive solar heating as the concrete floors absorbed heat from the sun to warm the house. There are also 4 geothermal wells about 150 ft deep that provide radiant floor heating. Solar tubes (pictured) provide excellent light in the back of the house. Solar tubes essentially capture light from the sun and direct it down into the home.

IMG_6608The Akron Zoo highlighted their LEED Certified features, which include 65 geothermal wells. The geothermal wells are essential to help provide proper temperatures for several “ecosystems” – a Komodo dragon, Chinese alligators, tortoises, a kitchen, a restaurant, classrooms, and more. Doug said the geothermal system has been drastically more efficient and effective at providing different temperatures than conventional heating and cooling systems in other buildings of the same age. Over 1/2 of the materials used in building the Komodo Kingdom were made within 500 miles of the Akron Zoo.

The Deneen residence utilized 40 photovoltaic solar panels to provide nearly all the power to the home. Mr. Deneen was not shy in telling us that he does not want to sacrificing comfort to save energy, and that it’s not always necessary. He and his family want to live comfortably, reduce their impact on the earth, and save a lot of money on energy. It’s possible with a renewable energy system like solar. He estimates that his solar system will pay for itself is less than 10 years.

My favorite elements highlighted in the Akron area Ohio Solar Tour were geothermal heating (and its practical use in a home), and radiant heat floors. I like the earth berm home, taking advantage of the earth’s natural temperature of 55F, and regulating the home’s temperature based on that stability. Much appreciation goes out to the homeowners for opening their homes to us, and to Green Energy Ohio for organizing the tour. Visit the Village Green for another account of the Solar Tour.


Produce Codes De-coded October 6, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 1:49 pm

Do you ever wonder what the 4- or 5-digit PLU numbers on your produce means? Here’s a little breakdown:

  • 4 digits, beginning with a 3 or 4 – Conventionally grown
  • 5 digits, beginning with a 9 – Organic produce
  • 5 digits, beginning with an 8 (very rare) – Genetically modified/engineered (GE) produce

If you want to avoid genetically engineered food, check out this guide. (green is not GE, red is GE)

Bonus supermarket knowledge:
Many ’store brands’ are made by the national brand, but at a lower cost. Choose the ’store brand’ to save money.

Membership/discount cards are used to track your buying habits, not to give you lower prices. (I love Krieger – no discount cards!)


Friday Recipe: Stuffed Shells October 5, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:08 am

2 Stuffed Shells recipes this week!

Mexican Pasta Shells

12 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 med onion, chopped
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup taco sauce
1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese (or soy cheese)
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup sour cream
4 med green onions, sliced

1. Cook and drain pasta shells as directed on package.
2. Heat oil in nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in oil about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, chili powder, cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the taco sauce. Heat over med-low heat 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.
3. Heat oven to 350. Spray square pan 8×8x2 inches, with cooking spray. Fill cooked shells with bean mixture. Place filled shells in pan. Pour remaining 1/2 cup taco sauce over shells.
4. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and corn chips. Bake uncovered about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with sour cream and onions.

-Betty Crocker checkout line book – Classics Go Vegetarian

Broccoli-Cheese Stuffed Shells

15 oz. soy ricotta cheese……….I used cottage cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed & drained
1 cup shredded soy mozzarella
1/3 cup grated soy Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
18 cooked jumbo pasta shells
28-oz. jar pasta sauce

Mix ricotta, broccoli, 1/2 cup mozzarella, parmesan and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons cheese mixture into each shell. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce in 3-qt. baking dish. Place shells on sauce. Pour remaining sauce over shells and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until hot.

Serves 6. Note: You can make this the night before and refrigerate, covered, then add about 10 minutes to baking time the next day.