terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Nutritionism January 31, 2008

Filed under: food — terra @ 12:00 pm

Check out this idea by Michael Pollan on Planet Green. He suggests a way of eating kind of like the “pronounceable diet” I wrote about a while ago, but more thorough. I think I like #1 the most.

Pollan calls our current way of eating “nutritionism,” meaning we focus on nutrients instead of food. He has some great suggestions that simplify our lives and help us eat healthier. Village Green has a great review of Pollan’s new book, In Defense of Food.


Ohio is “Focused” on reducing emissions, spending January 31, 2008

Filed under: cars, government — terra @ 7:00 am

focusOhio government workers will be driving the smaller and more fuel efficient Ford Focus (24/35 mpg), as part of an effort to reduce the state’s spending. Previously, state workers drove mid-size sedans, which are more expensive and emit more pollution than the economy-sized Focus.

The switch to a Focus fleet will save the state $242,000 this year alone, and the dollar figures go up as more economy cars hit the fleet.

That savings is just in purchasing the car. The gas savings will make the Focus an even better decision.

According to Autoblog, some state employees aren’t thrilled about the conversion, but Ohio has to do what it can to save money these days. The folks at Autoblog said they liked the Ford Focus, despite the exterior design.

(I like the “no parking” sign in the picture)


Earthen Flooring January 29, 2008

Filed under: alternative, local — terra @ 7:00 am

Earthen flooring is just what it sounds like – a dirt floor. It’s an inexpensive, non-wasteful, beautiful floor that is just as easy to clean and maintain as any other floor. Earth floors, also called Adobe floors, are made up of dirt, straw and clay, which is then mixed with oils and wax to protect it from wear.

The best part is… they’re easy to install with radiant heat! Radiant heat is the most efficient way to heat your home, and will keep it comfortably warm for a lot less money than conventional heating systems. Radiant heat coils would be installed below the earth floor, so the floor surface is warm.

There is every little construction waste with earthen floors, and all the processing can be done by hand, as opposed to carpeting or wood floors. The floors are attractive, and comfortable – compared to soft leather. They can have a variety of colors or patterns. Check out some of the other advantages here. It costs about $1 per square foot.

A lot can be accomplished when we think about how nature makes things. We can make comfortable, attractive, low-waste floors by using materials readily available from the earth.


Trev, the renewable energy car January 28, 2008

Filed under: alternative, cars, electric car, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

trev-green-carStudents at the University of South Australia have created a two-seater renewable energy car. The lithium ion polymer battery lasts over 150 km between charges, making it the longest-lasting electric car. When charged at home, the Trev costs”$1 AUD per 100km to run, using what is said to be 1/5th of the energy of conventional car.” (that’s $.88 per 62 miles)

The Trev carries two people and two large bags. If people use solar or wind energy for their power, it is truly a renewable energy car.


It makes petrol look silly. -UniSA


Friday Recipe: Rosemary Garbanzo Beans January 25, 2008

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:00 am

I got this from Instructables, created by canida.

1 onion
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can tomatoes, or 2 fresh chopped tomatoes

Chop onion and saute in olive oil until soft. Open two cans of garbanzo beans, drain, and add to the pot. If you don’t drain enough liquid off you’ll have to wait for it to evaporate, which isn’t in keeping with a quick-prep dinner.

Add a nice big handful of coarsely-chopped rosemary, and a handful of chopped garlic. Stir and cook over medium-high heat until beans are warmed through. (one commenter suggested putting the beans in later – your choice) Add either a can of tomatoes or a double-handful of chopped fresh tomatoes to the pot, and stir.

Add any other seasonings you like: I (canida) recommend a bit of dry oregano and thyme, and possibly a dash of paprika or chili powder.

Cook over medium-high heat just long enough for all the ingredients to heat up and the tomatoes to break down and mingle. They’ll drop a bit more water, so if you forgot to drain the cans earlier you’ll really be sad. Make sure you’re cooking the mix at a simmer to get it moving quickly, but take care it doesn’t stick.

Note that the color changes as the beans and tomatoes both cook down a little bit. Call it done when everything is hot, the tomatoes have softened up, and the liquid has mostly disappeared. You want this to have a stew consistency.

Now that your beans have cooked down properly, taste and adjust the seasonings. Add salt, pepper, garlic, or lemon juice if it seems a bit flat.

Serve with chopped parsley or basil on top for extra style points. This also goes well on top of pasta, in which case you can leave a bit more juice/sauce on the beans.

Thanks, canida. This looks great!

For dessert… Chocolate chip french vanilla pudding cookies or Monkey Bread


Eternal Reefs January 24, 2008

Filed under: alternative — terra @ 7:00 am

reefCoral reefs are disappearing twice as fast as rainforests, threatening millions of sea animals, not to mention tourism and fishing. Reefs also buffer land from the effects of ocean storms.

A couple of guys from Florida have found a unique way to help save the reefs off the coast of Florida. They formed Eternal Reefs, a company that makes living memorials for deceased loved ones using cremated remains combined with a cement mixture that creates a reef ball.

With an Eternal Reef, a loved one can literally make a difference after their death. The Eternal Reef costs less than a traditional burial and funeral. Family members are invited to Florida for a memorial service, and to watch the reef as it is put into the ocean. Each reef has a nice plaque to memorialize the person, and memorial keepsakes can be bought from the company. They even provide Military Honors for servicemen and women.

I saw this story on the Sundance Channel – The Green. I recommend watching the segment of Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Pray. It sounds strange, but it’s a pretty interesting concept. It’s a nice way to help add reefs to provide shelter and habitat for fish and other sea life, and to provide a nice memorial to a loved one.


Buy Nothing New January 23, 2008

Filed under: alternative, conserve, gifts, reduce, reuse, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

A few people in San Francisco have formed a “Compact” to buy nothing new for the whole year (except food and underwear, of course). They can buy refurbished furniture, electronics; secondhand dishware and clothes. It’s a challenge they believe in, and are enjoying.

We can follow their journey on their blog, The Compact. Here’s their summary:

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

The purpose of reusing items is to reduce the strain and waste on the planet. And it saves a ton of money. How long can you go without buying anything new?

Thanks to The Compact for the inspiration!


Clean School Bus USA January 22, 2008

Filed under: cars, conserve, local — terra @ 7:00 am

Join the EPA’s Anti-idling campaign, Clean School Bus USA. The goal is to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust and pollution.

Clean School Bus USA is a new initiative sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help our communities reduce pollution from school buses.

Clean School Bus USA is also a call to action for communities to join the partnership to begin work at the local level toward three important goals:

  • Reduce school bus idling time and adopt smart driving practices.
  • Retrofit the current school bus fleet with new technologies and introduce cleaner fuels.
  • Replace the oldest buses with new
  • ones that meet stringent pollution control standards.

Not only does the program help make our air cleaner, but it will also save communities and taxpayers thousands of dollars per year.

Here are some idling myths, debunked by the EPA. Knowing these could help your car be more efficient too.

Myth: It’s important to warm up the engine with a long idle period, especially in cold weather.
Fact: With today’s school bus engines, bus and engine manufacturers routinely suggest a warm up time of less than five minutes. In fact, running an engine at low speed (idling) causes significantly more wear on internal parts compared to driving at regular speeds.
Myth: It’s better for an engine to run at low speed (idling) than to run at regular speeds.
Fact: Running an engine at low speed causes twice the wear on internal parts compared to driving at regular speeds.
Myth: The engine must be kept running in order to operate the school bus safety equipment (flashing lights, stop sign). It’s impossible to run this equipment off the internal circuitry of the bus because the battery will run down.
Fact: Safety equipment can be operated without the engine running through re-wired circuitry for up to an hour with no ill-effects on the electrical system of the bus.
Myth: Idling is necessary to keep the cabin comfortable.
Fact: Depending on the weather, many buses will maintain a comfortable interior temperature for a while without idling. Idling is also not an efficient way to keep the cabin warm. Bus routes should be timed so children and drivers do not need to spend a lot of extra time on the bus when it is not en route, particularly in hot or cold weather. In addition, auxiliary heaters can be purchased and installed to keep the cabin comfortable.
Myth: It’s better to just leave the engine idling because a “cold start” produces more pollution.
Fact: A recent EPA study found that the emission pulse measured after the school bus is restarted contains less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants than if the school bus idled continuously over a 10-minute period. The analysis indicated that continuous idling for more than three minutes emitted more fine particle (soot) emissions than at restart.

If you drive a school bus, send your kids to school, know a teacher or school bus driver, or like to write letters to your local paper, let’s all encourage districts to join the EPA’s Clean School Bus USA program and ask school bus drivers to shut their engine off while they’re waiting to pick up their students. It will keep the air cleaner, for the air’s sake, and kid’s sake.


FEED Bags Feed People January 18, 2008

Filed under: conserve, food, social consciousness — terra @ 12:00 pm

This reusable bag has a dual purpose – reducing waste and feeding children! The purchase of a FEED bag will provide food for a child in school for one year. The FEED program was created by Lauren Bush, UN World Food Programme Honorary Spokesperson (and niece of President George W Bush). This is an exciting and effective program because:

  • bag kidsBuying one World Food Programme FEED bag feeds a child in school for one school year.
  • School feeding acts as a magnet, dramatically increasing enrollment, sometimes by as much as 100 percent. It also improves performance at school; children concentrate better on a full stomach. Girls who go to school not only marry later but have half as many children as illiterate women. Furthermore, these children are healthier and better educated.
  • 10 cents a day or 20 dollars a year can transform a child’s life and provide the tools for a lifetime of self-reliance. School feeding is a simple but effective way to beat hunger and poverty.

The FEED bag costs about $60, but the impact is tremendous!

I found this story on Planet Green.


Friday Recipe: Penne with Peas, Grape Tomatoes and Ricotta January 18, 2008

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:00 am

2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 pound penne rigate or ziti pasta
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel (from 1 lemon)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes

1. Heat large covered saucepot of salted water to boiling over high heat.

2. Meanwhile, if using fresh peas, shell by running thumb along length of seam to open pod and release peas.

3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook as label directs. Add fresh peas to saucepot when pasta has 2 minutes cooking time remaining.

4. While pasta is cooking, in medium bowl, combine ricotta, parsley, Romano, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until tomatoes burst and are heated through, shaking pan frequently. Remove skillet from heat.

5. Remove 1/2 cup pasta cooking water; set aside. Drain pasta and peas.

6. To skillet with tomatoes, add pasta with fresh peas (or thawed frozen peas) and reserved cooking water; stir to combine. Spoon into 6 bowls and dollop with ricotta mixture.

(based on individual servings)
Calories: 420
Total Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Sodium: 395 mg
Carbohydrates: 70 g
Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 19 g

Originally published in . I found it on The Daily Green.


Solar Carport January 17, 2008

Filed under: cars, electric car, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

carportMy favorite type of car is electric. An electric car is very practical for someone like me with a very short daily commute. In fact, most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, making electric cars very sensible. It would be great to have an electric car (powered with clean energy), and a hybrid or some other lower emission car for longer distances.

Unfortunately, electric cars are not ideal when we’re tied to a coal-based power grid. The best option is to use renewable electricity. Currently, that’s hard to come by, but now you can charge your car or your home with the LifePort Solar Carport. LifePort has built a carport with a solar roof that provides enough power to charge your car, for free! (that sounds like a commercial, but I think it’s pretty cool) You can even hook the carport up to your home, and power your home during the day while your car is with you at work.

Here are some specs on the LifePort Solar Carport, taken from their website. Someone could even insulate the carport and turn it into an office or rec room. The price is high to start, but the return on investment based on increased property values is outstanding. Not to mention the environmental benefits… never having to buy gas again… lower electric bills… the list of benefits goes on and on with renewable energy.

LifePortTM Structure with 4.8 kW DC System: $45,199


(over 25 year life term of system)
142 tons, equivalent to 284,000 automobile miles


I ate at VegiTerranean on Friday… January 16, 2008

Filed under: food, local — terra @ 7:00 am

It was wonderful! Here is their new site, complete with lunch and dinner menus.

I took my husband there for his birthday, and it was well worth it. We started with the grilled artichoke appetizer, which he said was his favorite. Next was bread, which was so soft, it melted in your mouth. I had the Fresh Linguini with Portabella and Wild Mushroom Ragu. Amazing! The sauce was so fresh, you could still taste the wine flavor. (When we cook with wine, the flavor is never that intense.) He had the special, which was a Root Vegetable Risotto. The sauce had an earthy, nutty taste, which really highlighted the vegetables’ rich flavor.

For dessert, we had a raspberry-infused chocolate cupcake and some other chocolate cake with a butter cream frosting. The latter was better, although both were rich and delicious.

If you go, bring your appetite and your credit card. It’s not a cheap date. The lunch prices are a little better.
Based on the menu, I was expecting a more plush, warm environment. It was “modern,” I guess, with steel tables and lots of silver, black and light purple colors. Our waiter was friendly. I was glad to see the place was packed. If you didn’t have reservations, you weren’t getting in before 8:30 on Friday night.

We’ll be back for special occasions.


Tuesdays off January 15, 2008

Filed under: education — terra @ 7:50 am

Sorry, but I don’t have anything for today. Lots of great stuff coming up though. I have a class on Mondays in the spring, so my brain is drained.

If you haven’t been to Instructables yet, you really must check it out. I could waste days there!


China nixes plastic bags January 14, 2008

Filed under: conserve, local, reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:00 am

bagsChina has officially banned plastic bags. Hooray! They will no longer produce plastic bags (for themselves) and stores are prohibited from handing them out, as of June 1, 2008.

China uses too many of the bags and fails to dispose of them properly, wasting valuable oil and littering the country, China’s cabinet, the State Council, said in a notice posted on the central government Web site (www.gov.cn).

Consumers are encouraged to use reusable bags and baskets for their purchases. China joins several other countries in banning the wasteful plastic bags.

Chinese people use up to 3 billion plastic bags a day and the country has to refine 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil every year to make plastics used for packaging, according to a report on the Web site of China Trade News (www.chinatradenews.com.cn).

I hope their ban on production includes producing plastic bags and packaging for the US. Americans use an estimated 84 billion plastic bags each year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to produce.

Paper bags are no better, because “14 million trees were cut down in 1999 to produce 10 billion grocery bags for Americans. The production and shipping of the bags also contributes to global warming and air pollution.”

The solution is for Americans to go back to using cloth reusable bags. We’ve been using reusable bags for almost a year, and it’s easier because the bags are stronger so they hold more and you can get from the car to your house with confidence.

Problem: The city of Akron requires residents to separate their recyclables into blue and clear plastic bags, or paper bags. I called the city to explain, politely, that I no longer want to be a consumer of plastic bags, but I still want to recycle. They didn’t have an answer for that. (Even though the truck that collects the recyclables smashes everything together the same way the garbage truck does.) I hope the city will consider contracting with another recycling facility that doesn’t require plastic bags. Bath township doesn’t require the use of plastic bags, for example. Many cities want their residents to recycle, so they allow people to put all recyclables together in one container, and separate it at the facility. How can we convince people to stop consuming so much plastic, if the city requires it in order to recycle? I hope you will join with me to write letters to the city, elected officials, and the Akron Beacon-Journal to encourage the city to help residents to reduce our impact on the planet by refusing wasteful and energy-intensive plastic bags.

Long Live the Village Green also celebrated China’s plastic bag ban. Check it out.