terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Conference call with Sherrod Brown April 30, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, environment, government, local, solar, wind — terra @ 1:00 am

Media Update: Sherrod Brown Press Release
Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune

I was fortunate enough to be included on a lunchtime conference call with Senator Sherrod Brown, who was announcing his new comprehensive energy bill. Senator Brown has participated in a series of “green” energy roundtables across Ohio. Anyone in Ohio knows that we have the potential to utilize our manufacturing base, and our educated workforce to create renewable energy. We can be the “Silicon Valley of Alternative Energy.” I’ve summarized his speech, and his answers to the press questions below.

Summary

Senator Brown introduced the Green Energy Production Act as a jobs bill, an energy bill, and an environment bill. Its purpose is to turn research into products, and put people to work in production of renewable energy technology. Our economic future depends on our ability to move to renewable alternative energy. If we take this step, we’ll attain the global leadership that America is accustomed to. This will would utilize the potential of this state, and other manufacturing states to expand businesses like solar & wind entrepreneurs.

Currently, Germans lead the world in solar technology because they made a decision to invest in it years ago. China is investing in wind production technology (building windturbines to sell to other countries)

While we’re debating whether to punch more holes in the ground, the rest of the world is passing us by.

This bill would encourage the commercialization of renewable products. There are too many great ideas left on drawing board or produced overseas because America hasn’t invested in renewable technology yet. Ohio would benefit from this because we have the potential. Our green energy manufacturing future should build on our manufacturing past.

The bill creates a Green Markets Program, and a Green Redevelopment Opportunity and Workforce program. It seeks to explore as many ideas and inventions as possible, and to encourage internships and apprecticeships to help our students learn the critical skills to meet the demand of the renewable energy future.

There is an efficiency grant program which would match energy companies dollar for dollar to develop renewable energy and to encourage energy savings. Currently, coal-based energy companies have an incentive to misinform the public about the benefits of solar and wind. This bill would help energy companies develop clean technology, so they don’t go bankrupt, but they can do the right thing for the environment.

Senator Brown said we need to build green energy here. It’s inevitable. Importing renewable energy technology like we do oil doesn’t need to be inevitable. It’s not in our country’s best interest.

Essentially, this bill will create good-paying jobs here at home.

Questions

Funding… over 5 years. This is a $36 billion bill, which incorporates a gradual increase ($1 billion the first year, $5 the next, and then $10 billion the following 3 years). It will make grants & proposals available. Some money comes from climate change legislation, which may include carbon credits.

We currently give oil companies $18 billion in subsidies per year. Perhaps some of that money could be used to fund the bill that creates jobs here in America and makes us energy independent. That idea would make it hard to gain the support of some Republicans, because they like to call the removal of oil subsidies a tax hike. Oil companies are the most profitable they’ve every been, and are more profitable than any other American company. We also spend billions of dollars in Iraq.

The bill creates an “investment corporation” to take it out of political process. There will be 7 members on the board, appointed by the president, confirmed by senate. Eligibility is based on criteria in the bill, which emphasizes business, labor, environment, and manufacturing.

Senator Brown doesn’t support the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, and he doesn’t think it will pass. (I honestly don’t know much about the bill b/c I’m out of politics, much to my delight) Brown’s Green Energy Production Act is not an amendment to a climate change bill. This bill stands alone.

Is clean coal or nuclear included? No. This is about solar, wind, fuel cells and other new tech. “Clean coal” and nuclear power are not called “green” energy by most because of their harmful byproducts. They are not renewable sources.

Ethanol is not specifically mentioned in this legislation. As we look at food prices, Brown said, more technology will be developed to create energy from renewables other than food, such as restaurant waste.

What are the chances of it passing in this cycle? This bill is so different and innovative that it will take a long time to pass, so he is entering it into the public debate this week. It has potential. There are two other energy bills left to be debated this term.

This bill will get economic development off the ground by building solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines, etc. Not necessarily producing the energy, but producing the technology. (The solar panels at Oberlin College came from Germany. They should come from Ohio.)

This bill gives me a little hope that, if we can get something like this started, we can swing ourselves out of the recession. We need green jobs, green manufacturing, and renewable energy that is inexpensive for the consumer. We can achieve this by producing the technology here at home. It’s the responsible thing to do.

 

Water Clocks April 29, 2008

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

water clockWhile we certainly don’t need to be wasting any more water, here is a cool invention that I’ve recently stumbled upon… a water clock. This clock runs strictly on water. No batteries or electricity needed. The water lasts months. Just add a little bit of water, and you will have a clock, thermostat, countdown, and alarm!

I am fascinated by this, so I mentioned it with great enthusiasm to my husband, the history teacher, and he told me, nonchalantly, that some of the earliest clocks were water clocks. What?! I never knew about this! Here’s a little background

It’s possible that the earliest water clock was made in China around 4000BC. They were mostly used for “astronomical and astrological reasons.” They functioned in coordination with sundials. Clocks weren’t essential until the Industrial Revolution, when people had to keep track of their time for wages.

Through the centuries, water clocks were used for timing lawyer’s speeches during a trial, labors of prostitutes, night watches of guards, sermons and Masses in church, to name only a few.

I guess you learn something new every day.

I think this would make a great gift. It looks cool and doesn’t require any energy! (the one pictured is just a clock. click here for the multi-function version)

 

Plantable Paper April 28, 2008

Filed under: garden, gifts — terra @ 7:00 am

cardsMost people save greeting cards because they treasure the gesture behind them. RecycledIdeas has created greeting cards that you can plant in your garden! These greeting cards are really special because you can plant them in your garden, and remember the sentiment every time you smell the flowers! They will grow all sorts of beautiful flowers or herbs. There is a whole range of sprouting paper products at her Etsy store.

If you need something more professional, check out these Sprouting Business Cards.

 

Video Friday: Garbage Island April 25, 2008

Filed under: conserve, education, recycle, reduce, reuse, water — terra @ 7:00 am

This was done by VBS, which seems to be an online educational/entertainment “channel.” It’s like reality TV, but actual reality.

plastic movie

Does anyone else recognize that yellow spray paint cap?

 

Guest Post: Earth Day at Hoban High School April 23, 2008

Filed under: conserve, education, energy, local, reduce, solar — terra @ 11:00 am

Today’s Guest Post comes from Matt Bryant, science teacher at Archbishop Hoban High School. He has done several projects with his students to measure energy use at Hoban, and then come up with ways to reduce excess energy use. Hoban participated in Lights Out Akron. Here is their story:

On Tuesday (Earth Day) this week I witnessed an amazing occurrence where I teach. The students, faculty, and staff at Archbishop Hoban High turned off their lights! The students in our environmental science classes have been working hard these past two years beefing up our aluminum can recycling, paper recycling and now raising awareness of our energy use (dare I say “waste?!”). In conjunction with the Lights Out Akron campaign, http://www.lightsoutakron.org/, the environmental science students (along with their intrepid teacher Mrs. Mohan) proposed that the school not only turn off unnecessary lights during the 8-9AM hour suggested by the Lights Out Akron campaign, but for the entire day. Teachers and staff were encouraged to open window blinds and turn off the lights they didn’t need for the day.

The best part was that everyone participated! As I walked the halls this morning with a local print news reporter, I saw EVERY classroom with the lights off or dimmed—no exceptions! The main office, athletic office, guidance office, business office, and institutional advancement had their lights off or dimmed too! I was extremely impressed at how willing our staff and students were to do without the normal lights to simply raise awareness of energy use. It seems we are entering a time of increased understanding of the importance of conservation and young people seem to be willing to change. When a teenager pays $3.50 for a gallon of gasoline, they immediately realize conservation is important for their wallet. When a teenager sees everyone in their school acknowledging the importance of energy conservation, they just might turn off the lights the next time they leave their bedroom at home.

On a more personal note: The students’ goal was a simple one: raise awareness of how much energy we use unnecessarily. I for one try to do my part by recycling at home, driving a fuel efficient car, bicycling to work on nice days, and adjusting my thermostat appropriately, but I’m not very good with my lights. Oh I have CFLs in virtually every fixture, but I still turn on the lights by habit when I walk into a room and leave them on too much when I leave. I do the same thing when I teach. Tuesday was different. I, and other teachers, realized that if the window blinds are open we might not need all the overhead lights on. I got by most of the day with no lights at all and about one-third of the lights on later in the day as the Earth rotated and the sunlight changed. I learned a lesson on Tuesday, one I intend to use at work and at home.

What did you learn on Earth Day this year?

Media Update: Akron Beacon Journal Story Here

 

UA Earth Day, pt. 3 April 23, 2008

Filed under: cars, education, energy, environment, local, recycle, solar, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

As I looked at my pictures, I realized I left some stuff out…

Congratulations to the Honors Complex for winning the aluminum can recycling contest. They were rewarded with a traveling trophy and an Earth flag. The three representatives took off to tour campus with their Earth Day pride!

Live Art

IMG_9617After DJ Zachariah, Rachel Roberts played acoustic guitar, while Ursula Rauh painted a picture along with the music. It was beautiful art by two wonderful artists, and certainly highlighted the solar stage for the afternoon.

The solar stage was powered by the sun! Dovetail Solar and Wind set up a solar trailer and propped up the panels to take full advantage of the sun’s plentiful energy. They also brought a wind turbine for display. Dovetail has several projects across Ohio. “Green” jobs are American jobs – you can’t outsource solar panel installation. This is yet another great reason for the U.S. to get moving towards renewable energy.

I rode a Segway!

The UA campus police ride Segways around campus. They’re quick, and run on electricity. The wildest part is that they read your mind! If you think “go forward,” it goes forward. If you think “stop,” it stops! A noted skeptic, I had to try it, and it was true! How does it do that? Well, when humans think “forward,” we lean a little bit forward. The Segway takes advantage of that natural occurrance and motors us forward. It seems more practical for campuses, airports, etc. Not so practical for the average consumer, in my opinion. It was really fascinating, but I can’t see myself ever owning one.

Bikes

UA is trying to become a more bike-friendly campus. Students can look forward to more bike racks, and a bikers map of campus. The city of Akron is helping by also installing bike racks. It’s a hilly campus, but bikes are a great way to get around. There is a serious parking problem on campus that would be helped if students who live a mile or two away would ride a bike instead of driving to campus and parking in a parking garage for the week.

Funding

This year’s Earth Day event was funded by Environmental Akron, a student club, and through the sale of salvaged metals. As the university is expanding and building, some buildings are being torn down. Fortunately, the Director of Materials Handling had the foresight to go into the buildings and salvage as many usable materials as he could. He and his team salvaged a lot of metal and other usable goods such as office furniture and equipment. The salvaged metal brought in enough money to pay for Earth Day, with much to spare. Good job Mike!

Ok, that’s all. Looking forward to next year…

 

UA Earth Day Wrap Up, pt. 2 April 22, 2008

Filed under: cars, education, energy, environment, local, recycle, reduce, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

Keynote Speaker and “The Digital Dump”

I would love to highlight all the participants. One in particular was the keynote speaker. Dag Adamson came to Akron from Colorado, where he is the president of Lifespan Recycling. Lifespan Recycling handles technology recycling. Most products we buy come with planned obsolescence. Computer companies don’t build computers that will last 10 years, because they’d only get your money every 10 years. That’s not very profitable for them. So, they design computers that will be obsolete within 3-4 years. You can’t just buy a piece to upgrade it – you have to buy a whole new computer. They also don’t provide a way to safely dispose of computers. What has happened is that some people or organizations like the IRS and many universities send their computers to be “recycled.” What they don’t know is that the computers are sent to Africa. A majority of these computers don’t work, and many times, the data has not been erased! Your personal data could be on a computer in Africa.

So, Africa is left to dispose of our computers. Do they have some advanced technological processing center? No, they dump them in a field and when the pile gets too big, they set it on fire. The burning plastic runoff enters local streams and pollutes everything for years to come. It’s sinful! Africans deserve working computers. Computer companies should provide a way to safely dispose of computers. If you missed Dag’s speech, please check the UA Earth Day web page in the next few weeks. We plan to have a podcast of his speech.

If you haven’t seen it, you must see The Digital Dump. Here is a preview. The entire film (22 minutes) is available from The Basel Action Network, an organization dedicated to eliminating toxic trade.

Others

All of the participants were noteworthy. Students saw that there are other options besides the conventional way of doing things. This was Akron’s 2nd Earth Day, and I must say, the alternative energy and other educational booths were really eye-opening. Next year’s event will only be bigger and better!

Part 3 tomorrow…

 

UA Earth Day Wrap Up April 21, 2008

The University of Akron’s Earth Day “Do it now for the enviROOment” was last Wednesday. It was really a fantastic event, and generated a lot of student interest by showing practical renewable energy solutions. There was a wind turbine, 4 cars, a VegiTerranean food demo, bicycles, the Akron Metro RTA, a rain barrel, and so much more. The outside stage was powered by solar panels – Renewable energy in action!

Cars

IMG_9561It was so great to see the students checking out the electric cars. The Myers Motors NmG was featured, along with the Zenn electric car, and a self-converted Honda DelSol. Dr. Ross brought his biodiesel VW Beetle. It’s simply a diesel beetle which he runs on used vegetable oil from VegiTerranean.

I love the NmG from Myers Motors. It’s a one-person car, which is so practical. We all drive 5 person cars, but we only have 1 person in it for a majority of the time. Why not drive a 1 person car? And then have another car for family trips. Technology usually innovates to match our lifestyles, but continuing to make 5 person (or more) cars is one area where innovation has fallen away. It would make sense for each family to have a 1 person car, and a family car. Myers is currently working on new battery technology to make it run longer. They would also like to make a 2 person car.

I’ve never seen the Zenn electric car before. North Central Zenn brought their electric car. It was awesome! At $17,000, it’s the same price is a regular new car. The one displayed had a cloth roll-top. It seats 2 (very practical), and is designed for city driving. (The Zenn is pictured)

IMG_9619I loved the biodiesel VW Beetle. By using vegetable oil, he can operate his car cost-free. He simply separates particles from the oil and pours the pure oil into his car. Diesel engines were meant to run on vegetable oil, so this solution is so efficient. It’s a pure reuse. Instead of using ethanol, which comes from harvested plants, biodiesel reuses oil that normally would have to be processed.

Part 2 tomorrow…

 

Movie Friday: Amory Lovins April 18, 2008

Filed under: education, energy, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

carI’m changing Recipe Friday to Movie Friday. The first is Amory Lovins, “energy guru” and economist extraordinaire. Lovins stresses the importance of creating alternative energy now, because if we don’t, we’ll be buying it from our competitors soon! It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but we must start moving into a new industry. Developing renewable technologies is critical to American jobs, economy, society, … you name it. We must invest in renewable/alternative energy for our survival. Watch the video and be enlightened. (click the picture to see the movie)

Lovins is also the co-author of “Winning the Oil Endgame,” a book which is available for free online.

Next week… the Plastic Island, from CNN. This video is awesome!

 

David Giffels in NYT April 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — terra @ 7:00 am

bookSome of you know David Giffels as a writer for the Akron Beacon Journal. (Some of my readers are even related to him!) You may know that he has written a book about his experience restoring his beautiful 1913 Tudor home. Today’s New York Times features an article about the book. Don’t miss the photo slideshow!

Look for David’s book, “All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House” in May. (I’ll keep you posted on that too.)

I love the way David and Gina renovated their house. Instead of tearing it down and starting new, they used the existing structure and made the home they love. It’s a true piece of Akron! And, they did it within their means – no credit cards. That’s even better! We should all live by their theory… if you don’t have the money for it, you don’t buy it.

Congratulations, Giffels family!

 

Earth Day Tomorrow April 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — terra @ 12:30 pm

The University of Akron is celebrating Earth Day on April 16th. This year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than last year’s. UA students will learn about how to preserve the enviROOment. (Another great slogan!)

Don’t miss the electric cars, VegiTerranean food demo, a solar stage, live music and art, speakers, and a green fair. Several fine organizations will be represented, including Green Energy Ohio, Great Lakes Brewing Company (promoting the Burning River Fest), Metro RTA, and Environmental Akron – UA’s student group committed to the environment.

This event is not to miss!!

April 16th 10-3
Student Union

 

Turn your car into a hybrid April 14, 2008

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

A friend of mine is looking to buy a new car, and in his search, he test-drove a Toyota Prius. He was surprised that it “drove like a normal car.” But, he’s turned off by the sticker price of a new hybrid – at least $26,000. You can’t blame him there! (I got mine used for $10,000 and it drives the same as a new one, and is still covered by the warranty.) Anyway after owning a hybrid, here’s my suggestion:

Get a small car with good gas mileage. (The Honda Fit is awesome, as are any of the old favorites – Corolla, Civic, etc.) Then, turn it off when you’re stopped in traffic for more than 30 seconds! That will basically achieve the benefits of a hybrid without the high sticker price and the mandatory automatic transmission of hybrids. The only real benefit I’ve seen to my car is that it turns off when I stop. You can do that yourself in any car and save $10,000 for the hybrid technology. (Source: Consumer Energy Center)

So, pick a car you like with responsible mileage and turn it off when you’re at a stoplight. You’ll save a ton of money and gas!

I have 3 other suggestions: 1) drive your car until it dies – you still have to fix new cars, plus having a monthly payment. 2) buy a used car. 3) wait for the VW Diesel-Hybrid and run it on vegetable oil from your favorite fast food joint – that’s free fuel! Read Biodiesel Myths Dispelled

One more… get the Smart Car!! I saw one driving in Akron on Saturday night.

 

The worst thing about tap water… April 11, 2008

Filed under: conserve, energy, environment, reduce, water — terra @ 11:30 am

… is that some “beverage company” executive discovered that he could put it in a plastic bottle and sell it to us at 1000% markup. Tap water is perfectly fine, until you mix it with the chemicals in plastic and put it on the shelves for people to buy (people who usually can’t afford it because they’re heading into a recession).

Bottled water gives the impression that is “clear, mountain spring water,” when it’s usually just tap water (infused with the chemicals that make plastic). I know, you don’t reuse your bottle, or leave it in the car. How long did it sit on the truck during transport? How long did it sit in the store? Not only is it just tap water, but some companies add other “flavors” to the water. One of those flavors is sodium, which makes you thirsty, so you buy more of their product.

It’s basically unregulated. Tap water is regulated by the EPA, which has offices in every state, nearly every county. Bottled water is supposed to be regulated by the FDA, but they rarely do inspections. So your bottled water may start as EPA-regulated tap water, but then the company adds their ingredients, puts it in plastic, and sells it to the trusting consumers.

Here’s the cycle of bottled water – Plastic is made from petroleum (could the rising cost of gas have anything to do with the 1.5 million barrels of oil it takes to make bottled water?). Then, the plastic is cooled with water – about 72 billion gallons of it every year (drought in the American south?). After the water bottle has been cooled with water, they add tap water, which is “flavored” by a company. Then, they truck it to stores, adding to the environmental cost, and sell it to people. People who could just drink their tap water.

Check into getting a Brita or Pur filter for your home and office. I recently brought one to work, and people were so happy. They don’t want to buy bottled water anymore. It’s expensive and wasteful. Take the first step… stop buying bottled water. Keep that money for yourself!

- Reader’s Digest had a great article about bottled water. Check it out.

 

Guest Post: Environmentally Friendly Skies April 10, 2008

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

Thanks to my husband for writing today’s post. I like to see the environmentally responsible activities in each city I travel to, so I asked him to make some observations while he visited Austin, TX.

While attending a conference in Austin, I was employed by my wife via cellphone. She asked me to uncover any “green” activity in environmentally friendly Austin.

solarDuring my short stay, I found myself preoccupied, unable to investigate much of anything. I knew my mission, but I was always a bit overwhelmed by the conference agenda, being pulled here and there, through talks and discussions. My wife’s request tapped me on the shoulder during the short breaks, and when the moments for “green” investigation presented itself, it seemed as though I was never in the right place. My only real find was on a drive down the interstate when we quickly passed a field of solar panels.

In the end, however, the destination to Austin didn’t provide the most interesting find. Rather, the Continental flight to Austin did. Now, I know there’s all this bashing of airlines and the canceling of flights ‘n all, but Continental really was the bright “green” find I was trying to locate. When the flight attendant shuffled her way down the miniature isle to bag all the trash, she made sure to place our plastic trays in a separate hand to ensure their recycled future. She even insisted that a colleague of mine hang on to the empty can of soda until the she could make her way back through with the recycling bag specifically for cans.

Wow. Impressive. Plastic and aluminum recycling. And so adamant about it. Such commitment definitely made a lasting impression on me. Sorry Austin, Continental wins this round.