terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Video Friday: Rocket Stove June 27, 2008

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

This video is from the Aprovecho Research Center, which created a “rocket stove.” A rocket stove is made of sturdy materials, such as cans, with a place for air circulation and tinder to start the fire. A rocket stove can be used to cook meals, even saute vegetables. This can really come in handy when you want to keep your house cool this summer – just cook outside!

Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of Homegrown Evolution have built a rocket stove out of bricks. In West Akron, a lot of homes have a brick fireplace in the backyard, which is perfect for cooking. I think I’ll clean my off this weekend and use it to cook meals this summer.

stove

- BoingBoing

 

Metro Building Tour June 25, 2008

Filed under: alternative, conserve, environment, local, reduce, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

IMG_1091I toured the Metro Parks Green Building on Saturday. The building is brilliant, but not many people came. That was unfortunate because people should see how easy it is to save on energy. Plus, they had really great cookies!

The new Metro Parks Rangers building features just some of these features:

  • Outside: Rain barrels, solar panels, solar film, green roof, rain garden, smart pavers which allow rain drainage, and native greenery.
  • Inside: Recycled materials for countertops, reclaimed lumber for furniture and structure, recycled carpet, recyclable office furniture, waterless urinals, low VOC paints, motion sensors for lights, bamboo floors, reused technology, original bricks and floor tiles.
  • Basement: Composting toilet machine, geothermal heat system, and Hybrid car.

This building demonstrates how easy it is to reduce our impact on the planet, be healthier, and save money on energy costs. And live comfortably at the same time. The lockers were made from recycled milk jugs and the marble-looking kitchen counter top was made from newspapers!

The tour was well-staffed with cheerful and helpful volunteers. I look forward to the next Metro Parks event. They are truly leaders in our community, setting an example for all of us to leave a light footprint.

 

Windy Future June 5, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, local, reduce, social consciousness, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

Wind power is getting really exciting! As new designs emerge that are more practical, less expensive, and safe for birds and bats, wind is becoming a more viable source of power. Check out these innovations:

Oregon Wind

windThe Oregon Wind turbine is compact and designed for urban and rural areas. It has less noise and vibration, and birds view it as a solid object, so they avoid it. These turbines can be linked, stacked, or mounted on a building in clumps to form a “wind forest.” They hope to have these available in 2008 for less than $1,000!

Cities could even use these to generate power at the top of LED streetlamps!

Community Wind Farms

National Wind is a company that helps put wind farms into community’s hands. They provide the supplies, and help the community come together to generate their own power – out of corporate hands. They’ve been successful with farming communities who have a cost advantage to create their own power. National Wind is active in 7 states. We all win when we work together as a community to help each other. -EcoGeek

Don’t forget about solar. The price of solar panels is expected to plummet! Nothing but good news today.

 

Mosquitoes June 2, 2008

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

With summer comes mosquitoes. I seem to get bit just thinking about them. So, here are a few tips to keep your yard and your body mosquito free:

  • spray your yard – grass, trees, plants – with garlic oil. It should repel them for up to 4 weeks.
  • keep your dog on heartworm medicine. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes!
  • remove all shallow standing water – dog dishes, tires, etc.
  • keep bird baths fresh
  • line your gutters with gutter-guards. You can do it yourself with supplies from the local hardware store.
  • rake those leaves – mosquitoes love piles of damp leaves
  • stay in the sun – mosquitoes seem to only bite when you’re in the shade.

Sprays

Instead of stinky mosquito repellent with harmful deet, we use a mixture of lavender oil and water. It’s so refreshing, and it really works. Other sprays that probably work are eucalyptus oil and lemon oil. You can get essential oils in the “healthy” section of most grocery stores, or in some specialty stores. We mix up a little bottle about 10 drops of lavender oil and 4 oz. of water.

 

Make your own biodiesel, and convert your car! May 22, 2008

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

Disclaimer: this post is for people who don’t want to buy gas anymore.

Visit Instructables.com for detailed how-to’s on converting your diesel car to biodiesel. Diesel cars are more efficient than conventional gas to begin with. Unfortunately, they’re rare and hard to find. Check cars.com and craigslist.org for a listing of cars in your area. The good news is that VW will begin selling diesel Jettas and Rabbits (or Golfs) in the US soon. So, find yourself a diesel car, and check out these fantastic how-to’s.

Convert your car to biodiesel. Yes, a small conversion is necessary. Vegetable oil will harden in the cold, so you can add elements to run the car on diesel until it warms up and then switch to the vegetable oil, or warm the veggie oil tank so it stays in liquid form.

Make your own biodiesel processor. A small amount of processing is necessary – simply to remove food particles from the used vegetable oil. For the time and energy used, it’s well worth it.

Finally, how to make your own biodiesel. Easy as pie. No more gas!!

If you do any of these things, please keep us posted. It just makes so much sense to reuse vegetable oil and run your car with it. Diesel engines were invented to run on vegetable oil.

 

Video Friday: Rooftop Wind Turbines May 16, 2008

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

wind turbine

These are so awesome! Rooftop wind turbines would make clean energy affordable for homeowners. The production grant from the government wasn’t that much money. I can’t wait to see this get moving!

Click the picture to start the rooftop wind turbine video. Check out GreenEnergyTV for other great technology videos.

 

Bike to work day May 14, 2008

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

Thursday is Bike to Work Day, so get on those 2-wheelers and get pedaling.

Actually, it’s Bike to Work Week, so any day will be great!

 

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)

 

Green Guerrillas April 7, 2008

Filed under: alternative, education, environment, garden, local, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

Here are some fun ways to go “green guerrilla” in your neighborhood.

Flowers make the world pretty

To brighten up construction lots, abandon property, and other urban blights, throw a “seed bomb” – “compressed balls of soil and compost that have been impregnated with wildflower seeds.” What began as no-till farming has turned into a great way to make a statement about sprawl, with pretty results.

Other Guerrilla Gardening techniques include taking over an abandoned lot, adding soil and compost, and planting a beautiful landscape that residents can be proud of.

Warm up your neighborhoodgreen

Knitters dubbed Knitta Please are warming up their communities by adding knitted pieces to otherwise cold, lifeless city blocks. They knit scarves for telephone poles or stair rails. They began in Houston, TX, and have spread their work to “Great Wall of China, Notre Dame Cathedral, Harlem, and Seattle Washington.” Graffiti? I think not.

Edina Tokodi is greening her neighborhood by adding live art installations throughout Brooklyn. She adds plants and moss, shaped like animals or abstract art, to bare walls in her urban landscape. She believes that “if everyone had a garden of their own to cultivate, we would have a much more balanced relation to our territories.” Check out some of her green guerrilla work at Inhabitat.

Pop up Reminders

Animals are popping up out of subway grates! The animals are made out of plastic bags, and every time the New York subway rushes by, it breathes life into the animal, making it stand up and remind you of its presence. This contribution by an unknown artist reminds us to think outside ourselves and see the impact our lifestyle is having on the planet. Here’s a video.

 

Eco Math April 1, 2008

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

We’re going to do a little math story problem. It’s pretty easy.

If you choose alternative energy for your home, your investment has a payback period of several years. You pay for the technology all at once, in the beginning when it’s installed. (Often, it’s paid for with grants and other incentives, but we’ll assume you pay for it out of pocket) The payback period explains how long it will take for you to have saved enough money on energy bills to cancel out the initial investment.

These are examples, and not exact. I used 10 years for everything to make the math really easy. These are exaggerated hypothetical numbers for our story problem, based on Akron, OH.

Solar = 10 years
Wind power = 10 years
Green roofs = 10 years
Geothermal = 10 years

Question: If you use all of these technologies on your home or building, how many years will it take for your investment to pay off?

Answer in the comments section. You can be anonymous if you want. I’ll give the answer at 5:00 today.

Answer: If each of your renewable sources takes 10 years to pay off, the total payoff time is 10 years. Not 40 years. Just 10. You’re paying for them all at the same time, and they all pay off at the same time. Think of it this way, you’re paying a utility company for gas and electric right now, forever. If you had renewable energy, you’d buy, pay for it for 10 years, and then never have to pay for it again. That sounds like a deal!

 

Freegans Reuse to the max March 13, 2008

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

For the ultimate in “reuse” activities, many people are choosing to find perfectly good products and even food in the least appealing of places… the dumpster. They’re called Freegans, and they go dumpster diving, back alley lurking, and network online, and they find some true treasures.

Freegans say our culture’s emphasis on buying the newest products—and throwing away perfectly fine older things—is a waste of the world’s resources. Instead, they focus on buying less and use only what they need. One of the main ways freegans do this is by salvaging food and other goods from the trash.

Oprah featured some Freegans on her show. Most of the stuff Freegans find is still in its original packaging. Driven by consumerism and the perceived need to have the newest, shiniest stuff, people throw away perfectly good products. Freegans come along and rescue them from the landfill and put them to good use. Freegans save money, and reduce waste by reusing perfectly good products. Hint: college move-out time is coming up – great time to score some cool stuff. (dumpster diving might be illegal – check your local laws)

The Goddess of Garbage has made a living out of turning discarded items into designer home furnishings. She makes things from scratch and turns scrap materials into art.

If dumpster diving is too extreme for you, check out Freecycle. Freecycle is an “entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns.” Craigslist also lists “free” stuff, or inexpensive things that still have some life in them.

 

Artificial Solar Leaves March 11, 2008

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

A group called SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) has designed artificial solar leaves that attach to your house and collect solar and wind power. Instead of mounting huge photo voltaic panels to your roof, you can attach these little “leaves” which flutter in the wind and look like climbing ivy. (The tricky thing is, they all have to be wired together!)

It’s an inexpensive way to generate solar and wind power for your home. You don’t get as much power as with the large panels, but you don’t pay as much either. It might be a nice option for a home office or a hot water tank.

-EcoGeek

 

Geothermal power in Alaska February 28, 2008

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

Alaska has tapped into geothermal power. At a plant just north of Fairbanks, the water coming through a geyser is only 185 degrees, but it turns out that it’s hot enough to power a geothermal plant and “generates electricity, it heats the resort’s buildings, maintains a greenhouse and keeps an ice museum frozen year-round.” 

Heat stored beneath the Earth’s surface holds 50,000 times the energy of all the oil and gas in the world combined. If it could be harnessed, it would be an ideal source of base-load power: Geothermal is cleaner than fossil fuels, and more reliable than alternative sources like tidal, wind, wave and solar.

Unlike oil, which is not renewable, geothermal is predictable, renewable, and inexpensive. Unlike a coal plant, which takes a long time to build (and blow the tops off mountains), this geothermal plant was constructed and producing energy at 5 cents per kwh in less than 5 years. What are we waiting for?!

-Popular Mechanics