terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Transportation Ease January 22, 2009

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

The Akron Metro RTA system has completed the new hub! It’s a fantastic place with heated floors, schedule monitors, free wifi, and security. Akron’s commitment to the Metro, and to making our city bike-friendly is outstanding. Ohio.com has great photos.

If you don’t take the bus, you can text Google for directions and save paper by having them sent to your phone. Simply text your starting address “to” and the destination and Google will send directions to your phone.


Akron Metro Dump the Pump June 15, 2008

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

Thursday is National Dump the Pump day, and Akron Metro has events planned all week, so ditch the car… dump the pump… go “green” and take the bus next week.

June 16-20

Note: I will be out of town for a few days.

Upcoming posts:
Germany is Eco-Responsible
How to beat the Summer Heat
NEO Rail
… and more.


Test Drives May 27, 2008

Filed under: cars — terra @ 7:00 am

I’d prefer to talk about what other people are doing to reduce their impact on the planet, but I think lots of people are interested in the fuel efficient cars. So, here’s my review of a few cars.
After careful consideration of our Car Math, my husband and I decided that it’s time to replace the Suzuki. It’s been a great car, and I recommend it to someone who needs to haul stuff. However, it’s unnecessarily big for us, and frankly it uses too much gas. Saturday afternoon, we headed up to the Bedford Automile to drive the Smart ForTwo, and the Toyota Yaris. (The Honda Fit is just outside our price range, but another great alternative.) Committed to not driving an automatic, we set out. First stop… Smart.

smartThe Smart ForTwo was fun to drive. It has a “manual automatic” transmission, which means you can drive the same car as an automatic, or as a clutchless manual. The manual option consists of pushing the gear shifter up for higher gears and down to lower the gear. (not instinctive for a traditional manual driver, for whom 2nd is down) Two models also have paddles on the steering wheel for “shifting.” As I mentioned, you can also drive it as an automatic. The compactness is very practical for city driving. Most cars only have 1 passenger, so again, the Smart makes a lot of sense. It’s also very roomy. Some test drives show a 6 ft man fitting comfortably in the car – even moving the seat forward. The bad thing is that you feel every bump, which I’m used to on the scooter, so no big deal. My husband really liked it. But, I like the traditional clutch-manual transmission. Plus, for the same amount of money, the Yaris is only 4 mpg less efficient, and still seats 5. So… on to the Yaris.

The Toyota Yaris was great. It handles nicely, and the engine is quiet. The best thing is that it’s really big and roomy inside. I doubt I’ll ever put someone in the back seat, but if I did, there’s plenty of space. It has compartments and cup holders to spare! You could fit everything in there. The weird thing is the instrument panel is in the middle of the dash “in line with the rearview mirror,” as the sales person reminded me. Still, it’s not intuitive. I would say that it makes you really pay attention to how the car feels to determine when you should shift. So far, the Yaris is the winner. Just for fun, we drove the Scion xD.

The Scion xD was so awesome! The clutch was smooth and so fun to drive. Unfortunately, it was also just out of our price range, and too big for me. It can also have a lot of customizations. If you’re looking for a fun stick shift with good gas mileage, drive the xD.

My vote is for the Yaris. It’s a fun little car! It’s actually not that little. Why doesn’t anyone make a little car anymore? It’s short – nose to bumper – but it’s taller than the Civic. Check out FuelEconomy.gov to see gas mileage and EPA ratings.


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.


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!


Car math May 12, 2008

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

Here’s a math problem. I’ve been thinking about how efficiently my vehicles get me to work. Here we go…

My husband and I have a Honda Civic Hybrid, a Suzuki Grand Vitara, and a Genuine Buddy scooter. Gas will cost $4 soon, so we’ll just say $4.00 is the price of gas. This is how far we can go on one gallon of gas:

Civic – 42 miles
Suzuki – 16 miles
Buddy – 98 miles

My daily commute is 8 miles, so I can drive to work this many days for $4.00:

Civic – about 5
Suzuki – 2
Buddy – 12

Essentially, I can drive to work 2 days in the Suzuki for $4, or I can fill up the Buddy for $4 and drive to work 12 times. (My husband takes the Civic now, since I take the Buddy.)

I drive to work about 20 times per month, which costs $40 in the Suzuki, and about $8 in the Buddy.

A monthly bus pass costs $50 – for endless miles around Akron!

What’s your families’ car math?


Scooters for all May 3, 2008

Filed under: cars — terra @ 7:00 am

I must confess, I bought something new. I’ve been pretty good about “buy nothing new,” but when I saw this thing last year, I knew I had to have it. It’s a Genuine Buddy 125cc scooter. Looks kind of like a Vespa, at 1/2 the price. It gets about 100 mpg, and it just makes so much sense. I got my Buddy at Pride of Cleveland Scooters. (the one pictured isn’t mine) They now have two stores for more convenience.

blue buddyWhen you think about the price of gas, and the concept of a 4-wheeled car, it just doesn’t add up. We’re paying for gas to move a 1,000 (or 2,000) pound car, to move a 100-200 pound person. The gas we pay for doesn’t move us, it moves 1,500 lbs (approx). That process is so inefficient. And, most of the time, the 5-person car is occupied by 1 person, who drives less than 20 miles a day to work and home. This is one area where technology innovation has not kept up with lifestyle.

Enter… the scooter. It’s a 1 person car, driven by one person. It weighs about 200 lbs, and carries my 120 lb person to work at back, 8 miles a day. That makes sense. The gas I buy moves 350 lbs.

Plus, it’s fun to drive. I can smell the flowers, and see everything. The wind freaks me out a little, but other than that, I can’t wait to get back on the scooter! It’s a quicker ride to work, and I can always find a parking space. The benefits are endless.

I looked for electric, or diesel scooters, but couldn’t find anything practical. (to survive Akron traffic, you have to go at least 45mph) After buying the gas scooter, I’ve seen a few electric conversions that people are doing themselves. This guy built his from forklift parts. What ingenuity!

The best is an electric bicycle! You can pedal sometimes, and when you’re tired, or it’s too hilly, the electric motor kicks in to get you through it. I love that idea! (it looks pricey, but some bike enthusiasts pay more than that for just the frame)

Overall, the good news is that there are options! We can have a 1 person car, or a 5 person car, or an electric car, or a scooter or an electric bike. Whatever suits our lifestyle and our needs. We just need to invest a little research and find one that fits.


Friday Video: Awareness Test May 2, 2008

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

Take 30 seconds and do the test in this video. You’ll see why later…

I hope everyone passes this test! I didn’t.


Hypermiling May 1, 2008

Filed under: cars, conserve — terra @ 11:00 am

Get the best gas mileage you can by hypermiling. Hypermiling was created a few years ago, and it’s a driving style that attempts to reduce wasted energy and make your car as efficient as possible. Wayne Gerdes coined the term hypermiling, and he has achieved 84 mpg from a Ford Ranger, and 180 mpg from a Honda Insight.

Here are a few less-intense hypermiler things you can do:

  • Drive as if you don’t have brakes. Most people accelerate until they reach a light, and then step on the brakes. All that energy is wasted. Instead, glide from point to point, using as little acceleration as possible, but not annoying other drivers.
  • Keep your car tuned up. Inflate your tires, use the lowest weight oil, and change your air filter.
  • Drive the speed limit, or below. Cars are more efficient at around 50-55 mph.
  • Don’t idle for more than 10 seconds. Idling is pure waste.

If you’re ready to go all the way to hypermiler status, check out this forum (about 1/2 way down the page) on cleanmpg.com. It includes tips like “Potential Parking” – parking at the highest point of the parking lot so you can coast downhill when you leave. Another tip is to drive to the side and behind of a semi-trailer, so you reduce your wind drag. Forbes Autos points out 10 tips to save gas.

While research and development is being done on renewable energy for our vehicles, some people are going to great lengths to reduce their fuel consumption. I find the easiest techniques to be the ones I highlighted above – no idle, go the speed limit, don’t brake so much.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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…


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.


Beet Juice in the News February 25, 2008

Filed under: cars, environment, government, local — terra @ 12:00 pm

NPR did a story about beet juice de-icer this morning on Morning Edition. They highlighted the benefits beet juice has over calcium chloride (rock salt). Stuff like … better for the environment, safer, longer-lasting, works at colder temperatures, better for roads and cars. It costs more per gallon, but it spreads better and only has to be applied once, rather than 3 times for calcium chloride. It also saves taxpayers’ money on roadFOOD SEASON-BEETS CS repair, as it does less damage to roads than the salt. The citizen they interviewed from Akron didn’t seem impressed, because of the immediate cost. I think he must have forgotten the long-term benefits of saving money on road repair. How exciting for Akron to be featured on a national program for reducing our impact on the planet by thinking differently!

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also featured a story about the effectiveness of beet juice. According to the article, “the juice blocks ice from forming on pavement even at extremely low temperatures.” Fantastic! I have definitely noticed a difference. The streets aren’t slick when they use beet juice. They’re much less predictable when the temperature is in the 20s or 30s and they use salt. Also, my dog hasn’t had hot spots on her feet this winter. I love that!

(Sarah from the PD contacted me for her story, but unfortunately I hadn’t been checking the blog while I was out. Sorry, Sarah!)