terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

TV Update January 27, 2009

Filed under: conserve, energy — terra @ 1:00 pm

We’ve touched on TVs in the past, but the digital switch is coming soon, so I thought a review would be good. (A delay has been approved by the Senate with a house vote expected soon) The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to buy a new tv.  If you have a very old tv that doesn’t have a digital input, you have several options…

  • Sign up for cable
  • Sign up for a dish (DirecTv or Dish Network, etc)
  • Buy a converter box. You can even get a rebate from the gov’t.

If you must buy a new TV, keep in mind that of the new options, LCD is preferable to the environment over Plasma screens. Plasmas use so much energy that new energy standards being considered in Europe may effectively ban plasma screens. In fact, I read that a plug in car uses less energy than a new plasma tv.

Slate has a great article about tv technology. It turns out that my old CRT (the old fat tvs) might use as much energy as a plasma. Yikes! Still, it’s best to let it die than to contribute to the new-product-production by buying a new one. When I do, I’ll get an LCD screen.

 

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.

 

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.

 

We love bats June 11, 2008

Filed under: conserve, environment, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

After a side discussion in Comments about bats, I’ve been searching the Bat Conservation International site for more information about how great bats are, how they help us, and how we can help them. Essentially, bats are pretty harmless to humans, but they eat a lot of bugs that make us sick, eat our food, or kill us (think West Nile Virus). So, bats are great! They eat what we want them to eat, and otherwise leave us alone.

Bat Trivia

Baby bats are called pups. Females have one pup per year – that’s a pretty low reproductive rate.
Bats live over 30 years, making them the longest living mammal for their size.
Bats and birds are not related.

Bat houses

One way to help bats is to build or put up a bat house to provide them shelter during the day so they can eat bugs at night. The best place to put a bat house is on a building or a pole, not on a tree.

Bat Benefits

In the United States, little brown bats often eat mosquitos and can catch up to 1,200 tiny insects in an hour. An average-sized colony of big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles to protect farmers from tens of millions of the beetle’s rootworm larva each summer. Large colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats eat hundreds of tons of moth pests weekly.

Problems

The biggest problem is human fear.

Another big problem for bats involves some of the things we do to the places where bats live. We spray a lot of chemicals, which are dangerous. Bugs are sprayed by the chemicals, and then the bats eat the chemical-coated bugs.

And, windmills are posing a problem for bats. As we strive to find renewable energy, we must remember to not harm other species in the process. (remember though, pollution from our gas-cars harm uncountable numbers of animals) The Bats and Wind Energy Consortium has joined together with energy innovators to find solutions. The Oregon Wind Turbine (below) is safe for birds and bats.

Recently, scientists have discovered White Nose Syndrome among bats in the North East. They don’t know the cause, but the mortality rate is 95%.

We should do what we can to help animals like bats. Without knowing, we depend on others for our survival, so it’s in our interest to keep them safe.

 

LEED Metro Building Open for Tours June 9, 2008

Filed under: conserve, education, energy, environment, garden, local, social consciousness, solar, water — terra @ 7:00 am

The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County building is having an open house June 21-22 from 1-4 p.m. each day. This building was recently renovated, and includes these wonderful, sustainable features:

  • geothermal heating
  • waterless toilets
  • solar panels
  • a green roof
  • lumber from downed trees
  • recycled carpet, furniture and cabinetry
  • porous pavement to let rainwater through
  • a rain garden
  • rain barrels
  • and native landscaping.

If you want to tour the Metro building, you can pick up a shuttle at the Metro RTA Park-and-Ride lot at 530 Ghent Road, or you can park along the path and walk. The building is located on the corner of Sand Run and Revere Road.

The cost of the environmentally sustainable features cost an extra 15%, but that will be recouped by energy savings throughout the year, as the building won’t have to pay for their energy use. Most of that extra cost is also paid for through grants and donations. It really makes a lot of sense for public buildings (including college and university) to become more environmentally sustainable.

-Akron Beacon Journal

 

Video Friday: Earth University June 6, 2008

Filed under: conserve, energy, environment, food, organic, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

Earth University was founded to reinforce the tenet of triple bottom line – community, environment, profit.

They’re growing bananas organically, paying workers above minimum wage, and making paper from waste!

(click the picture to start the video)

earth u

 

Video Friday: Thoughts from within May 30, 2008

Filed under: conserve, energy, environment, food, reduce, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

In case you missed it earlier…

(click the picture to start the video)

woody

 

Video Friday: Garbage Island part 3 May 9, 2008

Filed under: conserve, education, environment, water — terra @ 7:00 am

This one has some good dialogue.

plastic

Check out the Garbage Island, and the other quality shows on VBS.

 

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.

 

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

 

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.

 

Earth Hour March 29, 2008

Filed under: conserve, energy, local — terra @ 12:51 pm

Join Earth Hour and turn off your lights from 8-9 pm in your local timezone. Light some candles and celebrate the earth tonight!

 

Rain barrel Workshops March 24, 2008

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

IMG_7811The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is having 3 rain barrel workshops in April.

If I had to choose my favorite “gardening” thing, it would be my rain barrel (with my reel mower being a close 2nd). Rain barrels gather rain from your roof and store it so you can use rainwater to water your lawn and garden. It saves your water bill, saves the city water plant, and helps your plants. Grass and plants don’t need cold, treated water. They love rainwater! So, head up to Shaker Lakes and build your own rain barrel. You can have a lush, green, healthy lawn all summer.

April 5th from 10-noon
April 27th from 12-2 and 3-5