terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

2008 Year of the Frog March 19, 2008

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

I know that 2008 is supposedly the year of the rat. But, thousands of scientists world-wide have declared 2008 the year of the frog. Why? Here are a few reasons, from the Amphibian Ark website.

1. Amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace faster that anything we have experienced.
2. Nearly one third of all amphibian species are threatened.
3. Many people do not know that amphibians are declining and how threatened they are.
4. Amphibians are indicators of environmental health, important components of ecosystems.
6. Amphibians are suitable for captive breeding programs and if every zoo in the world rescues one species, the goal can be achieved.
7. This is a unique challenge to prove that zoos and aquariums and botanical gardens are valid conservation partners. Zoos in particular play an important role in providing ex-situ breeding grounds for immediate conservation action

Amphibians are an important component of the global ecosystem, as indicators of environmental health and contributors to human health. They watched the dinosaurs come and go, but today almost half of them are themselves threatened with extinction. Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity.

Visit Amphibian Ark to learn more about frogs, or to find fun activities, sign a petition, watch Jeff Corwin’s “thank you” to science teachers, or buy a calendar for $5.

Click here to watch the Panamanian Golden Frog wave goodbye. This frog is now extinct.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day March 17, 2008

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

Oil for ape scandal - report imagesLooking for something fun and out-of-the-ordinary to do on St. Patrick’s Day, besides drinking green beer?

Here’s an idea from Planet Greenadopt an orangutan! Orangutans are truly beautiful apes that live in SE Asia, and we share 96.4% of our DNA with them. Their habitat is threatened by clear cutting and other sprawl. One reason their rain forests are being destroyed is to plant palm plantations for use in food, etc. A Girl Scout troop in Texas learned that palm oil is used in Girl Scout Cookies, so they are petitioning to have palm oil removed and replaced by something that doesn’t destroy habitat. Good job, Girls!

Orangutan Outreach can help you adopt an orangutan.

On Friday nights at 9 pm ET, check out Orangutan Island on Animal Planet.


Can it! March 10, 2008

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

As we’ve transitioned from cans to bottles for beverages, consumption and thus disposal of plastic has increased. Where does all that plastic go? It doesn’t biodegrade… ever.

Except for the small amount that’s been incinerated – and that’s a very small amount – every bit of plastic ever made still exists.Best Life Magazine

The plastic ends up in the ocean. I’ve touched on this before – the floating continent of garbage. There are two of them. One is near Japan, the other near Hawaii. Twice the size of Texas. To prove it, an Oceanic Research Vessel Alguita set out to find the plastic continent and document it. Here is their video:

What can we do? Stop using plastic! Just stop. Don’t buy disposable, single-serve containers. Don’t buy bottled water. You don’t need to put your produce in a plastic bag. Just put it in your cart. You’re going to wash it when you get home anyway. Use reusable grocery bags.

Choose glass, cans, reusables, less packaging, and fresh, local food. We won’t be here forever, but our plastic will be. Glass, metal, and paper are the only things that can be truly recycled. If you have to buy pop, buy cans, and then recycle them.

When you throw something away, ask yourself where it goes. And then where does it go after that? And then where? We have to get back to a culture that emphasizes personal responsibility. When we buy something, we are responsible for it.

Please read Plastic Ocean in Best Life Magazine. You will learn about your health, your children’s health, and the health of our oceans. It’s an interesting article about a sea captain and his discovery.


Waste less at the grocery store March 3, 2008

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

Real Simple has come up with 8 ways to cut waste when grocery shopping. Keep these things in mind to save money, and the environment:

1. Skip single-serving items.

2. Purchase juice concentrates.

3. Avoid disposable goods.

4. Use your own canvas or string bags.

5. Use produce bags only for moist or small, loose items, such as lettuce and berries.

6. When possible, purchase goods in cans or glass instead of plastic containers. Glass can be recycled indefinitely.

7. Look for multipurpose cleaners instead of buying one for each kind of surface. Or, make your own.

8. Close the loop. Purchase products that have been recycled and can be recycled by you.


Extra Day to be Green February 27, 2008

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

This is a leap year, which means we have an extra day to do something for the planet! This Feb 29, do something easy to reduce your impact. The Big Green Switch has these suggestions:

1. Installing low-energy light bulbs in your home
2. Planting a tree
3. Draught-proofing any breezy windows, doors, or letterboxes in your home
4. Cancelling your junk mail
5. Starting a compost heap in your garden
6. Switching your energy supply to a green energy option
7. Enquiring about getting cavity wall or loft insulation installed
8. Giving your car a service and check your tire pressure
9. Working from home to cut out your commuting emissions


Share the love on Valentines Day February 5, 2008

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

I’d like to share some Valentine’s Day gift ideas with you. Thanks to Annie’s V-Day 101 post for the reminder that Valentine’s Day is coming up.

If you must buy flowers, look for Organic flowers. It seems like everything “has to” be organic these days, but this is not only for your benefit, but for the workers’ as well. Most flowers we buy in the US come from South America, where 20% of the flowers are picked by children. To preserve our flowers and keep them pretty, they’re soaked with pesticides, which the children breathe while they work (and while their lungs are developing). Many of the pesticides used are banned in the US, and 2/3rds of the workers in Columbia and Ecuador have pesticide-related health problems.

Trader Joe’s and Safeway (west coast) sell flowers from VeriFlora, which are sustainably grown. Another good idea is to buy flowers grown organically in the US. You’ll help a local farmer, and show your loved one that you care about the planet too.

Be original

Get your sweetie something they will really enjoy. The New American Dream has suggestions for making a meaningful holiday, while living within your means. Here are a few of their ideas:

  • Give fruit, or dates!
  • Go to a community theatre, or something community. Cook a homemade dinner before.
  • Stroll through a botanical garden.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt for your sweetie to find special treats at each location, or reminder her/him of special days in your history.
  • Give something that will help someone else. Adopt a manatee, provide clean water for Sudanese refugees. Include a home-made card to show how your loved one inspires you …
  • Make a mixed cd. This oldie-bu-goodie still works. It’s so special, and can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Share the love with the planet and your fellow citizens too.


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.


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.


Helping People Help Themselves December 19, 2007

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

Many poor people find it difficult to survive the winter months because of high heating costs, and limited incomes that don’t cover the rise in energy prices. To combat this, Friends of the Earth and Enbridge in Canada have created “greenboxes” to distribute at food kitchens. The greenboxes contain:

  • foam draft sealers for light switches and electrical boxes
  • window film kits
  • foam window tape
  • two rolls of weatherstripping
  • two CFLs
  • applications for other programs that supply thermostats, aerators and showerheads.

This program helps people reduce their energy consumption AND helps them save money by reducing their energy waste. If they implement these improvements, they will see drastic reductions in their gas bills, and they’ll be warmer throughout the winter.
In Akron/Canton, we often read about house fires caused by candles. Most of these tragedies are due to the fact that people can’t afford to heat their homes because of the rising cost of gas, so they use candles, which lead to fires. I hope our region thinks outside the box and considers providing such a valuable service to people in need.

Enbridge, the founding sponsor of the greenboxes, is a gas company in Canada. Social responsibility benefits everyone.


Scrapile December 10, 2007

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

Scrapile is a small business in New York City, and they’re an example of “entrepreneurs for sustainability.” From their site:

SCRAPILE is the collaborative work of designers Bart Bettencourt and Carlos Salgado. Seeking to create a positive environmental impact with their work, these two have developed a unique method of collecting and repurposing discarded scraps of wood from New York’s woodworking industry. Since it’s conception in Fall 2003, this project has continued to yield an ever-evolving line of furniture and product which by its very nature insists each piece be one of a kind.

They collect wood scraps and refurnish them into beautiful pieces of furniture. Each piece has character and quality.

Check out videos of Scrapile and other sustainable furnishings at Sundance Channel – The Green: Furnish.


Try a Tankless Water Heater December 6, 2007

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

hot waterDid you know that your water heater tank uses at least 15% of your home’s energy? That’s because the water is heated throughout the day and night, whether you’re using the water or not.

Hot water is probably essential for 2 hours in the morning, and 4 hours in the evening. Not 24 hours a day. And, with a tank, it is possible to run out of hot water if you have a lot of guests.

There are many options for reducing the energy needed to provide your home with hot water, and make your system more efficient, while providing all the hot water you need. If your water tank is more than 12 years old, you may consider replacing it with a new tank, or look into some of this new technology. (You can tell the year by looking at the last 2 digits of the serial #)

Storage Tank
This is the conventional method. Most homes have a water tank. This is the least efficient and practical way to store/generate hot water. The hot water tank requires the water to be constantly heated and stored, whether used or not. Newer models are slightly better at holding heat. If you have a storage tank, consider using low-flow faucets and showers to conserve your water, and wrap your tank and pipes in insulation to preserve as much of the heat as possible.

Demand or Instantaneous Water Heater
Water is heated on demand, reducing the need for a tank, and reducing energy consumption by 20-30%. This system is ideal for a natural gas-heated system. Choose one with an electronic ignition, so you don’t need a continuously burning gas pilot light. Home Depot has these starting at $600. That’s a little pricey, but the savings will add up and it will pay for itself over time.

Heat-pump Water Heater
Uses the surrounding air to heat the water. It offers savings of up to $200 per year, but with a high initial cost. This system has the added benefit of dehumidifying humid areas, and keeping the air cool, because it is consuming warm air.

Check out Flex Your Power for more options, including a Solar Water Heater, and tips about choosing an energy-efficient water heater.


Carbon neutral – Yahoo! November 29, 2007

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

Yahoo! has announced plans to operate carbon neutral. They will reduce their impact on the planet as much as possible, and offset the rest by investing in EcoSecurities and CantorCO2e. The cost of their offset is $2 million, a drop in the bucket of their $6.7 billion revenue.

They have also pledged to be transparent about the process.

I hope Yahoo!’s example will spread to its many partners, and other successful businesses. (I’ll write more about Google later)