terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

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!

 

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.

 

Biomimicry gets big attention April 10, 2008

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

I first learned about Biomimicry through Bioneers. It’s a concept you can’t help getting excited about. Essentially, biomimicry means looking at how nature designs something, and using those designs to improve efficiency, etc. Nature doesn’t have recalls. Everything in nature has a purpose, and was designed to be the best at whatever it does.

Recently, companies have taken an interest in biomimicry as they seek to design sustainable products and improve production. Nature has already designed things that fly quickly through the air, or filter water, or stick together like glue. When we don’t look to nature for inspiration, we are reinventing the wheel, which isn’t productive or profitable. So, many companies are consulting Janine Benyus for advice on where in nature to look, and how to create more sustainable products. Janine Benyus of Bioneers has written 6 books, including Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Check out the Biomimicry Institute.

Her clients include “General Electric (GE), Hewlett-Packard, and NASA. … In 2005, Ford’s Volvo Div. developed an anti-collision system based on the way locusts swarm without crashing into one another.” Companies are able to contact the Biomimicry Guild, and talk to a team of scientists to discover “what would nature do.” They are not only making their products more sustainable, but their businesses as well, going from producing toxins to becoming a waste-free business. They’re saving money and the environment at the same time.

Update: Biomimicry in National Geographic. Don’t miss the photo gallery!

 

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!

 

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!

 

Carbon Offsetting March 21, 2008

Filed under: energy — terra @ 7:00 am

I’m going out of town for a week. My husband and I are flying to Europe to visit my friend and see the world! I have thought about it, and decided to offset the emissions that we create on our trip. Carbon offsetting means that we will contribute some money based on our consumption to offset the emissions.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about carbon offsetting. Like recycling, it allows us to consume more or create more emissions because “I’ll just recycle” or “offset my carbons.” The other reason I don’t like carbon offsetting is because we don’t have choices – we don’t have renewable energy. If I could choose a cleaner airplane, I would. Oddly enough, that brings me to why I have decided to offset the emissions of this trip, and all other flights I take.

Flying generates harmful emissions. So, I have chosen Carbonfund.org to offset my emissions for this trip. Carbonfund has 3 projects: Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Reforestation.

My “offset” contribution will go toward research and development of renewable energy. I want to see more energy choices, and I hope that my contribution will add to that ideal. It really doesn’t cost a lot to offset a trip to Europe.

If more people do it, perhaps some alternative fuel will emerge at prices regular consumers can afford. Next time to you take a trip, or if you don’t want to reduce your energy consumption, consider offsetting your carbons. There are many companies that can help you do this – just Google it.

While I’m gone, I’ll have a few posts about some exciting events in April. So, keep checking back. Also, if you comment, it will take while to be published, so I thank you for your patience.

 

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

 

Air-powered car coming to the US? February 25, 2008

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

aircarMDI, a 15-year old French company has invented a car that runs on compressed air. The Air Car will be distributed in the US starting in 2009 or 2010, and will cost approx $17,000. That’s about the same as a small or mid-sized gas car.

The car does require a small bit of gas to get the air-engine working, but it will go 95mph with a range of over 900 miles per tank.

If you can, imagine a vehicle that runs on air, achieves over 100 gas-equivalent mpg and over 90 mph, has zero to low C02 emissions, seats six, has plenty of space for luggage, cuts no safety corners, and costs no more than an average economy to mid-size vehicle.

These new, more energy-efficient cars are smaller, but they take safety seriously. It looks pretty cool too!

-EcoGeek

 

Give up carbon for Lent February 8, 2008

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

“Two senior Church of England Bishops have called on people to give up carbon rather than chocolate for Lent,” according to the Telegraph of London. Christians usually give up chocolate or sweets. These bishops are encouraging people to reduce their energy use, and see how easy it is to live carbon-less.

Here are some of their specific suggestions:

* avoiding plastic bags
* giving the dishwasher a day off
* insulating the hot water tank
* checking the house for drafts with a ribbon and buying draught excluders

Another great suggestion by the bishops is to remove one lightbulb from their home, and live without it for 40 days. Perhaps on Easter, they can replace it with a CFL. Replacing just one regular bulb with a CFL saves 60lbs of carbon per year.

This idea is part of a Tearfund initiative. Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency working with a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty.

Bishop James points out “It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change. To carry on regardless of their plight is to fly in the face of Christian teaching.”

(P.S. Another Valentine’s Day gift idea… pink reusable bags. Pink!)

I brought this back to the top because I think it’s a great idea. What light could you give up?

 

They don’t make ‘em like they used to January 11, 2008

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

honda_crx.03The 1988 Honda Civic CRX got 57 mpg! That’s better than any car on the road today, hybrids included. And it didn’t take any special research or new technology. It was just efficient. Plain and simple.

The ‘88 Civic had optional air conditioning, but a/c doesn’t account for a 30+ mpg loss of efficiency. By my estimations (through watching my gas mileage average), you lose less than 5 mpg by running the a/c. So why the change? Because Americans want more, more, more. (but they don’t want to pay more at the pump)

Honda says that a small car like the CRX wouldn’t stand up to today’s crash testing. However, the Smart car gets a 4 star crash test rating because of its more durable design. Check out this video of a smart crash. And a video of an ‘07 Civic. Neither look fun, but you can see that the Smart’s frame stays in shape. Small cars, with thoughtful design, can be safe.