terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Bikes

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.

Funding

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.

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…

 

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.

 

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.

 

Spring is Coming March 18, 2008

Filed under: environment, garden, organic, pets — terra @ 7:00 am

IMG_5147Spring is just around the corner – after all this snow melts! This week and next are the ideal time to start seedlings indoors, to transfer to their outside home in 6 weeks. We also have to plan for grass restoration and other gardening activities. Let’s prepare for those Japanese Beetles before they eat all our roses this year! Here are a few tips I’ve gathered throughout the winter.

Grass

The best way to grow and thicken your lawn is to aerate and overseed. NaturaLawn of America is a company that can help you grow a thick, beautiful lawn with no harsh chemicals. They use effective and safe organic products and Integrated Pest Management program to help you grow a healthier lawn, naturally. If your grass is thick, you are less likely to have a weed problem because there’s no room for weeds to grow. Natural approaches like this are better for kids and pets too.

Pest Control

Beneficial nematodes are microorganisms that live 7″ deep in the soil and they kill pests like fleas, grubs (Japanese beetles), several kinds of flies and worms, weevils, ticks, and wood borers.
Pettiti Gardens
in Ohio offers some organic spray pesticides, as I’m sure many local garden stores do. Pettiti was a featured presenter at the Akron Home and Garden Show a few weeks ago, and they did a nice presentation on the Green Stage, highlighting some organic ways to fertilize and control pests. I prefer methods that are safe for me, my pets, and the environment, and I’m glad there are so many options available. I’m going to stick with natural, spray-free remedies this spring and summer, and see how it goes.
Here’s the post about Japanese beetles from last summer. Since you can’t put nematodes in your neighbor’s yard (to prevent Japanese beetles), it might be a good idea to have some plants that repel Japanese beetles – see the post for links and more info.

Plant and Flower Fertilizer

This year, I’m going to grow herbs and hanging tomatoes. (Sadly, we can’t grow vegetables in our yard.) I hope you’re able to grow vegetables where you are. That’s the best local food you can get! If you’re planning to have a vegetable garden, you may want to start a compost pile for yard waste, newspapers, and other compostable materials. Composts produce the best organic fertilizer you can find. It makes your plants healthier and more productive. If you don’t want to compost, look for TerraCycle Plant Food (that’s the name, I’m serious!). They make “worm tea” that you can spray on your plants to give them a great organic fertilizer. No worms are harmed in the making of worm tea.

The company’s flagship product, TerraCycle Plant Food™, is an all-natural, all-organic, ‘goof-proof’ liquid plant food made from waste (worm poop) and packaged in waste (reused soda bottles)!

You should be able to find TerraCycle products at Target, WalMart, and Home Depot.

Water

Don’t forget rain barrels! They save water and rain water is better for your plants.

 

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.

 

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