terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

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!)


Bioneers: Van Jones January 8, 2008

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

Speaker Van Jones was by far the inspiration of the convention. Sorry I haven’t summarized his speech for you. I hope these ideas inspire you. Look up Van Jones on Blackle to find video of some of his thoughts and speeches.

Van Jones co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which is committed to lowering the over-arrest of young minorities with programs like “Books not Bars” and “Green for All.” Jones has discovered that…

if the U.S. accelerated the transition to a cleaner economy, millions of jobs in green construction and alternative energy could be created.

Jones issues a moral challenge to the green movement. As we move from the margin to the center, who will we bring with us? He wants the “green tide” to lift all boats. There are plenty of jobs available in the renewable energy industry, and those jobs can’t be outsourced. We need people to create and install solar panels, build solar-thermal plants, create community gardens. The possibilities are endless.

“When we bring together the best of the business community and the best of the tech community and the best of the racial-justice community, we’ll get the coalition we always wanted.” Even better, he adds, “we’ll get the country we always wanted.” -Time

The Fourth Quadrant

Jones has created a green matrix, which suggests that there are 4 ways to discuss energy and economy. The gray conversation is all about the problems. Rich people care about polar bears, rain forests, etc. Poor people couldn’t care less if you came to talk to them about the sad shape the planet is in when their kid has asthma and they need to put food on the table. The green conversation is about solutions – renewable energy, jobs. His example of the quadrant is below. The green solution for the rich is solar panels, Prius’, etc. The green solution for the poor is community gardens, the People’s Grocery, and green jobs.


Who is right? Everyone, says Jones. We all have concerns and solutions, but the challenge is to include everyone in our green solution. Places like the People’s Grocery in Oakland deliver the benefits of a green economy to everyone. People have good, healthy food, jobs, and the environment benefits as well. Green jobs will stimulate the economy, elevate the poor, and help the planet.

Sustainable South Bronx / Green Jobs

Green collar jobs have been created in the South Bronx, for example, to teach a young person to install solar panels, or weatherize a building, etc. We can’t outsource those jobs. If we can get young people into the green economy, they can be managers in a few years. They can invest in their community. They can teach others. They can create positive change for the future.

“In a green economy, you don’t count what you spend – you count what you save.” – Van Jones’ Congressional testimony. We have the opportunity to save young lives, the soul of the US.

My favorite statement by Van Jones about polar bears: “We don’t have the right to push them to extinction.”


De-ice with beet juice December 4, 2007

Filed under: alternative, environment, local — terra @ 7:00 am

Several cities in Ohio, including Akron, have found a more natural solution to icy roads: beet juice. Summit County will begin de-icing roads using a beet juice-brine concoction. It doesn’t corrode the streets, and won’t cause the same damage that calcium-chloride causes. The beet mixture is more economical than the calcium-chloride alone because it only requires one application, not three. We may also see less rust on cars.

Beet juice can also be added to calcium-chloride to increase the effectiveness of calcium-chloride. The beet de-icer, called Geomelt, has been used in several Midwest states, saving money and providing a “green” solution. Columbus is trying it too.

Don’t worry about the animals … the sugar has been extracted from the beet juice, so it won’t attract animals. Maybe this winter my dog won’t get so many hot spots! Last winter was rough on her feet because of all the chemicals dumped on the roads. I hope this will be better for the environment, our roads, and our cars (this beet juice doesn’t stain). Amazing things can be achieved by looking to nature for solutions.


Google is becoming a Green Leader December 1, 2007

Filed under: education, energy, environment, social consciousness — terra @ 8:10 am

googleGoogle has announced its plan to make renewable energy that’s cheaper than coal with their new project, RE>C. They will invest in solar thermal power, wind power, and geothermal plants. This is very exciting, as Google could end up investing more money than our federal government on renewable energy. They’ve proven to have a successful business model, and it’s nice to see them using their resources for the greater good. Check out Google.org for more of their good deeds.

Their plan for renewable energy also promises to create more jobs, as technology is developed and implemented. They will hire engineers, researchers, and energy experts to develop power from natural, renewable sources.

They will do this in years, not decades.

Coal is the primary power source for many around the world, supplying 40% of the world’s electricity. The greenhouse gases it produces are one of our greatest environmental challenges. Making electricity produced from renewable energy cheaper than coal would be a key part of reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Cheap renewable energy is not only critical for the environment but also vital for economic development in many places where there is limited affordable energy of any kind,” added Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder and President of Technology.

This is an example of corporate social responsibility at its best.

Google Earth can now show you air pollution in 3-D. You can also see Fair Trade farms/regions, and many other “Global Awareness” factors.


How to help with the San Francisco Oil Spill November 12, 2007

Filed under: environment — terra @ 8:33 pm

spillIf news of yet another oil spill breaks your heart, like it does mine, here are a few organizations you can support. Unfortunately, they aren’t taking volunteers because oil is so dangerous (which is why we all drive around with it every day). The San Francisco oil spill is larger than the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska. It’s shameful that this keeps happening. Along with supporting these organizations, let’s encourage the media to keep this story in the headlines. We can’t keep ignoring the effects of oil on our environment. This spill, along with the spill in Russia demonstrate how harmful oil is to our planet. Not just birds, but people too.


International Bird rescue Research Center

UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network

-about.com how to help


Green Week November 7, 2007

Filed under: alternative, environment, local, social consciousness — terra @ 12:48 pm

NBC Universal is celebrating Green Week by featuring some “green” aspect in all of their shows, and other media outlets. Check out Green is Universal for some tips on greening your life, and what your favorite shows are doing to highlight the environment this week.

My new favorite channel is Sundance. I think we’re getting is a a “preview,” so it will disappear from my tv soon, but in the meantime, I’ve enjoyed “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” a documentary on “mom & pop shops” last night, and other thought-provoking tv shows and movies. It’s good that “green” ideas are creeping into entertainment, where they could have far-reaching effects. People spend a lot of time watching tv, and if they can learn a little bit about helping the environment, that’s great.

Take a few minutes out of your day for a fun little game called “Build your green home.” You can choose all the alternative energy sources you want to build a home for $100,000.

NBC’s Green is Universal site is getting their tips from Ideal Bite, a site I visit regularly. Today’s tip is to cut expenses (and production) by sharing big-ticket items with your neighbors. Does everyone in the neighborhood really need a lawn mower? Probably not. What happened to sharing? We can learn a lot from our neighbors, and cut production and energy consumption literally in half by sharing with just one other person. In my neighborhood, one guy mows 3 people’s lawns (older ladies) with his riding mower, and I learned about my reel push mower from my neighbors. It not only brings about a sense of community, but it saves a lot of energy, so talk to you neighbor… Share your extra-long ladder, your snow-blower, or your hedge trimmer.


2 Upcoming Events October 30, 2007

Filed under: education, environment, local — terra @ 4:24 pm

Step it Up
Nov 3
1-3 p.m.
209 S High St (Downtown Akron)
More Info
This is a nationwide effort to let politicians know we care about the environment, and they need to pay attention.

Check the Step It Up home page to learn about the movement and to find a location near you.

Saving Biodiversity in a Warmer World
Nov 16
7:30-9:30 p.m.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
More info

A discussion on the current biological extinction and how we can improve it.


Wind Turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center October 29, 2007

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

IMG_6990On Friday afternoon, at the Bioneers Conference, we visited the wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center. They also have solar panels and a green roof for their parking garage!

The wind turbine will generate power at 8 mph, and reach its peak power output at 31 mph, at which time it will provide 225 kwh of power. This isn’t a lot, because the turbine isn’t in the optimal position.
To generate the most power, it would need to be in the lake! But then, people wouldn’t see it, and it wouldn’t serve the dual purpose it serves now – generating power and educating people about renewable energy.

One concern with wind turbines is the effect on birds. The GLSC has been conducting a study, and haven’t found a large number of birds killed by the turbine. Many more are killed by flying into the windows of city buildings (thousands every year).

Cleveland Public Art partnered with the GLSC to make the turbine and surrounding area a piece of art for the city of Cleveland. They decided to clear the lawn surrounding the turbine. The goal of the GLSC was to have the turbine be accessible to the public, so Cleveland Public Art created a unique sidewalk, made by tracing the shadow of the turbine during the summer equinox. It’s a very graceful piece that connects the GLSC to the turbine, and further highlights the beauty of renewable energy.


Bioneers week: Intro October 22, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, education, environment, government, local, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

The Bioneers conference this weekend was truly inspiring. I learned enough to share some revolutionary ideas with you for a long time. Throughout the week, and maybe longer, I’ll summarize the things I’ve learned and what we can do. I didn’t get any “rain barrel” type suggestions for things I can do at home. Bioneers is about restoring the earth, communities, and individuals, using a different mindset through which to consider things.

Nancy King Smith, the chairperson of the Cleveland Bioneers, began the conference. She reminded us that Bioneers are about solutions, and the change from fear to hope. There were 4,000 attendees in California, and 18 beaming sites. In Cleveland, we had visitors from Canada and the Bahamas, and throughout Ohio.

Cleveland Mayor Jackson was the first to speak, and he pointed out that there is no separation between humans and the environment. As Mayor, he tries to make decisions with that notion in mind. Mayor Jackson supports sustainability, and he has signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to advance the goals of the Kyoto treaty.

Andrew Watterson is the Sustainability Program Manager for Cleveland, and he spoke second. He pointed out the goal of Cleveland is to have lower utility costs to help the city’s residents. As Sustainability Program Manager, he is focused on green affordable housing, consistent with the triple bottom line: economic, environmental, and community sustainability. He spoke about the City Fresh program, which allows urban youth to take part in community gardens, where they can grow their own vegetables and sell them at markets. (more on community gardens later!) He mentioned the importance to lead by example, and it seems that Cleveland’s leadership is taking steps in the right direction when it comes to the triple bottom line. Cleveland’s operational efficiency task force is focused on improving service and efficiency. Since automating recycling, Cleveland’s recycling program has increased from 6.9% participation in 2005 to 9.6% in 2007. That small increase has saved 22,000 tons of waste that was destined for a landfill.

Bioneers is beyond sustainability, and seeks to restore the planet.

Media Update: The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a nice article about the conference.


Bioneers This Weekend October 18, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, conserve, education, environment, local, social consciousness — terra @ 7:34 am

If you live in NE Ohio, I hope you will consider attending at least one day of the Bioneers Conference in Cleveland. It’s Friday through Sunday, at Cleveland State University. The costs are very reasonable, and the content promises to be exciting and educational.

Here are some other Bioneers sites, and what others have said about Bioneers:

Great Lakes Bioneers
The Northern Rockies Bioneers Conference is focusing on local food this year.
Marc from Green City Blue Lake summarizes the Cleveland schedule.
Robert F Kennedy Jr will be appearing at the MA Bioneers Conference for a Thursday night preview.
The New York Times discusses last year’s Bioneers Conference.

Here are all of the Beaming Bioneers Conferences, in case you don’t live in NE Ohio. See if there’s a conference near you.


Blog Action Day October 15, 2007

Filed under: environment, social consciousness — terra @ 12:10 pm

Today is Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world are focusing on one topic: the environment. I try to write about the environment, and ways to reduce your impact, every day, so I thought I’d highlight some ideas floating around the bloggosphere today:

The Butterfly Effect – “In plain language, tiny changes within a complex system lead to results that are impossible to predict.” This theory stems from the idea that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world could cause a huge storm in another part. Essentially, the Butterfly Effect would encourage us to be mindful of our actions, knowing that a small action, like throwing a gum wrapper on the ground, could have huge implications for our planet, if millions of people do the same thing. Read the post for some inspiring hypotheses on the effects of humans (butterflies) on Planet Earth.

Things you never thought to recycle. Items like car batteries, cell phones, iPods, cds, drywall, jeans, etc. The list goes on, with helpful details, at Dumb Little Man.

Adopt the Sky. Users can adopt a square mile of the sky, for free, and communicate with the EPA and others about the importance of each square mile of the sky. Great idea! (My piece of sky is over Oklahoma, where over 53,000 kids and over 150,000 adults have asthma.) Behance has a nice interview with the creators of Adopt the Sky.


Nature’s Design: Aerodynamics October 10, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, education, environment — terra @ 7:31 am

One element of Bioneers that I really appreciate is how they encourage us to ask questions. Instead of asking, “how can we make airplanes aerodynamic,” Bioneers would encourage us to ask “how does nature design aerodynamics.” It’s easier to look at something that has been done effectively for millions of years, than for us to try to create something new. There are no design recalls in nature. Sure, there are evolving improvements, but nature has a pretty good system worked out. Here’s a fun example:

whaleHumpback whales have bumps on their bodies and fins, which makes them more aerodynamic. Researchers have replicated this design to try to improve the aerodynamics and efficiency of airplanes. Wind tunnels tests have revealed that the bumpy flippers are more aerodynamic than anything the aeronautics industry has created. “Bump-ridged flippers do not stall as quickly and produce more lift and less drag than comparably sized sleek flippers.”

The sleek flipper performance was similar to a typical airplane wing. But the tubercle flipper exhibited nearly 8 percent better lift properties, and withstood stall at a 40 percent steeper wind angle. The team was particularly surprised to discover that the flipper with tubercles produced as much as 32 percent lower drag than the sleek flipper.

Airplanes with similar bumps would have greater maneuverability, smoother lift, and would be more efficient overall. This design could also be applied to helicopters, small airplanes, and ship rudders.

“The idea they improved flipper aerodynamics was so counter to our current doctrine of fluid dynamics, no one had ever analyzed them,” researcher Frank Fish said.

Scientists who study nature’s designs have access to information that has been time-tested and proven effective. I look forward to more inspiring ideas at the Bioneers conference next weekend (10/19 – 10/21).


Portugese Wave Farm October 9, 2007

Filed under: alternative, environment, reduce — terra @ 10:01 am

Portugal is building a wave farm to harness power from crashing waves, and convert it to electricity. They expect to use the wave farm to generate power for 2,000 homes.

Finavera in the US is also pursuing wave technology, and has some farms along the West Coast.

Ocean waves can provide a lot of energy, and while this technology needs to be researched further for its impact on the ocean ecosystems, it’s an option, and that’s what I like.


Cool and conserve with a green roof October 3, 2007

Filed under: conserve, energy, environment, garden — terra @ 7:06 am

green roofGreen roofs could be the new trend in home and city cooling. By green, I mean literally covering roofs and walls with vegetation. Sturdy roofs could be home to moss, turf, and even trees. Walls covered in ivy also help, but the key to coolness is the roof.

Green roofs and walls can cool local temperatures by between 3.6°C and 11.3°C, depending on the city, suggests their new study. (32.6°F – 52.3°F)

Greenery absorbs less heat, and it also cools the air by evaporating water. Green plants also absorb sound, so the noise pollution of traffic in large cities could also be resolved.

Another benefit is less energy use because the natural cooling environment requires less air conditioning in the areas of the building that are covered with the green roof. This idea was tested in cities around the world, and researchers predict that in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for example, air conditioning use would go from 12 hours to 5 hours per day.

NASA cites a 2003 study on the effects of green roofs, which found them to drastically lower temperatures (by 50°F or more). They compared white surfaces to green, and found that white roofs still trap heat, and that green surfaces were much cooler. Green roofs also absorb more rainwater than regular roofs, thus reducing the workload of water treatment plants. They also found that green roofs leak less than regular roofs (I would like it if my roof didn’t leak!).

What about winter? Researchers in Canada have found some extra benefits of a green roof for winter energy savings as well. Buildings with green roofs saved 10% on energy used to heat the building. They protect heat from escaping, and reduce the impact of wind on the building.

Green roofs have plenty of environmental and financial benefits, and they look nice too!

(more photos)