terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

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


Plantable Paper April 28, 2008

Filed under: garden, gifts — terra @ 7:00 am

cardsMost people save greeting cards because they treasure the gesture behind them. RecycledIdeas has created greeting cards that you can plant in your garden! These greeting cards are really special because you can plant them in your garden, and remember the sentiment every time you smell the flowers! They will grow all sorts of beautiful flowers or herbs. There is a whole range of sprouting paper products at her Etsy store.

If you need something more professional, check out these Sprouting Business Cards.


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!


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…


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 pt. 2 March 31, 2008

Filed under: garden, local — terra @ 7:00 am

I gave some spring garden tips a few weeks ago, but I forgot to mention these posts. I’ve shared a few of them in the past, but I thought they were worth revisiting.

Reel Mower

We love our reel mower because it’s quiet, smells good, and I can actually use it. We have a nice sized yard, but I can’t work a regular lawn mower – it’s too hard to start! Our reel mower is light, and so easy to use. The whirring sound of the blades is kind of hypnotic. I saw two last year at yard sales, or you could get one at your local hardware store.

Pop Bottle Irrigation

To provide a good flow of water to your plants, you can set up pop bottle irrigation. I’m sure most of us have stopped drinking bottled water by now, after learning how bad it is for our health and the planet (not to mention it costs more than gas!). If you don’t have a pop bottle, just head down to your local park or river. Water bottles are everywhere!

Peat Pellets

Instead of starting your seed with peat pellets, find a renewable source, like compost or odor-free manure. Ancient peat bogs are mined to make peat, and the process is destroying this old habitat. The good news is that peat isn’t necessary, and it’s often not the best choice anyway. Look for

tree bark, cocoa shells, shredded prunings, straw, and mushroom compost serve the same purpose, without drying out and blowing away, which peat often does. In terms of soil improvement, animal manure, leaf mold, and compost are just as effective, if not better, since peat has little nutrient value.

Once again, composting is a great alternative, and the best way to get happy, healthy plants.

Rain Garden

Rain gardens are a fantastic way to absorb rain water and have a beautiful garden at the same time. Wikipedia offers a great definition. Remember to use native plants for the most benefit. Rain Gardens of West Michigan is a wonderful resource for how to start your rain garden, suggestions for what to plant and other valuable ideas.

Rain Barrels

Have I mentioned rain barrels? :) There are a few workshops at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, or you could buy one online. You could even make it yourself with this fantastic Instructable! Michelle at Instructables shows us how to stack two barrels, wrap some chicken wire around them, and plant vines for a beautiful Green Rainwater system.


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.


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.


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


Veggie Wash February 26, 2008

Filed under: cleaning, food, garden — terra @ 7:00 am

If you feel like you need to wash your veggies in more than just water, try this recipe from Planet Green:

DIY Veggie Wash

1 tbs organic lemon juice
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
2 tbs baking soda
1 cup filtered water
3/4 cup white vinegar

1. Mix well in a sprayer bottle.

2. Shake before use.

3. Spray produce (except mushrooms, because they absorb and retain water) and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

4. Rinse well


Community Gardens October 30, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, garden, local, organic, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

IMG_7013Friday, after the conference, I drove around West Cleveland a little, before enjoying a wonderful tour of Great Lakes Brewing Company. I stumbled upon this amazing community garden in the middle of a neighborhood. I decided to go inside and ask the people about their garden.

This garden has been in here since the 1940’s, when mayors granted a piece of land to be used as a community garden. They were called Mayor’s Gardens. This one changed it’s name to the Kentucky Garden, because the school across the street is the Kentucky Elementary School.

People can “rent” a plot of land for $5 a year. The city provides the annuals. After you’ve owned your plot for a year, you can plant perennials. Most people plant vegetables. There are no pesticides, so the garden is essentially organic. Compost is created on-site for people to use as mulch. Even chickens live here!

IMG_7018In the front are 7 boxes, raised off the ground for elderly people from a nearby nursing home to use. They go there every day, and they always have vegetables or flowers. The people I was talking to said that one guy comes and waters a box, and then another person comes and waters the same box. They have good intentions! It’s nice that their gardens are raised so that they can enjoy the garden without having to get down on the ground.

There are several community gardens in Cleveland, but they don’t get enough publicity, so they’re not used. This one was in a lower-income area of town, but I doubt if it’s used by those people to grow fresh vegetables for their family. I hope that as people notice the ill-effects of fast food and carbs, they will start to use their local community garden. It was such a refreshing oasis in the city, and stumbling upon it was one highlight of the Bioneers Conference weekend for me, even though it wasn’t on the agenda.

Update: The Kentucky Garden has a webpage!


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)


Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation – something nice to do with plastic bottles September 30, 2007

Filed under: garden, reuse — terra @ 8:14 am

irrigationNow that you’re not wasting money and water on bottled water, here’s a fun thing you can do with all those bottles. Make a Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation System for your plants!

Tools needed:

2 liter plastic bottle, with lid, washed
drill and drill bit
sharp knife
cutting surface

Drill 4-8 holes in the lid. Small holes for a slow drip. Not too small – you don’t want to get them blocked by debris. Cut the bottom of the bottle off, using the knife.

Dig a hole near the plants you want to water. Bury 1/3 – 1/2 of the bottle in the hole with the cap in the dirt (open side up).

Now, pour water in it, and presto – an irrigation system for your plants.

Even better – fill your bottle irrigation with rain barrel water!

- You Grow Girl 


Fall Cleaning September 19, 2007

Filed under: energy, garden — terra @ 1:56 am

I can’t believe I haven’t written about my favorite yard tool – my push reel mower! My neighbor has one, and it’s so quiet and odor-free that I had to try it. I fell in love instantly. The whirring sound of the blades is actually kind of comforting.

reelThis mower is so easy to use, even I can use it. When we brought it home, and to this day, my husband and I almost fight over who gets to mow the lawn. I’m not kidding! It goes like this… “I’ll do it.” “No, that’s ok. I can mow it.” “No really, you go inside. I’ll mow the lawn.” Finally we agree to split and each mow half. We’ve even had neighbors come over and ask if they can push it around, and they reminisce about the good old days.

Once you try one, you’ll never want to crank up the gas mower again. The smell of gas and grass is not pleasant, and it’s useless energy consumption. The reel mower is so much more fun, energy conscious, good-smelling, and easy. Give it a try.

After searching the internet and garage sales for a used one, we went to Sears Hardware and bought one for less than $100. Do a little fall cleaning and push that gas mower to the curb or the thrift store.


Root Cellars September 3, 2007

Filed under: alternative, food, garden — terra @ 2:09 pm

Root cellars used to be part of every home. They are a good way to use the natural ground temperature to store fruits and vegetables. You can bury your cellar two feet underground to take advantage of the earth’s cool temperatures. Root cellars also need humidity and air circulation so your produce doesn’t spoil.

Root cellars used to be built into hillsides or mounds. They were essentially a walk-in natural freezer. I like the garbage can root cellar. It’s a simple way to store enough vegetables to get you through a season.

If you dig a square hole, you can use pallets for circulation and stability. You could also recycle an old refrigerator into a root cellar, provided you give it some good ventilation. There are plenty of old materials and ways to make a root cellar. Check out Earth House for inspiration. Ehow also breaks it down nicely in 8 steps, using an old fridge or freezer.

One way to reduce your impact on the planet is to follow the 100 mile diet, eating foods within 100 miles of your home. The most difficult part of this would probably be the seasonality of fruits and vegetables. A root cellar is a great way to have local vegetables year-round. Another use of root cellars is for disaster prevention. In the event of a disaster, a root cellar and a well-stocked pantry could provide months of food.

Links: This site has a good explanation of root cellars. Here’s a little of the history and usage of root cellars. Some approximate storage times can be found at the bottom of this page.

(Thanks to billygoat for the topic suggestion. I hope this helps.)


The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out August 21, 2007

Filed under: garden, organic, pets — terra @ 7:18 pm

wormsWe have recently discovered the benefits of composting. I had been thinking about it for a while – every time I threw a banana peel into the garbage -there’s got to be a better use for this. So, we looked more into it at the Burning River Fest. The people from The New Agrarian Center were very helpful, as was the guy from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Both are master composters.

Here’s what we did – it’s pretty simple. We bought a storage container (a big Rubbermaid one), some mesh screen, organic dirt, and 1,000 red worms. Drilled holes in the container – worms need to breathe air – and filled it with 6 inches of organic dirt and wet strips of newspaper and computer paper. This bedding is supposed to be moist, not dripping wet. The compost bin was set up in the basement, to avoid smell and dog curiosity, and so it could be bigger than under-the-sink. We left the light on for the first week to discourage the worms from escaping. Next, we collected all of our food scraps – banana peels, strawberry tops, bell pepper cores, onion peels, coffee grounds, etc. – and buried them under 2 inches of bedding. Now the worms take over. We’re supposed to put the food in a different place each time and add new bedding every 2 months. (Don’t put meat in your compost – it’ll attract rodents)

What’s the benefit of having a pound of red worms chewing up your food? Well, the whole process creates worm castings, which is this magical organic fertilizer that you can use in your garden. Essentially, it’s natural recycling. We eat the food, feed it to the worms, they turn it into fertilizer that we’ll use to grow herbs, which we’ll eat in the spring. Aside from the initial set-up, it doesn’t take a lot of work to maintain, and in about 4-6 months we’ll have some pretty awesome soil for our garden.

Wikipedia does a good job of describing vermicomposting, or you can Blackle it. Worms Eat My Garbage is supposedly the definitive composting guide. The Village Green does outdoor composting, which is an excellent way to get rid of weeds and fallen leaves. If you do start a compost bin, don’t dump your worms in the garden – red worms are not native to North America, and are an invasive species, which can threaten other earthworms.

(Here’s the rest of the worm song)


Japanese Beetles August 8, 2007

Filed under: environment, garden — terra @ 12:07 am

Many of us have the Japanese beetle plague. They’re attracted to roses, and go on to consume our flowers and trees. So, how do we get rid of these nasty creatures? I’ve searched for some natural remedies, and this is what I came up with:

  • They arrived here by boat. In Japan, they aren’t a problem because they have natural predators that don’t exist here.
  • They’re here to stay. We can’t kill them all, so we have to find a way to avoid them.
  • Japanese beetles are originally grubs. So, you could start by getting rid of grubs.
  • “Beneficial nematodes, insect-eating nematodes, microscopic parasitic roundworms, seek out grubs in the soil.” Milky spores also target grubs. – source

Some solutions:

  • Plant greenery that Japanese beetles don’t like (list here)
  • Don’t plant things they do like (roses, Japanese Maples, etc)
  • Plant a lot of garlic – Mother Earth News
    (Garlic will ward off many predators, and is also great for cooking)
  • Make a spray out of garlic and water. Let the garlic soak, and then spray the bugs. If you need it a little stronger, add cayenne pepper
  • White-flowering geraniums and zinnias are also good. Yarrow also repels bugs, and can help other plants grow
  • Consider an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. “IPM uses biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls to keep pest populations below levels that cause economic damage.”
  • Use traps (the bags they sell at Lowe’s, etc). They attract more beetles, but most will end up in the trap. Change it frequently because they start to smell bad.
  • Plant catnip near roses to repel Japanese beetles (this is my plan for next year – lots of catnip and garlic)
  • More ideas and list of plants here.

Good luck!