terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Guest Post: Earth Day at Hoban High School April 23, 2008

Filed under: conserve, education, energy, local, reduce, solar — terra @ 11:00 am

Today’s Guest Post comes from Matt Bryant, science teacher at Archbishop Hoban High School. He has done several projects with his students to measure energy use at Hoban, and then come up with ways to reduce excess energy use. Hoban participated in Lights Out Akron. Here is their story:

On Tuesday (Earth Day) this week I witnessed an amazing occurrence where I teach. The students, faculty, and staff at Archbishop Hoban High turned off their lights! The students in our environmental science classes have been working hard these past two years beefing up our aluminum can recycling, paper recycling and now raising awareness of our energy use (dare I say “waste?!”). In conjunction with the Lights Out Akron campaign, http://www.lightsoutakron.org/, the environmental science students (along with their intrepid teacher Mrs. Mohan) proposed that the school not only turn off unnecessary lights during the 8-9AM hour suggested by the Lights Out Akron campaign, but for the entire day. Teachers and staff were encouraged to open window blinds and turn off the lights they didn’t need for the day.

The best part was that everyone participated! As I walked the halls this morning with a local print news reporter, I saw EVERY classroom with the lights off or dimmed—no exceptions! The main office, athletic office, guidance office, business office, and institutional advancement had their lights off or dimmed too! I was extremely impressed at how willing our staff and students were to do without the normal lights to simply raise awareness of energy use. It seems we are entering a time of increased understanding of the importance of conservation and young people seem to be willing to change. When a teenager pays $3.50 for a gallon of gasoline, they immediately realize conservation is important for their wallet. When a teenager sees everyone in their school acknowledging the importance of energy conservation, they just might turn off the lights the next time they leave their bedroom at home.

On a more personal note: The students’ goal was a simple one: raise awareness of how much energy we use unnecessarily. I for one try to do my part by recycling at home, driving a fuel efficient car, bicycling to work on nice days, and adjusting my thermostat appropriately, but I’m not very good with my lights. Oh I have CFLs in virtually every fixture, but I still turn on the lights by habit when I walk into a room and leave them on too much when I leave. I do the same thing when I teach. Tuesday was different. I, and other teachers, realized that if the window blinds are open we might not need all the overhead lights on. I got by most of the day with no lights at all and about one-third of the lights on later in the day as the Earth rotated and the sunlight changed. I learned a lesson on Tuesday, one I intend to use at work and at home.

What did you learn on Earth Day this year?

Media Update: Akron Beacon Journal Story Here


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.


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.


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.


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!


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…


Guest Post: Environmentally Friendly Skies April 10, 2008

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

Thanks to my husband for writing today’s post. I like to see the environmentally responsible activities in each city I travel to, so I asked him to make some observations while he visited Austin, TX.

While attending a conference in Austin, I was employed by my wife via cellphone. She asked me to uncover any “green” activity in environmentally friendly Austin.

solarDuring my short stay, I found myself preoccupied, unable to investigate much of anything. I knew my mission, but I was always a bit overwhelmed by the conference agenda, being pulled here and there, through talks and discussions. My wife’s request tapped me on the shoulder during the short breaks, and when the moments for “green” investigation presented itself, it seemed as though I was never in the right place. My only real find was on a drive down the interstate when we quickly passed a field of solar panels.

In the end, however, the destination to Austin didn’t provide the most interesting find. Rather, the Continental flight to Austin did. Now, I know there’s all this bashing of airlines and the canceling of flights ‘n all, but Continental really was the bright “green” find I was trying to locate. When the flight attendant shuffled her way down the miniature isle to bag all the trash, she made sure to place our plastic trays in a separate hand to ensure their recycled future. She even insisted that a colleague of mine hang on to the empty can of soda until the she could make her way back through with the recycling bag specifically for cans.

Wow. Impressive. Plastic and aluminum recycling. And so adamant about it. Such commitment definitely made a lasting impression on me. Sorry Austin, Continental wins this round.


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.


Local Akron Food Event April 1, 2008

Filed under: food, local — terra @ 7:30 am

Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) is presenting “Linking the Local Food Industry in Akron” at the Mustard Seed Market in Montrose on April 9th 5:30-8:30 pm.

Local food is so important to our health and the health of the planet. If you buy from a farmer, you can ask him/her how your food was grown. Many small farms grow organic food, but they don’t go through the process of becoming certified organic. The FDA’s rules are less and less strict about what can be put in food and still label it organic, so it’s nice to talk to the person who grows the food to find out how they grew it.

Local food also travels fewer miles, making it fresher, and generating less pollution.

Support local farmers and eat local food. You can learn more about Akron Local Food at the E4S event on April 9th.

Thanks to the Village Green for the head’s up!


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.


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!


Earth Day for the enviROOment March 27, 2008

Filed under: education, local — terra @ 12:00 am

The University of Akron is celebrating Earth Day on April 16th. This year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than last year’s. UA students will learn about how to preserve the enviROOment. (Another great slogan!)

Don’t miss the electric cars, solar panels, a solar stage, live music and art, speakers, and a green fair. Several fine organizations will be represented, including Green Energy Ohio, Great Lakes Brewing Company (promoting the Burning River Fest), Metro RTA, and Environmental Akron – UA’s student group committed to the environment.

April 16th 10-3
Student Union


Metro Parks Earth Day March 26, 2008

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

The Metro Parks Serving Summit County is having an Earth Day Celebration with a hike and other earth-valuing activities.

The event offers you a chance to recycle items you hadn’t previously thought about… batteries, cell phones, computers, VCRs and radios, infant car seats, phone books, etc. The first 100 families who bring a recyclable item will receive a reusable shopping bag.

Learn about hiking and “Leave No Trace” practices and then hike through the park.

April 22nd, 5-7 pm
Firestone/Coventry Parks


Who’s Your Mama March 25, 2008

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

Kent’s Earth Day festival has perhaps the best slogan ever – “Who’s Your Mama?”

Who’s Your Mama takes place April 16 – 20 in downtown Kent. This action-packed Earth Day event features a block party,  films, fashion show, art and poetry, a green building tour, and a chance to learn about sustainable agriculture and conservation.

There will be speakers and panel discussions, along with demonstrations of renewable or alternative energy for homes and cars. Don’t miss the windmill demonstration, the Bio Bus and the Grease Machine!

Who’s Your Mama
April 16-20
Main St.,  Downtown Kent
$10 one-day , $15 weekend pass


Rain barrel Workshops March 24, 2008

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

IMG_7811The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is having 3 rain barrel workshops in April.

If I had to choose my favorite “gardening” thing, it would be my rain barrel (with my reel mower being a close 2nd). Rain barrels gather rain from your roof and store it so you can use rainwater to water your lawn and garden. It saves your water bill, saves the city water plant, and helps your plants. Grass and plants don’t need cold, treated water. They love rainwater! So, head up to Shaker Lakes and build your own rain barrel. You can have a lush, green, healthy lawn all summer.

April 5th from 10-noon
April 27th from 12-2 and 3-5


USPS offers Free Recycling through the mail March 20, 2008

Filed under: local, recycle, reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:00 am

The USPS is offering free shipping of small electronics. Consumers can pick up a mailing envelope at one of 1,500 post offices and mail their electronics to Clover Technologies Group, who is paying for the postage, and who will recycle or refurbish the electronics into reusable materials. The stuff that can’t be refurbished will be broken down so that as many parts as possible can be reused.

Clover Technologies Group has a “zero waste to landfill” policy: it does everything it can to avoid contributing any materials to the nation’s landfills.

Clover Technologies Group won the bid for this recycling program, based on it’s commitment to the environment.

The Post Office is environmentally responsible, and their actions have “generated more than $7.5 million in savings through recycling and waste prevention programs.”

The Postal Service recycles 1 million tons of paper, plastic and other materials annually.

USPS is the only shipping or mailing company in the nation to receive Cradle to CradleSM Certification from MBDC (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) for human and environmental health. More than half a billion packages and envelopes provided by the Postal Service annually are nearly 100 percent recyclable and are produced with the least harmful materials. Based on the recycled content of these envelopes and packages, more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions (climate change gases) now are prevented annually.

So, when your cell phone breaks or your PDA quits, head to the post office to send it back to be reused. It’s free for you, and saves a lot of waste!