terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Alternative Fuel Part 2 October 17, 2007

Filed under: alternative, reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:17 am

Biodiesel - made from domestic renewable resources, such as crops. It doesn’t originally contain petroleum, but it can be combined with diesel to produce a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel has met strict Clean Air Act guidelines for health and safety. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable energy with lower emissions than petroleum, and it biodegrades easily. The cons of biodiesel include soil erosion, and the production of crops for fuel instead of food. It’s a good start, but not quite perfect.

Ethanol is produced from plants. It is an alcohol that can be used for energy. It can be combined with gasoline to make E85, which newer Chevy cars are able to use. Also a renewable resource, ethanol burns cleanly and biodegrades quickly. However, it has the same negative effects that biodiesel has, namely, growing crops for fuel instead of food. Corn is a popular source of ethanol, but as we’ve learned previously, sugar cane may be a more practical alternative, as long as forests are not clear-cut to produce the plant. Rolling Stone points out the perils of rushing to “produce” a new fuel.

Essentially, vegetable oil can be used in any diesel engine, biodiesel is made from crops and combined with petroleum, and ethanol is made from plants and can be combined with gasoline to fuel cars. Biodiesel and ethanol both require an energy-intensive refining process, while vegetable oil can be used as is.

There are other sources of fuel, such as hydrogen, electric, fuel cells, and hybrids. As a consumer, I’m happy to see choices. Now, let’s see some of these cars on the road!


Alternative Fuel Breakdown October 16, 2007

Filed under: alternative, reduce, reuse — terra @ 8:14 am

I just watched Big Ideas for a Small Planet on the Sundance Channel – this one focused on Fuel. They highlighted vegetable oil, biodiesel, and ethanol. I’ll define each and lay out the pros and cons. They seem so similar, so it’s easy to get them confused. I wish they would have touched on the electric car… maybe next time.

Vegetable oil – Precisely. Collect used vegetable oil from local restaurants (Asian food is reportedly best), and put it in your diesel engine. Most cars that run on vegetable oil typically have a two-tank system, which uses diesel to start and allow the car to get warm, and then switches over to vegetable oil.

Vegetable oil produces less harmful pollution, and is originally made from plants, which absorb CO2, so it really is an environmentally-friendly fuel. It’s recycled, which means that nothing new must be created to use this fuel. You could literally deep fry a chicken, and then pour the oil into your car and drive home. Diesel engines were originally created to run on vegetable oil.
Diesel is also about 40% more efficient than gasoline, so the cars are efficient and utilize renewable sources for energy. Some companies, like Greasecar, sell a do-it-yourself conversion kit for around $1,000. Check out Grease Not Gas to learn about one man’s 15 cross-country trips to promote grease not gas. He spent nearly nothing on fuel for 200,000 miles! And don’t worry about freezing temperatures – that’s what the back-up diesel tank is for. Is this brilliant or what?

( I’ll highlight biodiesel and ethanol later today or tomorrow)


Gift Wrapping October 16, 2007

Filed under: conserve, reduce, reuse, social consciousness — terra @ 7:30 am

You can choose thoughtful gifts, but keep the planet in mind when choosing your wrapping. Over 25% of trash is generated during the holidays. Here are some ways to reduce your impact:

Reusable wraps

Give your gifts inside a reusable wrapper. You could use towels, or a cozy blanket to wrap presents. Or, put all your loved one’s gifts in a reusable bag that they can use later. Put small gifts in a reusable water bottle – 2 gifts in one! Reusing gift bags is a great way to pass on some excellent wrapping that you’ve enjoyed. Here are some fabric gift bags for any occasion.

Recycled wraps

Recycle old wrapping paper for new gifts. Or, using the comic section of the newspaper as your gift-wrapping. If you insist on ‘new’ wrapping paper, check out Paporganics, which makes its gift wrap out of recycled paper.

Get creative

Find fun, interesting, and personal ways to wrap gifts for your friends this year.


Green Giving October 15, 2007

Filed under: conserve, gifts, reduce, reuse, social consciousness — terra @ 7:17 am

The holidays are coming up, and 25% more trash is generated during the holidays. To reduce this waste, choose gifts wisely, and wrap with reusable wraps. Teaching kids to choose gifts wisely inspires them to be less materialistic. Here are some gift ideas to please both your loved one and the planet!

Consider giving to a charity. Keep your recipient’s interests in mind, and give to something they’re passionate about. This month’s Vegetarian Times highlights Dress for Success, which helps low-income people find professional attire for interviews; American Rivers, to protect and restore rivers; Farm Sanctuary, which rescues farms animals to fight factory farming and prevent animal abuse; and CARE to empower women to overcome poverty. Visit a charity watchdog to make sure your gift is used wisely: Caritynavigator.org, Charitywatch.org, Give.org, and changingthepresent.org.

Give special food or drink. Maybe your loved one likes tea, or special hot chocolate. Consider introducing them to Fair Trade certified chocolate or coffee. Or give a gift certificate to a special restaurant they wouldn’t normally treat themselves to. Top it off with a night on the town – treat them to an experience, such as a play or a sporting event they enjoy.

Renewables are the gift that keeps on giving. Give some personally decorated canvas shopping bags, or a bag with some markers for them to decorate themselves. A reusable water bottle is a great way to cut the bottled water habit, which will save your friend money and help their health at the same time. What a gift! Tupperware (etc) is great to reduce plastic bags. Or, find a cool lunch box, which reduces the need for a paper bag every day.

Sponsor their favorite animal through your local zoo (or theirs), or through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Or give to their local Humane Society, if they like pets.

Reuse gifts by shopping throughout the year at yard sales or reuse shops. You can often find designer fashions for a fraction of the cost. Or make your own. Learn to knit, crochet, or make jewelry or sock monsters and make your own gifts, which will save you money and add a special personal touch to your gift.

The idea is to take the environment into consideration. Have fun with some new ideas to reduce your impact, and remember to think about your wrapping, too. (more on wrapping later)


Get crafty to reuse October 11, 2007

Filed under: reduce, reuse — terra @ 7:05 am

You can create a recycled plastic shopping bag by cutting strips of your plastic bags and knitting them together to create a reduce and reusable shopping bag. Beautiful!

Here’s a toilet roll seed-starter project. Stock up now and you can start your entire garden with reusable toilet rolls!

Make a water bottle holder out of an old t-shirt.


It is critical that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) are recycled. They cannot go in a regular garbage. Here’s what you can do to safely recycle your CFL’s. (CFL’s last about 5-7 years)

Target sells Swheat Scoop kitty litter for about the same price as PetsMart. That will save me a trip!


NJ Fish to Reuse old NY Subway Cars October 1, 2007

Filed under: reuse — terra @ 11:07 am

subAbout 1,600 New York subway cars are being dumped off the New Jersey shore to serve as artificial reefs. The subway cars will provide homes for schools of fish, and allow divers to inspect a unique part of New York’s history in an underwater museum.

“They create a cave-like structure that let young hatchlings mature,” said Mike Zacchea, a self-described reef dean for New York City Transit who is also an assistant chief of operations. “Within 30 days, marine life attaches to the car body.”

The project costs $6.3 million, and saves the city $27 million more in fees they would pay to properly scrap the cars. Some of the cars have asbestos, so destroying them is costly.

Environmentalists are not convinced that the cars are safe for the underwater life, but the New Jersey environmental department evaluated the cars and said they provide a “durable habitat” and don’t pose any significant danger to the environment.

It’s an interesting way to reuse the subway cars, and to reduce the energy that would have been required to dispose of them in a landfill.

(click on the picture to see other pictures of underwater vehicles)


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 


Bottles are a waste of water September 29, 2007

Filed under: conserve, reduce, reuse — terra @ 8:00 am

It takes “more than 18 million barrels of oil and up to 130 billion gallons of fresh water a year to create” bottles for bottled water.

Repeat: 130 billion gallons of fresh water to create the bottles.

All that is before the “41 billion gallons of water [which] is then used to fill them – water that is often just tap water.” According to a study at the Oregon State University.

Please, please stop buying bottled water. It is really bad for your health, a waste of money, and a waste of water. Tap water in a reusable bottle is just fine. If you need it, use a filter like Brita or Pur.


Northside Art Walk September 1, 2007

Filed under: local, reuse — terra @ 11:48 pm

We did the Northside Art Walk tonight, and it was a wonderful experience. We enjoyed seeing the art and artists, and we took notice of the fun and creative ways the artists have reused some unique spaces downtown.

The Red Light Galleries are in an old brothel, which made it a perfect space for an art gallery. (the website doesn’t do it justice) The artists were able to spread their works through the old brothel rooms. Some of the old wall structure was maintained, with plaster and brick showing through, which gave the building some raw character. Village Green has good pictures of the gallery. Having a downtown studio / gallery allows people to see how artists work and appreciate the process of creating art.

Mocha Maiden had 2 vast, open rooms upstairs. It’s part of Akron’s Historic District, and the owners have maintained feeling of a historic building, while creating an “atmosphere of stylistic enchantment.”

The last (certainly not least) place was the old Ice House on Summit St. The artist, Troy Myers, lives and works in a converted loft. He paints, draws, and makes unique clothing. His home is a site to see in itself, with high ceilings, exposed electrical and pipes, and a beautiful, old-style kitchen with a metal ceiling. His home will be part of the Akron Metro Living Tour on Saturday, Sept. 15th from 11am – 11pm.

It was so nice to see some historic, unique Akron buildings reused for art and public enjoyment. The characteristics of these spaces add so much to the Art Walk, and exemplify the benefits of “reduce and reuse.”


Instructables September 1, 2007

Filed under: reuse — terra @ 2:12 pm

I love Instructables.com. You can find all sorts of ways to recycle and reuse old goods into cool new stuff. For example, you can make:

robotFree Air Conditioning (if you have well water!)
Credit Card Flower Box Fridge Magnet
Reusable Grocery Bag made out of 2 old Pillowcases
Copper Rain Chain
60 Minute Bookcase
Convert old CD packaging into a flower pot
Soda Can Fireplace
Glow Ground Effects Lights for your bicycle

The ideas are endless. Don’t miss the Go Green contest! Check out this site for a rainy day craft project with the kids.


Make a mini recycled dry erase board August 27, 2007

Filed under: reuse — terra @ 10:47 pm

I’m stealing this straight from Treehugger

Put your old cd cases to good use – make a mini dry erase board. It’s great to entertain kids on a long car ride, hang it on the fridge for grocery lists, or jot down quick notes. I love it!

Instructables lays it out for you.


Rubber Sidewalks August 22, 2007

Filed under: alternative, local, recycle, reduce, reuse — terra @ 2:53 pm

rubberwalkAmerican company Rubbersidewalks has created a (I think) brilliant product. They recycle car tires and make rubber sidewalks out of them. Why? The rubber sidewalks allow tree roots to breath and get water, so they don’t pop up through the sidewalk and cause all sorts of damage and unsightliness. Saving trees and city sidewalks… what could be better? They save money and keep tires out of landfills too!

Other benefits:

The reversible pavers don’t expand in hot weather, and they absorb and retain less heat than concrete. The system has been freeze-thaw tested according to ASTM C1026 with good performance characteristics exhibited, and is also ADA compliant for pedestrian and wheeled traffic. While the pavers aren’t considered porous themselves, the system provides immediate drainage at the module seams.

Washington, D.C. tested it last year and found that, although it costs more initially, the rubber sidewalks will save money, trees, and resident complaints, and it won’t have to be replaced for about 14 years – 3 times as long as concrete. Part of the high cost is due to the fact that the company is located in California, so shipping is a big factor. They are hoping to open a New York location to spread the goodness.

Excellent innovation!

cool off: Drink cool liquids and eat cool meals during the upcoming hot & humid weather.


Paper or Plastic: Not August 20, 2007

Filed under: conserve, reduce, reuse — terra @ 1:47 pm

Which is better – paper or plastic? It seems like paper would be the better choice because it feels more natural, so we think it will biodegrade. On the other hand, plastic takes up less room in the landfill. A lot of elements must be taken into consideration when choosing which bag to use at the grocery store.


  • Processing trees into bags requires a lot of energy
  • Higher transportation costs because of size (to & from the store, to landfill)
  • 1/2 of landfill space is taken up by paper
  • “14 million trees in 1999 alone were cut down to manufacture the 10 million paper grocery bags used by Americans”


  • Plastics are the waste products of the oil refining process (when considering the impacts of plastic bags, also keep in mind the impacts of oil extraction)
  • Require less energy to produce than paper bags
  • Take up less space in the landfill
  • Marine life is threatened when they ingest plastic bags, which become lodged in their throat or stomach and cause starvation
  • Can clog sewer pipes, which lead to standing water and health problems

So which is better? Plastic requires less energy to produce, and takes up less room in transportation and in landfills. But, once they’re here, plastics take hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade. Paper requires cutting down trees, and takes up more room in a landfill. The biodegradability may be a factor, however, today’s landfills are constructed so that nothing biodegrades because materials are cut off from air and water supplies needed to biodegrade.

Solution: buy a reusable bag, and reuse it. Keep your bags by the door or in the car, so you remember to take them with you. Many stores offer a discount if you reuse, and you’ve done a lot to reduce waste in your community. (I wonder when stores began providing bags to people, and passed the expense onto the consumer.)

This doesn’t just mean plastic and paper grocery bags. Consider ziploc and brown paper lunch bags. They have an impact too. Get some reusable storage containers (Glad and Ziploc make excellent ones that are cheap and recyclable), and a cool lunchbox instead of creating waste every day. It’ll save you money, and help the environment.


Fun facts to save energy August 17, 2007

Filed under: conserve, energy, local, reduce, reuse — terra @ 9:37 pm

Your car uses more gas to idle for +10 seconds than it does to turn it off and back on again. conserve: turn your car off if you’re in a traffic jam or stuck at a long light.

Appliances that are “off” still use energy. reduce: Unplug large appliances (fans, toasters, heaters, laptops, etc) when you’re not using them.

To disinfect kitchen sponges, microwave them for 2 minutes. reuse: Use sponges instead of paper towels for cleaning.

It takes more energy to leave lights on than to turn them on and off (popular misconception). use less: Turn the light off when you leave the room.

Running the water while you brush your teeth wastes about 5 gallons of water. (2 minutes, 2.5 gallons per minute). be efficient: Turn the water off when you brush your teeth or shave.