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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

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 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!

Cars

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…

 

Eco Math April 1, 2008

Filed under: alternative, education, energy, solar, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

We’re going to do a little math story problem. It’s pretty easy.

If you choose alternative energy for your home, your investment has a payback period of several years. You pay for the technology all at once, in the beginning when it’s installed. (Often, it’s paid for with grants and other incentives, but we’ll assume you pay for it out of pocket) The payback period explains how long it will take for you to have saved enough money on energy bills to cancel out the initial investment.

These are examples, and not exact. I used 10 years for everything to make the math really easy. These are exaggerated hypothetical numbers for our story problem, based on Akron, OH.

Solar = 10 years
Wind power = 10 years
Green roofs = 10 years
Geothermal = 10 years

Question: If you use all of these technologies on your home or building, how many years will it take for your investment to pay off?

Answer in the comments section. You can be anonymous if you want. I’ll give the answer at 5:00 today.

Answer: If each of your renewable sources takes 10 years to pay off, the total payoff time is 10 years. Not 40 years. Just 10. You’re paying for them all at the same time, and they all pay off at the same time. Think of it this way, you’re paying a utility company for gas and electric right now, forever. If you had renewable energy, you’d buy, pay for it for 10 years, and then never have to pay for it again. That sounds like a deal!

 

Artificial Solar Leaves March 11, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

A group called SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) has designed artificial solar leaves that attach to your house and collect solar and wind power. Instead of mounting huge photo voltaic panels to your roof, you can attach these little “leaves” which flutter in the wind and look like climbing ivy. (The tricky thing is, they all have to be wired together!)

It’s an inexpensive way to generate solar and wind power for your home. You don’t get as much power as with the large panels, but you don’t pay as much either. It might be a nice option for a home office or a hot water tank.

-EcoGeek

 

Solar Installation Training in Ohio February 7, 2008

Filed under: education, local, solar — terra @ 12:00 pm

Owens Community College in Toledo is offering a “photovoltaic principles and application training program” in the spring of 2008. It’s a 5-day program for people interested in installing and integrating photovoltaic panels with “utility-based or off the grid power systems.” The class covers basic electricity, PV systems, and PV theory.

This is exciting for anyone who wants to get a jump on the new service-based industry that will be in high demand very soon. Owens Community College students installed solar panels for OCC in 2005. It’s great to see colleges get on board with saving energy, and providing a real competitive edge for their students by demonstrating renewable energy.

Find more information here.

 

Trev, the renewable energy car January 28, 2008

Filed under: alternative, cars, electric car, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

trev-green-carStudents at the University of South Australia have created a two-seater renewable energy car. The lithium ion polymer battery lasts over 150 km between charges, making it the longest-lasting electric car. When charged at home, the Trev costs”$1 AUD per 100km to run, using what is said to be 1/5th of the energy of conventional car.” (that’s $.88 per 62 miles)

The Trev carries two people and two large bags. If people use solar or wind energy for their power, it is truly a renewable energy car.

-Treehugger

It makes petrol look silly. -UniSA

 

Solar Carport January 17, 2008

Filed under: cars, electric car, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

carportMy favorite type of car is electric. An electric car is very practical for someone like me with a very short daily commute. In fact, most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, making electric cars very sensible. It would be great to have an electric car (powered with clean energy), and a hybrid or some other lower emission car for longer distances.

Unfortunately, electric cars are not ideal when we’re tied to a coal-based power grid. The best option is to use renewable electricity. Currently, that’s hard to come by, but now you can charge your car or your home with the LifePort Solar Carport. LifePort has built a carport with a solar roof that provides enough power to charge your car, for free! (that sounds like a commercial, but I think it’s pretty cool) You can even hook the carport up to your home, and power your home during the day while your car is with you at work.

Here are some specs on the LifePort Solar Carport, taken from their website. Someone could even insulate the carport and turn it into an office or rec room. The price is high to start, but the return on investment based on increased property values is outstanding. Not to mention the environmental benefits… never having to buy gas again… lower electric bills… the list of benefits goes on and on with renewable energy.

DO-IT-YOURSELF PRICE:
LifePortTM Structure with 4.8 kW DC System: $45,199

ESTIMATED INCREASE IN PROPERTY VALUE: $50,020 – $74,762

ESTIMATED CO2 DISPLACED:
(over 25 year life term of system)
142 tons, equivalent to 284,000 automobile miles

 

Miscellaneous December 18, 2007

Filed under: energy, reduce, reuse, social consciousness, solar — terra @ 7:00 am

How to clean your reusable water bottles (or any small-necked bottle)
Pour about 20 grains of rice into the bottle. Add 2 TBS vinegar and a little water. Shake it up and swirl it around until the sides are clean. Rinse thoroughly. It works beautifully, and doesn’t leave a vinegar after-taste or smell.

Solar Holiday Lights
Check out the solar holiday lights at Target. I can’t afford to put lights up and keep them plugged in all the time, and it’s a poor use of electricity. Now, with solar lights, decorations will have little to no impact on energy costs or the environment. I can’t wait until these go on clearance!

We’re all looking for a little quiet
New Urban Mom writes about her holiday wishes. I think we can all agree. This year, dedicate some time to spend with the people you love.

Beautiful, easy-t0-make gifts
Green With Envy… has a great idea for some wonderful gifts. Find some old tea cups or pots, fill them with pebbles and marbles, add some flower bulbs like Narcissus or Paperwhites. Fill the pot with water and wait a few weeks for the bloom. (she writes a much better explanation)

 

Solar Tour Sunday October 8, 2007

Filed under: alternative, education, energy, local, reduce, solar — terra @ 7:48 am

I did the Akron – Ohio Solar Tour on Sunday. There were Solar Tours all over the United States this weekend. (only 3 states did not have a Solar Tour today) I would love to have have gone to Cleveland Saturday, but Sunday’s tour of Akron was really nice. Hot, but nice.

We began at the Crown Point Ecology Center, which I will definitely visit again. The highlight there was passive solar heating for a barn/workspace. Passive solar heating consisted of utilizing a south-facing wall of the building, and collecting solar heat in a 6 in. space between the barn wall and a layer of greenhouse building materials. The inside of the workshop has windows at the top and bottom of the wall, which can be opened to circulate the warm air. Larry Jarvis, Property Manager, said that on days when the temperature was in the 30’s or below, he can heat his workspace comfortably (over 80F) using just the solar collector.

Next was the Starre Residence. This home was built specifically to honor the earth. Every consideration was made to conserve energy and resources. Most of the building products were recycled, and insulation was a priority. It is built into the side of a hill, creating an “earth berm,” which helps regulate temperature. The home also featured passive solar heating as the concrete floors absorbed heat from the sun to warm the house. There are also 4 geothermal wells about 150 ft deep that provide radiant floor heating. Solar tubes (pictured) provide excellent light in the back of the house. Solar tubes essentially capture light from the sun and direct it down into the home.

IMG_6608The Akron Zoo highlighted their LEED Certified features, which include 65 geothermal wells. The geothermal wells are essential to help provide proper temperatures for several “ecosystems” – a Komodo dragon, Chinese alligators, tortoises, a kitchen, a restaurant, classrooms, and more. Doug said the geothermal system has been drastically more efficient and effective at providing different temperatures than conventional heating and cooling systems in other buildings of the same age. Over 1/2 of the materials used in building the Komodo Kingdom were made within 500 miles of the Akron Zoo.

The Deneen residence utilized 40 photovoltaic solar panels to provide nearly all the power to the home. Mr. Deneen was not shy in telling us that he does not want to sacrificing comfort to save energy, and that it’s not always necessary. He and his family want to live comfortably, reduce their impact on the earth, and save a lot of money on energy. It’s possible with a renewable energy system like solar. He estimates that his solar system will pay for itself is less than 10 years.

My favorite elements highlighted in the Akron area Ohio Solar Tour were geothermal heating (and its practical use in a home), and radiant heat floors. I like the earth berm home, taking advantage of the earth’s natural temperature of 55F, and regulating the home’s temperature based on that stability. Much appreciation goes out to the homeowners for opening their homes to us, and to Green Energy Ohio for organizing the tour. Visit the Village Green for another account of the Solar Tour.

 

A Mexican University goes solar September 28, 2007

Filed under: alternative, conserve, solar — terra @ 1:00 pm

The Metropolitan University of Mexico, in Mexico City, plans to build a solar photovoltaic system to provide electricity, and connect to the grid. It will double as a research tool to determine how effective solar power could be in Mexico.

Currently, renewable energy accounts for 3% of Mexico’s energy. The rest comes from gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric dams.

This is a great step in the right direction. If this program is successful, it would be great to see Mexico expand its usage of renewable energy.