Monday, February 8, 2016

A Local, Organic, Waste-Free, Eco-Friendly Valentine's Day

The Big Game is over and Mardi Gras is tomorrow, but we still have Valentine's Day coming up! Did you forget all about it? I won't tell anyone if you did. And you've still got six days to come up with a gift or date night for your loved one!


Although there's typically pressure to get the biggest bouquet of the brightest flowers, the best gift, or the fanciest reservations, you can celebrate a romantic and special Valentine's Day without the waste.

Need some ideas on an eco-friendly way to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Gifts

  • Shop at local stores for gifts, or look to locally produced items (especially handmade jewelry).
  • My Christmas gift guide works well for any holiday/birthday! The same principles apply: look for fair-trade, organic, recycles, handmade, reusable, charitable or sustainable items. The list even has suggestions on local stores and brands to check out!
  • For last-minute flowers, check out local florist Root at a pop-up shop inside Genterie this Saturday, February 13, during ArtWalk. Side note: ArtWalk is a great place to find local creative gifts!
  • Instead of flowers in a vase, pick out flowers from the nursery that can be replanted in a pot or in the ground, so they can grow just like your love! (#cheesealert)
  • Make your own gift with salvaged or reclaimed items.
  • Go for an intangible gift by doing something nice and unexpected for your loved one.
  • Look for organic or fair-trade candy and chocolate, so you know it's both healthier and better for the workers in the production facility. (Vitamins Plus has a great selection...just wait until Mardi Gras is over to visit.)
  • Make a card with scrap paper or reused wrapping paper, buy a card made of recycled or tree-free paper, or send a paperless card!


Plans

  • Plan a special evening for your person. Save money and cook dinner at home. Choose a local grocery store and find regional ingredients for a special dish. Don't forget your cloth bags! You'll skip the crowded restaurants and show off your culinary skills.
  • Visit your nearest farmer's market to pick up fresh, seasonal produce.
  • Find an organic wine to go with your dinner.
  • Use real dinnerware and napkins instead of disposable.
  • If cooking just isn't your thing and you want to take your person out, pick a local restaurant! It's not like we don't have 10 million amazing local restaurants in and around Lafayette. Call ahead and make reservations if you can.
  • Plan a fun bike ride for the two of you. Get extra creative and bring along a picnic. (Packing your food in reusable containers and bringing cloth napkins, of course!) Or you can just ride to dinner!
  • Go on an adventurous date, or maybe even take a quick weekend getaway.


 
 



Want some more ideas? Check out Zero Waste Chef and Zero Waste Nerd!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Photo Friday | All the Sunshine

Happy Mardi Gras weekend, everyone! The weather looks to be in our favor (especially compared to the ice, rain and cold of the last two years), and I'm looking forward to the festivities and parades.

If you're heading out, don't forget to keep Mardi Gras clean.

Even if parades and beads aren't your thing, get out and enjoy the weather this weekend! Head out to the Horse Farm or another park, go for a bike ride, or simply sit outside your house for your morning coffee.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sustaina-Bowl Sunday

So, the Big Game is this Sunday. If you live in Louisiana and are like me, you haven't really been following playoffs this season. Actually, if you're me, you kiiiind of stopped watching around Week 9 of regular season. Sorry.

However, I do love the celebration and hype around the the final game of the season. Side ramble: From my years in advertising, I've learned that you cannot say the name of the game if you don't shell out $$$ to the NFL. I've written many a radio spot dancing around the name. I get it, because it's copyrighted and all, but it almost looks more ridiculous to see "the Big Game" in ads and marketing emails. Like, it's almost going against your brand. Silly? Yes. Am I still going to avoid it even in my peon blog? OF COURSE. I don't have enough money to get sued by the NFL.

So. Broncos vs. Panthers. Who are you rooting for?

While I might secretly be going for the Panthers, what I'm really rooting for is sustainability!

And hey, this year's match-up is held in one of my favorite cities, the hippie treehugging San Francisco!

Photo credit: Susty Party

Sustainable Parties

Whether you are having friends over, chilling at home, or heading out to a bar, you can minimize trash while cheering for your favorite team.

  • Avoid single-use by using regular dinnerware, silverware and drinkware. Go even further with cloth napkins.
  • If you need to use disposable dinnerware, choose eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable materials instead of styrofoam or plastic. Bagasse and wheat straw are two great plant-based materials, and you can find these in stores. (Try Vitamins Plus or Whole Foods in Lafayette.)
  • Put out a dedicated trash can for recyclable materials, aka beer bottles, beer cans, wine bottles and rinsed queso jars.
  • Use paper towels and napkins made with recycled materials.
  • Don't go out and spend money on single-use decorations!
  • Shop local for your food!
  • If you're going to a friend's, bring your dish in a reusable container, and if you get to bring leftovers home, use the same dish. 
  • Bring drinks in recyclable containers and bring your own drinking glass (you can bring a kanteen or insulated bottle to a daiquiri shop and ask them to fill it!)
  • If the party you're attending doesn't have a recycling bin inside or outside, collect your recyclables and bring them home. 
  • Heading out to the bar? Carpool with your friends or call Uber.


Over in San Francisco...

The SB50 Host Committee has a goal of making the event “Net Positive”. They're focusing on:
  • Reducing impact on climate change
  • Using resources and materials responsibly
  • Inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally
  • Leaving a positive legacy for the Bay Area

A few examples they'll work toward these goals are: eliminating single-use plastic in Super Bowl City and providing water bottle-filling stations (Check out the photo of the stations! I kind of love them.) One of my favorite eco-brands, Klean Kanteen, is the official sustainability partner of the Host Committee. They're donating 12,000 bottles to help offset those single-use cups.

In addition, San Francisco has many public recycling and composting bins available.

One of the collaborators on the project, the 50 Fund, will encourage fans to decide how $200,000 from the Sustainable Environments Game Changer Grant will be distributed to Bay Area environmental nonprofits. Fans can also pledge to take “Net Positive” actions on-line at the Host Committee website www.sfbaysuperbowl.com.

Photo credit: Klean Kanteen

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping Mardi Gras Clean

Oooohh Lawd! We got a busy month, so let's get into it with Louisiana's biggest and favorite holiday: Mardi Gras. In the midst of carnival celebrations and barricade avoidance, I'll be sharing posts on football celebrations and Valentine's Day.

But we're really all about Mardi Gras, right?  We've got parades, we've got balls, we've got festivals, we've got drinks and we've got literally tons of trash.


Last year I participated in a Rio parade trash cleanup with Project Front Yard volunteers, and it opened my eyes even more to just how much trash is accumulated in one parade.

When it comes to trash left behind by float riders, there's much to be done at an organization and city level, but even so, individuals and families can make a big impact on the overall carnival waste by making a few changes.



While there's a lack of additional public trash cans along the parade route, there is still no excuse of this kind of litter. If you wouldn't do it normally, don't do it for Mardi Gras, and don't set this kind of example for your children. The photo below, which I took at the Krewe of Rio parade this past weekend, is just one of many examples of blatant, careless littering.

Yes, there are cleaning crews who pick up following each parade, but don't leave trash anyway. They've got enough cleaning to do with what the floats leave behind.


Reduce

The most important thing to do is not create litter in the first place.
  • If you're able, ride your bike or walk to your spot on the parade route. You'll save gas, save money, save time, and possibly save yourself a towing fee or parking ticket. If you're heading out with a group of family or friends, carpool instead of traveling separately.
  • Don't pack like you're camping out for the weekend. Cut down your haul by only bringing what you need. Eat before you leave home, and you'll avoid the problem of food packaging waste. (However, with three parades on Mardi Gras day, it makes more sense to pack a few more items since you'll be out longer.)
  • Do not bring glass bottles out to the parade. It's illegal, and if your glass becomes litter, it can bust someone's tire or cut open someone's foot. 
 
 


Reuse

Skip the single-use goods!
  • Bring cloth bags or plastic bins to hold all of your catches.
  • If you ride bicycles, and you have a basket, use it for your beads. However, know that baskets have weight limits for a reason. It is a son of a b to steer a bicycle weighed down by 20 pounds of beads. TRUST ME.
  • Skip the styrofoam daiquiri cups. Many places oblige if you bring your own cup in, so don't be afraid to whip out your Bubba Keg or Klean Kanteen. They make big ones so you don't have to worry about refills. Most should give a size on the bottom, so bars know how to charge you. Or pour your beer/homemade cocktail into your mug before you depart. Insulated reusable mugs and cups keep your drinks colder for much longer anyway. Again, leave the glass at home.
  • If you do plan to bring snacks or food, pack them in reusable containers.


Recycle

Lastly, make sure what you bring can be recycled.
  • Be responsible for what you haul to the parade. Bring an extra bag to keep your trash and/or recyclables in, or use your ice chest to hold trash. If you brought it, you make sure it leaves, whether you throw it away or take it home to recycle. But please consider recycling everything you can instead of just throwing it all away!
  • If you don't want to bring your own drink cup, choose the better option on the waste totem pole, and get drinks in aluminum cans. Don't: leave them on the street, throw them in a trash can, throw them in somebody's front yard. Do: save and recycle those cans.
  • Don't forget a reusable bottle filled with water. Hydrate, people!
  • Pick up extra beads around you and put them in your bag. All beads, including broken ones, can be donated and recycled for cleaning and repair and resale in future years. You can also sell your own haul...people WILL buy them! I'll have a post after Mardi Gras showing you how you can donate your beads.
  • If it's rainy, leave the umbrellas at home. You'll already have enough stuff to keep track of, and they're a pain anyway. If you're That Guy or Girl who turns it upside down and use it as a bead catcher, you're just rude. Bring a rain jacket and call it a day. You'll also keep your arms free to catch beads. And broken umbrellas are also litter!


 

In General

Use your phone for more than just Instagramming and Facebooking. Download the free, official Lafayette Mardi Gras app for iPhones and Androids (search for Lafayette Mardi Gras in your app store) and keep up with the band schedule at the fair, and follow the float locations in real-time (my favorite thing about Mardi Gras!) New Orleans friends, you can download WWL's parade tracker app here.

Don't drink and drive, don't overdo it before Mardi Gras day, don't litter, watch out for children, and watch your face when they're throwing beads.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Photo Friday | Party Favors?

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, an organization I discovered during our 2014 vacation, shared a relevant photo this week. They found and cleaned up this balloon litter on Shipwreck Beach on the island of Lanai.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii works just about every day to clean up beaches and other areas of the Hawaiian islands, and educate others on the importance of keeping the islands clean. You can follow their projects on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Photo credit: Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Downfall of Balloons


"What goes up must come down."

This popular adage applies to many things, but is extra relevant when talking about balloons. Especially balloon pollution.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Popular for parties, celebrations and memorials, balloons are usually made of either mylar or latex. Mylar is made of metallicized polyester, which sounds about as un-eco-friendly as it really is. Latex is touted as the better option, because it is biodegradable.

BUT...


While latex may be biodegradable, don't be fooled.

The claim is that latex balloons biodegrade in the same amount of time as an oak leaf - which can be between six months and four years, and that's not counting if a balloon is swimming in water, which slows down the process. In that time, balloon material can be ingested by land or sea animals, causing illness or death.

Photo credit: Conserve Wildlife NJ via Balloons Blow

The ribbons tied to balloons pose a threat to animals as well, besides having an amazing ability to get tangled in anything.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shares photos of animals affected by balloon litter.

Did you know?


Balloon releases are against the law in some states (but not many!) If you live in California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee or Virginia; or the cities of Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville, Kentucky; Huntsville, Alabama; San Francisco, California; Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Baltimore, Maryland, you better think of something else for your celebration!

What's the alternative?


If you're decorating for a party or celebration, look for more natural options. Paper-based decorations can be recycled. Natural decorations, such as flowers, greenery or sticks, lend an earthy vibe.

If you're planning a memorial, one of my favorite ideas is using flower seeds instead. After being thrown in the air, the seeds will root where they land, and an area of flowers will grow. Or, plant a tree in a special location. Which, to me, sounds like a better way to remember someone than letting a bunch of balloons loose into the air and cause harm.

Find some other alternatives here.

Consider a balloon's effect on the environment and wildlife next time you have a need for one, and look for a better, more sustainable alternative.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Photo Friday | A New Perspective

Another view from my trip along Bayou Vermilion with the BVD operations crew: Crossing under Evangeline Thruway. A rarer view of a road so heavily traveled through Lafayette.

After some rains this week, I am sure there's plenty of new debris in the river the operations crew is tasked with cleaning up. Do your part and don't litter!


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