Thursday, October 8, 2015

Green Travel | Disney World

With six trips in my travel log, it's safe to say Disney World is one of my favorite destinations. I would love to share about my most recent trip a few weeks ago, but, oh wait! My parents went on their own, without their sweet, loving daughter.

But at least they came home with presents, and in appropriate fashion, they were eco-friendly presents.

Disney can get a lot of flack for the resources they use (especially regarding the distances people travel to visit the parks), but the company and all the theme parks are working toward reducing their environmental impact, through diverting trash to recycling, conserving water and electricity, using biodiesel for their vehicles (hello, Disney World buses!), and carrying fair-trade, handmade merchandise throughout the parks.

In addition to being an environmentally friendly tourist, where can you find green in action at Disney World?


Living with the Land, also known as my mother's favorite ride, is an educational boat ride within the Land pavilion. The ride takes you through greenhouses, working hydroponic gardens and seafood tanks, and teaches about agriculture, food ecosystems and food production. The best part is that all the food grown in the gardens and greenhouses is sold at the Land's restaurants. Fresh as can be!


I don't think World Showcase's Bead Outpost was around when I last visited Disney World, coming up on five years ago. Nestled between Mexico and Germany, the African outpost has unique souvenirs, including my favorite of them all. I mean, what does Disney World have more of than park guidemaps? Bazillions of maps printed in about 15 languages equates to a LOT of trash. But, Disney has started to save the maps from the landfill, and sends them to artisans in Africa, who repurpose the maps into jewelry beads. That's right - MADE OF PAPER. You can get necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets or chokers, in a huge variety of colors. My parents picked out two necklaces for me, and my favorite part may almost be how the necklaces were packaged. In a guidemap envelope. So smart, so useful, and so easy. If you want a gift that's unique and green, visit the Bead Outpost.


In 2011, Innoventions had a VISION house on display, sponsored by Green Builder Media. I believe it has since been replaced with newer exhibits. Unfortunately, I think the company has since gone out of business, since their website doesn't exist anymore. I snapped a shot of these reminders in Innoventions on a previous vacation.


Animal Kingdom is probably the most environmental spot overall in Disney World. The Conservation Fund raises money for "the study of wildlife; the protection of habitats; the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems; and experiences that connect kids to nature through exploration and discovery." You can purchase pins and other merchandise in the park, with the proceeds going toward the fund.

In terms of fair-trade merch, Animal Kingdom offers Eco-Mochilas, traditional Colombian bags made with recycled plastic bags. And if you want really unique, pick up a notebook made of elephant poop paper!


Check out the detail in this weaving!

You can also find park t-shirts made with organic cotton and cute treehugger sayings.




Many hotels these days offer signs about reusing towels instead of replacing them daily, in order to conserve water. Disney resorts are no different.

Recycling bins can be found in resort rooms, along with energy efficient lighting and low-flow toilets. In fact, all Disney-owned and -operated resorts in Florida are designated as Green Lodging.

If you are staying at a resort for your visit, use as much alternative transportation as you can. Many places are within walking distance.


Disney provides branded cloth bags for your shopping pleasure, and I still have a Christmas Mickey one from my last trip. Instead of playing a game of "how many identical plastic bags can you rack up on your trip", pick up a few cloth bags to reuse every day. Or bring your own instead of purchasing some there.

Conserve your use of the guide maps. Share one for each park with your group, and keep the ones you use in case you revisit a park. Since I last visited, I believe Disney World installed WiFi in all their parks, so you can make use of their official mobile app. This will help you cut down on paper, but don't forget to bring a portable charger for your phone! 

You can also find some recycled goods for souvenirs in shops throughout the parks. These notebooks are made with recycled paper.

Extra food from parks and resorts is donated to a local Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Walt Disney Company has an environmental policy in place, which can be read in full on their website. My favorite snippet from it says:
Dispose of waste conscientiously and creatively by making "reduce/reuse/recycle" the standard operating procedure.

This should definitely be the standard operating procedure everywhere!

More green Disney resources:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Recycling at Festivals Acadiens

Are you feeling Festival International withdrawals? Do you have a hankering to do the two-step? Is that crawfish boat calling your name?

Luckily for you, Festival Acadiens et Crèoles kicks off this week! This year's festival is a special one, as it marks the 250th anniversary of the Acadians (including a handful of my ancestors) coming to South Louisiana.

Festival Acadiens, held in Girard Park, has two music stages, arts and crafts vendors, and tons of delicious food, and the weather is usually amazing. There's even a sports tent for those who need to catch the games!

And this year, there will be recycling bins provided courtesy of the Bayou Vermilion District! BVD received a Healthy Communities Grant from Keep Louisiana Beautiful, which they used to purchase 80 collapsible recycling bins. I spoke with Greg Guidroz, BVD Recreation and Education Coordinator, and he says the main objective of the grant is to establish a recycling bin loan program for local events, free of charge. (By the way, here's Greg receiving an award from Keep Louisiana Beautiful last week!)

Members of UL’s Biology Society, UL’s Pre Professional Society, and a few dedicated volunteers from the late Dr. Griff Blakewood’s dismembered student environmental organization S.P.E.A.K. have volunteered to maintain and empty the bins over the course of Festivals weekend.

Greg also said how Dylan Deouren, president of the UL Biology Society, has been a tremendous source of hope and inspiration in rallying volunteers. His motivation and dedication is reassuring that festival recycling will remain a part of our annual celebrations.

So when you're out enjoying our Acadian culture this weekend, don't forget to toss your plastic bottles and cans into the bright blue recycling bins! Help Lafayette stay beautiful and clean by recycling and not littering!

Don't forget to be sustainable and go green beyond just recycling!

  • Ride your bike and skip the parking hassle. There's a bike corral in the corner of Girard Park, across from the UL pay lot. 
  • Skip the paper guide by using the handy Festivals PDF Guide.
  • Bring a cloth bag for all your shopping!
  • Carry a cloth napkin so you don't have to use a ton of paper ones, which can't be recycled.
  • Pack a reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated (at least in between cups of beer).

If you have your own event and would like recycling bins, you can contact Greg at BVD will provide the bins free of charge, but each group will be responsible for finding their own volunteers for maintenance and collection.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Keeping Louisiana Beautiful | Inspiration

That moment when you feel completely and utterly inspired to DO something, and you listen to a speech that connects two of your recent blog post topics, which makes you feel like

Keep Louisiana Beautiful held their annual conference this week in Lafayette, and I was able to attend the second morning thanks to the705. The first speaker of the morning was Marcus Eriksen, research director and cofounder of 5Gyres. What does the organization focus on? Plastic pollution in our oceans.

Last week, I wrote about the documentary Bag It!, and mentioned the segment on the remote Midway Atoll and the staggering numbers of dead animals found with plastic and trash in their stomachs. Marcus has traveled to the Midway Atoll and studied the contents of what these animals swallowed. He does extensive work on the effect of microbeads polluting our water and fish, a topic I wrote about earlier this week.

Neither of which I wrote knowing that I would be getting to hear Marcus speak in person a few days later! It was incredibly inspiring to listen to an expert on plastic pollution, and his presentation galvanizes me in a way to put my own effort into doing something. Beyond simply writing about the issues, I want to do more to influence others to reduce their dependence on plastics. Leading by example as I always try to do, it's extremely important to change the culture of disposable and single-use. (Part of the reason I'm a huge supporter of Klean Kanteen's #BringYourOwn campaign.)

A few statistics and facts dropped today:
  • We are seeing over 300 million metric tons of new plastic being produced.
  • Plastic microparticles can penetrate membranes in mussels and oysters, which means we can be eating them.
  • 663 marine species have been impacted by debris.
  • Trash from the Mississippi River enters the Gulf of Mexico and follows the current (gyre) to the North Atlantic.
  • There's 269,000 tons of trash in our oceans, equaling 5.25 TRILLION particles.
  • That's the equivalent of wrapping straws, end-to-end, around the planet 425 times.

One of my favorite statements Marcus made was when discussed how finding whole pieces of plastic in the ocean is very rare, thanks to photo-degradation, and you can't tell which company to blame, 

"except all of us."


The next big topic of discussion was litter enforcement in the state of Louisiana. Captain James Gomillion with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries talked about how he enforces litter laws in Rapides and Avoyelles parishes (what up CENLA!)

Just so everyone has a friendly reminder, there IS a Louisiana litter hotline where you can report littering activity, and offenders will get cited and fined.

Add that number to ya phone.

And did you know LDWF has a tips app where you can report violations, whether it's littering or other kinds? I didn't! Download that.

Tom Ethans, of Take Pride Winnipeg, shared many of the organization's successful projects in cleanliness, beautification and education. I might have spent part of the time laughing inside about Tim Horton's jokes from How I Met Your Mother, but I promise I paid attention to the presentation. The city has been extremely successful over the past 20 years in cultivating a sense of pride among its residents and students.

As Tom made us recite, it's about:

"reduce, reuse, recycle, respect."

Can we turn the 3 Rs into 4 now? Respect for our home is the motivator that fuels us wanting to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Another of my favorite moments from the morning was one of the KLB directors talking about the need to go waste-free at the next conference. It was ironically hilarious to me that a conference full of civic-minded treehuggers had a collection of soft drink cans, water bottles and plastic plates.

As I sat next to Gretchen with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability and Lisa with Lafayette Consolidated Government recycling, I laughed at how we all brought our own coffee mugs and water bottles. Next year, we will totally make sure there's no single-use plastic around!

Many thanks to Keep Louisiana Beautiful for putting on a great conference, even if I didn't attend both days, and to the705 for allowing me to represent!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015 Project Front Yard Award Winners!

Last year, Project Front Yard kicked off its initiative with a ceremony to award six recipients who've played a part in beautifying and cleaning Lafayette. UL Lafayette President T. Joe Savoie, the Better Block Cameron organizers, Charlie and Jan Wyatt (heads of the Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association), the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, River Ranch Development and I were recognized for our contributions.

The awards were intended to be an annual event, and yesterday afternoon, the new rounds of winners were announced and recognized!

This year, the recipients were awarded in categories: Best in Education, Best in Cleanliness, Best in Beautification, and Best Overall Effort.


  • NeunerPate law firm received Best in Cleanliness for their beautification project of the Veterans Affairs Clinic and War Memorial on July 1.
  • Pastor Ken Lazard of Destiny of Faith Church was honored for Best in Beautification for his work in revitalizing the Truman area neighborhood, by engaging more than 100 volunteers over two weekends to spruce up a local cemetery, clean up trash and cut tall grass on otherwise blighted properties.
  • ReCover Acadiana, an initiative of The705, was awarded Best in Education for their partnership with Project Front Yard on the storm drain cleanliness awareness campaign, “Where the River Meets the Road.” The campaign includes dozens of decals placed near storm drains throughout the community, educating children and adults alike on the connection of storm drains to the local watershed.
  • ESA teacher Sandra Thompson received Best Overall Project Front Yard Effort. This award is given to a community partner who goes above and beyond. Ms. Thompson is a kindergarten teacher who encouraged one of her students, Amelie Gomez, to write a letter to Project Front Yard when she expressed a desire to get involved with community cleanliness. Along with the school’s administrative leadership and Project Front Yard, Amelie took the lead in creating a 20 minute documentary on how trash ends up in our local waterways and affects the local ecosystem. Ms. Thompson is also working to develop a curriculum for local educators’ use in the classroom in teaching children about the watershed and life cycles of litter in our rivers.

Mayor Joey Durel stresed the importance of the education component, saying during the presentation, "I've said before that Project Front Yard is not a litter effort; it is a cultural change initiative. And we can't have a cultural change initiative unless kids learn in school and pressure their parents to act."

As someone who learned about recycling and conservation as a child (more than 20 years ago), I wholeheartedly agree with the need to educate students, so they can grow up practicing and sharing their knowledge with others. I have yet to meet Amelie, but I already love her and her dedication to cleanliness and conservation, and I know that having more children like her will tremendously help our communities now, in 20 years, and even further into the future.

It's so exciting to see this year's crop of winners, learn how they've impacted our community, and help them continue their missions throughout this year. Congratulations, everyone!

More information at The Daily Advertiser.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Green Spice Rack

Because of their size, spice jars may not be something you think about when it comes to living more environmentally friendly. Whether they are glass or plastic, they're recyclable...but even more so, they are reusable!

First things first: skip the cheapie salt and pepper mills at the store. They are built to be one-time use, and are not refillable. And believe me, I've tried to refill them. My last empty pepper grinder had to be thrown away because I couldn't even open it to recycle. I have since bought nice, grown-up, refillable salt and pepper mills.

Whether your spice jars are empty because you use fancy magnetic or matching jars, you used all the spice, or that paprika was seven years old, there are many things you can do with the empty jars. I tend to reuse the glass jars more than plastic ones, although both can be reused. Want to decorate them before reusing? Scrub off those labels and get crafty, my friends.

  • Tiny vases for herbs in your kitchen or wildflowers (or greenery) at your desk
  • Essential oil reed diffusers (use glass jars for this)
  • Containers to bring to the bulk section of your grocery store (especially if your store sells spices in bulk)
  • Travel containers for jewelry or beauty products (the plastic ones could work well in your 3-1-1 carry-on bag)
  • Pet treat jars
  • Travel vitamin containers
  • Thumb tack or paper clip jars
  • Craft containers (especially for jewelry making)
  • Bobby pin or hair tie jars (how cute would a row of mismatched spice jars look in your bathroom??)

As a side note, most herbs and spices have "best by" dates compared to expiration dates, so they last longer than you may think! Herbs and spices beyond the date are still good, but not nearly as flavorful as fresher ones. In general, ground spices last between three and four years, leafy herbs last one to three years and whole spices can last for four years.

Eat By Date has a very comprehensive chart of how long many specific herbs and spices will last. It may help you save money by not throwing out jars that can still be good!

Check out a Treehugger list of seven ways to use spices that may be too bland for cooking but that are still useful. Bonus Eco Cajun eighth way - Easter egg dyeing!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tiny Beads o' Plastic

So, we know that plastic is made from petroleum, and we know that most (but not all) plastic can be recycled.

But what about bits of plastic so small, they can't be recycled, or even properly disposed of?

"Oh, I don't have anything with plastic that small!" might. Look in your bathroom products. Does anything say 'scrub' or 'exfoliator' of some sort? Then you've got microbeads to think about.

According to Beat the Microbead (no beating around the bush there), polyethylene microbeads flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system - which is what they are designed to do.

However, wastewater treatment plants are not designed or able to filter out the tiny (usually smaller than two millimeters) particles, so they end up in our water systems and into the world’s oceans. Microbeads are not biodegradable and they are impossible to remove from the marine environment. Sea creatures absorb or eat these microbeads, which are passed through the marine food chain. And they can come back to us in our food, especially fish.

The Story of Stuff says that fish humans harvest for food have been known to eat the tiny plastic particles at an alarming rate, and the toxins absorbed in those plastics transfer to the fish's tissue. It's dangerous because plastic microbeads absorb persistent organic pollutants (long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and more) and other industrial chemicals that move up the food chain when the toxin-coated beads are consumed by fish and other marine organisms. A single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water around it!

Manufacturers are taking action to ensure microbeads are removed from their personal care products and replaced by naturally biodegradable alternatives, but not all products are there yet. Beat the Microbead has a list from July 2015 of products in the United States that still contain the tiny scrubbing, exfoliating, polluting beads.

Mother Jones reports that a single tube of face wash can contain more than 300,000 of the plastic beads, which are cheaper than other common natural exfoliants like apricot seeds, coconut husks or even diatomaceous earth.

Just last week, the Marin Independent Journal reported that San Francisco Bay is more contaminated with plastic bits than the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants — a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny “microbeads” found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed. - Marin Independent Journal

Microbeads are a perfect example of how something may seem small and insignificant, but adds strength in numbers.

Next time you're shopping for face wash, toothpaste or shower gel, look for microbead-free options. There are plenty of tested, toxin- and plastic-free products we can use instead, saving our waterways and oceans from these particles.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bag the Plastic!

Landfills. China. The trees down the street. Storm drains. The ocean. In the stomachs of animals. Recycling facilities.

Just because you throw it away, doesn't mean it just goes away. After all, where is away? There is no away.

The documentary Bag It touches on many great points highlighting the need to reduce our dependence on disposable, single-use plastic. From bags to containers to excessive packaging.

I'm sure you're thinking, "Caitlin, did you REALLY watch an hour-long documentary on plastic bags?" Yes, yes I did. And I took notes. #ForeverANerd

Although the length of time I had this movie in from Netflix before I watched it might tell you otherwise, this was a pretty interesting documentary on our dependence on plastics, specifically plastic bags.

Did you know that plastic bags started being used in 1977, and as of 2010 (the year this documentary was released), our country was going through one million bags every minute? Worldwide, we were going through 100 billion bags a year.

Since then, plastic bag bans have popped up in cities throughout the United States, but we are still far behind other countries, where there's a widespread ban on the bags.

How bad is our obsession with single-use plastic?
We package plastic.

Thinking of my own experiences, disposable coffee cups are some of the worst offenders of this. An office receives a box of 1,000 styrofoam cups. Those cups are stacked, sealed in a plastic tube bag, and packed in a cardboard box. Styrofoam in plastic in cardboard. It's like Russian nesting dolls of disposable items. Shipped on a truck or an airplane so someone can drink one cup of coffee and throw the cup away. And only the cardboard can be recycled.

One woman reasons:
It's really about not being quite selfish for the moment, but thinking about the next generations to come.

She hit on one of my main sentiments for caring so much. Our planet is not just for us, it's for everyone who comes after us too. We are only here for a short time, but in that process, we are trashing the planet and taking valuable resources away from future generations.
You're gonna make something to use for a few minutes, out of something that's going to last forever, and you're just going to throw it away. What's up with that?

The documentary discusses how plastic does not actually go away (like styrofoam). It may look like it's going away, but instead of biodegrading, it photodegrades. For example, the sun will photodegrade a plastic bag floating in the ocean, breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, that remain in the ocean. For animals to eat and get sick from.

I didn't want to see a turtle carcass with litter all up in its stomach, but I saw it. It's unsettling to see a decomposed turtle to know that plastic can float all the way to islands in the middle of the ocean, get eaten by animals, and then kill them.

The subject of BPA and pthalates is targeted as well. Plastic is enough on its own, but plastic with chemicals that can leach into foods and drinks is really unnecessary. Aluminum cans can be lined with BPA-filled plastic. Even baby bottles had BPA. At least some stores have banned BPA in baby products.

What about alternatives? When San Francisco banned plastic bags, they offered paper bags as an alternative, and many raised a stink that paper bags are just as destructive to the environment as plastic. SF Department of the Environment Director (and now EPA Region 9 Administrator) Jared Blumenfeld notes that the bags are made of 100% recycled paper AND they are recycled 10 times more than plastic bags. Their impact is in fact, much lower.

Documentary host Jeb Berrier sprinkled bits of humor throughout the documentary, and one of my favorite moments was his grocery trip with no reusable bags. He passed on paying 10 cents per bag, instead "going commando" carrying his groceries.

Reducing your dependence on plastic is a continual focus point on Eco Cajun, and Bag It reiterates the simplest ways:
  • Bring your own (bag, water bottle, bulk containers)
  • Reduce single-use (don't buy something packaged for single-use, buy used goods)
  • Don't drink bottled water
One last thought on getting away from the plastic obsession?
Live more like how our grandparents lived.

Stream Bag It | Amazon | iTunes
eco cajun [the earth just wants to be loved ba-you!]. All posts, content, graphics and photographs copyright 2009- Eco Cajun, unless otherwise credited. BLOG DESIGN BY Blogdessert.