Sunday, June 26, 2016

Recycling in Lafayette Parish Schools

If you live within Lafayette Parish, and especially if you have school-age children, now is your chance to make your voice heard to adopt recycling in every school. The Lafayette Parish School System will be reviewing proposals this week and making a selection for a new solid waste contract. However, the Request for Proposals only contains an option for recycling services, not a requirement.

Proposals are due this coming Wednesday, June 29, and the selection committee will be reviewing and ranking the proposals on Thursday, June 30, before making their recommendation to the school board on Wednesday, July 6.

Please take a moment this week to email your school board representative and let them know you want to see recycling services in all Lafayette Parish schools as part of the new solid waste contract.


Much of this push for parishwide recycling services comes from two dedicated Woodvale Elementary teachers, Amanda Waddle and Catherine Schoeffler Comeaux. For the past year, they collected recyclables throughout school and personally hauled them home to place in their curbside bins. And in true teacher fashion, they compiled their collection data throughout the year and prepared a thorough report of the how much they recycled and the impact on the environment. It's a valiant effort, but they can't do it alone.


Although I don't have children of my own, I want to see this happen, because in school is where I began to learn about recycling and environmentalism. As I stated in my own letter to the school board member:

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher read us lessons from the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the World. Even in 1996, we learned about ways to be more earth-friendly, from cutting plastic six-pack rings to what materials are recyclable, to turning off the light when we're not in a room. 

Those classroom lessons, combined with my parents participating in Lafayette's curbside recycling, got me in the habit of thinking green and started my passion for environmentalism. Over the years, I have remained dedicated to recycling and reducing my impact on the environment, and now I regularly publish blog posts on my website, Eco Cajun, to share ways that others in our community can live greener.

I think practicing recycling sets an important precedent for students, and allows for instruction and educational opportunities to teach why it's important to protect the earth and its natural resources. One of the most important aspects to changing habits, especially for recycling, is learning to do so at a younger age. Wouldn't it be great for Lafayette Parish students to supplement what they learn by practicing recycling every day?  

Project Front Yard has worked with schools for the past two years to conduct a plastic bag roundup, with students collecting thousands of plastic bags that were then sent off to a company that makes recycled plastic park benches. This has served as a valuable project and teaching tool.

I don't yet have children, but so many of my friends do, and it's extremely important for them to know why we should protect our environment and reduce our trash impact as much as possible. If children are our future, then it's up to us to set them on the path to sustainability and responsibility early in life.

As Gretchen from the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability says, "Lafayette Parish has had curbside collection for decades. UL has had a full scale system for many years, including at Ragin' Cajun Athletic events. Our wonderful festivals and Downtown Alive have recycling. It is time for our K-12 students to have the same access in their learning environment."




(Don't know who your school board member is?)
  • Superintendent - Dr. Donald W. Aguillard: daguillard@lpssonline.com
  • Director of Planning and Facilities - Mr. Kyle Bordelon: kvbordelon@lpssonline.com
  • Chief Academic Officer - Annette Samac: alsamec@lpssonline.com
  • Chief Administrative Officer - Joe Craig: rccraig@lpssonline.com
  • District 1 - Mary Morrison mmorrison@lpssonline.com
  • District 2 - Tommy Angelle tangelle@lpssonline.com (President)
  • District 3 - Elroy Broussard ebroussard@lpssonline.com
  • District 4 - Dr. Tehmi Chassion tchassion@lpssonline.com
  • District 5 - Mr. Britt Latiolais blatiolais@lpssonline.com
  • District 6 - Justin Centanni - jcentanni@lpssonline.com
  • District 7 - Dawn L Morris dmorris@lpssonline.com (Vice-President)
  • District 8 - Erick Knezek eknezek@lpssonlne.com
  • District 9 - Jeremy Hidalgo jhidalgo@lpssonline.com

Friday, June 24, 2016

Photo Friday | Eat Lafayette 2016

Kicking off its 12th year, the annual Eat Lafayette campaign heralds a summer season of celebrating locally owned restaurants and some of the area's best chefs.

Running from June 20 through September 18, more than 100 participating restaurants are offering Eat Lafayette specials to patrons. You can view all specials on the campaign's website.

As I say every year, there is NO shortage of restaurants to choose from in Lafayette and Acadiana, and luckily, so many of them are locally owned. Additionally, a lot of restaurants use local and regional produce, meat and seafood, further contributing to the area's economy. Supporting our local restaurants is so important to preserving and expanding our culinary culture.

It's much more than small shops serving fried seafood. Although that remains a staple in the area (and deliciously so), the crop of restaurants who participate run the entire gamut of cuisine. There's southern regional, Mexican, Italian, fusion, Indian, traditional burgers, barbecue, breakfast, desserts and pastries, and vegan options.

 

At last night's Eat Lafayette kickoff party, I definitely spent more time sampling amazing food than getting really any photos of said food. As my fiance and I walked around, ducking between the crowds and balancing plates while splitting our samples, we enjoyed trying new dishes and restaurants we don't get to visit often.

There were so many good offerings this year, and I think Dark Roux had the most creative one, with a pickled shrimp accompanied by cantaloupe and topped with caviar. Dark Roux often uses local and regional food in their menu items, and have a delicious brunch each weekend.

What I can remember us trying are shrimp and grits, seafood stuffed mushrooms, gumbo, chicken biscuits, quinoa tabouli, fried green tomatoes, chicken salad sliders, baked pasta, bacon-wrapped chicken, shrimp salad, crawfish enchiladas, crab cakes, cheesecake, macarons...and that's about where I lost track!


These macarons from Poupart's Bakery are officially the best I've ever tried. The one above is a green tea and lemon flavor that was absolutely light and indulgent. I tried another apple-flavored combination that was just as amazing.


This year, the kickoff party was held at the new UL Lafayette Student Union, a building that is LEED-certified (a standard that ranks how green and sustainable the building is, from materials to efficiency to waste).

Because of the location, it was easier to provide recycling bins like the one above, throughout the lobby. I wish the ballroom could have held some in addition to the trashcans, however, the majority of the disposable plates and cups were styrofoam. The forks, spoons, and plastic cups and plates at least could have been recycled more easily.


And you can never argue with a perfect sunset through the moss-covered trees in the UL Swamp.

Follow the Eat Lafayette campaign for the next three months through any of their social media channels:
Facebook | TwitterYoutube | Pinterest
Instagram
| Vine | Foursquare | Snapchat: eatlafayette15

Now, it's time for your homework...pick which restaurant you'll dine at first! And if you don't want to get out of the house, use Waitr to have your local meal delivered.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Giving Packing Peanuts a Longer Life

This post is going to be a test of, "How many times can Caitlin say 'packing peanuts' in one entry?"

Photo: Cars With Cords

Packing peanuts, made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) are recyclable, but most curbside programs, including Lafayette's, do not accept the material. In most cases, your best bet is to save and reuse or donate old peanuts.

Although I don't have factual backup on this statistic, I believe there are about 93,029,284,893 packing peanuts in existence on this planet right now.

Consisting of up to 98% air, packing peanuts are very lightweight and easily littered. Many of them are not biodegradable. However, starch-based packing peanuts come from a crop base rather than a petroleum base. They can biodegrade, although they have their own drawbacks, like being more expensive (as most eco-friendly alternatives are), and heavier.

Although it can be difficult if you lack storage space, you can collect packing peanuts you receive in a large cardboard box or even trash bag, then use the collection when you need to ship or package something new. They also come in handy during the holidays when you need to wrap gifts, and when packing delicate items for a move.

According to UPS, you can bring your excess packing peanuts to your local UPS Store, where they will collect and use them when shipping out customers' packages. (Teehee. Okay, sorry. I won't giggle again.) This is probably the easiest and best way to clear out your home and still give the peanuts a new life, plus it saves UPS money and the environment from the natural resources needed and production pollution.

I called a local UPS Store franchise to find out if they have any restrictions on accepting packing peanuts, and the woman answered that they do not take the starch-based biodegradable ones.

"How can I tell the difference?" you might ask. Well, according to All Green Recycling:
Packing peanuts are color coated to let you know if they will be biodegradable or if they are mostly “earth unfriendly.” White and pink packing peanuts are the traditional kind – they are composed of 70% raw materials, and will take quite a while to decompose (Caitlin's note - but they never truly go away). These packing peanuts need to be recycled. Green packing peanuts truly are “green” – they are made up of 70% recycled material and will biodegrade easily.

If you are not sure what type of packing peanuts you have, do a brief test: run the peanuts under water for two minutes. If they break down under water, you can use them as compost in your gardening, or plant containers.

While it can be highly entertaining to watch your pet play with packing peanuts,
I don't recommend letting them do it, because the styrofoam can be dangerous if they bite and eat it.
Think of the menews. (Photo: Jackson Pack N Ship)

Although this doesn't help an issue of recycling/reusing packing peanuts, your best bet if shipping something on your own is using more sustainable and easier-to-recycle materials, such as crumpled newspaper or other scrap paper. Alternately, any online retailers, especially Amazon, use those plastic air packs in their shipments. While those are a pain in the ass, you could save these like you would packing peanuts and reuse them.

If you're packing items for a move, use newspaper, or even your sheets, towels or t-shirts to protect breakable items.

So, long story short: Donate packing peanuts to a shipping store, keep and reuse them for your own packages, or use more biodegradable ones in your garden.

More resources:

Other places to recycle packing peanuts:

(And, 22. 22 times in one blog post!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Beat the Heat, but Conserve Too!


Now that it's officially summer, let's talk about how you can stay comfortable at home even when the temperatures rise. Utility rates typically rise in the summer to follow the increased demand, so it's even more important to conserve energy where you can so you can save on your bill, or at least keep it from climbing too high.


There are easy, inexpensive changes you can make in and around your home to help with your comfort, and there are more long-term investments that can leave a huge impact on your home's energy efficiency.

Inexpensive Options

  • Turn your thermostat up a degree or two. You might be surprised to find it's almost as comfortable, and you'll save money on your utility bill.
  • Use your ceiling fans. They require much less electricity than the air conditioner, and they help keep YOU cool in a room. When you're not occupying a room, turn off the fan to help wear and tear.
  • Hang curtains. Blackout and thermal curtains are one of the best ways to block out light and heat during the summer. But, with the exception of sheer panels, just about any curtain will help to some extent. I recently replaced the valance in my bathroom with a spare curtain (folded in half height-wise because of course we have a window that doesn't fit a standard curtain size), and it has already made a huge difference. With the way this summer is going already, I couldn't stand the thought of that harsh 5:00 sun beating through the window, past the valance, and making the bathroom feel like a sauna.
  • Keep your blinds, shades and curtains closed, especially during the day and when you aren't home. I'm not sure it gets any easier than that! However, sometimes you just have to let a couple certain stinkers be able to stare outside for birds and squirrels.

 

  • Use the majority of your electricity in off-peak hours. Don't wash your clothes or cook during the afternoon, when the temperatures are at their hottest. The electricity rates will be higher, and the demand from everyone else will contribute to putting a strain on the grid. Do laundry or your hair in the morning or evening.
  • Change up your cooking methods. Using your stove and oven contributes to a lot of excess heat in the kitchen. This can require our air conditioner to run more to regulate the temperature to keep things comfortable. Use a slow cooker or cooking dishes that don't require heat. (And I can hear many of you thinking, "Well, I might as well go out to eat or order takeout!" It is an option, but it can get more expensive and keeps more cars on the road.)
  • Use CFL or LED lightbulbs in all lights and lamps. Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, making them more energy inefficient. CFL bulbs are cooler to the touch and use less energy to give you the same end product. LED bulbs tend to give off really good light, don't have that slow-lighting tendency that CFLs do, and are the most energy efficient type of the group. The bulbs cost more in the first place, but they have the most impact on your utility bill. The lights in the above photo of our ceiling fan are LEDs, and they are amazing. They instantly reach full brightness and do a better job of lighting the room than the previous CFLs did.

 

An LED light bulb we recently transitioned to at home.
 
  • Check for cracks around windows and doors. If you can see light peeking through, then a lot of your cool air is escaping too. Patch or seal any cracks or fix anything broken to keep the air from escaping.
  • Embrace shade! A house sitting out in the open is going to bake in the hot summer sun. While it's important to make sure trees themselves don't pose a threat to your home's safety, it's beneficial to keep (or plant) trees around your home to provide shade.

More Expensive, But Very Impactful Investments

  • Have screens installed on your windows, especially if they're single-pane. They'll help cut down the harsh glare.
  • Have solar film installed, which helps with heat reduction and solar glare. Check out this post from 2012, when I had Lafayette, Shutters, Blinds and More install solar film at my former office, making a huge impact on both our comfort and our utility bill.
  • Have thermal, double-pane windows installed.
  • Insulate your attic or home. Older homes, like ours, typically don't have great insulation, and it is one of the biggest factors toward escaped energy and wasted money. If you can, look into getting fresh insulation and enjoy the comfort.
  • Invest in a Wi-Fi thermostat, like the Nest. There are many brands out there these days, but we invested in a Nest when my fiance first moved into his home. It has been so convenient to have the app, and the Nest learns your habits and adjusts the AC usage accordingly. We also have the Auto-Away feature set, so it learns when we aren't home for a long period of time, and it runs the AC less frequently, saving us tons of wasted energy and money. And because I'm a nerd, I love to check the weekly report to see how well we did, usage-wise. But all of the Wi-Fi thermostats enable you to run



What other ways do you stay cool during the heat of summer?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Friday | Water Sense

It's only June 17, but this heat is making me angry, y'all. I do not do summer very well. (Very NSFW video that sums up my feelings.) These past few days have felt like a sweaty elephant with a blow dryer is sitting on me. Thanks, Louisiana.

But, as we get fully into summer here, I would like to take a moment to remind everyone to not be a-holes with lawn watering. Most of these water conservation tips apply to those who use automatic sprinklers. Convenience can be so wasteful.



In disclosure, this photo is about a year and a half old, taken when it was around 45 degrees outside (oh, sweet temperature, how I love thee). But the principle is the same. It has just rained. It was cold. That's a sidewalk. And the automatic sprinklers are tsh-tsh-tsh-tttttssssssshhhhhh-ing away.

Yes, automatic sprinklers are easy to keep the lawn and landscaping green and lush. But they waste so much water (and money on your water bill I'm sure) compared to manual watering. Statistically speaking, you are 100% wasting water by letting the sprinklers water already soaked grass or landscaping.

A few easy rules:
  • If it is raining, has recently rained, or is about to rain, turn off your automatic sprinklers.
  • Don't point your automatic sprinklers at the road, driveway or sidewalk. Unlike plants, concrete does not need to be watered.
  • Follow the LUS lawn watering ordinance, which is aimed at combating low water pressure during the peak hours of late afternoon and evening.The ordinance applies to LUS residential, commercial, and wholesale (Youngsville, Broussard, Milton, Scott, Water District North, Water District South) customers using automated watering systems and sprinklers.
    • Customers with odd-numbered home/property addresses (ending with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
    • Customers with even-numbered home/property addresses (ending with 0, 2, 4, 6, 8) water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
    • No watering on Mondays.
    • The designated times for lawn watering are from midnight to 2 p.m. (for 14 hours of possible watering time each designated day).
    • Fines are accumulative and stay on record for three years. 
    • Manual watering, soaker hoses and watering newly planted sod, landscaping and ground cover are exempted by the ordinance. To be exempted for new plantings, you must qualify with LUS.
  • Use a rain barrel in your yard and hydrate your landscaping with natural rain instead of city water.
  • Especially do not water during the hottest part of the day, roughly between lunch time and dinnertime. It will evaporate too quickly to do your plants any good, and that's even more wasteful.
 http://lus.org/index.php/water/water-conservation/water-conservation-ordinance
If you would like more information, history and tips on water conservation, read this ol' blog post. Even if you aren't a resident of Lafayette, your city may have its own watering ordinance. Check with your city government before you set the automatic sprinklers.
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