Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Focus on the Impact, Not the Instant

The other day, a commercial caught my attention where there was a group of about 5 women hanging out in the backyard, eating dinner, drinking wine, and gossiping about something. As the camera focused on the food, you could see it was on paper plates, and as the spot faded out, the tagline "Focus on the Drama, Not the Dishes" appeared.

Paper and foam plates are obviously already one of my pet peeves, but this tagline made me even more mad. It doesn't even matter which brand produced this commercial, because they're all promoting unnecessary waste.

Why disposable dinnerware shouldn't be your at-home default.

In the right instances, I can understand a bigger need to choose convenience over sustainability. If you're hosting a huge party and don't have extra help or a kitchen staff on hand, then it's understandable to go for disposable plates. But even then, you can make a greener choice by choosing plates/bowls/silverware made of recycled paper or plastic, or dinnerware made of bamboo or compostable material. Whole Foods uses this composite cardboard that can be composted. A few years ago when P and I hosted a Saints party, I went with Susty Party's compostable plates and bowls. (The napkins are made of recycled paper and the forks and knives are recycled and recyclable plastic.)


 
And, this post isn't about restaurants providing to-go orders or containers. No, this is about the scenarios like the ones in that commercial. A group of five or six women gathered at someone's house. A family sitting down together for dinner. These are not the times for paper plates.

While it may seem so easy and convenient, remember the lasting impact that disposable plates have on the environment. Foam, especially, never biodegrades. So your alternative to washing a few extra dishes actually lives on forever.

It's much more sustainable, and cost-effective, to invest in reusable dinnerware that you love. And it doesn't have to be fancy china or super heavy dinnerware. Melamine is a popular alternative to ceramic, especially for children and outdoor dining, because it's lightweight and unbreakable. However, try to avoid microwaving, baking or running melamine through the dishwasher, because heat can cause some of the chemicals to leach out into your food.


And yes, they do make BPA-free melamine.

When you invest in a set of reusable plates and cups for home, you can pick ones that mirror your home's style and your personality. My future in-laws keep the striped plates above for when we have backyard cookouts, and I love how much use we've gotten out of them in the past couple years.

The plate in the title image is also melamine, and works super well for the lake house. Instead of packing my lunch in a paper towel or on a disposable plate, I fixed it on the plate and carried it out to the water.


 Backyard grillin' at the lake house, using regular plates, especially since there were only four of us.


 Thanksgiving gumbo at the lake house last year.


Taco night at home, and I wouldn't even fathom using disposable plates to eat in the dining room (or let's be real, in the living room at the coffee table).


And what about at work? I purchased a sale bowl and plate to keep at my desk, and they have served to eliminate a lot of single use potential from my day. One afternoon recently, I stopped by our company lunch hall to grab a salad, but instead of using a clamshell container, I just brought my own bowl.


Part of my workplace reusable arsenal.


Each year, my company also hosts a (very delicious) cookoff. My first year was spaghetti, and yes, all the styrofoam bothered me. Since I haven't worked yet worked out a great solution that everyone else would agree to, I at least changed my own impact for the next year. I brought my own sample-size cup (and if you look in the Saints party photo, you might see this exact bowl and its three siblings!) and my fork, and saved about eight styrofoam cups from being used. 

And yes, jambalaya might be the least Instagrammable food there is. I'm sorry. It tasted good though!
 

Maybe a gratuitous photo of poké bowls, but I'm not sorry. I'm craving some poké so this will have to do for now. The photo on the left is legit poké from Kailua, Hawaii, but is unfortunately in a foam cup, with disposable chopsticks. About a year after our vacation, I made my own version (after nearly having a heart attack at the cost of sashimi at Whole Foods), and it was pretty damn tasty. And this time, in a reusable bowl!


Loved the use of reusable dinnerware at an engagement party earlier this year. And the food was delicious. Excuse the paper napkin! This was a large party, and there was kitchen help for the evening to help with the dishes.


A weekend in New Orleans with fresh baked cookies on this adorable shaped plate.


Not all airport food options are sustainable, but one of the United lounges in the Houston airport provided simple reusable dinnerware for my breakfast during a layover last year. Gimme all the scones.

So, when you're at home, or hosting a small gathering, don't default to using disposable dinnerware. Remember the impact all that waste has on our environment, and make the sustainable choice! Choose reusable.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Photo Friday | Picking Up What Others Leave Behind

I participated in a group litter cleanup yesterday with the705, on a Lafayette road we embraced through Project Front Yard. Even with a small group, we collected a good amount of trash, mostly consisting of cigarette butts, but also featuring a pair of shoes and parts of a wig. Next to a bar on the street, I came across the jackpot of about 10 beer bottles nearly buried in this straw ground cover.

It took some kicking to knock a few of them loose, but I also perfected my claw machine skills by using the litter grabbers to pick them up and drop them into the trash bag.


While the bar adjacent to this spot has an outdoor patio, patrons still can't take glass bottles off the property, or "to-go". But that didn't stop these people from walking their beer next door and dropping them in this straw covering.

It's a good thing that we do have dedicated volunteers who will pick up stuff like this, but it shouldn't have been left behind in the first place!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Backyard Gardening

Each year, as spring arrives, I get the urge to refresh my backyard plants. However, although I've had a yard for the past three springs, I haven't taken the leap into a full-fledged in-ground vegetable garden. When I get very ambitious, I try to remember the fact that sometimes I just can't execute things as well as I envision. But instead, I enjoy keeping a manageable container garden each year with my favorite herbs and some pretty flowers.

Growing herbs and vegetables is local, fresh and sustainable!

This spring, inspired by SF Girl By Bay's new container vegetable garden, I began hunting around for a few containers I could repurpose for planting. By hunting for existing containers, I would save money and give a new life to something that could otherwise end up in the trash. During the hunt, I wanted to ask neighbors for items I saw lying around, but never got the courage to do so.

Photo: SF Girl By Bay

After a few weeks of not finding anything to salvage, I ended up using a neglected planter and stand that was already in our yard from the previous owners. So, it might not have been as unique or repurposed as I wanted, but hey, free is free, and reused is reused. The planter joined my vintage recycling bin and secondhand bike basket to form the collection for my container garden.

The next step was to choose herbs and plants. My favorite herbs to cook with are basil, rosemary, and chives, so I started my shopping list with those, and counted how many flower plants I would need.

When planning your own garden, think about the herbs or vegetables you actually eat on a regular basis. No need to plant dill if you hate the flavor!

And always determine where you want to keep your container garden. Grow what works for your yard, not just what you like. When you're researching or shopping, note the best conditions for each plant. If something you like is a full-sun plant, make sure you place it where it can really get enough sun. Follow the plant's tag guidelines as well. The best part about container gardens is that they're mobile. If a plant is starting to wilt, simply move it to a spot where it can thrive more.


I visited a local nursery on a day when they were donating a portion of their proceeds to the Bayou Vermilion District. Plants for me AND support for one of my favorite local organizations? That was a no-brainer!

Always look for a local retail nursery who either plants their own veggies, herbs or flowers, or sources from local growing nurseries. This way, you can know if something was grown sustainably or organically.


I ended up with basil, rosemary, french lavender, a collection of zinnias, a small succulent, and some organic potting soil.

After you transfer your plants to their pots (or the ground), wipe out and recycle the plastic starter pots they came in. Or save and reuse them for starter pots the next season! I always keep a few to use as potting soil scoops. They also can come in handy to keep small items organized in your shed, but make sure to seal up the drain hole if the items are very small.
 


I've really grown to enjoy my salvaged pot that now houses my french lavender and rosemary. The stand allows for a really nice height variety with my other containers.


In doing prep and research for this year's herb garden, I remembered a tip that basil likes to grow close together, so I planted three starters together. They were all growing well until a few days of heavy rain killed one of the starters.

Always make sure your pots can drain water, and if you've got heavy rains coming, move the plants under cover.

Although I've only got two stalks, they are both absolutely thriving these days. It's amazing to see how far they've come in three months, and my dinners have an extra fresh flavor thanks to my abundant supply of basil leaves.


 

When it comes to caring for my container garden, it's a joint effort. If it isn't raining, either my fiance or I will use our rain barrel to hydrate the plants. This way, the garden gets natural water and we save a little extra on our water bill.


I've also conducted a few regrowth experiments this summer, with green onions and romaine lettuce. While the green onions regrew pretty quickly in water, it's important to plant them before they turn to mush. These did not survive, but I know better for my next batch! Growing my own green onions will definitely save me money.


My romaine lettuce also regrew quickly in water, and this time I planted it after a week to see how it survives. If anything, it will at least provide a small salad!



So this year's container garden is still pretty small, but each year I gain a little more experience and a little more confidence to carry into the next season. And one of these years, I will jump into a full-fledged vegetable garden (complete with compost!)

If gardening really isn't your talent, I've got one tip for you: find a friend or relative with a great garden, and offer to take their extra produce off their hands! Nothing beats a summer garden tomato with a little Tony Chachere's sprinkled all over.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Photo Friday | Cleaning the Bayou Teche

Sending a shoutout today to the TECHE Project, and Bayou Operations Coordinator Dane, for their work this week in removing two large appliances, one chair, and bags of smaller debris from the scenic Bayou Teche.

The Teche runs from St. Landry Parish, through St. Martin and Iberia parishes, and into St. Mary Parish, and serves as an environmental and recreational space for kayakers and boaters. Near Franklin, Louisiana, sits the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. The Teche is also designated as Louisiana's only National Water Trail and National Paddle Trail.

So it's important to keep it clean, even if it wouldn't be designated as such a special waterway.

Dane went out twice this week to remove a refrigerator and hot water heater from the bayou, and shared the journey on the Bayou Teche Facebook page.

Photo: Bayou Teche Facebook page

The best part is that Dane says, instead of throwing the refrigerator away, he was able to sell it to the Fruit Stand in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana for $5. 

Photo: Bayou Teche Facebook page


According to the TECHE Project's website, they've collected 1.37 tons of trash in the first seven months of this year. These statistics are crazy!
  • 2016: 1.37 tons
    • Automobiles: 2
    • Steel Drums: 10
    • Ice Chests: 13 
    • Home Appliances: 11 
    • Fluorescent Light bulbs: 15 
    • Auto Tires:21 
    • Bicycles: 9 
    • Bags of Misc. Trash: 216

Since 2009, the group has removed a total of 52.75 tons of garbage and debris from Bayou Teche!

It's a dirty job, but thank God SOMEONE is willing to do it.

Our waterways are NOT dumping grounds for the items we don't want anymore. Don't forget, this is illegal dumping

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reusable IS Instagrammable!

It's no surprise that I enjoy flipping through my Instagram feed, admiring the shots other bloggers and awesome people share with their followers. I'm always a fan of picturesque photos, styled vignettes and behind-the-scenes peeks.

But lately, something has started to stick out more while I'm scrolling: so many single-use cups in otherwise gorgeous photos, whether Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook or wherever. I don't intend to be negative or call anyone out, but I can't "like" it, and it's made me want to shout even louder:

Let's focus on reusable!


Instead of showing off a cappuccino or fruity drink in a foam cup or a matcha latte in a plastic cup with a lid and straw, I would love to see more reusable cups or mugs. Be healthy, stylish and caffeinated while also caring for the environment. To me, that's the real beauty!

Show off reusable products instead of single-use in social media photos!

It's a relatively small and easy change to make: Simply stock up on a few reusable bottles or mugs that show off your personality. 


The harder part is getting in the habit of bringing it everywhere with you. But within a few weeks, you'll be used to it! Keep one for coffee or tea and one for water, to start with.

Most service employees will oblige your request to use your own container. Starbucks, CC's Coffeehouse, Johnston Street Java, The Lab, Reve Coffee Roasters, and many other local spots (no matter where is 'local' to you) accept your own mug. (However, I tend not to use the drive-thru when I do stop and have my own mug, so I'm not sure what their standard procedures are in that case.)

When I started going through my older Instagram photos to find ones to feature in this post, I managed to find almost 20, most from the past few months. It's even more apparent now that my bottles are a reliable accessory. And they don't take away from the scenery or the taste of whatever drink they're holding in the photo.

Over the years and to my memory, my (many) bottles have held: water, infused water, hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea, iced tea, margarita, beer, wine, sports drinks, lemonade, soft drinks and hot chocolate.

How have they integrated into my Instagrams?


I take them on vacation! I saved a ton of plastic by bringing my Klean Kanteen to Hawaii. It saw just as much of Oahu as I did! Willa Jean in New Orleans poured my iced coffee in my Kanteen twice in two days. And you always need to hydrate when you're out in the sun.




OOTD? Yeah, your reusable bottle or mug can be part of it! By picking out bottles that match your style, you're more likely to use it and show it off. At the end of this post, I have a short list of different brands you can shop from.




For Lafayette's weekly mini-festival Downtown Alive, you previously could not actually bring your own bottle for beer, but they introduced a branded reusable cup that was the approved size for beer they serve. I've used my cup for three DTA seasons now, helping to eliminate the amount of litter in downtown Lafayette.
 

Bring your own to work meetings or functions. Former Mayor-President Joey Durel and I had our coffee mugs present and skipped the available disposable options for a 705 morning coffee function late last year. Setting an example!


One of the most important places to make the switch to reusable is at work. Don't go for the stacks of styrofoam cups! Almost two years into my job, I've probably gotten fewer than 10 styrofoam coffee cups, and I don't remember how long ago I got the last one. By keeping a few regular mugs at my desk, I can pour some of the office coffee without being wasteful. And lately, my fiance and I have been making our coffee at home, so my Kanteens have been on heavy commute and desk rotation. (Behind the scenes note, there are usually three more cups all over my desk on any given day!)
 

 
Coffee at home might seem logical in a ceramic mug, but I still can't get over the fact that to-go cups are sold for home use, and that people do use them while staying at home to drink coffee. (Paper plates at home are another rant.)



Using my water bottle while at a restaurant helped me save a disposable cup and drink extra water for my health.


Ah, the gym. The second biggest place to eliminate single use. My gym supplies stacks upon stacks of styrofoam cups, along with straws and lids for patrons, and I avoid those and the plastic water bottles like the plague. (I'm fighting to change their styrofoam dependency.) I've had many reusable bottles on rotation for my yoga and cardio sessions. I can't even fathom how many bottles I've saved over the years.




Ready to invest in your own Instagrammable accessory? Check out these brands and choose your style. The stainless steel options are food grade and BPA-free.

A reusable bottle or mug isn't just for "green" bloggers or influencers, it should be for all bloggers and Instagrammers. Let's turn single-use style into reusable style. Swap out the plastic for stainless, and share your photos using #ReusableIsInstagrammable!
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