Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

all about the green

It’s not difficult to make the transition to greener finances. (If only it were as easy to have greener finances in the sense of HAVING more green...) So many companies these days are making the switch to paperless bills and online bill pay even easier. If you create an online account with each company, you should be able to find the option in your account settings or preferences

ATT allows you to choose paperless bills and receive email reminders instead. When I branched out to my own contract last year, I immediately changed my preferences to paperless billing, and I have had no trouble with it since then.

I’ve also made the switch to paperless billing with my utility company, Internet provider, gym, water provider, credit card and auto/renters insurance. The impact on the paper reduction just from these is pretty impressive for one person. The only one left to switch is health insurance. I’ve effectively cut my need to check my mail in half. I manage to keep myself organized and on-time paying bills through a special email folder for bills, a calendar of due dates with 5-day-out reminders, and scheduled online bill pay. I believe the only bill I still pay manually is my rent. And when I do need to use checks, I can use my recycled paper checks, featuring the recycling symbol.

When switching to paperless bills, many times you can also switch to paperless statements. This way, you can reduce more mail and stacks of paper lying around your home. One easy way to save your statements is by saving the PDF to a password-protected folder on your computer. You maintain privacy over the folder while sparing yourself of paper, and you still have the option of printing a statement in the future should you need to.

With online banking, it’s easy to see a list of your transactions, reducing the need for receipts in some cases. If I’m making a stop at the ATM or gas station, I don’t find I need a receipt, and I have the option to choose no receipt. My vehicle appreciates one less piece of paper floating around, and I appreciate saving it for someone who may actually need it (and hope it’s not for someone who will immediately throw their receipt away). It would be nice to always be asked if you’d like a receipt after a transaction, but most stores will give you one automatically. But where you have the option - skip the receipt!

By getting bills emailed to you, paying online and skipping receipts, you’re well on your way to saving large amounts of paper - for very minimal effort and no cost.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

earth day festivities

Since I already tend to live like every day is Earth Day, when the actual day comes around, I like to spend time educating myself or doing a little extra. This year I did both. I started off the day with a trip to a produce stand, where much of the produce is local. Plus, the business is local, and I like to support local businesses. I picked up some vegetables and fruit and remembered my reusable produce bags, along with my reusable shopping bags. This stand doesn't accept credit cards, so I paid with a check and could not resist writing "Happy Earth Day!" in the memo box. (Nerd.) It was then that I realized my checks are made of recycled paper. Even better!

 

Then it was time for a trip to the local recycling dump. In the past few years, recycling service for non-homeowners in this town has dwindled. There used to be pickups at every fire station, then two, now none. If you don't own a home and have a bin provided by the city, you have the option of shlepping yourself to the ghetto and dumping your recyclables onto this high tech pile of other recyclables. Because of this, I tend to let my recyclable piles up until it's slightly embarrassing. At least it doesn't stop me from recycling what can be recycled! I figured this trip would be well served on Earth Day. And I reused the large boxes I was taking by stuffing all my other recyclables inside. So handy! Also. I drink too much Abita Strawberry. And wine. But at least the wine is earth-friendly!



After that, we made our way to the USGS National Wetlands Research Center for their Earth Day celebration in conjunction with Innov8 Lafayette. I was especially excited about going, since the last time I visited the Wetlands Center, I was in middle school on a field trip related to a research project. A few things have changed since then, but the place looks very similar to how I remembered it.


We didn't get a chance to stay for the entire presentation by the Boy Scouts, but I'm glad I popped in for a few minutes. One of the Boy Scouts high adventures is a trip through the swamp, complete with sleeping on a houseboat, and part of the goal on the trip is to clean up the Atchafalaya Basin. They showed photos of previous excursions to the Basin and all of the trash they picked out of the water. The Basin is so important to the state of Louisiana, and from one of the Coastal Master Plan's depictions, is contributing to the only area of Louisiana coast that is gaining land instead of losing it. 

I had a nice, brief conversation with someone working on the Coastal Master Plan about how it's up to us to save Louisiana from sinking, and many of the projects aren't just proposed but are completed or underway. I made a comment about how there really is only so much you can do, but sometimes you just have to let nature take its course. We then discussed how important it is that the actions we take work WITH nature, and not FIGHT nature. That's when we'll make the most difference.



After that, we kept going and took a tour of the NWRC. We learned a lot about what the Center does, and how their scientific research is helping to save the environment and Louisiana. Part of what we were shown was studies on fish habitats, the effect of carbon dioxide on native wetland plants, how the scientists collect their native wetland plants (hint: airboats are LOUD), avian radar systems and how studying bird activity is very important, and the kinds of aerial photography and mapping that give scientists clues on trends and geography.



I noticed these two quotes on the wall at the NWRC and couldn't help but take a picture of them to keep. These are very important underlying messages to environmentalism. I especially love the first one.


Once we finished at the NWRC, we headed over to UL Lafayette to take a tour of the BeauSoleil house. You can read my post from 2009 about the BeauSoleil send-off to the Solar Decathlon here. Getting to tour the interior of the house was very interesting, and set into motion the plan to own a version in the future. The designs are for sale, and you can choose from a one-, two- or three-bedroom option.

The beautiful bathroom, and I'm not even joking by typing that.
 

These windows are structured to provide air, reducing the need for air conditioning.


The outdoor deck area provides extra living space, and gives great views of the house. The wide area has convertible doors that can be opened or closed to the outside, the kitchen or the living room, depending on where you want air flow. This house can easily turn into outdoor living space and it is beautiful. We were there on a sunny afternoon with relatively low (for Louisiana) humidity, and the breeze that came through the passageway was heavenly.

The hot water tank collects rainwater, then converts it into usable water for the home.


Still proud of the BeauSoleil team for winning the People's Choice Award. 


After that, we picked up some Louisiana seafood and made dinner with the fresh fish and produce. Then we biked to a friend's house to catch the latest episode of Mad Men. It was a fitting evening to a happy Earth Day. 

If you participated in Earth Day in any way, please feel free to share!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

happy earth day!

Today was a fantastic Earth Day. It involved fresh local produce, lots of learning about the scientific side of environmentalism, a few hours in the sunshine, a tour of the UL BeauSoleil solar home, supporting a local grocery store, and a home-cooked local dinner.

More pictures and a summary of the day coming tomorrow!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

earth day eve

A short link roundup in advance of the 43rd Earth Day tomorrow:

JetBlue is planting 83,000 trees in honor of every customer flying on Earth Day. The trees will be planted in North and Northwest Haiti to help rebuild earthquake-impacted areas. They're also going to plant 100 trees in Queens as part of their One Thing That's Green program. I always like to hear stories of airlines giving back to the earth, since air travel has such a large carbon footprint. It's good that some airlines work to give back, instead of just always taking from the earth.

PBS will be airing a miniseries this week called "Earth: The Operator's Manual." There are three parts to the miniseries, and if you don't have cable (like myself), you can watch all the parts online. The show talks about the problem of climate change, then how to fix it.

The Earth Day Network is running a project called Billion Acts of Green. Anyone can pledge an act of green and add it to the database. I pledged to keep my car's tires properly inflated to increase fuel effiency. I admit, I'm highly lazy when it comes to car maintenance. I really need to improve that.

And lastly, follow me on Twitter! It'll change your life. No, it won't, but I like to think that it could.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

earth day 2012

Earth Day 2012 is coming up fast, and with it comes plenty of activities. This past Sunday, an Earth Day festival was held at Vermilionville. I attended this event two years ago and enjoyed walking around, spending a day outside, and being around like-minded people. This year, I was unfortunately out of town and couldn't make the festival, but it seems that plenty of other people did. It's great to read positive comments from people exploring and learning about environmentalism.

Lafayette is about to embark on a very spirited and energetic week, with Festival International only six days away. This year, a new project is kicking off on April 22 (Earth Day) that will help shape Lafayette. It's called Innov8 and they are recognizing Earth Day in their eight days of activities. Just from perusing the list, I can feel my Sunday quickly filling up with events and learning. Save the Earth - Start with Our Coast is a great list of all the Earth Day events they're putting on. What's even greater is the proximity of the Innov8 events to my house. I smell a bike ride in my future! I'm especially interested in learning about the research and actions toward coastal sustainability. Having lived in Lafayette my entire life and realizing just how unique this area is as I grow up, I get concerned with the well-being of this place. Nature happens, and humans make nature a little more extreme. I would love to learn even a little about what we are going to do to keep the area as natural as possible and slow the effects of erosion.

Visiting the BeauSoleil home again will also be interesting. The BeauSoleil home competed in the Solar Decathlon in 2009, and won the People's Choice Award. I attended the send-off party before the house traveled to the Decathlon, but I would love to be able to tour inside the house.

If you're in Lafayette, check one of these events out on Sunday. If you're elsewhere, look online - you might find an event near you!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

welcoming myself back

I grew up being aware of the environment and our impact on it. As a child, I remember my family using the cloth bags from a bygone grocery story and the ubiquitous PAPER, PLASTIC and GLASS colored recycling bins. In middle school, a teacher would share lessons from 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. It was then that I learned about cutting six-pack rings so turtles, birds and other animals wouldn’t find themselves stuck and in danger. 

Over the years, I stuck with recycling. I credit my parents for instilling this in me, with their participation in the city recycling program. Their actions helped me grow up feeling like it was normal and easy to be green. Cloth bags in 1991? My dad being vegetarian when I was younger? It all stayed with me and helped shape my views.

A few years ago, I decided to get more into environmentalism. It felt like a calling, and still does. Our actions, as humans, are destroying our environment, but even more, they’re destroying our descendents’ environment. Our children and grandchildren are going to live in a different world from ours. WE live in a different world from our ancestors’. One of the biggest reasons I care so much is because such simple actions can make big differences.

Being greener doesn’t have to require spending more money or changing everything about the way you live. There are so many ways you can make yourself greener. Small actions count. Changing one habit at a time counts. Start easy and make it routine. See where you can expand your practices. In many cases, you can save money - and that sweetens the deal. I get the satisfaction of knowing my carbon footprint is smaller than others’, but I also have the satisfaction of lower utility bills and spending less at the gas station.

It’s simple to me. Why NOT be greener? What really is the benefit to continuing to be wasteful? Sure, it involves changing habits. But the benefits of those changes outweighs the drawbacks. Denying that it makes a difference is simply denial to change. It DOES make a difference. Summers in South Louisiana are brutal. And they take a toll on the utility system. I remember some summers in the past few years where the utility system threatened to implement rolling blackouts because the strain on the grid was too much. Because people were using too much electricity, and being wasteful with it. Changing your own ways - turning off lights that aren’t in use, turning off TVs that no one’s watching, turning up the thermostat a few degrees while no one is home - cuts the electricity demand, reduces the strain on the grid, and helps to avoid a rolling blackout. 

It makes a difference.

Why not make a difference?
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