Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite Moments and Experiences of 2015

Alright, so I couldn't help the 2015 retrospective. Blame the #2015bestnine taking over Instagram this week. This year was full of ups and downs, but it is one I will always remember fondly!

1. Acadiana Lifestyle 

2015 started off with the bar REALLY high thanks to Acadiana Lifestyle including me in their Most Interesting People roundup!


2. Project Front Yard cleans up Krewe of Rio parade

Reducing the amount of trash generated by Mardi Gras is one of my ultimate environmental goals. When Project Front Yard announced plans to follow the first parade of the Lafayette Mardi Gras season, of course I was there. While it was more about cleaning up the parade route than reducing litter, it was a very visible example to thousands of parade-goers that there's just SO MUCH TRASH. And of course, we all had a great time and a great workout!

Photo: Kora Bruce Creative

3. Scoring something sparkly at the Farmer's Market

March 14, 2015 was an awesome day! My boyfriend pulled off the perfect proposal in one of my favorite spots in town, and we can't wait for our big day in 2016!


4. Eco Cajun on 106.3

To celebrate Earth Month this year, I launched a new blog design and had a weekly interview space with Matt on my favorite radio station, 106.3 Radio Lafayette. I loved sharing eco-friendly tips with listeners and getting to hang out with my old friend. He was even so nice as to let me pick my "intro" songs!


5. A Newwwwwww Car!


After almost 13 years, I said Bye Felicia to my Corolla and drove off in a Prius! And let's be honest, I don't even miss my old car. 


6. #ThisIs30

I at least tried to turn 30 gracefully. My fiance and I spent the weekend in New Orleans, and we visited the aquarium and went bowling. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who almost fell asleep at the bar, not my fiance or my friend. This is 30, alright.



7. Yoga 

I really got into my yoga practice this year, and pushed myself to new limits. Aerial is one of my favorite classes, and I'm glad to have found my little niche.



8. Flyin' to San Francisco

Loved getting to visit one of my favorite cities again.




9. HAAAAAANSON!!

If I'm not known for being a crazy recycling treehugger, I'm known for being a Hanson fan. At at the very last minute, I added two more Hanson concerts to my roster. It was so nice to visit an old friend, Laura (my essential oils mentor and wedding photographer), visit New Orleans briefly, and oh, meet Isaac Hanson again.



And now, I'm really excited to see what my memorable moments of 2016 will be...besides my wedding, of course!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gearing Up for 2016 | Sustainable Parties and Green Resolutions

This week, my lists have transitioned from gift shopping lists to new year's resolutions and blog planning lists. It's time to jam Matt Nathanson's "Farewell, December" while looking ahead at our fresh starts.

Are you still working on your new year's resolutions? I've got a few ideas for eco-friendly ones you can add!


  • Create less waste in your household or office. Without taking the plunge into going trash-free, you can make a few adjustments to reduce what you throw away regularly. Using cloth towels instead of paper ones, using real coffee mugs instead of styrofoam, and grocery shopping with cloth bags are easy ways to make huge impacts.
  • Shop at your local farmer's market. Fresh, delicious produce, meat and other goods? Yes please!
  • Cut down on driving. Carpool, ride your bike or walk sometimes to give your car a break.
  • Pick up litter. Look around your workplace or places you frequent and pick up litter you find. If you have children, make set plans each month to go out in your community and pick up litter. It's exercise, family time, and good for the environment!
  • Stop littering cigarette butts. If you're not ready to add "quit smoking" to your resolutions, maybe you can at least resolve to be responsible with your butts!
  • Sign up for my email list. Oops, how did this one slip in here? But when you sign up, you'll receive new blog posts directly in your inbox, hot off the press (slash RSS feed)!

 
 

If you want a few more ideas, head to The Daily Advertiser to read a few courtesy of Erin with Bayou Vermilion District!

As you gear up to celebrate, remember the environment:
  • Pick up any fireworks remnants instead of littering the ground. 
  • Make your own confetti with shredded scrap or wrapping paper (or even your junk mail!)
  • Recycle those champagne bottles (or beer cans, or sparking grape juice bottles.)
  • Use real glasses instead of disposable ones.
  • Recycle those ever-classy plastic 2016 glasses.
Image: Recycle Scene
And, that's it for 2015! See you back here next year!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

How Can I Responsibly Dispose of My Christmas Tree?

Hey, good question! I'm so glad you want your Christmas tree to go somewhere better than the landfill. Even though it's not so couth to keep it decorated in your house through the new year (and it's probably super dry by now), Christmas trees are still very beneficial to natural habitats.

Many parishes (and counties in other states) accept Christmas trees during the first few weeks of January, with the purpose of recycling or composting them.

Whether you recycle your tree yourself, or place it on the curb, the most important step is the first one. Take the time to ensure the tree is completely stripped. No ornaments, no lights, no tinsel, no flocking and no tree stand!

Image: Monte Hewett Homes

Want to recycle your Christmas tree yourself?

  • If you, or a friend or family member, have a camp or private fishing spot, sink your Christmas trees to create habitats for the fish.
  • Have a wood chipper? Create your own mulch for your flower beds and landscape. Or just use the branches as ground cover.
  • Don't burn your tree, especially in your indoor fireplace. They are a major fire hazard. An outdoor bonfire can be okay, if it's far enough away from your house. But watch your eyebrows!

Will my city pick up my tree and recycle it?

  • Lafayette and unincorporated areas of the parish: Trees are collected on your regular yard waste day, and are brought to the LCG compost facility, where they are processed into soil amendment.
  • Youngsville, Broussard, Carencro, Scott and Duson: You can bring your Christmas trees to the compost facility in north Lafayette and drop it off for six dollars.
  • Jefferson Parish: Curbside pickup of undecorated trees starts on January 7, 2016, throughout unincorporated Jefferson Parish, Gretna, Harahan, Kenner, Lafitte and Westwego. Garbage trucks will make one pass through each neighborhood to collect trees on January 7, 8 and 9. Trees will either be placed in the Goose Bayou marsh near Lafitte to help protect and restore Jefferson's coastal wetlands, or they will be brought to Wood Materials, LLC to be chipped and used for composting.
  • Terrebonne Parish: Place your Christmas trees with your normal trash pickup from January 4 to January 8, 2016. Residents may also drop off Christmas trees before January 8 at any of the TPCG residential drop-off sites at 263 Ashland Landfill Road, 651 Isle of Cuba Road in Schriever or 160 Crochetville Road in Montegut. The Christmas trees collected from local residents are placed into retention fences, also called cribs that have been constructed along the Intracoastal Waterway near the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge. These trees provide an effective wave-break which can reduce the erosion of our fragile marshes. 
  • Hammond: Southeastern Louisiana University will again collect used Christmas trees in partnership with area businesses and government agencies as part of its annual Christmas tree collection effort designed to enhance wetland restoration efforts in the Pass Manchac area. Trees can be dropped off beginning December 26 through February 9 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, 18104 Hwy. 190, next to Piggly Wiggly Super Market. The Southeastern Sustainability Center, 2101 North Oak Street, will collect trees beginning January 5 through the end of the month from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 to 10 a.m. on Friday. 
  • Pearl River: Trees may be brought to the water tower located behind the Pearl River Town Hall December 26 through January 7. They'll be recycled to help protect and rebuild Louisiana's coastal wetlands.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish: Curbside collection will happen January 11-January 23, 2016. The cities of Baker and Zachary will have one pickup each during that time. Multiple drop-off sites will collect trees from December 26-January 30. All trees will be mulched.

Do you have recycling information for a city or parish not listed above? Email me (caitlin@ecocajun.com) and let me know, and I'll update the list!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What to Do With Gifts You Don't Want

First, I won't tell anyone if you're looking to drop a gift you recently received! But it's inevitable, sometimes you just get a gift that isn't the right size, style or fit for you.

Don't let it take up space and collect dust on the top shelf of the closet! It's better to 'pay it forward' and give your gift to someone/somewhere who will be able to use or appreciate it better!


  • If you know the store the item came from, return it. Even without a receipt, most stores will at least give you a credit or let you exchange it right then.
  • Give it to a friend or family member.
  • Donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army.
  • Donate gifts (especially toys) to nonprofit organizations like homeless shelters, women's homes, or children's organizations.
  • Sell the item (unless you are worried about the gift-giver seeing it!)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What to Do With Holiday Leftovers

I've talked about how wasteful Christmas and the holidays can be in regards to the amount of trash that can be accumulated. But food waste considerably adds to that trash pile as well.

If you can't avoid the, "Oh man, I've got so many leftovers!" dilemma, there are ways you can avoid throwing it all out! Potluck-style dinners especially leave you with too much food. And Christmas is probably the worst time to find yourself with not enough food for your gathering.



  • Lunch and dinner for the next few days!
  • Send to-go plates home with your guests. Or if you're a guest, ask about taking some food home with you.
  • Freeze what can be frozen (gumbo, hollaaa!)
  • If you have a lot of leftovers, call homeless shelters and see if they'll accept the food as a donation.
  • Compost any remaining food scraps, especially if it's just not enough to save. Composting is also a good option for food waste resulting from cooking and preparation.

Once you've got your leftovers situation taken care of, check out these handy facts and numbers on food waste, courtesy of Fix.


Food Waste: What Gets Tossed Most Often
Source: Fix.com

And if you have any leftover rice and gravy, I'll be happy to take it off your hands!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Have a Really...Merry...Christmas.

(Name that movie!)

✔ Open some gifts.
✔ Eat some food (on real or compostable plates!)
✔ Spend time with loved ones.
✔ Wear short sleeves.
✔ Recycle all the gift bags and bows!




Well, it might not feel much like Christmas outside, but I hope you have a cheerful and festival holiday anyway! (Just another year of pretending the rain is snow and imagining a white Christmas over the gross wet Christmas.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Making a Paperless List and Checking It Twice

It's already the week of Christmas, and although we've attended multiple parties and I've done most of my shopping, it doesn't feel like we're in the final stretch.

Plus, it's somewhat depressing that our most Christmas-like weather happened last Friday and Saturday, and it's forecasted to be 81 and rainy this Friday. Will not make global warming comment, will not make global warming comment...

But we sit each evening by the LED light of our Christmas tree, I am slowly catching up on my Christmas movies, and the cats are helping me wrap gifts.


We're checking off the list of holiday parties, and they've been some of the most fun times yet this month. Whether it's an extra long work lunch, a nice dress kind of party, or a backyard bonfire, I've been enjoying spending time with some of our favorite people.

(PS: That beer? Is pretty amazing.)


I am attempting to sit back and enjoy the season, thought I'm not always successful. There are always a thousand reasons to be stressed out, but that's not what you look back on years from now. The majority of my gifts may not be wrapped yet, but that's okay.

The gift below was for my office gift exchange, and is wrapped in decorative kraft paper and adorned with a burlap bow, from ribbon I had left over from a craft project. I loved that the gift I picked out was in a bag and stuffed with reused tissue paper, newspaper, bubble wrap and plastic bags, and the gift itself was packed in reused cardboard. I saved the tissue paper, gift bag and plastic bags and tossed everything else into the recycling bin.

 

Milo very much enjoyed helping us put up snowflake lights in the front window, and he made sure all the little lights were twinkling.


He and Dax, however, did not enjoy indulging my plan for them to dress up as Cousin Eddie for an Instagram photo contest! Even when I tried bribing them with their favorite treats.

 

There are only four more sleeps until Christmas. Let's all take a deep breath and enjoy this week! Put on music while you wrap your gifts, put on your favorite holiday movie for a repeat viewing, or eat a holiday dessert.

I hope it's cold wherever you are, but if you're in south Louisiana, suffering in the rain and humidity, just throw on your finest Christmas t-shirt!

What are you most ready for this week?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Photo Friday | Graduation Gone Green

A late Photo Friday post this week, but it's one that congratulates all of UL Lafayette's fall graduates!


See, when you recycle your soft drink or water bottle, you help a college student graduate in style!

Also, I'm jealous that graduates now get sassy red gowns, and we had boring old black. I would ask for a do-over, UL Lafayette, but I really don't want to go back to school. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Packing Up the Sleigh for Holiday Travel

If you think about it, traveling by sleigh is pretty eco-friendly. I assume Santa's sleigh doesn't run on gas, but just on biofuel (hey-ohhhh!). And with the distance he travels in one night, that's a pretty decent source of energy that we should maybe look into!

However, the rest of us still have to rely on other forms of transportation for our holiday travel (and we certainly aren't going to get there as quickly as Santa!) Whether you go by car or airplane, there are a few tips to remember that will help you travel more sustainably and with a smaller footprint.

By Car

  • Pack lightly and bring only what you need for your trip. The more you weigh your vehicle down with unnecessary items, the less efficiently your vehicle will perform.
  • Pack snacks and drinks in reusable containers. Resist the urge to throw everything in a Ziploc bag! Plus, you'll be able to use the containers again while you're away, and on your trip home.
  • Check that your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes. Your vehicle runs most efficiently when everything is working correctly.
  • Fill up your tires to their proper inflation. Low tire pressure reduces fuel efficiency.
  • Pack what you can inside the car, as those roof luggage racks reduce efficiency as well.
  • Use cloth bags to pack gifts or extra goods for the car, or bring a few empty ones to use on your trip home!


 

By Air

  • Don't overpack! Not only will you get slapped with overweight baggage fees, you'll be contributing to a heavier, less efficient airplane.
  • Bring an empty reusable drink container. You generally won't be able to bring liquids through a security checkpoint, but you can fill your bottle once you've gone through.
  • Use recycling or compost bins in the airport instead of throwing everything in the trash.
  • If you have unused napkins from the airport restaurant or in-flight snacks, keep and save them for later. Or even bring your own cloth napkin and say "no, thank you" to paper.
  • Have gifts to bring? Don't wrap them before you pack them! TSA agents may have to unwrap gifts during a scan, and there's trashed wrapping paper you won't get back. You'll have to use even more paper to rewrap, and what a headache it is overall. If your gifts are too large or bulky to fly with, consider just shipping them to your destination. (If you're ordering gifts online, have them shipped directly to the recipient to save extra packing materials and fuel.)
  • Use mobile boarding passes if your airline supports them. It beats having scrappy pieces of paper that you could accidentally lose or throw away, and it works just as easily.
 

Once You're There

Enjoy your holidays, wherever you are. Don't forget your basic green practices:
  • Recycle!
  • Use cloth bags.
  • Conserve water.
  • Keep the thermostat on a moderate temperature, even if you're at a hotel. (And I'd say not to turn the heat on too high, but chances are, we'll all be blasting the AC on Christmas Day. I mean, the high in south Louisiana is supposed to be 74! #ChristmasInShorts)
  • Choose reusable cups and dinnerware.
  • Don't waste what you don't really need.
  • Walk, ride bikes, or carpool.

Where are you heading for the holidays this year? Doing it Four Christmases-style and jetting off to a tropical island, or simply heading to your parents?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Photo Friday | The Best Card Ever

Don't you love when your greeting card makes a snarky dig at a ubiquitous plastic bag!?

Shoutout to Pieces of Eight in Lafayette, where I found this gem.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eco-friendly Holiday Decoratin' and Entertainin'

Now that we've got buying and wrapping gifts out of the way, let's talk holiday decorations and entertaining!

Whatever style decor you love, you can adapt to be eco-friendly. From modern to rustic to minimalist, deck your halls with sustainable holly!


Decorating

  • For your interior and exterior lights, go LED. They use less energy, helping to lessen the impact on your utility bill when you're already spending extra money on food and gifts. LEDs also keep their cool better than conventional lights, making your tree less of a fire hazard. You can also find decorative solar-powered outdoor lights, which are great if you don't have an exterior outlet.


  • Use natural elements instead of glitter, styrofoam and other shiny stuffs to decorate. Send the kids out to pick up small sticks and twigs in the yard, and use them in vases. They pull off a glamorous rustic feel with a simple coat of metallic spray paint.

    If you have a real Christmas tree, use the trimmed branches (or trim your own out of the back - no one will know!) and add them to floral arrangements or table centerpieces.

    Wine corks can be used for making your own ornaments, garland or miniature trees!
    • Choose soy wax candles in holiday smells for a cleaner, paraffin-free burn.
    • Better Homes and Gardens has 13 ideas for mason jar holiday crafts, from decorations to gifts. But instead of buying mason jars, simply use clean, empty food jars. Soak the jars to loosen the glue, then scrub the label off. Good as new-ish!
    • A really fun craft for children, and okay, adults too, is making paper snowflakes. Make them greener by using scrap printer paper, newspaper, paper shopping bags or even junk mail.
    • Vintage Christmas decorations are seriously some of my favorites. I've already laid claim to some of my parents', including my father's set of vintage ornaments from the late 70s or early 80s. They've already given me a musical house that is just about as old as I am. By keeping decorations for many years, or scoring vintage decorations, you're keeping unique items out of landfills.
    • Use natural or recycled fabrics for your tree skirt. Burlap adds that rustic touch. Solid-colored old flat bed sheets work great and give an organic, bunched-up look. When I had smaller Christmas trees in my old apartments, I used a large piece of scrap red fabric for a skirt.


    Even more decorating ideas, because I couldn't possibly list them all:

    Entertaining

    If you're having a holiday gathering, the most eco-friendly dinnerware is the kind you use normally. Make sure your dishwasher is empty before the party starts! Alternatively, you can go a little more casual by using melamine plates and bowls and acrylic drink glasses, even though the materials are not the greatest. They are at least reusable and work well in a party setting. And there are BPA-free options, which makes them better for children especially.

    But if you're having a large gathering and choose the disposable route, look for plates and bowls made of recycled or compostable material instead of styrofoam, which cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable. Wheat straw, plant-based, and bagasse are all sustainable and functional options.

    Susty Party's line of compostable products can be found on their website or at Whole Foods. You can also find (less festive) biodegradeable plates and bowls at Drug Emporium.


    Eco Cajun friend Kari kicked off her holiday season by camping with friends and family for Thanksgiving. For their dinner, she picked up Susty Party plates and bowls at Whole Foods, chose bamboo utensils and used brown kraft paper to cover the table. The cups are also recyclable. I love her commitment to choosing a more sustainable option, especially to go out and enjoy nature.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/-juRB4y2IAWpz2EqrSHpYXod7bpNwdh15fTgc0/?taken-by=karishepwalker
    Photo by Kari Walker


    When you're prepping for your holiday get-together, remember to recycle as much as you can. And before the guests arrive, set out your trash can and add a recycling bin next to it. If you have more than one trash can set out, place a recycling bin next to each one, so no matter what, your guests have a convenient alternative. You can even pull other items for double duty as a recycling bin, from a lined basket to a plastic storage bin.

    To make the distinction easy for guests, place a sign on the recycling bin labeling what can go in it. Since I'm in the giving spirit, I made a festive printable PDF that you can tape onto or above your recycling bin! Click on the image below to download.

    Download a PDF of this recycling bin sign and print it for your own holiday party!

    How will you green your decorations this year?

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    What's the Alternative to Gift Wrap?

    Here is my yearly friendly reminder: your standard wrapping paper is NOT recyclable. The shinier, the waxier, the glittery-er...the more it goes into the trash and into the landfill.

    But don't fret, you can wrap those Christmas gifts (or any gifts year-round) beautifully AND sustainably!


    Better Wrapping Paper

    The best and easiest/most accessible option is to go for gift wrap made of recycled or recyclable paper. You know that ubiquitous brown kraft paper? It works awesome as eco-friendly wrapping paper. You can find printed gift wrap online (check out Greenfield or Bambeco), or in some stores (World Market or The Container Store may be your best bet.)

    Winter Forest paper from World Market, Polka Dot and Red Building paper from Hobby Lobby.

    To make it easy, cheaper and creative, you can buy plain kraft wrap and decorate it yourself with markers, colored pencils or stickers. And you can find plain brown wrapping paper at just about any craft and hobby store.

    Some gift wrap may be made with recycled paper, or even be tree-free! This paper from Nashville Wraps is made of limestone and polyethylene and can be reused many times.

    Although you might not have as plentiful a supply if you're in the younger generations, a great free gift wrap option is your regular newspaper! Spruce up a black, gray and white gift with a festive red ribbon, and you're in business.

    Forget the Gift Wrap...Bag Me!

    So maybe wrapping a gift isn't your style, or you're dealing with an oddly shaped item. Gift bags are great because they are inherently reusable. (Life tip: Save and store gift bags you receive, instead of throwing them away! Saves money and doesn't take up a lot of room.)

    Skip the garish shiny and glittery bags and look for something more natural. Who wants glitter all over their floor on Christmas morning anyway!? World Market carries beautiful tree-free gift bags, some made of recycled cotton remnants (printed and solid.) You can sometimes find them on sale, as I did for a birthday gift earlier this year!


    Many gift bags, both printed and solid, are also made of kraft paper, making them recyclable. And if you end up with a handled paper bag while you're out shopping, save it and reuse it as a gift bag!

    I Wanna Be Zero-Waste...What's My Option?

    I commend your dedication! My favorite zero-waste option is to purchase a cute cloth shopping bag along with your gift and use it as the gift bag. That way, you're giving a little bonus with the bag, and gently encouraging the recipient to reuse. (Innocent grin.)

    If you have spare fabric around, you can use it as a nice, reusable alternative to paper, especially if your gifts are around the same size each year.

    Or go minimalistic. If you have nicer recyclable boxes, leave them unwrapped, and just wrap a ribbon or affix a bow on top of the box. Some printed boxes don't even need wrapping paper, as they're pretty enough on their own!

    When you get gift boxes, flatten them to keep in storage. If you've ordered gifts online, save and reuse the shipping boxes.

    Don't Forget the Accessories

    Tissue paper and bows and name tags oh my! I have a personal list of things I absolutely hate to spend money on, and packages of tissue paper is on that list. Why spend money for paper that is only used to stuff a box or bag and that instantly gets thrown away? Save and reuse your tissue paper!!

    I keep a container full of tissue paper to use throughout the year, and at a baby shower a few months back, I asked to keep all the bags and tissue paper that were going to get thrown away. So now I have enough tissue paper to last until I'm 40. (But at least it's all folded and contained!)


    The bright green sheets toward the bottom are actually a fabric-like material that makes it stronger and less resistant to tearing so easily. While it's still made of polypropylene, it has a longer life than regular tissue paper.

    Ribbons and bows are up there with tissue paper - don't rip them off of a gift and throw them away! Keep the good bows for use year after year.

    Or get creative and use household items for ribbons and bows. Stretchy headbands can be a nice ribbon on a smaller gift. I've seen neckties wrapped and tied around gifts, making a beautiful bow. Use more fabric-like ribbon instead of the shiny stuff. Twine and jute rope give a gift a great rustic, natural look.

    There are many ways you can go about labeling your gifts without creating a ton of non-recyclable waste. To save money, I usually end up writing my recipient's name directly onto the wrapped package. A few markers and a pathetic attempt at hand-lettering, and the job is done.

    If I'm using a bag, I'll use a scrap piece of wrapping paper to make a gift tag. It's the best way to use all those too-small scraps instead of throwing them away! You can hole punch it and string it through the handle, loop the paper and wrap it around the handle, or fold it in half and tape it directly to the bag.

    If you choose to buy gift tags, pick some that can stand up to being reused for a few years. This is the best option for your immediate family, as the tags really don't leave the house. After the first year, all you have to do is find a pre-labeled tag for your gift and you're done!

    Uncommon Goods is sharing a free sheet of Christmas and Hanukkah gift tags that you can download, print and cut out. If you have any graphic design inclination, you can create custom tags for your family and friends. Even if these can't be reused next year, they can be recycled.

    Free printable gift tags from Uncommon Goods

    When It's Time to Open Presents

    When you're all gathered 'round to open presents, don't just grab a trash bag to throw all the wrapping in. Grab a separate bag for recyclables, but better yet, use a spare cardboard box to collect anything that can be recycled or reused, from bows to gift tags and bags. The more you can save to reuse, the less waste you'll send to the curb and the more money you'll save next year!

    So, Ridiculously Long Story Short

    • Choose recyclable wrapping paper, ideally kraft paper.
    • Regular shiny, waxy paper is NOT recyclable.
    • Save and reuse gift bags.
    • Skip wrapping gift boxes to conserve paper.
    • Reuse tissue paper, ribbons and gift wrap.
    • Make your own gift tags, reuse them year after year, or skip gift tags altogether.
    • Make it easy at present time by designating one spot for trash and another spot for recycling/reuse collection.

    Check out more ideas on eco-friendly alternatives from Inhabitat!

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    The 2015 Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide!

    The holidays are a great time to give your loved ones sustainable and eco-friendly gifts, and the best part is that they don't have to scream "eco-friendly". But with all the options out there on the Interwebz and in local shops, it can be overwhelming. What do these green labels all mean and how does it make an item eco-friendly?

    Scarf: Ten Thousand Villages | Glass Set: Bambeco | Pouch: Gaia Empowered Women | Necklace and Cufflinks: Secondline Jewels | Blanket: Bambeco
    Necklace: Mimosa | Bottle: Klean Kanteen | Chocolate: Alter Eco and Green & Black's | Phone Case: Charity:Water

    Fair-trade

    Fair-trade goods are made by workers who are paid fair prices and work in better conditions. Many times goods are produced with eco-friendly methods as well. The goal is to help producers in developing countries to get a fair price for their products to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices. Buying fair-trade goods support workers in developing countries much more than conventional goods.

    In the gift guide, the scarf and pouch are produced under fair-trade standards, and each company's website highlights the artisan who worked on the product. The Ten Thousand Villages scarf was made by a member of the Phontong Handicrafts Collective in Laos, and the Gaia pouch was made by resettled refugess in Dallas, Texas.

    Organic

    Organic items are produced without chemicals. For example, an organic cotton t-shirt means the cotton was grown and farmed without the use of pesticides. Choosing chemical-free has many benefits for your health, your children and the environment.

    One of my favorite organic products is dark chocolate, which I wrote more about this past Valentine's Day. The ones shown above from Alter Eco and Green & Black's. Many times, but not always, the chocolate is produced fair-trade as well. I swear it just tastes that much better, and dark chocolate is totally good for you.

    Recycled

    Easily enough, these gifts contain recycled material. By checking the tag or description, you can see if an item was made with pre-consumer recycled material, which is what's salvaged in production before a product is distributed. Post-consumer recycled material is what's made from items you throw into your recycling bin.

    Upcycling is a form of recycling where the new product is better or more creative than its original version. Hipcycle shares some creative infographics on the difference from recycling to upcycling. Upcycled products make great gifts!

    In the gift guide, the gorgeous set of glassware from Bambeco is made with recycled glass. Can't even tell, can ya, Russ?

    The necklace and cufflinks from Secondline Jewels are upcycled from a surprising material: Old and broken drum cymbals! They also lead into the next category...

    Upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. - See more at: http://hipcycle.com/what-is-upcycling#sthash.LVP8zOox.dpuf

    Handmade

    Both the drum cymbal jewelry and the Mimosa necklace are handmade by Louisiana crafters. (Awesome ones you should follow on Instagram, by the way...)

    Handmade goods make awesome gifts because of their uniqueness and heart. I tend to feel a more personal connection with handmade goods because I know someone really spent time and effort into making them. You can usually buy direct from the maker, or you can find great handmade goods in locally owned shops, which benefits even more people in the community.

    Reusable

    You know I HAD to throw a Klean Kanteen in the mix, right? Reusable items are just that - things not meant to be thrown away after one or two uses. Help someone get started on the reusable path by gifting them a water bottle, coffee mug, or even coffee filters or K-Cups.

    Charitable

    Charitable gifts can go two ways: tangible and intangible. Many charities have online shops where you can find gifts, and proceeds go toward funding the charity. Or you can simply make a donation in someone's name, without getting anything in return (except for your receipt for tax purposes, amiright!?)

    Charity:Water has a big store with related products and all proceeds fund their clean water projects. The World Wildlife Fund has a variety of gifts you can choose when you make a donation. By giving a charitable gift for the holidays, you're really giving twice!

    Last week's Eco Cajun post on Giving Tuesday can guide you toward more ideas for giving.

    Sustainable

    Sustainable materials are ones that leave a smaller impact on the environment, from requiring fewer chemicals or natural resources during production, to replenishing itself quicker.

    Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, and can be used in SO many different ways (literally from super-soft t-shirts to very strong flooring and construction material.)

    Wool is an all-natural, renewable fiber from sheep, has a long lifespan, is one of the most recycled textiles, and is biodegradable. The featured wool blanket from Bambeco looks so warm and cozy, and it's beautiful to boot!

    Cork trees are not cut down when cork is harvested; the bark is simply stripped from the tree. The tree is also able to regenerate its bark during its lifespan. Cork is used for bottle stoppers (get me a recycled-glass bottle of sustainably harvested wine with a cork stopper and I will be a happy girl!), flooring and insulation.

    Shopping Guide

    Now that you've got the rundown and possibly some ideas for Mom, Dad, your sister-in-law, or the office White Elephant game, here are some places where you can start browsing!

    Online


    In-Store


    Local


    Come back tomorrow for some tips on how you can wrap all your gifts without creating a mountain of trash!

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Photo Friday | Love

    The beauty of this world is that we're all different. Unfortunately, our differences are also the reason for much of the hatred and ugliness. I only wish that people could learn to accept the differences.

    Not everyone will believe the same things, not everyone will act the same way. Not everyone will like each other. But that doesn't mean anyone deserves to be hurt because they are different. No innocent person deserves to be shot or killed in any situation.

    It's disheartening to hear about incident after incident. It's tiring to be bombarded with nonstop coverage. It's maddening that this is how it is.

    I want to believe we can be better. Accept that others will be diverse. Let the anger go. Embrace peace. Find help if it's bigger than you can handle alone. It's okay to do that. Live your life for good.


    Tuesday, December 1, 2015

    Tuesday, December 1, 2015

    Holiday Tunes to Kick Off the Season

    Oh, the weather outside is...gray and drizzly! Ugh. Happy December 1, alright. It might not feel like the holidays yet outside, but I'm getting there.

    One viewing of Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving evening, a few decorations pulled out of the closet to replace all the autumn color around the house, and a desktop tree at work are all helping to fully transition the mood.

    I've still got some work to do in terms of getting a tree for our house, and getting my shopping done. But, all the chores are made more tolerable with the addition of some good holiday music. I didn't even mind my Sunday afternoon cleaning because it was set against a soundtrack of Christmas tunes. Dax, however, did mind my dancing around the house (and the vacuum.)

    So whether or not it's a winter wonderland where you live (hello, alliteration!), here's to getting in the holiday spirit with a few cozy photos of Christmases past, and a brand new Eco Cajun Spotify mix, featuring some of my favorite versions of holiday songs!

    Make yourself some hot chocolate, put on your slippers and press play!







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