Photo Friday | Mele Kalikimaka

I'm still not quite adjusted back to regular time, but we're back from our honeymoon and Christmas in Hawaii. It was a pretty epic and active trip, and I'll have lots more to share in the next couple weeks, so today's Photo Friday post is mainly a teaser.


It certainly never felt like Christmas as I was wearing workout clothes, swimsuits, or shorts for the entire trip. We spent Christmas Eve afternoon at the beach, where we spotted an appropriate snowman and snow woman. I loved that the scarf and coconut bra reuse items that were found on the beach, and I hope they got properly thrown away.


Christmas morning was completely nontraditional, but we've got incredible memories and photos from our adventure. My husband, brother-in-law, and I woke up early enough to probably still see Santa's sleigh in the sky, and we ventured to the Pillbox Trail for a sunrise hike. Sitting on top of a mountain waiting for the sun to rise and light the land below was absolutely incredible.


And this was how we could tell we were out on Christmas morning.


I picked up this Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii tote bag while we were shopping, and it ended up being very useful throughout the trip. I used it during a couple shopping trips, once for a day at the beach, and as a carry-on bag for the long trip home. I'll talk more about it in another post, but Hawaii has become the first state to ban plastic bags. If you want plastic, you're charged 10 cents a bag, so most retailers have signs promoting the use of reusable cloth bags. There's still work to do, but it's great to see a state as a whole trying to tackle one of the most prevalent pieces of litter.

I hope you all are having a great holiday season and a happy new year! See y'all back here in 2017!
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Resolving to Be More Green in 2017

I don't know how this year has felt so simultaneously slow and quick, but here we are, staring at 2017. Here's to hoping it's slightly less exhausting than this year!

I've made it a tradition to share a few of my own green new year's resolutions here on the blog, and as I look back on those posts, I'm actually surprised at how many I've worked toward or accomplished. (2016, 2015, 2014)

 
So, this year is no different. I've got a few goals I want to work on in 2017:
  • Continue my yoga practice and see how far the journey can take me, both physically and mentally. And get back into my morning at-home sun salutation routine!
  • Write and develop more blog and social media content on sustainable lifestyles, with a focus on brands with sustainable products and/or eco-friendly missions.
  • Ride my bike more!
  • Shop at the farmer's market at least one Saturday a month.
  • Finally start my backyard compost pile.
  • Get out in nature more often, whether it's an afternoon at the Moncus Park at the Horse Farm, an overnight camping trip with my husband and some friends, or a long weekend at my husband's family's camp. Or even just enjoying our own backyard more often!
  • Check out books from my local library and read more (possibly while out in nature and lying in my hammock!)

Well...maybe it's more than a few goals. I do tend to set my own bar pretty high! Maybe I should really work on relaxing a little more often!


Are you thinking about adding a green new year's resolution or two to your list? I shared a few suggestions in my Times of Acadiana column this week, and here are a few others to consider:
  • Create less waste in your home or office. 
    • Use cloth towels and dish rags instead of paper towels
    • Use real coffee mugs instead of Styrofoam or paper
    • Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic disposable ones
    • Grocery shop with cloth produce and shopping bags
    • Use real dishes instead of disposable ones
  • Shop at your local farmer's market.
  • Recycle more.
  • Cut down on driving. 
    • Carpool
    • Ride your bike
    • Walk
  • 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.
  • Save electricity at home by using energy-efficient light bulbs and thermostats. 

 
 What are some of your 2017 new year's resolutions? Let's hear 'em!
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Post-Christmas Recycling

Although now presents are unwrapped, the food has been eaten, and the gift cards are beginning to burn a hole in your wallet, it's still important to be less wasteful and eco-minded.

Gifts and Packaging

I hope you used recyclable wrapping paper on your gifts, but if not, remember that waxy, metallic papers must go in the trash. 

Collect and save all bows, ribbons, tissue paper, bags, boxes and gift tags in good condition, and store them for future holidays.


When it comes to packaging, recycle everything that's accepted in the bin: cardboard boxes, paper and plastics #1 and #2. Break down cardboard boxes for both space and security. Everything needs to fit inside the bin so it can be picked up by the mechanical arm. Especially if you have new electronics, you want to be discreet when disposing of the box so you aren't showing off just what expensive valuables are inside your home.


Styrofoam is a popular packaging material, but remember that it has to go in the trash. Same with plastic bags, plastic sleeves and twist ties.

If you happen to have packing peanuts, call your local UPS Store to see if they will accept a donation.

Exchanging Gifts

It's always an awkward situation, but if you've got a gift you simply don't need or want, it's better to return or exchange it, than to let it take up space and gather dust. If you're not sure where to return an item or it's past the deadline to return, look at selling it online (unless the gift giver would see it and be offended) or saving it to regift. Some may find it tacky, but it's better to give an item to someone who would actually use it!

When It's Time to Take the Christmas Tree Down


Louisiana no longer manages a Christmas tree recycling program for the coastline, and Lafayette Parish does not collect trees for coastal programs.


If you’re a resident of the city of Lafayette or unincorporated areas of the parish and you have a real tree, put it out for collection with your yard waste in the weeks after Christmas. The yard waste materials go Lafayette Consolidated Government’s compost facility and are made into mulch. An important note: trees must be free of ornaments, lights, tinsel, flocking and tree stands!

Any Acadiana resident can drop off their trees to the compost facility (located at 400 North Dugas Road) for a small fee. During the winter, they’re open Monday through Friday, 7-3:30, and on the second Saturday of each month (December through February) from 7-noon.


Do NOT burn Christmas trees in your interior fireplace. The sap from trees can create a fire hazard in your chimney or vent piping. And be careful if you burn it outside - they burn hot and fast.


If you’re into fishing, reuse Christmas trees by sinking them in lakes to create fish habitats. Three years ago, we collected about 45 Christmas trees for my father-in-law, who used them at their camp. It was definitely a chore, but it was pretty fun to watch him sink them all under the dock.



Taking Down the Decorations

My least favorite part of the holidays - putting all the festive decorations away for another year. Save breakable items by wrapping them in newsprint - OORRRRRR even used wrapping paper! Yes, I might have just thought of this one. Instead of throwing out wrapping paper, especially if it's the non-recyclable kind, save it to wrap breakables!

Use small tins to hold tiny items like ornament hooks or spare light bulbs.



Store decorations in reusable organizers and containers.

Save empty candle jars and tins by putting them in the freezer for a couple days. Take them out and run them under water to pop out the wax, then wash and clean the jars/tins. You can use them to hold tea light or votive candles, or make your own candles.

By storing your decorations safely, you can ensure that you'll get years of use out of them, saving them from the landfill.
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Merry Christmas from Eco Cajun

It's Christmas morning already! No matter where you are or how hot it may be, I hope you're wearing your finest Christmas socks as you open gifts with loved ones.


If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see how we're celebrating nontraditionally this year, and I love that our first married Christmas will be one that's unique and memorable.





I'm wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you're recycling as much paper and packaging as you can. :)
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Photo Friday | Repurposed Wrapping

A short and sweet post on this Christmas Eve Eve, as you're probably finishing up wrapping your gifts and drinking hot chocolate.

A few weeks back, online secondhand shop Thred Up shared this statistic on how big an impact we could make if we used repurposed materials to wrap gifts instead of new, shiny paper.

Graphic: Thred Up

By using materials like newspaper, used paper bags, fabric, recycled-content paper, or cloth bags, we can save a lot of trees and keep a lot of materials out of landfills.

If you've still got wrapping to do, consider repurposing materials instead of buying another roll of wrapping paper that cannot be recycled. (More on that in this blog post!)

And with that, I hope you all have a very happy Friday and enjoy the beginning of Christmas weekend!
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Looking Back on 2016

This year has certainly been rough in many ways, but at the same time, it will hold some of my biggest highlights, and that's what I'll choose to remember.

Hands down, my favorite memory is our wedding. The year and a half of planning built up to a night even better than I dreamed of. The perfect venue, miraculous fall weather, a dress I love, our closest family and friends, a wonderful wedding party, delicious food, a really fun reception, and of course, my groom. My other half. My partner in everything.


People ask us how married life is treating us, and we honestly answer that it feels the same so far. And we love it that way. Not every day is going to be awesome, but we laugh together, relax together, love and support each other, and look forward to our journey together. And I'm very much enjoying my new last name. :)



Behind the scenes, and when not planning a wedding, I've been working on building up the blog and the brand, and I'm so excited to have been picked as a contributing writer for the local weekly paper Times of Acadiana. Although I've only had two columns run so far, I'm excited to be able to share my eco-obsessions with a new audience.


In addition, I've loved seeing my own transformation through my yoga practice this year. It's something I share about ad nauseum, but it really is one of my favorite aspects of my life right now. It's more than a workout, than toning, than making new friends in class, than achieving Instagrammable asanas. I find now that I can sleep better, and I haven't been sick in over a year. And best of all, I think it's truly helping me find myself and change my perspectives on myself and the world around me.

The year started off tough when our cat, Dax, took a turn for the worse healthwise. (More in this blog post.) It was a long, expensive road to recovery, but we are so happy to still have him around, and he's more energetic than even before he got sick.


This Christmas, I feel like we've definitely taken a less materialistic approach, and while I almost feel lost without my usual traditions, I also like the simplicity. Having a chance to just enjoy the season. We downsized our Christmas tree to a mini three-footer that fits on a side table, and I almost love it more than our usual six-footers. My husband and I decided not to do gifts for each other this year, especially since we're just two months out from the wedding. And maybe it's the grown-up in me finally coming out, but it's refreshing to not be frantically running around shopping for gifts.

Last year, I made a Spotify Holiday mix, so if you need a little extra cheer while finishing up your wrapping and cooking, go ahead and hit play!


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Photo Friday | Cajuns Don't Waste

I'm so excited for today's Photo Friday post! I love seeing when people simply do good work, especially if it's something that other people would find a reason not to do.

As finals have wrapped up, students head back home, and UL Lafayette's fall graduation is today, the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability saw an opportunity to divert a lot of food waste after the semester ended.

The office's graduate student, Dylan Harrell, spearheaded the project that collaborated with UL Lafayette Dining Services, and together, the groups collected unused food that will go bad over winter break and donated it to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Office of Sustainability Director Gretchen, left, and Service Grad Student Dylan, second from left, work with others to donate unused dining hall food to the Second Harvest Food Bank.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10207213667173231&set=pcb.10207213694493914&type=3&theater

Instead of leaving the food to go bad and trashing it all, families in need will now have fresh produce and dairy products available to them right around the holiday season.

Office of Sustainability Director Gretchen Vanicor reported that the group was able to donate 306 pounds of produce and 74 pounds of dairy products!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10207213667293234&set=pcb.10207213694493914&type=3&theater

I absolutely love seeing people take this kind of tangible action. While many hesitate to donate unused food to shelters or food banks, UL Lafayette went ahead and did it anyway, and many families in Acadiana will benefit from the generosity.

On that note, congratulations to all UL Lafayette fall graduates, and good luck to the Ragin Cajuns in tomorrow's New Orleans Bowl!
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Travel the World without Adding to its Landfills

Whether you're preparing for holiday travel, a honeymoon, or you're referring to this blog post before summer vacation, it's important to pay attention to just how wasteful your trip can be.

Buying a ton of travel-sized items and single-use packages can get expensive and leaves behind a lot of unnecessary trash.

Don't worry, it's very possible to make your travel and your packing more eco-friendly. Of course, flying and driving farther distances require extra natural resources, but by being mindful of what you've packed, you can lighten your load and reduce your impact on those resources.

As I've prepared and gotten ever more excited for our honeymoon, I've looked at how I can make the trip as green as possible. (Beyond making my list of yoga poses for photos in Google Keep to stay paperless!)


We don't fly often (if only we had money...and more time off!), but when we do, we always try to travel light. While just being easier to manage, it also reduces the weight on the plane (every little bit counts). Typically when we fly, I'm able to stick to only a carry-on suitcase, and I love not having too much stuff with me. (Which is funny, because on any given day, I am normally NOT traveling light!)

For our honeymoon, I set out to fix one problem I always encounter when I fly - those damn quart size bags for toiletries. Y'all know I don't like single-use Ziploc bags, but every time we fly I end up with one, and it almost always gets destroyed by the time I get home.

So I shopped around for a reusable option. Most of what I found online was expensive, and I ended up purchasing a reusable zipper bag at my local Target to save the impact of shipping one clear bag. While it was the least expensive option I found, it also came with empty travel-size containers that I probably won't need to use, and the bag itself isn't recyclable.


Finding a more sustainable option (especially last-minute) can be more expensive, but with less procrastinating, I probably could have found something better. At least I plan to use this one for the next few years!

Instead of buying travel-sized toiletry items, stock up on reusable travel-size containers, and refill them as you need. I've had these squeezable tubes for a few years, and love using them over generic plastic containers. They're made of a food-grade silicone and are BPA-free.

If you're looking at upgrading or replacing your luggage, consider investing in pieces made of eco-friendly materials. Even if it's just your backpack to take on the plane, you can find some made of recycled cotton.

Travel Well magazine shares a few of their picks for eco travel gear. As I read through the list, I realize we check off a few items I didn't know were focused on sustainability. My husband swears by his Eagle Creek packing cubes for efficiency and organization. The brand's website includes a statement on environmental responsibility, and I appreciate that they focus on creating lasting products, not ones that will end up in a landfill after two or three uses:

We are keenly aware of the environmental impact of everything we produce and so strive to minimize material waste, and source and manufacture with the least environmentally impactful materials. Many customers tell us they’ve been carrying their Eagle Creek gear for years. And that’s our intention; we make gear that lasts to lessen the amount of waste in landfills.

Osprey is another outdoor-focused brand that has a commitment to sustainability. Their packs have recycled and recyclable packaging, are free of BPA, PVC/phthalates and triclosan, and they limit waste in production. I use my Osprey backpack fairly often, although most of the time it's carrying my yoga clothes to the gym.

For our honeymoon, I plan to use my backpack as my carry-on item and adventure pack. And check out that sweet logo! Quick tangent: I wanted a patch with the Eco Cajun logo to stick on my backpack for the trip, but couldn't find an online vendor to print only one. While talking to a coworker one day, I got the inspiration to reuse the button my bridesmaid made for my bachelorette party. It's a plastic button that snaps apart - and conveniently, it's the exact same size as my Eco Cajun stickers. Free and reused...I'd call that a win!


If you're traveling with gifts, especially during the holidays, leave them unwrapped in your luggage. Anything is subject to be searched by TSA, and if they have to unwrap your gifts, that's a lot of wasted paper. Save the wrapping for when you arrive at your destination.

Download your airline's mobile app, which will allow you to use mobile boarding passes. If you don't have paper passes, you won't crinkle or lose them!



When you travel, bring your reusable bottle. While TSA won't let you bring liquids through the checkpoint on it, you can fill it up with your favorite drinks post-security checkpoint.


In the airport, take advantage of available recycling and even compost bins. Choose items that are packaged in recyclable materials, instead of materials like Styrofoam.

Bring a cloth napkin for on the plane, and decline the paper napkins from the flight attendants. Most major airlines recycle the plastic cups from the drink service, so make sure your cup is empty when you give it back.


Before you embark on a road trip, check that your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes. When everything is inspected and working properly, you'll maximize fuel efficiency and engine use.

Fill up your tires to their proper inflation to increase fuel efficiency (and for safety).

Pack what you can inside the car, as those roof luggage racks reduce efficiency and increase drag.

Especially on car rides, it's easy to load up with bottles of water and small bags of chips or candy. By stocking up before you leave home, you can eliminate a lot of the waste. Pick up your snacks at the grocery store beforehand, instead of loading up at the gas station after you've left home. Get the larger bags of snacks instead of the single-serve, and portion them out into smaller reusable containers to bring in the car.

Fill some reusable bottles with your drink of choice. As you stop for the restroom or to refuel, refill your bottles.

Pack gifts or extra items, like games for children, in cloth bags. They can hold a lot of items and are stronger than plastic bags. Plus, they can serve multiple purposes while you're on your trip.

Essential Eco-Friendly Travel Gear

  • Reusable quart-size bag for carry-on luggage
  • Good quality travel-size toiletry containers
  • Reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug
  • Reclosable and reusable snack containers
  • Cloth bags
  • Airline apps for mobile boarding passes and flight information
  • Cloth napkins
  • Eco-friendly luggage/bags/accessories (a few brands I'm familiar with:)

What are some ways you cut down on trash when you travel?
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Photo Friday | Vital Elements

I came across this photo on Paper Culture's Facebook page during the week, and I love the simple way it reminds us how vital our earth and its resources are. We need the earth in order to survive and it needs us back.

Courtesy: Paper Culture

I hope you all stay warm this weekend! Get cozy and be merry!

(And if you live in Lafayette, bring your household hazardous waste and electronics to Cajun Field for Household Chemical Day tomorrow!)
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Simply Having a Sustainable Christmastime

Show of hands. How many of you have completed your Christmas shopping? How many of you haven't started? (As I raise my own hand.)

As you wrap up your shopping (and if you still need inspiration, head over to my Green Gift Guide), learn how to plan any gatherings and decorate the house without being extra wasteful.


Wrapping Gifts

One of the most wasteful parts of the holidays is all the gift wrap that's thrown away after one use. And most wrapping paper and tissue paper are NOT recyclable. Shiny, glittery and waxy wrapping paper is often made with metallic foil and plastic, and tissue paper is too thin to go through the sorting process.

Choose recyclable white or brown kraft paper or bags, and for extra flair, customize the wrapped gift with stamps, or choose holiday-printed kraft paper. Bonus: it’s less expensive than fancy gift wrap! Pick up a large roll, and especially if it's plain, you can use it for any gift-giving occasion throughout the year. (If you enjoy decorating the plain paper, stock up on a couple stamps for each holiday.) One thrifty option is to reuse newspaper for wrapping or tissue paper.

This week, Kasha over at Green With Style shared a link to Wrappily, a small business that makes 100% recyclable and compostable wrapping paper printed on recycled newspaper with soy-based inks. Each sheet is reversible, and all patterns are created by independent designers. They also utilize old newspaper printing presses.

Reuse all those boxes from your online purchases instead of buying gift boxes. 


Put the final touch on your eco-friendly gift with reusable fabric ribbons or natural items like jute string, twigs or Christmas tree clippings. And get creative with it! Use a stretchy headband for a female's gift, and she can use it after she opens the gift. Reuse a necktie to make a nice ribbon. You might be surprised what you can find around the house that works as gift embellishments.


Make your own gift tags with scrap wrapping paper (you know you have a ton of too-small scraps!), reuse store-bought tags year after year (especially within your immediate family), or simply write recipient names on the gifts themselves.

My favorite zero-waste option is to use a cute cloth shopping bag to hold your gift - it’s like two gifts in one!

Make it easy when your family or group opens gifts: designate a bag for trash and an empty box for recyclables/reusables. Save any gift boxes, bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows you receive, in good condition of course. The more you can save to reuse, the less trash you'll send to the curb and the more money you'll save next year!

Share time. This is my collection of tissue paper. Not one of these sheets I purchased. It's all been collected from previous gifts (and cough, donated from a couple baby showers), and I spent this past Black Friday folding tissue paper and color coordinating it in order to get it looking this organized. It was tedious but very therapeutic. And very helpful in the future.


Decorating

For your interior and exterior lights, go LED. They're widely available, use less energy than conventional lights, helping to lessen the impact on your utility bill at a time when you're already spending extra money. LEDs stay cool to the touch better than conventional lights, making your tree less of a fire hazard.

Our 2015 Christmas tree featuring 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights. Or just four strings of cool white LED lights.

Decorative solar-powered outdoor lights work well if you have an open yard, and especially if you don't have outdoor outlet access (say that three times fast).


Use natural elements instead of glitter, styrofoam and other shiny stuffs to decorate. Think Pinteresty: burlap, twine, wood, recycled clean food jars and cans, even spray painted wine bottles for vases.

If you have a real Christmas tree, trim a few branches (no one will notice if there are a few bare spots in the back!) to use in floral arrangements or table centerpieces.

Burn candles made of soy wax instead of the more toxic paraffin wax.

Look for locally made ornaments to add some personality to your tree. In the first photo up top, our magnolia ornament is made from redfish and garfish scales by Cajun Ornaments. I believe I picked it up at a small local festival where they had a booth set up. Plus, we've got a few other local ornaments adorning our baby tree this year.

Vintage Christmas decorations and ornaments are a great way to incorporate holiday flair with a nostalgic feeling. Over the past few years, my parents have given me some of their older decorations, and I love using them in my own home. By reusing decorations for many years, or finding vintage decorations, you're keeping unique, nostalgic items out of landfills.

Make paper snowflakes with scrap printer paper, newspaper, paper shopping bags or even junk mail. It's a fun way to get children involved in decorating!

Party Time

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 larger party setting. And there are BPA-free options, which makes them better for children especially.

Reusable plates and wine glasses from our Thanksgiving lunch.

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.

Choose drinks in cans instead of bottles. For water, provide a pitcher and let guests use their own cups. 

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 this sign to label your recycling bin.


Now, back to decking those halls!
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Photo Friday | Household Chemical Day

For all you residents of the city of Lafayette and unincorporated areas of the parish, mark your calendars for next Saturday, December 10. Lafayette Consolidated Government is hosting its biannual Household Chemical Day from 8 a.m. until noon at Cajun Field. 


This is your chance to properly dispose of your household chemicals, and some electronics, at the event. All of the items accepted at the event are not safe to throw in your curbside trash or recycling bin, because the contents can contaminate landfills and threaten your health.

In addition to collecting traditional chemicals like paint, poison, chemical cleaners and mercury, CGI is sponsoring an electronic waste disposal option. Residents can bring old computers, printers and other digital electronics to be refurbished and recycled. The collected electronic equipment will be refurbished by Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council to provide technology to low-income families and nonprofits.

Residents can also turn in unwanted latex paint, which will be reblended and repackaged for use by Lafayette Habitat for Humanity. In partnership with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the paint reblending project not only provides a needed product to a worthy cause, it also significantly reduces waste that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. 


At this past spring's Household Chemical Day:
  • 235 residents brought in more than 10,137 pounds of electronic waste for recycling.
  • 540 gallons of usable latex paint were salvaged, which saved LCG $8,000 on disposal costs, while also preserving the landfill.

If you live within the city of Lafayette or uincorporated areas of the parish, please take advantage of this event to practice responsible chemical disposal. 


Attendees should enter the Cajun Field parking lot at Gate 2 off of Bertrand Drive, across from Rouse’s.

Click on the banner to go straight to the Facebook event.

https://www.facebook.com/events/340041713020124/

Courtesy: Lafayette Consolidated Government


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The 2016 Eco Cajun Green Holiday Gift Guide


As I grow older, the more I truly enjoy the process of finding the right gift to give someone. It's easy and pretty guaranteed to pick something off someone's list, but it's even more fun when you can surprise someone with something thoughtful and creative.

Now that the holiday season is here and shopping is in full swing, it's a great time to look for eco-friendly and sustainable gifts for your loved ones, coworkers, or even for those White Elephant parties.

Instead of categorizing my Eco Cajun Gift Guide by recipient, I've broken it down by the different eco-friendly qualities (and sometimes, gifts are more than one of these!) From fair-trade to recycled, to upcycled, to handmade, to vegan, to organic, find the perfect gift - at any price point - for anyone!

Fair-Trade: Liz Alig | Handmade: Secondline Jewels | Sustainable: Carved | Experiences: Yoga Garden
Vintage: Sweet and Spark | Reusable: Klean Kanteen
Organic: Bonterra Vineyards | For Children: Schwinn, Paper Culture | Upcycled: A Higher REpurpose
Vegan-Friendly: Mieroglyphs | Chemical-Free: Native Polish | Recycled & Charitable: Hands Producing Hope

There are so many Louisiana-based independent shops and online eco-minded businesses and brands that I couldn't even begin to scratch the surface in one gift guide. Get some store links throughout the guide below, or visit my Resources page for a more comprehensive list of links.

Side note: Most of the brands listed are ones I've shopped from before, or collaborated with. A few were simply found through researching.

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. Producers in developing countries 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 graphic, these Liz Alig gloves are woven by a small cooperative in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and provide employment to women entrepreneurs.

Handmade

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.

In the gift guide, I've got local jewelry brand Secondline Jewels, whose rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces are made from broken or used drum cymbals.

Sustainable

Sustainable materials are ones that leave a smaller impact on the environment, from requiring fewer chemicals or natural resources like water and electricity during production, to being more renewable.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, can be used in SO many different ways, and is popular in apparel. Tencel is another sustainable material made from cellulose in wood pulp, and it can be found in sheets and apparel.

Wool is an all-natural, renewable fiber from sheep, has a long lifespan, is one of the most recycled textiles, and is biodegradable.

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 can be made into a vegan leather alternative, and becomes the foundation for Mieroglyphs bracelets.

Featured in the gift guide is a gorgeous cell phone case from Carved. The company uses sustainable wood harvests to make their cases, and everything is made in the United States. I recently purchased a case for my new phone, and I can't wait for it to come in the mail. (Click the link to get a special 10% discount code for your purchase!)

Experiences

You can always gift someone an experience, providing great memories without a lot of stuff. A gift card for everything from yoga classes to restaurants or coffee shops, to outdoor adventures makes for a great stocking stuffer or main gift.

Giving a gift card doesn't require a big box, tissue paper, or a gift bag, and they can even sometimes be reloadable (therefore, reusable). Beyond that, a gift of an experience is zero-waste!
 

Vintage/Secondhand

Shopping vintage or secondhand goods helps extend the life cycle of products. Plus, you can find super unique goods that may no longer be available. From pop art to home decor, to clothing and jewelry, visit local flea markets or consignment shops, or browse online to find that perfect gift.

Sweet and Spark curates a beautiful selection of vintage jewelry, but especially with any vintage finds, you've got to act quickly!

Reusable

I always say investing in a few reusable items is the first step to making a greener impact on the planet. Help someone get started on the reusable path by gifting them a water bottle, coffee mug, or even coffee filters or K-Cups. You've heard me sing the praises of Klean Kanteen before, but I seriously think it's one of the best changes to make first. I still have my first Klean Kanteen I bought over eight years ago! (And it most recently held locally made Bayou Satsuma Rum!)

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.

Beyond clothing or textiles, you can find organic foods, wines and chocolate, which is definitely a festive and healthier gift - perfect for the foodie in your life! A not-so-clever hint: you can find a LOT of well-priced organic food items at Whole Foods Market.

The gift guide features an organic Cabernet from Bonterra Vineyards.

For Children

If you've got children and they don't have a bicycle, now is the perfect time to teach them the ways of eco-friendly transportation and inexpensive fun times! Schwinn is popular for their children's bikes (and adult ones too), and they've got all the safety gear you need.

For a fun, personalized gift, Paper Culture has great eco-friendly games and decorations, like this personalized memory game. It's educational, to teach relationships and important people, and it's cute and fun!
 

Recycled/Upcycled

Recycled items can be either pre-consumer or post-consumer. Pre-consumer recycled material 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, like any items containing RPET.

Upcycling is a form of recycling where the new product is different or more creative than its original version. Upcycled products make great gifts! Think garden accessories, candles or wind chimes made from wine bottles. Gifts made with recycled metal are also a great choice.

Back to the gift guide: Hands Producing Hope sells a few different baskets that are made with recycled plastic bags. (The organization is also charitable and fair-trade.)

And the candles from A Higher REpurpose are always some of my favorites. They hit three of the sustainability categories I touch on today: upcycled, handmade, and local! (Check out my blog feature on AHR, formerly known as Syrup Row.)

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

Local

Supporting locally owned businesses and artisans is a great way to support your community's economy. Continue the momentum from Small Business Saturday, and shop local for many of your Christmas gifts. Local retailers carry so many unique items perfect for gifts. And don't forget your local artisans! Every community has a crop of talented people who make great unique items from jewelry to home decor and art, to even clothing and holiday decorations.
 

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. By giving a charitable gift for the holidays, you're really giving twice!

Or you can simply make a donation in someone's name, without getting anything in return (except for your receipt for tax purposes, amiright!?)

Chemical-Free and Vegan-Friendly

Maybe not everyone enjoys getting cleaning products for Christmas, but for those who want to have a more natural and chemical-free home, it can be a great gift. For something a bit more fun and glamorous, look for chemical-free makeup and nail polish.

I wrote more about my journey to natural makeup earlier this year in preparation for my wedding. Tarte and Ecco Bella are two brands I really enjoy using so far.

When it comes to nail polish, brands like OPI and Essie are both three-free (learn the meaning in my blog post on greener manis), but my current favorite is the New Orleans brand Native Polish. Their polishes are seven-free and vegan friendly. So obvs, the nail polishes don't eat meat, dairy, or animal products. (Okay fine, they just don't contain any animal byproducts.)

WHEW!

Now...Shipping

Some sustainable companies go beyond just focusing on the kind of goods they sell, and commit to extra practices like planting a tree with every order placed (something eco-stationery company Paper Culture does), shipping in recycled boxes with paper packaging material, or even offering carbon-free shipping. Online retailer Bambeco is one that offers carbon-free shipping, which means they use minimal packaging made from recycled materials, work with shipping carriers that offer greener options, and eliminate their carbon impact in 100% of their shipments.

With Carbonfree® shipping through Carbonfund.org, they offset unavoidable emissions, supporting renewable energy and achieving their goal of delivering carbon free. So far, they’ve kept over 236 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere.

If you mail your own gifts, choose sustainable packaging! Reuse boxes and packaging material instead of buying new. If you sell gifts online or just have a lot to ship out, consider investing in more sustainable packaging, like envelopes and boxes from EcoEnclose.

Now, go forth and have fun shopping!


For more green company and brand listings, visit:
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Other Ways We Made Our Wedding Eco-Friendly

At the same time I was fine tuning my bridal style, I was also focusing on how to green the decor and gifts (that we both gave and received). By carrying elements throughout each part of the wedding, we were able to put together unique decorations that truly enhanced the inherent beauty of our venue, the Caldwell House.

Decor

I've written before about using Eco Flower for bouquets and boutonnieres, and today I'm switching over to how I used them in our reception decorations. From the beginning, I wanted to use spray painted wine bottles as vases, and over the course of a year, I worked on painting about 60 of them in two shades of teal, champagne gold, and white. (Yes, I may have matched the bridesmaids' dresses to the teal spray paint, but it's fine when it's my favorite color!)

The wine bottles were either my own or donated by friends, and a few were salvaged from my in-laws' after the flood. They were safe, just muddy, so they got extra special sanitizing before the paint job. It's time consuming to scrape wine labels off, but it was worth it in the end. The color arrangements turned out how I envisioned, and each vase held 2-3 eco flowers that were either natural white or light aqua.


As we decorated, we ended up reusing baby's breath from the rehearsal dinner by adding them to each wine bottle arrangement. And I added pictures of us by hanging them from jute string and tiny clothespins.


Thanks to my husband's family, we reused a lot of rehearsal dinner decorations in the reception and dining areas, giving them longer life and keeping the white, gold and natural themes going.


I saved a few loose eco flowers for the wedding cake, and our unique cake topper comes from Etsy. I love how my cake truly tied in a lot of our wedding's eco-friendly elements, and the groom's cake paid tribute to our love of Acadiana. (Sky's the Limit Cakes did both cakes and Midnight Moon Vintage Event Rental provided the tree trunk cake stand and vintage lace doilies. Visit my feature post on Midnight Moon!)


And finally, for our guestbook, we opted for something we could use as a piece of art, rather than a formal book we would never look at again. I went back to Etsy, and found a shop that makes string art on large wood slabs. We provided metallic Sharpies for guests to sign with, and it's on my to-do list to run a clear protective coat over the whole thing to keep those signatures from fading over time.

 
The piece has been hanging in our living room since the day after the wedding, and I still smile every time I look at it. We definitely made the right choice on our guestbook alternative.

Registry

It's inevitable that your wedding registry and ensuing receipt of gifts will use a lot of wrapping paper, tissue paper, and gift bags, which can't be traditionally recycled. But, if you request that guests leave your gifts unwrapped, you can eliminate a LOT of that single-use waste!

We decided to hold a couples shower/engagement party a few weeks before our wedding, so the focus was more on visiting with our family and friends and not on the gifts themselves. So, when we got home with our new items and went through everything, it felt just as exciting as if they were wrapped! I absolutely loved not having a huge pile of wrapping paper to throw away, gift bags to store, or tissue paper to fold up and store (of COURSE I save and reuse all tissue paper!)

When we received gifts in the mail, we broke down and recycled all cardboard boxes, and I saved any packaging material (especially bubble wrap, air packs and brown kraft paper) to use for packing all of the spray painted wine bottles for transport. Oh, how nice it was to have the materials on hand for that!

We kept our registry fairly small, as we already own a lot of the items we need every day, and we didn't want to replace things just to have a larger registry. And a lot of the items we wanted will help us be even greener at home.

  • Our new coffee maker came with a reusable gold mesh filter, so we haven't had to use a paper filter in almost two months now.
  • Our toaster oven will help save energy, because I won't have to turn on the oven for small jobs like toasting tortillas or reheating fried foods.
  • We got a silicone baking sheet liner so I don't have to use disposable parchment paper.
  • And our new sheets are made of Tencel, a fiber made from cellulose, found in wood pulp. Created by Austrian textile company Lenzing, Tencel is the branded version of a similar fiber, lyocell. Tencel fabric is extremely soft and breathes well, making it a great fabric for bedding. In addition, the fiber requires less land and water during production than cotton. (Business Insider) We love these sheets.
  • While not on our registry, I love that one of our friends got us a solar powered lantern as part of a patio entertaining gift basket.

Wedding Party Gifts

I spent a lot of time brainstorming what to get my bridesmaids for their gifts, wanting something that reflected my eco-friendly values. And about three weeks before the wedding, I realized Alex and Ani bracelets would be a beautiful choice. All Alex and Ani bracelets are made in the United States, and they use sustainable materials derived from eco-conscious processes.

As I browsed the site, I fell in love with the Charity by Design section, where I found a bracelet to match each of my bridesmaids' personalities. The Simplify bracelet for my minimalist friend Michelle supports the Life Is Good Kids Foundation, the Bicycle bracelet for my bike and yoga buddy Hailey supports the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the Living Water bracelet for my doctor friend Jody supports Living Water International. Sweet gifts that also give back and do good...I am all about it!

And in a sign of fate, there was a sale going on the day I ordered that allowed me to get a free bracelet, so I picked out the gorgeous Love bracelet to commemorate my wedding.


When it came to gifts for our mothers, I turned to Melancon, the Abbeville jeweler where we purchased our rings, to see what they had in store. I gravitated toward a display of bell charms, which I learned are made by a company in Austin, Texas. The Bell Collection is a small, family-owned business who makes bell charms for all occasions and sentiments. These turned out to be a sweet, personal memento, and I loved supporting two small businesses in the process.

In addition, my husband (without realizing he was doing something eco-friendly, probably) bought reusable Yeti ramblers for his groomsmen, and had them engraved with each guy's last name. All the guys loved their gifts, and the ramblers promote reusable over single-use!


Hopefully, this will give you some ideas or inspire you to make your own wedding or event a bit more eco-friendly. There are so many ways you can approach it, from shopping small, to reusing and DIYing, to working toward zero-waste!
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Saying Thanks


Let's face it, a lot of this year has been pretty crappy. But there's still so much to be thankful for! In the spirit of my yoga practice, I constantly work on looking at the positive side of things and finding the good.

This year, I'm especially thankful for:
  • My husband. And the fact that I now get to call him my husband. :)
  • My family and my new in-laws, and everything they do for us.
  • My friends.
  • Dax's health.
  • Yoga
  • All of you guys who read these posts and/or follow along on social media, and who care about the environment.
  • The environment itself, and for everything it provides all of us.



I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving holiday! If you're going shopping tomorrow and this weekend, don't forget my tips on making it a greener trip...and don't forget to Shop Small! I'll see you all back here on Monday!
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Shop Smart, Shop Small

As we all stare the holiday season directly in the face, prepare our shopping lists, and hunt for the best deals, it's important to remember not to throw out all of the green habits we've adopted.

While an important part of living a greener life involves not consuming so much, there are ways to cut back at least a little bit when it comes to holiday shopping. Next week, I'll focus more on a holiday gift guide that looks a bit more into green gifts, but this week, I'm looking at Small Business Saturday!


Now in its seventh year, Small Business Saturday celebrates every community's small and locally owned businesses. Those ones where you know the owners, they recognize you and catch up when you visit, and where you can find unique goods or personal services.

Shopping locally is important and sustainable. When you support local shops and businesses, you know exactly who you're supporting, and you know more of your money is staying in YOUR local economy. While Small Business Saturday (#SmallBizSat for all of us social media nerds) a great one-day event, it's important to make shopping at local businesses a priority all year long.

Graphic: Small Business Saturday

With five days to go until Small Business Saturday, you've got time to plan out your trip and look for sales or discounts from local retailers. Social media and email newsletters are a great way to get in the know. Plus, find out which businesses near you are participating in Small Business Saturday promotions or events with the official guide map.

When you plan ahead for your shopping trips, focus on reducing your waste and impact as much as possible:
  • Plan your trip so you don't end up driving around in circles.
  • Carpool with friends instead of driving separately.
  • Bring your reusable shopping bags!!
  • Pack your coffee in an insulated mug. It'll stay hotter longer, anyway! (Stop at a local coffeeshop with your reusable mug and get a discount!)
  • Skip the gift-wrap service. (And the aisles upon aisles of non-recyclable gift wrap! I'll have a blog post in December all about how you can green your gift-giving.)
  • Only buy what you really need, not just anything you see that happens to be 50% off. Be intentional! (And there's one way my yoga practice ties into being green. 😄)
  • Stopping for breakfast or lunch? Dine at a local restaurant, bring your own reusable cup, and go inside instead of hitting the drive-thru.
  • Don't be idling your car in store parking lots! Once you park, conserve your gas and turn your car off.

As this holiday season kicks off, shop smart and shop local. Your retailers will thank you! It's been a tough year for South Louisiana, and many of our local retailers and service providers are still feeling the effects, so they'll be especially thankful for the boost in holiday business.


This year, I'm giving away some Small Business Saturday cloth tote bags, just in time for you to get your shopping on. Visit my Facebook and Instagram to enter the giveaway, which ends tomorrow!

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Photo Friday | Sustainable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and the weather is finally getting the memo that it's autumn and not summer! Phew. I'm already ready for the good food, visiting family, the annual Thanksgiving viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and the real star of the holiday this year: THE GILMORE GIRLS NETFLIX REVIVAL. (Ooohh, if I haven't waited nine years for this...and I'm remaining blissfully unspoiled!)

Are you thankful for our environment? If so, show it in your celebrations next week! If you're hosting friends or family, make some small changes to your gathering to lessen the amount of waste you create.

One of the biggest impacts you can make is choosing reusable dinnerware. You don't have to bring out the fine china, but by skipping the disposable plates, bowls, utensils and cups, you're avoiding a lot of unnecessary and unrecyclable waste.



A few years ago, I wrote a detailed post on sustainable Thanksgiving gatherings, so head over and learn some more ways you can be green this year.

Here's a quick summary of the other changes that make a big impact:
  • Cloth bags
  • Recycling bins
  • Local produce and meats 
  • And a bonus that's not in my previous post: Local brews and spirits!



It's funny how Louisiana is notorious for not having fall foliage on the level of New England, but I manage to find the three pictures in my phone featuring colorful leaves. It's such a great illusion of fall, especially this year as we're still wearing short sleeves on the regular.


What do you have planned this year? Are you staying home? Traveling? Hosting a big group? Dining out? Hanging at home with the pets?

Come on back next week for a blog post on Small Business Saturday!
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