Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Photo Friday | Party Favors?

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, an organization I discovered during our 2014 vacation, shared a relevant photo this week. They found and cleaned up this balloon litter on Shipwreck Beach on the island of Lanai.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii works just about every day to clean up beaches and other areas of the Hawaiian islands, and educate others on the importance of keeping the islands clean. You can follow their projects on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Photo credit: Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Downfall of Balloons


"What goes up must come down."

This popular adage applies to many things, but is extra relevant when talking about balloons. Especially balloon pollution.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Popular for parties, celebrations and memorials, balloons are usually made of either mylar or latex. Mylar is made of metallicized polyester, which sounds about as un-eco-friendly as it really is. Latex is touted as the better option, because it is biodegradable.

BUT...


While latex may be biodegradable, don't be fooled.

The claim is that latex balloons biodegrade in the same amount of time as an oak leaf - which can be between six months and four years, and that's not counting if a balloon is swimming in water, which slows down the process. In that time, balloon material can be ingested by land or sea animals, causing illness or death.

Photo credit: Conserve Wildlife NJ via Balloons Blow

The ribbons tied to balloons pose a threat to animals as well, besides having an amazing ability to get tangled in anything.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shares photos of animals affected by balloon litter.

Did you know?


Balloon releases are against the law in some states (but not many!) If you live in California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee or Virginia; or the cities of Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville, Kentucky; Huntsville, Alabama; San Francisco, California; Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Baltimore, Maryland, you better think of something else for your celebration!

What's the alternative?


If you're decorating for a party or celebration, look for more natural options. Paper-based decorations can be recycled. Natural decorations, such as flowers, greenery or sticks, lend an earthy vibe.

If you're planning a memorial, one of my favorite ideas is using flower seeds instead. After being thrown in the air, the seeds will root where they land, and an area of flowers will grow. Or, plant a tree in a special location. Which, to me, sounds like a better way to remember someone than letting a bunch of balloons loose into the air and cause harm.

Find some other alternatives here.

Consider a balloon's effect on the environment and wildlife next time you have a need for one, and look for a better, more sustainable alternative.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Photo Friday | A New Perspective

Another view from my trip along Bayou Vermilion with the BVD operations crew: Crossing under Evangeline Thruway. A rarer view of a road so heavily traveled through Lafayette.

After some rains this week, I am sure there's plenty of new debris in the river the operations crew is tasked with cleaning up. Do your part and don't litter!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reducing Lunch Break Waste

Is this a familiar scene for you? A quick frozen lunch at your desk while you catch up on the news or award show fashions. It's convenient, but it's wasteful.


I admit, for the steps I take to be both healthy and less wasteful, this is one area where I sometimes fall short. When I'm lazy, cheap or out of food at home, I fall back on frozen lunches in plastic trays, with plastic films, in cardboard boxes. Or cans of soup. Although the plastic trays are recyclable, let's work on being completely reusable!

So, if you're looking to reduce your waste at your desk for lunch time, there are a few easy ways to do it:

Food

When you cook dinner, purposely cook extra so you have leftovers for lunch. Adjust the recipe so you can make a bigger dish. "Box up" the leftovers in smaller reusable containers instead of one larger one, so in the morning you can grab and go. I tend to cook during the week and enjoy leftovers a couple times, and I keep some lunch food on hand for my fiance as well (usually lunch meat and lettuce). However, the turkey comes in a plastic zip lock bag and the lettuce is wrapped in plastic. Shame on me!

Try to stay away from prepackaged foods. Tip for me AND you: If you're heading to the deli, bring your own container, such as for the salad bar or deli meat counter. Just weigh your container first so you know how much to subtract from the food weight. (A tip I read once: Write the container's weight on a piece of tape and stick it on the lid or the outside, so you and the cashier can easily see it.)

When you're grocery shopping, don't buy individually packaged snacks - buy the larger box and divide the portions up yourself. (Dig into the archives for a dedicated blog post on this!)

Dishes

Many offices are stocked with disposable cutlery and dishes, since there's no one person in charge of keeping dishes clean. Unfortunately. However, that doesn't mean you have to use them! Bring your own reusable dinnerware. I keep two coffee mugs (one regular size, one giganto), a plate, a bowl, a big mug, and a fork and spoon at my desk, along with a towel I use for drying (then bring home to throw in the wash). That way, when I heat up leftovers for lunch, I don't have to use anything disposable in the process!
 
 
The key is planning ahead, and that's what I'm working to achieve more as I work to be less wasteful. It might be easy to grab a frozen lunch when the fridge is looking sparse...but with some planning, I can have leftovers or a simple lunch ready to go in the morning.

So, let's work on this one together! Easy, quick, workday lunches without a pile of trash!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

Local Organization Spotlight | Bayou Vermilion District

Tucked away on the banks of the Vermilion River next to Vermilionville in Lafayette is an old Acadian-style house that functions as the office for Bayou Vermilion District. The organization, funded by a parish-wide property tax millage, is run by a small group of passionate and dedicated men and women. They focus on beautifying, conserving and managing sites along the Vermilion River to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural resources for the citizens of Lafayette Parish.


One of their most intensive initiatives, and the one in which I was most interested in learning about, is the daily trash and debris management efforts. The operations crew, headed by Tom Melancon, heads out along the 30 miles of river under their control each morning and afternoon to pick trash and debris, like fallen trees, out of the river, along with cleaning out numerous trash booms in connected coulees.


I visited the Bayou Vermilion District one sunny Friday morning to learn about their cleanup work and take a ride to observe the cleanups in action. It's a trip I lovingly call the Vermilion River Garbage Cruise. After some coffee and a game plan, Tom, Grant, Chris, Spencer, and I hopped into three boats and set out to see what needed cleaning.


The Vermilion River is not instantly appealing, with its murky brown water, but it has an attraction to it once you're cruising along. Kayakers use the public launches to set out for some recreation, and fishing is possible (the fish are edible, Tom told me). Homes along the river have docks for access, and some have boats and party barges ready to go. Each year, BVD holds a boat parade that brings crowds to the river and its banks.


As we rode along, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the homes. We traveled down to River Ranch before turning back, and I saw many different architectural styles, and most houses had beautiful walls of windows allowing for a view of the river that winds all the way through our city. It was refreshing to get a new view of such a familiar city: to see how Lafayette's different parts connect by river, instead of by road, and to pass under the bridges I drive across so frequently. Traveling down nature's path compared to man's path is much more fulfilling.


With all this beauty, the need to keep Bayou Vermilion clean is even more apparent. We rode past very primitive-looking, undeveloped areas, but even they weren't free of a styrofoam cup, empty bottle of liquor, decomposing pumpkin, or deflated soccer ball.




It's not that people traipse out into the woods to dump these items, but rather, it shows the trail that trash follows, and would continue to follow if it weren't for guys like the BVD operations crew. We passed many large pipes - the ones that carry water from storm drains along the streets of Lafayette and empty out into the river. Trash and litter along the streets of Lafayette follow this same path. If left alone, that litter would float all the way down the Vermilion out of Lafayette, through Abbeville, and eventually all the way into the Gulf of Mexico.


Why is all this trash so bad?
  • Harmful to the wildlife along the river.
  • Harmful and dangerous to the banks along the river, whether someone's private backyard, a public access point, or quiet undeveloped spot of land.
  • Detrimental to the river's water quality.

BVD operates a series of trash booms that span the width of the river or coulee and sink a few feet. The booms collect and block litter from flowing further, and the operations crew heads out to manually pick the litter out of the water and into bins. There's one Bandalong litter trap, in Coulee Mine just off South College Road, where the litter is collected and funneled into a basket that can be lifted into a truck on land, reducing the need for manual collection.


Tom says their busiest days are the ones right after it's rained. As for what they find? "You name it, it's been in the river," Tom says. From school backpacks to emptied safes to guns, he's seen it all in the almost 10 years he's been with BVD. But for the most part, the majority of the litter is single-use items: styrofoam cups, soft drink bottles and cans, and fast food containers. They've also picked up furniture, mattresses, electronics and tires. Get the stats on how much trash and debris the group has picked up each year.

In addition to trash, the crew works to clear fallen trees or other natural debris, as they can pose a barrier to safe boat travel. Depending on the water level, tree branches can be hidden threats.

For everything BVD does, Tom says, "It's still four people against the city." He clarifies that it's not that everyone in Lafayette litters, but I agree that it's more than four people doing the littering. It will always be an uphill battle, and there will unfortunately always be litter in the river. We talked about how we hope people will start to take more pride in our city, and put more effort into keeping our streets and waterways clean.


But for Tom, this is more than just a job; more than just cleaning up litter. He is clearly passionate not only about Bayou Vermilion, but about the environment as a whole. He agrees that it's not a glamorous job, but he loves getting to be out on the river instead of being indoors all the time. The crew goes out year-round, except for in inclement weather and when the river is above flood stage. As for seasons, Tom enjoys summer the most, but we agree this mild and partly sunny January Friday made for a gorgeous ride.

Once back on shore, the crew empties their bins into a set of dumpsters near the office. The group recycles what they can, and there are special collection areas for motor oil. Tom shows me one of the many ice chests they've picked up, and shows me a metal boat that's been cut into pieces and stuffed into the dumpster. There's no limit to what they will clean out of the river.



In addition to the trash and debris management, Bayou Vermilion District works on studying and maintaining water quality, educating students and residents, and maintaining public boat and canoe launches. They oversee some 30-miles of Bayou Vermilion, spanning the entire parish.

Once we get back to our starting point at the BVD office, the group breaks for lunch, usually heading to La Cuisine de Maman at neighboring Vermilionville, before heading back to the office and back out on the river for more cleaning.

It's my time to head out, but I leave with a newfound appreciation for my city, my fight against litter and the employees of Bayou Vermilion District (and employees/volunteers of other similar organizations).

Bayou Vermilion is both the heart of and main artery through Lafayette. When people litter, it directly impacts our flagship waterway and everything connected to it - coulees, private backyards, public access points, wildlife and the land surrounding it.


We show our pride for Lafayette and Acadiana in so many ways. Let's make preservation of Bayou Vermilion one of those ways. Take care not to litter, and keep our river clean.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

Photo Friday | One Person

No matter how small a change you make to be greener in your life, it makes an impact! Start small and work your way up.

Even one person resolving to use fewer plastic bags at the grocery store means there are fewer plastic bags ending up as litter on our roadways or in our waterways.

Image: Fair Trade Certified

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Recycling Fishing Line

I am not a skilled fisherwoman by any means, but I love a trip out to the camp for some R&R and a little fishing.


Whether you're freshwater or saltwater fishing, that feeling of catching a big one is always exhilerating...until it snaps your line and gets away! Unfortunately, a fish swimming away with part of your fishing line is ultimately bad for other fish and the environment. (And I won't tell anyone if your "big catch" was actually your hook getting snagged on a tree or something underwater!)

If you can recover and collect your used fishing line, take care not to dump it in the water, or leave it where the wind can blow it away into nature.


Why is fishing line harmful? According to Going Coastal, it can take up to 600 years for monofilament to decompose. And it adds to other marine debris, causing litter on the shore and creating problems for wildlife and humans. Fish and other marine wildlife can ingest fishing line (among other plastics, according to 5Gyres), which gets trapped in their stomachs or strangles them.

Fish just aren't meant to eat plastic!

There are a few organizations who work to recycle your used monofilament lines:

The responsibility starts with each person to collect their used line and bring it to a recycling bin. If you fish regularly through a marina, ask about having a collection bin placed out. Or take the initiative to do it yourself. Have a private dock? See about getting a collection bin for yourself, or mail your used line directly to the Berkley Conservation Institute.

I became aware of the need to recycle fishing line when I saw a collection bin at my local Academy in the fishing section. It's in great shape, can't you tell!? But at least people are using it! So, it's easy to find a way to bring your used fishing line in for recycling. Check with your local Academy to see if there's a bin.


So, you've dropped off your fishing line, but what actually gets done with it?

The Berkley Conservation Institute will create a Berkley Fish-Hab structure, made from recycled monofilament fishing line and line spools, along with other post-consumer materials like milk cartons and soft drink bottles. The Fish-Hab attracts fish and encourages plant growth almost immediately, providing the natural cover essential to the growth of a healthy fish population.

TRRM ships their spools and monofilament to PureFishing, the parent company of the Berkley Conservation Institute. Your used line can become a tacklebox or spool down the road, providing even more use to fishermen and women!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Year Organization | How to Host a Garage Sale

So you're cleaning out at home, and you're racking up a decent pile of stuff to get rid of. Donating is always a good option, but if you've got enough stuff, why not try to make a little extra money from it?

Image: Red Oak, TX

Coming from a garage-sale childhood, I can attest that they are both awesome and horrible at the same time. We held one every few years and it was always very successful, and we'd compete to see who sold the most stuff. At the same time, I have great memories of going garage-saling with my mother. We would plan our route when the weekly classified paper would come out, then load up in the truck and make our morning trip. We found so many treasures on those trips, from clothes to household goods to furniture, and I'm sure it had some impact on my future as your favorite crazy treehugging blogger.

Pros:

  • Cleans out the house.
  • Recycling your goods instead of throwing them out.
  • Money in ya pocket!

Cons:

  • WHY ARE THEY SO EARLY IN THE MORNING?
  • The planning.

As a child and teenager, there's nothing worse than getting up at 5am on a Saturday. As an adult, I might be able to tolerate it a little more. The pros outweigh the cons here, especially when it comes to some $$$.

Now, I have been living with my fiance for almost two years now, and for those two years, we have talked about having our own garage sale. It's a common story for many couples: move in together, combine things from two separate apartments, and have a lot of duplicates.

And now, for what I'm kind of embarrassed to admit: we still haven't had that garage sale. We still have most of that extra stuff in storage. But this is the year. (Yes, wedding year, but that's not what I mean right now.) This is the year we have that garage sale. And you can thank my mother for prodding us along, basically by saying she and my dad were going to have their own. And we said, "That's a great idea! We'll bring our stuff over to sell!"

#Adulting: Mooching off your parents' garage sale because you haven't gotten around to having your own.

I Want to Have a Garage Sale. What Do I Do?


  • Start collecting your items. Go through all closets: clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, purses, outerwear. Go through the kitchen and dining room. Go through your bathroom (hey, why not sell those hotel bottles of shampoo you took but never use?) Go through kids' toys. Go through your movie and CD collections. Go through the holiday decorations. Drink some wine while you do all this, because it's tedious.
  • Pick a date and force yourself to stick to it. Give yourself enough time to collect all your items. Two months out is pretty ideal. One month is pretty rushed. Four or more months, and you'll probably talk yourself out of doing it. Consider holidays and typical weather for the time of year you're interested in.
  • Begin pricing your items and keeping an inventory list. There are a few ways to price: Use blank labels from an office supply store and write your prices in, use preprinted price stickers, or just make signs to hang above your groups (All Tops $2, All Shoes $5, etc.) While this might seem like the easiest way, it can get a little hectic on the morning of your sale, when someone comes up with a massive pile of stuff and you have to remember what each price is, because it's not labeled. I prefer stickers so I can clearly see what I priced something.
  • Find tables/racks for your goods. You'll need something to lay your items out on. If you use folding tables or your patio table, you may want to mark it "Not for Sale", because someone will probably try to buy them. If you're selling furniture, use it to hold smaller items. Rolling wardrobe racks are great for hanging clothes. If you can't find or borrow those, use some rope tied to anchors or between carport columns. Ask around to see who might have tables you can borrow.
  • Start publicizing your sale. Your newspaper's classified section is still a great place to advertise your garage sale, because you'll be included with other sales, and people can plan out their itinerary. Plan to advertise about two weeks in advance, and the week of your sale. In today's age, it's common to share everything on Facebook, but by advertising your garage sale online, even just by sharing a status, you are sharing your address with the world. Don't sacrifice your privacy or safety!
  • Get money to use for change. I asked my mom for guidance on this one, but she says she can never remember the best combination of bills to get. You'll want a few hundred dollars' worth of change to cover yourself. Stick with more smaller bills ($1, $5, $10) and just have a few larger bills ($20). Don't forget to note how much cash you're starting with, because you'll need to subtract it from your sale revenue to figure out your profit.
  • Stock on up plastic shopping bags. It kills me to even say this, but when you're planning a garage sale, choose plastic bags at the store, so you'll have enough on hand to use for your shoppers. Or, just ask friends and family for their spare plastic bags. (If you're a garage sale shopper, bring your cloth bags!)
  • Ask friends or family for assistance. You might need a few sales associates to work the floor. Offer them a portion of the profits or free lunch and beer.
  • Get your items ready. If you have an enclosed garage, you can put all your items out on display the night before. If you have an open driveway, keep your items right inside the house for security, and just carry everything out the morning of.
  • Go to bed early! 4:00 on a Saturday morning is early AF.

The morning of your garage sale, get up early, make some coffee, and maybe send someone to pick up donuts (garage sale-day Meche's donuts are the best Meche's donuts!) If you advertised your garage sale to start at 6 a.m., expect people to show up ridiculously early - like 5 a.m. You can turn them away, or let them have first pick. Most times it's flea market owners or antiquers looking for the best selection.

Your garage sale may get pretty busy, so just stay calm! Negotiate with shoppers and keep an eye on everything so that someone doesn't walk away with a 100% discount.

By around 11:00 or noon, shoppers will wind down and it's time for you to close up shop! Box up whatever's left and save it for a donation. Count up your profits and take a nap. You've just completed your own garage sale!

Have you held a garage sale before? How was your experience??

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

Photo Friday | Start of Mardi Gras Season

We've officially transitioned from Christmas to Mardi Gras season (shh, don't tell the Christmas tree still standing in my living room), and that means king cakes, beads, parades, balls...and tons of trash!

Do your part this season: Pick up your own trash when you're done reveling, and leave your space as clean as you found it - OR CLEANER!

I'll have more posts between now and Mardi Gras on how we can green Louisiana's favorite holiday, so c'maw back!



...Of course, the Christmas tree in my living room still has a gold ribbon draped around it. Maybe I can recycle some of my favorite Mardi Gras beads and turn it into a Mardi Gras tree!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How to Recycle Books

I've written before about how libraries are very eco-friendly places, but what about your home library? Maybe in your new year cleaning frenzy, you've come across a collection of books you just don't need anymore. What to do with them?

Image: WeWantBooks.com


But there are still options on recycling old traditional textbooks:
If you're not crafty, you can always try donating the books to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Most local libraries accept used books, including the Lafayette Public Library. You can drop off donations at 211 E. Pinhook during the week. Donated books are put out for sale at the twice-yearly Friends of the Library Book Sale, with proceeds benefiting the library branches. (FYI, the spring Book Sale is March 16-19 at the Heymann Performing Arts Center!)

If you have children's books, contact your local schools, day cares and churches to see if they accept donations.

MoneyCrashers also has a list of 10 places where you can donate used books.

What about textbooks?

It's been almost nine years since I graduated college (and promptly sold my textbooks back for 1/1938th of the cost), but textbook recycling is still an option for many students and others who have books lying around gathering dust.

These days, as many textbook come in digital forms and are updated often, it becomes difficult sell them back to bookstores. Ebooks at least reduce a massive amount of paper from needing to be recycled.

  • Books for Africa is one site that comes up frequently when looking into recycling textbooks. Books For Africa is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 34 million books to 49 different countries since 1988. They accept general fiction and nonfiction books, along with primary, secondary and college textbooks (soft and hard cover) with a 2000 or newer publish date. They also accept encyclopedias from 2005 or later.
  • Green Textbooks accepts donations and sells used textbooks. Their goal is to work with college students, publishing companies, schools, and universities to conserve natural resources and preserve forests.
  • Better World Books buys and sells used textbooks. You can type in the book's ISBN number and get a quote right away.
  • Textbook Recycling is a third option that buys and sells used textbooks.
  • On a larger scale, Recycle Your Textbooks is a great option. They work with organizations to set up donation bins for accepting textbooks. The books are then put back into circulation through various channels developed over the years. Every book is reused or ground into other paper products. The bins are great for around campuses!
  • Schools can work with the American Book Exchange to recycle large quantities of textbooks.

Help someone else enjoy your old books - and keep them out of the trash - by donating them!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year Organization | Reusing Small Tins

Well, it's back to the grind, I guess. Back to the five-day work weeks and healthy cooking. I may have taken the decorations down this past weekend, but our tree will stay up (with only lights) for a few more days. Haaaaappy new year!

January tends to bring about the urge to purge unwanted or old stuff, whether to minimize or make way for new Christmas goods, and then organization comes in. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some home organizing tips that follow the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle and help you keep your resolutions.

Up this week is a tiny item I always have around, and don't throw out right away: mint tins. They're super functional and long-lasting, and I've been saving a few in order to think up a few ways they can be reused.

 

  • Bobby pin/hair tie container. Perfect for traveling, or keeping your purse a little more organized.
  • Medicine container for your car or purse.
  • Pet treat dispenser. 
  • Travel or gym jewelry holder.
  • Safety and straight pin holder for sewing boxes.
  • Desk organizers for thumb tacks.
  • Ring holder to keep by the kitchen or bathroom sinks. (Pop the lid off and make two little trays out of one tin!)




What about any larger tins you may have?
  • Store smaller amounts of pet food.
  • Cookie or snack tin.
  • Organizer for feminine products or toiletries (especially those small samples or hotel bottles!)
  • Container for crayons, colored pencils, markers or paints.


And I get it, sometimes you just don't like the way the tins may look, especially if they are promoting a product or brand, like all the ones I have do. While a coat of spray paint is an easy fix, it isn't the most functional, especially for things you might keep in a purse or backpack. No one wants flakes of spray paint, nor a chipped-paint tin lying around! Use decorative tape to wrap the tin, or grab your Mod Podge and some scrap fabric. Get creative with it and make your tins match your home.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

My 2016 New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! Did you wake up next to an empty bottle of champagne?

Wednesday, I shared a few green resolutions that anyone can make, and today, I'm sharing my own resolutions! I still tend to make a list at the end of each year, even if I don't always see them through.  I'm proud to say I was pretty successful at accomplishing last year's list!



So, this year I want to:
  • Start a real vegetable and herb garden. I think it's time to upgrade my random potted herbs and grow a few of the staples I use the kitchen. And not kill all my plants within weeks. Last year was brutal on my poor plants!
  • Keep on that yoga practice. One of my 2015 resolutions was to do more yoga, and I think it was my most successful one! I've worked my way into practicing handstands and hanging in crow pose, and it makes me feel like a badass. Here's to more "feeling like a badass" in 2015.

  • Pick a name for my Prius. I've had my little hybrid spaceship for seven months now, and I've still yet to name it. Do you have any suggestions? Leave them in the comments below!
  • Be more present. I'm starting to feel more forgetful than I'd like to be at this age, so here's to working on listening better and remembering more.
  • Have that damn garage sale already. We have had a lot of things in storage in our house for almost two years, have been talking about having a garage sale for almost as long, and we are both antsy to have our guest bedroom back. Time to get it all out without sending it to the landfill! And then I can work on minimizing the clutter.

It's January 1, and we're all in this together. We can conquer our resolutions and make this year awesome!
Eco Cajun | The Earth Just Wants To Be Loved Ba-You! All posts, content, graphics and photographs copyright 2009- 2016 Eco Cajun, unless otherwise credited. BLOG DESIGN BY Labinastudio.