Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

Photo Friday | Hints of Spring

It might still be February, but I'm loving the color that's starting to pop up around south Louisiana!

 

And doesn't nature look better without litter in the way??

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Can I Reuse Medicine Dose Cups?

If you've got a medicine cabinet, chances are, you've got about a thousand of these little plastic medicine cups. They come with every liquid over the counter medicine you can buy, and they probably multiply when you aren't looking.

Trust me, these are not the only three currently sitting in my medicine bin.


So, instead of letting medicine cups collect and take up space, what can you do to responsibly dispose of them? 

First, cups with a recycling symbol on the bottom can be thrown into your recycling bin for collection. The ones without a symbol may be made of a plastic that cannot be recycled, and would have to be thrown away.

But there are different creative ways to reuse the cups around your house (that aren't completely ridiculous)!

  • Organize tiny items, like beads for jewelry-making, separate pairs of earrings, or even a few push pins, screws or nails.
  • Spray paint or decorate them to hold jewelry near the bathroom or kitchen sinks.
  • Hold dip for snacks (like ranch with carrots).

The Simple Moms gives a few great suggestions, especially for households with children.
  • Measuring cups in the kitchen. They're great for small quantities of liquids when you're cooking.
  • Paint or glue cups. The small size makes it perfect to hold different colors of paint!
  • Tea cups for dolls. Decorate them to make them perfectly dainty.
  • Crayon molds. Perfect for reusing both medicine cups and worn-down or broken crayons. Visit The Simple Moms for the process.

Do you have any ideas for reusing medicine cups?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Putting In the Work

I write a lot about ways you can go greener in your own life, and I try to practice everything I 'preach'. Most things come natural to me, and I almost get anxiety when it comes to throwing something away. In every instance, I run down my list of options - reuse, recycle, donate, repurpose, then toss. Throwing something away is a last resort option for me.

I moved in to my fiance's exactly two years ago. With me came a cat and apartment full of furniture, kitchen stuff, clothes and decorations. As the stuff piled up, the idea came to have a garage sale. (Milo not for sale.) Let's make some extra money off our stuff, I said.

It was one of the most-put-off things we've ever done, but finally we decided to go through with it when my mom announced she was going to hold her own. Our guest bedroom has functioned as storage for two years and we were ready to reclaim the space! (Spoiler alert, it's not hotel-worthy yet, but it's so close and it's seriously motivating!)

We started prepping, pricing items and organizing a few weeks back. And this past week felt crazily nonstop. There's a lot of work that goes into planning and executing a garage sale, and that's if you use your own driveway. If you're holding a joint sale with another family and you have to move all of your stuff over there in advance, it's about twice the work. We spent three evenings moving bins of stuff over, then spent the night before setting everything out like a mini used Bed Bath & Beyond.


After all of two and a half hours of sleep, we were up to make sure everything was ready and wait for customers. The morning went by both slow and quick, and while we made an acceptable profit, we still had way too much left over that I was in no mood to pack back up and move again.

The garage sale was one thing. The work to donate what didn't sell was a whole other thing. All in all, we made three trips to Goodwill, two trips to Plato's Closet and one trip to the library.

Even on a Sunday evening, it still feels like our garage sale work isn't over. We first brought two loads of bins to Goodwill for donation, then had to drop off a few tables we borrowed to hold our goods.

We brought two large containers of clothing to Plato's Closet and walked out with every last piece still in our containers. After the first trip late on a Saturday evening, we decided not to leave the bins, and chose to come back on Sunday. It's highly disheartening, especially when you're already exhausted and frustrated you have so much left over, to get a big fat whammy on making a little extra cash. So the clothes made up the third trip to Goodwill.

After hauling in a bajillion pound container of books, CDs and movies to the library's front desk, we learned the donations now take place at their collection facility, a couple miles away, and by the way it's closed on Sunday.

(On a side note, we also made two trips to Best Buy as part of exchanging a Christmas gift for something similar. I was also supposed to drop off a container full of random cables and cords that we don't need. Needless to say, that box is still in the back of my car.)

So, in our big effort to purge and get our house back, we have been moving nonstop for about four days now, and we still have items in the house that we don't want to see anymore. We are just tired. Late on a Sunday night, laying in bed with my laptop, it's my first chance to actually sit down and rest.

And we're still not done. I still have a donation trip to Acadiana Animal Aid, another trip to Best Buy, a trip to the library book donation drop, and I need to go back in my own blog and figure out where I can donate old eyeglasses. My fiance still has things he plans to sell online.

But I am going to make sure everything goes somewhere where it can be recycled or reused again. That's just how I work. And even after all this work, I still can't bring myself to just throw something away. I was thinking about how this must be why other people just throw everything out. IT'S SO MUCH EASIER.

But, even if it's easier, I know that it takes a bigger toll on the planet, and I just don't want to contribute to the landfill if I don't absolutely have to. Even if no one wanted my pile of clothing this weekend, I still donated it, where someone might see something and choose to buy and wear it.

This is why I put in all the work. Everything we tried to sell is still usable in some way. I'd so much rather do the work to try every avenue we have to allow someone else to use what we just don't need anymore. It still pained me to throw some things away this weekend, but I told myself (and my mom told me), "At least you tried."

We did try. It may not have gone as well as we hoped, but we still made an impact. We earned a little money and we donated a lot. I hope our stuff serves its new owners well.

And, going forward, I'll be much better about getting all the information before shlepping heavy containers all over town!

Oh, and I'm still in purge mode, so I'm sure this cycle will be repeating itself for the next few weeks!

A garage sale day sunset, forcing me to stop and rest a minute.
While sometimes doing the green thing can be more work, it's also more worthwhile. I'm tired and my feet still hurt, but we tried, and it feels SO great that we didn't just throw all of our stuff on the curb for trash pickup.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Photo Friday | Lifespan of Trash

The next time you "throw something away", think about how long it can still last. "Away" is still somewhere. Items like these can last in a landfill for a long time, or worse, can last out in nature for a very long time.

Don't use something in the first place (especially single-use items), or recycle when you're done with it.

Image courtesy: The Story of Stuff Project

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Post-Mardi Gras Ideas

It feels like Mardi Gras was already a month ago, even though it's only been eight days. Too many holidays and festivities happening all at once!! I'm still not back to my normal (hectic) routine.

As the Mardi Gras celebrations wound down, and we made our final bike ride home, I started thinking of ideas to make the holiday more sustainable. The trash issue is so disgustingly apparent after five days, especially at Cajun Field. But it's not just festival-goers dropping their half-eaten funnel cakes or beer cans. A lot of trash comes from the floats, whether it's those darned plastic bags or unwanted broken beads.

City workers and cleaning crews do go through at night and sweep the streets following parades, picking up the majority of what's left in the middle of the road. (Here's a great Gambit article about New Orleans' Mardi Gras cleanup workers.)

We spent most of Mardi Gras in the same spot, and after each parade, my fiance and I would collect left-behind beads for donation to LARC, and I would pick up all the plastic bags nearby and bring them to the trash can.



I write a lot about what we can do as individuals to be more eco-friendly, but in times like Mardi Gras, it's apparent that sometimes, we just need a larger-scale effort. How can we really work to keep our city a little cleaner during our favorite time of year?

Krewes

  • As I learned last year, a huge amount of trash is generated before the floats even start rolling. Krewe members spend a lot of time bringing and stocking their beads and throws on the float. Unfortunately, everything is packaged, leaving behind cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Could having extra dumpsters or recycling bins nearby at the parade start, or even the float garages, help? 
  • I actually don't know if most floats are stocked with trash cans, but they may help with the amount of plastic bags being thrown during a parade. At the very least, they can be thrown on the float floor to be collected and properly thrown away once the parade is over.
  • Once Mardi Gras is over, volunteers can assist in cleanup, similar to what Project Front Yard did last year. Maybe krewe members can volunteer, or organize external groups to help out.
  • Use the cardboard boxes from packaging as trash receptacles on floats.

Photo courtesy: Bill Riehl, who says: "The significant portion of the waste that I picked up this morning could have been prevented, if only the krewes would keep what is already on their floats in the first place. These bags are light and easily transported by the wind into areas where it is not picked up. Please! If you are in a krewe, practice good housekeeping by providing proper on-board trash receptacles that are appropriate for the activities you participate in."

Parade trash photo courtesy: Bill Riehl, via Facebook

The city/waste companies

  • City workers and cleanup companies already go through at night and sweep the streets following parades. Most of the trash left is found on the edges of the streets and on the sidewalks. Many times, it's difficult to find an available trash can (outside of the businesses along the parade route), so maybe extra bins can be placed directly along the route for the duration of Mardi Gras.
  • In addition to parade route trash cans, what about adding specialized bins for bead collection? As parade-goers leave, they can dump what they don't want directly into a bin, which would be emptied by volunteers or a company, to be donated and resold. It would also be easier for people to pick up beads on the ground and throw them into the bin, instead of leaving them behind.

Retailers

  • Reduce the plastic bag packaging! It can't become litter if it isn't on the float at all.

Each of us


However, ideas don't always equal possible action, especially when looking to an organization or city government. There are understandable issues, from money, time, available resources, people or contracts, to deal with and work through.

But from this point, we have a year to take these ideas, talk to people in charge (from the krewes, the city and organizations like Keep Lafayette Beautiful or Project Front Yard), and see if/how we can implement some of them! What can we make happen for 2017?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Valentine from Me to You

Thank you all for keeping up with Eco Cajun! I truly love y'all!

Here's to a very heartwarming Valentine's Day, from me to you.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Photo Friday | Love the Earth

This Valentine's Day, don't forget to also show some love to the earth! Get outside, enjoy nature, and don't trash it.

Photo courtesy: Bayou Vermilion District

Necklace from Adorn and Conquer

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Where to Donate and Recycle Your Mardi Gras Beads

Once Mardi Gras is over, most people have a mountain of beads sitting around their house or vehicle trunk. Bead recycling is becoming more popular each year, which is awesome on so many levels.


Most organizations that accept beads for recycling then get to work cleaning, repairing and reselling the beads for future parades. LARC, an organization based in Lafayette that serves citizens with developmental disabilities and operates Acadian Village, is able to both provide work for these residents and raise funds through bead sales.

While I am sure Tom and the Bayou Vermilion District Operations Crew will be scooping beads out of the Vermilion River for weeks and months to come (a sad reminder that our reveling takes a huge toll on our environment), at least recycling beads will keep them out of our landfill. And because many beads can contain lead, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, it's important to keep them out of landfills.


 Lafayette

  • LARC. The Louisiana Association of Retarded Citizens organization collects broken and unbroken Mardi Gras beads of all styles throughout the year. The beads create job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. They clean and repair the beads for resale in future years through their shop Beads N More. Bring your donations to LARC's facility near Acadian Village.
  • Arc of Acadiana accepts beads year-round. Beads they collect are detangled, sorted, repackaged and resold. The collection provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Drop your beads off at one of Arc's retail locations in south Louisiana. If you're riding in a parade next year, shop for your throws at one of Arc of Acadiana's retail stores and close the recycling loop!
Beads were collected in a truck bed during Le Festival De Mardi Gras in Lafayette for donation to LARC.

New Orleans


Many smaller organizations may accept beads for recycling as part of their community service. Schools may also accept smaller amounts for student parades; just inquire before you bring a full box!

You can always take the initiative and collect beads from coworkers and bring them to LARC or any other organization yourself.

You can also package and sell your beads for next year's festivities. There are usually interested buyers on social media. Just donate any broken beads to a nonprofit that will fix them before reselling.
And on the flip side, I love catching beads that have been through the cycle once or twice. Just this year, I caught some years-old New Orleans krewe beads at a parade. Does it really matter if it says 2000 on it? Nope! Because it's still going to get donated back into the stream, and someone will catch the beads again next year, maybe minus the broken pendant.



Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Local, Organic, Waste-Free, Eco-Friendly Valentine's Day

The Big Game is over and Mardi Gras is tomorrow, but we still have Valentine's Day coming up! Did you forget all about it? I won't tell anyone if you did. And you've still got six days to come up with a gift or date night for your loved one!


Although there's typically pressure to get the biggest bouquet of the brightest flowers, the best gift, or the fanciest reservations, you can celebrate a romantic and special Valentine's Day without the waste.

Need some ideas on an eco-friendly way to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Gifts

  • Shop at local stores for gifts, or look to locally produced items (especially handmade jewelry).
  • My Christmas gift guide works well for any holiday/birthday! The same principles apply: look for fair-trade, organic, recycles, handmade, reusable, charitable or sustainable items. The list even has suggestions on local stores and brands to check out!
  • For last-minute flowers, check out local florist Root at a pop-up shop inside Genterie this Saturday, February 13, during ArtWalk. Side note: ArtWalk is a great place to find local creative gifts!
  • Instead of flowers in a vase, pick out flowers from the nursery that can be replanted in a pot or in the ground, so they can grow just like your love! (#cheesealert)
  • Make your own gift with salvaged or reclaimed items.
  • Go for an intangible gift by doing something nice and unexpected for your loved one.
  • Look for organic or fair-trade candy and chocolate, so you know it's both healthier and better for the workers in the production facility. (Vitamins Plus has a great selection...just wait until Mardi Gras is over to visit.)
  • Make a card with scrap paper or reused wrapping paper, buy a card made of recycled or tree-free paper, or send a paperless card!


Plans

  • Plan a special evening for your person. Save money and cook dinner at home. Choose a local grocery store and find regional ingredients for a special dish. Don't forget your cloth bags! You'll skip the crowded restaurants and show off your culinary skills.
  • Visit your nearest farmer's market to pick up fresh, seasonal produce.
  • Find an organic wine to go with your dinner.
  • Use real dinnerware and napkins instead of disposable.
  • If cooking just isn't your thing and you want to take your person out, pick a local restaurant! It's not like we don't have 10 million amazing local restaurants in and around Lafayette. Call ahead and make reservations if you can.
  • Plan a fun bike ride for the two of you. Get extra creative and bring along a picnic. (Packing your food in reusable containers and bringing cloth napkins, of course!) Or you can just ride to dinner!
  • Go on an adventurous date, or maybe even take a quick weekend getaway.


 
 



Want some more ideas? Check out Zero Waste Chef and Zero Waste Nerd!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Photo Friday | All the Sunshine

Happy Mardi Gras weekend, everyone! The weather looks to be in our favor (especially compared to the ice, rain and cold of the last two years), and I'm looking forward to the festivities and parades.

If you're heading out, don't forget to keep Mardi Gras clean.

Even if parades and beads aren't your thing, get out and enjoy the weather this weekend! Head out to the Horse Farm or another park, go for a bike ride, or simply sit outside your house for your morning coffee.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sustaina-Bowl Sunday

So, the Big Game is this Sunday. If you live in Louisiana and are like me, you haven't really been following playoffs this season. Actually, if you're me, you kiiiind of stopped watching around Week 9 of regular season. Sorry.

However, I do love the celebration and hype around the the final game of the season. Side ramble: From my years in advertising, I've learned that you cannot say the name of the game if you don't shell out $$$ to the NFL. I've written many a radio spot dancing around the name. I get it, because it's copyrighted and all, but it almost looks more ridiculous to see "the Big Game" in ads and marketing emails. Like, it's almost going against your brand. Silly? Yes. Am I still going to avoid it even in my peon blog? OF COURSE. I don't have enough money to get sued by the NFL.

So. Broncos vs. Panthers. Who are you rooting for?

While I might secretly be going for the Panthers, what I'm really rooting for is sustainability!

And hey, this year's match-up is held in one of my favorite cities, the hippie treehugging San Francisco!

Photo credit: Susty Party

Sustainable Parties

Whether you are having friends over, chilling at home, or heading out to a bar, you can minimize trash while cheering for your favorite team.

  • Avoid single-use by using regular dinnerware, silverware and drinkware. Go even further with cloth napkins.
  • If you need to use disposable dinnerware, choose eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable materials instead of styrofoam or plastic. Bagasse and wheat straw are two great plant-based materials, and you can find these in stores. (Try Vitamins Plus or Whole Foods in Lafayette.)
  • Put out a dedicated trash can for recyclable materials, aka beer bottles, beer cans, wine bottles and rinsed queso jars.
  • Use paper towels and napkins made with recycled materials.
  • Don't go out and spend money on single-use decorations!
  • Shop local for your food!
  • If you're going to a friend's, bring your dish in a reusable container, and if you get to bring leftovers home, use the same dish. 
  • Bring drinks in recyclable containers and bring your own drinking glass (you can bring a kanteen or insulated bottle to a daiquiri shop and ask them to fill it!)
  • If the party you're attending doesn't have a recycling bin inside or outside, collect your recyclables and bring them home. 
  • Heading out to the bar? Carpool with your friends or call Uber.


Over in San Francisco...

The SB50 Host Committee has a goal of making the event “Net Positive”. They're focusing on:
  • Reducing impact on climate change
  • Using resources and materials responsibly
  • Inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally
  • Leaving a positive legacy for the Bay Area

A few examples they'll work toward these goals are: eliminating single-use plastic in Super Bowl City and providing water bottle-filling stations (Check out the photo of the stations! I kind of love them.) One of my favorite eco-brands, Klean Kanteen, is the official sustainability partner of the Host Committee. They're donating 12,000 bottles to help offset those single-use cups.

In addition, San Francisco has many public recycling and composting bins available.

One of the collaborators on the project, the 50 Fund, will encourage fans to decide how $200,000 from the Sustainable Environments Game Changer Grant will be distributed to Bay Area environmental nonprofits. Fans can also pledge to take “Net Positive” actions on-line at the Host Committee website www.sfbaysuperbowl.com.

Photo credit: Klean Kanteen

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping Mardi Gras Clean

Oooohh Lawd! We got a busy month, so let's get into it with Louisiana's biggest and favorite holiday: Mardi Gras. In the midst of carnival celebrations and barricade avoidance, I'll be sharing posts on football celebrations and Valentine's Day.

But we're really all about Mardi Gras, right?  We've got parades, we've got balls, we've got festivals, we've got drinks and we've got literally tons of trash.


Last year I participated in a Rio parade trash cleanup with Project Front Yard volunteers, and it opened my eyes even more to just how much trash is accumulated in one parade.

When it comes to trash left behind by float riders, there's much to be done at an organization and city level, but even so, individuals and families can make a big impact on the overall carnival waste by making a few changes.



While there's a lack of additional public trash cans along the parade route, there is still no excuse of this kind of litter. If you wouldn't do it normally, don't do it for Mardi Gras, and don't set this kind of example for your children. The photo below, which I took at the Krewe of Rio parade this past weekend, is just one of many examples of blatant, careless littering.

Yes, there are cleaning crews who pick up following each parade, but don't leave trash anyway. They've got enough cleaning to do with what the floats leave behind.


Reduce

The most important thing to do is not create litter in the first place.
  • If you're able, ride your bike or walk to your spot on the parade route. You'll save gas, save money, save time, and possibly save yourself a towing fee or parking ticket. If you're heading out with a group of family or friends, carpool instead of traveling separately.
  • Don't pack like you're camping out for the weekend. Cut down your haul by only bringing what you need. Eat before you leave home, and you'll avoid the problem of food packaging waste. (However, with three parades on Mardi Gras day, it makes more sense to pack a few more items since you'll be out longer.)
  • Do not bring glass bottles out to the parade. It's illegal, and if your glass becomes litter, it can bust someone's tire or cut open someone's foot. 
 
 


Reuse

Skip the single-use goods!
  • Bring cloth bags or plastic bins to hold all of your catches.
  • If you ride bicycles, and you have a basket, use it for your beads. However, know that baskets have weight limits for a reason. It is a son of a b to steer a bicycle weighed down by 20 pounds of beads. TRUST ME.
  • Skip the styrofoam daiquiri cups. Many places oblige if you bring your own cup in, so don't be afraid to whip out your Bubba Keg or Klean Kanteen. They make big ones so you don't have to worry about refills. Most should give a size on the bottom, so bars know how to charge you. Or pour your beer/homemade cocktail into your mug before you depart. Insulated reusable mugs and cups keep your drinks colder for much longer anyway. Again, leave the glass at home.
  • If you do plan to bring snacks or food, pack them in reusable containers.


Recycle

Lastly, make sure what you bring can be recycled.
  • Be responsible for what you haul to the parade. Bring an extra bag to keep your trash and/or recyclables in, or use your ice chest to hold trash. If you brought it, you make sure it leaves, whether you throw it away or take it home to recycle. But please consider recycling everything you can instead of just throwing it all away!
  • If you don't want to bring your own drink cup, choose the better option on the waste totem pole, and get drinks in aluminum cans. Don't: leave them on the street, throw them in a trash can, throw them in somebody's front yard. Do: save and recycle those cans.
  • Don't forget a reusable bottle filled with water. Hydrate, people!
  • Pick up extra beads around you and put them in your bag. All beads, including broken ones, can be donated and recycled for cleaning and repair and resale in future years. You can also sell your own haul...people WILL buy them! I'll have a post after Mardi Gras showing you how you can donate your beads.
  • If it's rainy, leave the umbrellas at home. You'll already have enough stuff to keep track of, and they're a pain anyway. If you're That Guy or Girl who turns it upside down and use it as a bead catcher, you're just rude. Bring a rain jacket and call it a day. You'll also keep your arms free to catch beads. And broken umbrellas are also litter!


 

In General

Use your phone for more than just Instagramming and Facebooking. Download the free, official Lafayette Mardi Gras app for iPhones and Androids (search for Lafayette Mardi Gras in your app store) and keep up with the band schedule at the fair, and follow the float locations in real-time (my favorite thing about Mardi Gras!) New Orleans friends, you can download WWL's parade tracker app here.

Don't drink and drive, don't overdo it before Mardi Gras day, don't litter, watch out for children, and watch your face when they're throwing beads.



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.