Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bottle That, Bottle That, Tap That, Tap That

A fulfilling Monday evening, in your eyes, might not be focused around a screening of Tapped, a 2009 documentary about the big business and danger of bottled water. But when you're me, you hit "Interested" on that Facebook event invite from Bayou Vermilion District and make plans to go.


I started seriously cutting down on my bottled water usage back in 2008, when I ordered my first Klean Kanteen to carry to work and the gym. But I still used bottled water at times, whether I would forget to bring my own to the gym, or I was out somewhere with no bottle and needed water. The habit of bringing my own is much stronger these days, from the gym, to the office, to Festival International, to road trips and vacations.

And after viewing Tapped, the priority is much higher to eliminate the use of bottled water completely. I've already eliminated soft drinks from my diet, save for an occasional moment of weakness, but even then, I try to go for cans.


Some of the documentary's points that stuck out for me are not new information, but rather a reinforcement.

  • 40% of bottled water is simply filtered tap water. (Hint, you can filter your own tap water.)
  • City tap water is generally more strictly regulated than bottled water. The EPA regulates public tap water, while the FDA regulates bottled water. However, water bottled and sold within the state it was drawn from is not required to meet FDA regulations.
  • Water bottles left in hot areas can leach toxins from the plastic into the water.
  • Although water bottles are recyclable, the United States lags behind other countries in actual recycling rates. Many are simply thrown away or littered.

So, think about it: by buying a $1.50 bottle of water (give or take; a gas station might charge $.79 for a cheap brand, while a sports arena or music festival might charge $4), you are paying for a petroleum-based plastic bottle filled with water that is less regulated than city tap water, and more than likely sending a single-use product to the landfill over the recycling center. Assuming it's not purposefully or accidentally littered first.

Think paying around $20 for a reusable water bottle is ridiculous? Hold your horses. That can buy you a good quality, food-grade stainless steel bottle that holds the same amount as a standard plastic bottle. 20 ounces.

The money you save in not buying plastic bottles quickly pays for that reusable bottle. Even if you buy cases of cheap water (say 24 bottles for $3), after seven cases, you would equal the reusable water bottle. That's 168 plastic bottles. And it probably wouldn't take long for a family to go through seven cases. Invest in a reusable bottle for each family member and use them over and over again.

If I used my first Klean Kanteen once a week for seven and a half years, that's 390 water bottles I've avoided. And that's only one time a week. I use a reusable water bottle between one and three times every DAY. Even in the past one year, that's almost 1,000 water bottles I've saved.

And by the way, I do still have my first Klean Kanteen after seven and a half years, and I do still use it. It's a little dented, but it still works. It's served its purpose hundreds of times, along with my other reusable bottles. Is a plastic water bottle even designed for that kind of life? Nope. They're simply built to use once and throw away. How irresponsible.

After the viewing, Bayou Vermilion District held a discussion about how we can work to cut down bottled water usage in Lafayette, especially since they're the group responsible for picking tons of water bottles out of the Vermilion River. (Side shoutout to the Teche Project who does the same in Bayou Teche!)


Some of my main ideas are not inherently difficult to implement:
  • Install more public and business water fountains, providing the same convenience people want from carrying bottled water. This would be especially helpful downtown and at Girard Park and the Horse Farm, where there are routinely large crowds. Lead by example. One drawback to saying no to bottled water and carrying your own is, what do you do once you've run out? Let's have spots where you can easily refill.
  • At events where there are beer trucks, sell water in the same manner. From a tap. Be okay with filling someone's own bottle up.

It is so important to change that culture of convenience, the one that causes people to be so obsessed with bottled water. It's more work and more dangerous than it is convenient.
If you want to take one step to be greener, this is such an easy one. This is all you need to say no to water in a plastic bottle.



Get more information about Tapped.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Photo Friday | Dangers

Maybe this should really say, "DANGER, DON'T LITTER."

This sign had one job, and I found it sitting in the grass during a recent litter cleanup (with the705, holla!)


With participating in two litter cleanups within the past week, I got an extra reminder of just how trashy our roadways and curbs are. One of the biggest culprits are cigarette butts, of course. But you always end up finding some interesting items, some that make you scratch your head. It's now all I can look at as I head down the road.

I hope you all enjoy this spring holiday weekend! Whatever you do, please take pride in your space - pick up whatever you bring, and don't leave anything behind!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World Water Day 2016


Happy World Water Day, everyone! Celebrate by conserving water when you shower or cook, and take a moment to be grateful for your clean drinking water.

http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/
Every year on March 22, the UN recognizes World Water Day, and each year has a different focus. This year, it's Water and Jobs, putting a spotlight on the 1.5 billion people who work in water-related sectors. Enough quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods, and even transform societies and economies.

On World Water Day, people everywhere show that they care and that they have the power to make a difference. They get inspired by information and use it to take action and change things. This year many will focus on the power that water and jobs have to transform people’s lives. Nearly all jobs are related to water and those that ensure its safe delivery. But today, millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change. 

-United Nations

Visit the World Water Day website to learn even more and find out what you can do to help water quality any day of the year.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

An Update on Dax

I'll take a little departure from green blogging today to share an update on our fur baby, Dax.

Dax is the sweetest, most loyal 10-year old Russian Blue. He was adopted as a baby by my fiance, and in our past four years together, he's stolen my heart (and my lap). He's the calm big brother to Milo's insanity. He was also known for being a little chunky...18 pounds over the summer and 16 pounds in November. The weekend after Christmas, we realized something was wrong, as he wasn't eating or drinking anything and had lost three pounds in a month. After a couple days of monitoring him at home, with no improvement, we made a vet appointment while preparing ourselves for the worst.


 
The diagnosis was liver failure. The vet said it hadn't progressed so far where it couldn't be overcome, and he recommended we insert a feeding tube that would allow Dax to get the nutrients he needed to kickstart his liver to function properly again. If we decided against the tube, Dax would have had about 30 days left.

So, on the second to last day of 2015, we made the tough decision to go for the feeding tube with the hope that it would give him many more years with us, and committed to the work of giving Dax prescription food and medication four times a day. Although at first he slept most of the time, within a few days, we could see Dax's energy and personality creep back in.



The past two and a half months have been a small roller coaster. He had his good days, and he had his bad days. And so did we. We were thrilled when Dax slowly began eating on his own again. We were nervous when he would throw up. We were concerned when he stopped eating his hard food. (It was the flavor we tried that he just didn't like.) So when we switched back to his favorite flavor and watched him eat and eat and eat, we got optimistic. We slowly weaned him off of the tube feedings and made sure he was all set on his own.

 
Just over a week ago, we decided it was finally time to remove the tube. After two months, it was actually weird to see him without a small orange plastic straw sticking out of his neck bandage. We left the bandage on to ensure the wound healed, and finally, at long last, we removed it this weekend. I'm sure he is thrilled that he can feel air on his neck again!


Dax is now back to normal, save for some fur that still hasn't fully grown back from his tube-insertion shave, and his new slim-and-trim weight. And while he seems to have even more energy than he did before, he still loves to snuggle on the couch and in bed.


I might be breathing a sigh of relief, but I know that we will never feel "in the clear" with Dax for the rest of his life. I'm so hopeful and optimistic that he lives strong for another few years, but we're always going to be monitoring him in the back of our minds, making sure that he is healthy. We know now that seemingly little symptoms can mean something serious.


And I also know that I'll never take his cuddles or meows for granted again. Dax is truly part of our little family. May he crowd my lap while I write many more blog posts over the years.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

Photo Friday | Earth Hour 2016

Now in its 10th year, the annual worldwide Earth Hour is happening tomorrow evening, March 19, at 8:30 p.m. in your local time zone.

The premise is simple - turn off nonessential lights in your home for one hour to make a stand for climate action and energy conservation. It doesn't matter what you do during your hour, and singing along to the tune of Earth Angel for the whole hour is optional!

Many large cities around the world participate on a large scale, turning off the nonessential lights on iconic buildings. If you participate, tag your pictures on social media with #EarthHour2016 and browse through photos taken around the world!

See how I've spent previous Earth Hours!

Earth Hour 2010 in my apartment.

Earth Hour 2013 at a friend's house.

Earth Hour is Saturday, March 19, at 8:30p.m. in your local time zone.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Eco Easter Activities

With just under two weeks until Easter, it's time to start thinking about stuffing baskets and planning egg hunts. However, cheap plastic eggs and neon basket grass do nothing to help the environment, so let's look at a few ways to make Easter greener!




Dyeing Easter eggs - naturally!

Maybe they're born with it, maybe it's turmeric! For a few years, I've experimented with using natural egg dyes, and it's been pretty successful! Check out last year's batch. It's a great way to use up older spices or make ingredients work double-time. Turmeric, paprika, pickled beets, and red onions are my favorite items to use with vinegar. Plus, it makes your kitchen smell great. Get the children involved and give them a fun, natural science experiment.

Get some more natural egg-decorating ideas from EcoWatch.

When it's time to dry your dyed eggs, try this easy trick from Sloane over at Sincerely, Sloane: Since your water and soft drink bottle caps aren't recyclable, hold on to a handful of them to use as egg stands. They are the perfect size and collect any drippings, so cleanup is much easier!


Egg hunt time

Take your beautifully and naturally dyed eggs and hide them just before the hunt is set to start. Once all the eggs have been found, peel and use them for an Easter dish. Potato salad? Always a winner. (And now I'm hungry.)

If you'd still prefer to use artificial eggs, or you are hiding them on a larger scale, you still have a better option! Eco Eggs is a company that makes plastic eggs from plant-based materials. They come in two sizes and are fillable, if you enjoy hiding treats and candy inside the eggs for the hunt. And the best part is, they aren't impossible to find. Amazon Prime those babies directly to your house. The company also makes eco-friendly Easter grass, made of recycled paper.

Onto baskets! 

First things first. Don't go for those prefilled baskets at the store that come with cheap toys and that are wrapped in cellophane. The quality is low and the waste is high. It doesn't take much to make your own, and then you can really customize it for your child!

If you already have Easter baskets, use them again. If you don't have a basket, ask around to see if a friend or relative might have one you can borrow. Look around online or in town for used baskets. Or simply look around your house and see what might double as a basket. Make one out of a gallon-size milk jug. Or use a pail, bucket or bin! (If you have a grown-up child, you can skip the basket altogether, because we really just want the goods anyway. This was my "basket" the year I asked for healthier items.)


Line the basket with eco-friendly Easter grass, or get to DIYing. Crinkle some kraft paper, or even shred some junk mail or scrap printer paper. Extra bonus points for using a small pile of Mardi Gras beads!

Now, to fill it with goodies. If you go with candy, choose healthier alternatives, whether fair-trade chocolate or healthier cookies. Go shopping at a health food store to get some ideas. There are many healthy children's snacks that make great basket stuffers. Throw in some fun creative items, like nontoxic markers and a coloring book. Or maybe even splurge and add a child-size reusable drink bottle!

Save any decorations, artificial eggs, and basket materials that you can use again year after year. I saved this basket from an Edible Arrangements and use it year after year to hold these plastic eggs that are probably 20 years old.


Interested in learning more about natural egg dyeing methods? You still have time to visit Vermilionville on Friday, March 18, and Friday, March 25 for some demonstrations! Tapclick those links to get to the Facebook event pages.

Remember that Easter is not one of the more materialistic holidays, so focus on reducing the amount of low-quality, single-use materials, and reusing what you do have. Make your events more about the activity than the items. Now it's time to plan the most epic egg hunt ever!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Photo Friday | Simple Changes

I'm all about sharing small steps you can take to be greener, and sometimes it takes a visual reminder to do the green thing.

A lot of times, people are hesitant to recycle because it's not as easy as throwing something away. To that I say...make it easy for yourself! Setting a recycling bin directly next to your trash can makes it just as easy to recycle.

I listened to a Keep America Beautiful webinar this week about college sustainability programs implementing campus recycling. One of the recurring projects was replacing desk trash cans with a recycling bin and accompanying smaller trash bin, to encourage the practice of zero-waste while at work.


I put this same concept to practice at my own desk months back, without needing to purchase a special bin! I simply converted my company-provided trash bin to a recycling bin by adding a Recycling sign, and a note to our cleaning crew to not empty it or place a liner in it. I repurposed a small Christmas treat tin to be my trash can by wrapping it with a sheet of card stock (such effort, I know!) Each week, I empty the bins.

This way, it's easier to recycle something, and I remind myself daily to reduce the amount of trash I create.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Art + Rain Barrels

What happens when you combine teams of students and a collection of rain barrels?

You get Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association's Rain Barrel School Art contest!

Photo: Project Front Yard

For the second year (Check out the first year's group of barrels), teams of students collaborate on a design and compete against other schools, but it's all for a good cause. All the rain barrels will be auctioned off, and proceeds benefit Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association and the winning schools.

The three schools with the most votes will be recognized at a City-Parish Council meeting and will be featured in local print publications. Mayor-President Robideaux will also select the Mayor’s Choice Award. 

This year’s painted rain barrels have been designed by local middle school students from:
  • Ascension
  • Carencro Middle
  • Cathedral-Carmel
  • Edgar Martin
  • L. Leo Judice
  • L.J. Alleman
  • Scott Middle
  • St. Pius
  • Youngsville Middle

Want to vote on your favorite design, or bid to take your favorite barrel home? You've got TWO DAYS left!

Vote on your favorite design here.

The auction closes on Saturday, March 12, at 11:00am. 

Bid here!


Now go!

Curious how to implement a rain barrel in your own backyard? Revisit my blog post where I share how my fiance and I use ours! It's been a great addition to our yard and it's so helpful in the summertime when our plants need lots of TLC.



Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Few Awesome Environmental Women | International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, so why not shout out to a few environmentalists I admire!?


Alicia Silverstone

Alicia is known for her vegan lifestyle and blog, The Kind Life. She focuses on organic foods and healthy and sustainable lifestyles, and her blog is friendly and down-to-earth. I love how she even holds contests on her blog, giving away items from her closet - encouraging conversation and activity, and helping clothes go to a good new home!


http://thekindlife.com/

Sara Gilbert

Sara (aka Darlene!) wrote the The Imperfect Environmentalist, a book I love for its quiet dry humor and simple way of explaining how people can go greener. She also explains how she's made the transition to living a green life for herself, her wife and two children, and how it's benefited them all.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009Y507A0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1


Lauren Singer

Lauren is well-known for her blog and lifestyle, Trash Is For Tossers. She has earned international recognition for her ability to fit an entire year's worth of trash into a mason jar. She's mastered the art of making her own beauty and care products, and shopping using her own reusable containers. If anyone is known for being zero-waste, it's Lauren!

http://www.trashisfortossers.com/


Julie Hancher

Julie runs Green Philly Blog, one of my inspiration sites from when I relaunched my own blog almost four years ago. She's overall awesome and is so dedicated to making Philadelphia a greener city. Earlier this year, she made the switch to being car-free and now uses alternative transportation to get where she needs to go.

http://www.greenphillyblog.com/
 

Gretchen Vanicor

Gretchen is the head of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability, and in a few short years, she has made huge strides in making campus greener. From dedicated bike lanes, to hundred of recycling bins, to game day recycling, to move-in-day garage sales, to bike racks and a brand new bike share program, Gretchen is dedicated to diverting waste and promoting sustainable transportation for students, faculty and the community.

https://www.facebook.com/the705org/photos/pb.148244838518927.-2207520000.1457475378./1027393810604021/?type=3&theater


Happy International Women's Day to all of you, and to you readers!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Project Front Yard's Plastic Bag Roundup

Earlier this week, I broke down the meaning behind the numbers on plastics and shared how plastic bags are recyclable, although not accepted in curbside recycling programs.

Generally, plastic bags are accepted in bins for recycling at grocery stores like Albertson's and Rouses and department stores like Target. But this year, Project Front Yard is conducting a Plastic Bag Roundup for participating local schools!


Each school started collecting plastic bags last November and are going until this April, just in time for Earth Day. All collected bags will be sent in to be recycled into benches and other outdoor furniture. The school that collects the most plastic wins a recycled plastic bench for their property. Every other participating school gets a recycled plastic planter box.

Project Front Yard gave a collection update in February, and so far, 11 of the 29 participating schools have gathered almost 1,100 pounds of plastic film, which is enough to make eight park benches!

Photo courtesy Project Front Yard 

The challenge educates students on the importance of keeping our city clean and the benefit of recycling, while ensuring that these bags won't end up as litter in our streets, public spaces and waterways, instead being remade into outdoor furniture for people to enjoy!

WHICH SCHOOLS ARE PARTICIPATING?


  • Ascension Elementary
  • Ascension Middle
  • Alice Boucher Elementary
  • Broadmoor Elementary
  • Carencro Heights
  • Carencro Middle
  • Duson Elementary
  • Evangeline Elementary
  • Ernest Gallet Elementary
  • ESA
  • GT Lindon
  • JW Faulk
  • JW James
  • Katharine Drexel Elementary
  • Leo Judice
  • Milton Elementary/Middle
  • Plantation Elementary
  • Prairie Elementary
  • Westside Elementary
  • Woodvale Elementary
  • Acadian Middle
  • Edgar Martin Middle
  • Judice Middle
  • LJ Alleman
  • Lafayette Middle
  • Paul Breaux
  • Scott MIddle
  • Sts. Peter and Paul
  • Youngsville Middle

 

WHAT THE SCHOOLS ARE ACCEPTING

  • Grocery bags
  • Bread bags
  • Case wrapping (like for cases of bottled water)
  • Dry-cleaning bags
  • Newspaper delivery sleeves
  • Ice bags
  • Wood pellet bags
  • Ziplock and resealable bags
  • Produce bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cereal liners
  • Salt bags


Do you want to help a school by donating your plastic bags? Contact Project Front Yard on Facebook to find out how!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

Photo Friday | Spring Green

I can't believe it's already the first Friday in March! Spring is arriving right on track, so this weekend, get out and enjoy the weather! The highs in Lafayette are in the mid 70s and the sunshine will be in full force.

Head out to the park, spread out your picnic blanket, and maybe throw a Frisbee around for awhile. Oh, hey, that's what we did last weekend! (And it was glorious.)

And while you're at it, head over to Spotify, or simply click below, for my Eco Cajun Spring Green Mix20 fun, springtimey songs that sound even better while you're laying on a picnic blanket at the park.

https://open.spotify.com/user/ecocajun/playlist/3NYLiLGC7nirF96vqIr5AK



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Behind the Recycling Labels on Plastics

With plastic being one of the most ubiquitous materials on the planet, found in so many items, and eventually the most littered, it should be easy to see why recycling it is so important.

But there are restrictions on the kinds of plastic that can be recycled through your city, and each city has different guidelines. And they're based on the numbers printed inside the recycling symbol.


Let's take a refresher course on what each number means! Typically, the lower the number, the more widespread the recyclability. Back in the 90s, it was not common to be able to recycle a #7, but now most are accepted.

The big exception is styrofoam. Although it may be labeled a #5 or #6, it is not accepted in curbside pickup, because fewer facilities actually recycle the material. (Eco Cajun PSA: Skip the styrofoam!)

The last edition of Lafayette's PRIDE Guide clarifies that Lafayette accepts containers with numbers 1 through 7 inside of the triangular shaped recycling symbol. Rinse plastics before putting in the cart. Examples include food and drink containers, bleach and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, soft drink and water bottles. NO PLASTIC BAGS (even those with the recycling symbol), Styrofoam, plastic packaging or plastic wrap, six-pack rings, or petroleum product bottles (motor oil, brake fluid, etc.)


#1 plastics are made with PET or PETE, (polyethylene terephthalate) and are found in most household plastics, like:
  • Soft drink and water bottles
  • Peanut butter jars
  • Mouthwash bottles
  • Salad dressing and condiment bottles
  • Frozen food trays

These plastics are widely accepted in recycling programs. Take any lids or caps off and rinse the bottles first. Lids and caps are not recyclable.

In addition to being recycled for another generation of plastic container, this kind of plastic can be recycled into fabric for umbrellas, bags or even t-shirts (super soft ones at that)!


#2 plastics contain high-density polyethylene (HDPE). You'll find this number on items like:
  • Milk jugs
  • Large juice bottles
  • Bleach and household cleaner bottles
  • Shampoo bottles
  • Some trash and plastic bags
  • Yogurt containers
  • Cereal box liners

These items are generally accepted in curbside recycling programs, but remember to take any lids or caps off. And in Lafayette, plastic bags are NOT accepted in any recycling bin. (Reuse or recycle them separately; see this old Eco Cajun post for more details.)

HDPE can be recycled into new containers, pens, floor tile, drainage pipe, benches (I'll have a post soon featuring Project Front Yards bags-to-benches school project!), picnic tables and fencing.



#3 plastics include vinyl and polyvinyl chloride (your favorite PVC). A strong material for outdoor uses, it can be found in:
  • Cooking oil bottles
  • Clear food packaging
  • Medical equipment
  • Home siding
  • Windows

#3 plastics are accepted in Lafayette's curbside bins, but make sure containers are rinsed well. PVC is not widely recycled, but if it is, it can be used in decks, paneling, cables, speed bumps or mats. And a safety note, because PVC contains chlorine, it's harmful to cook with and dangerous to burn.



#4 plastics are low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and are found in:
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags
  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Carpet

Again, plastic bags are not accepted for recycling curbside, so bring them to a dedicated collection bin, or reuse them around the house. Lafayette does accept #4 plastics curbside. LDPE can be recycled into trash can liners, compost bins, shipping envelopes, lumber or floor tile.



#5 plastics are made of polypropylene and can withstand very high temperatures. They can be found in:
  • Some yogurt containers
  • Syrup bottles
  • Medicine bottles
  • Bottle caps
  • Straws
  • Plastic lunch meat containers

Obviously, straws don't have recycling numbers on them, but they can be recycled. And always rinse containers first. Recycled polypropylene can become signal lights, battery cables, landscape borders, bicycle racks, pallets and trays.



Ah, #6 plastics, also known as polystyrene. You can find it in:
  • Disposable cups and plates
  • Meat trays at the grocery store
  • Egg cartons
  • Restaurant to-go containers
  • CD jewel cases
  • Aspirin bottles

Aspirin bottles can be recycled curbside, but CD jewel cases are less likely to be accepted. Other typical "foam" products are not recyclable curbside, even though they are labeled. Earth911 shares how expanded polystyrene can be recycled or reused.

Recycled polystyrene is used to make the same items it was before.



Saving the best for last, #7 plastics are "miscellaneous" that don't fit into the other six categories.
  • Polyactide is a plastic made from plant materials and is compostable. 
  • Polycarbonate is a hard plastic that can leach toxic materials, and it's found in eyeglass lenses, outdoor yard signs and many electronic components.

Some cities accept #7 plastics curbside if it's labeled.

If you have any doubts that your city accepts an item through the curbside bin, call your city government to ask!


Most information comes from Good Housekeeping.
Find more information on the plastic number codes from Webstaurant Store.

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.