Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Share the Road, Save Our Bike Lanes

During the development of the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan, one of the community elements that stood out time and time again was the inclusion of bike lanes on more city streets. And as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette improves its campus and its location within the city, bike lanes on and around campus have proliferated. The lanes have helped give the heart of Lafayette more accessibility by bike and by foot.

More bicycles on the road can mean fewer cars, and when it comes to major events in town, it alleviates parking issues. Biking to Festival International is a no-brainer to me, and biking to UL Lafayette football games is a perfect way to leave the car at home.

Enjoying a ride down the newly striped bike lane, heading toward Moncus Park at the Horse Farm, on Bertrand Drive in Lafayette.

It's been amazing to watch Lafayette progress, even in just the past few years, to become a more bicycle-friendly city. I've been very vocal on the blog on my own love of riding and the benefits riding has for my fiance and me. (Read through all blog posts tagged with 'bikes'!)


We've had our share of scary moments and encounters with rude, obnoxious or distracted drivers. But it hasn't deterred us from riding.

The addition of bike lanes throughout the city has been a welcome one, giving us a greater sense of safety and protection while riding. Many times, we choose to ride on residential roads because the speeds are slower and traffic is lighter. If a residential road has a bike lane? Well, that's pretty much one of the best roads to be on. During National Bike Month last May, I researched and wrote this post on Lafayette's bike lanes, including one that is again receiving attention.

Unfortunately, there has been a petition filed with the Lafayette Consolidated Government to remove the bike lanes that were added to West Bayou Parkway last year.

West Bayou Parkway was scary to ride down before, even though it's residential and the homes are beautiful. It's a connector to larger roads in the city, serving as a great alternate route for bike riders. There aren't sidewalks on a large portion of the road, even though we aren't supposed to ride on them anyway. Because of the proximity to Red's, it's a popular route for joggers and runners, who should be on a sidewalk - except when there is not one. When the bike lanes were added, I cheered with a sigh of relief we would have our own space to ride, instead of worrying about cars speeding around the curves or riding our ass instead of just passing.

There are so many reasons someone may ride a bicycle in and around Lafayette. Athletes ride for competition or sport. So many people, younger and older, ride for exercise, leisure, solitude, or a social activity. Adults commute to work for the 'alone time', gas savings and exercise. Children ride to learn, have fun, visit friends or get to school. College students commute because it's more cost effective.

But most importantly, many people have no other choice. They may not have the money to buy or maintain a vehicle, but still need to get to work or to the store. They may not even have a driver's license. They may not have time to wait for a city bus.

Not everyone enjoys the same luxuries. Just because the majority of Lafayette residents have a car and use them the majority of the time, it doesn't mean there should be no options for bike riders or even pedestrians. Bike lanes provide the same sense of "space" to pedestrians, joggers or runners, especially in areas where there are no sidewalks.

Bicyclists, especially, are not supposed to ride on sidewalks. It's stated in Louisiana statutes that bicycles belong on the road, sharing lanes with cars. Bike lanes simply help that organization, and actually make it easier for cars to travel alongside bikes without having to slow down to pass (three feet!)


Progress does not mean taking out bike lanes that have been installed. Yes, it may not be one of the hardest things to reverse, but it's about much more than another can of paint. The move is a roll backwards. (Not a step, because these people aren't walking; they are driving every single place they need to go.)

Bike lanes benefit a large swath of people in our community, and creating bike paths and lanes in a connected pattern gives our community so many more options.

It's a true sense of sharing the road - something that should be done no matter what, but is done much more visibly with a dedicated bike lane.

Progress is giving all residents of our community an option to safely travel where they need to go, especially if it's on foot or on a bicycle. Bike lanes are one of the best ways to promote safety and encourage alternate transportation.

Please support keeping the bike lanes on West Bayou Parkway by signing the petition started by Forward Lafayette.


And follow Forward Lafayette on Facebook.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Recycling in Lafayette Parish Schools

If you live within Lafayette Parish, and especially if you have school-age children, now is your chance to make your voice heard to adopt recycling in every school. The Lafayette Parish School System will be reviewing proposals this week and making a selection for a new solid waste contract. However, the Request for Proposals only contains an option for recycling services, not a requirement.

Proposals are due this coming Wednesday, June 29, and the selection committee will be reviewing and ranking the proposals on Thursday, June 30, before making their recommendation to the school board on Wednesday, July 6.

Please take a moment this week to email your school board representative and let them know you want to see recycling services in all Lafayette Parish schools as part of the new solid waste contract.


Much of this push for parishwide recycling services comes from two dedicated Woodvale Elementary teachers, Amanda Waddle and Catherine Schoeffler Comeaux. For the past year, they collected recyclables throughout school and personally hauled them home to place in their curbside bins. And in true teacher fashion, they compiled their collection data throughout the year and prepared a thorough report of the how much they recycled and the impact on the environment. It's a valiant effort, but they can't do it alone.


Although I don't have children of my own, I want to see this happen, because in school is where I began to learn about recycling and environmentalism. As I stated in my own letter to the school board member:

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher read us lessons from the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the World. Even in 1996, we learned about ways to be more earth-friendly, from cutting plastic six-pack rings to what materials are recyclable, to turning off the light when we're not in a room. 

Those classroom lessons, combined with my parents participating in Lafayette's curbside recycling, got me in the habit of thinking green and started my passion for environmentalism. Over the years, I have remained dedicated to recycling and reducing my impact on the environment, and now I regularly publish blog posts on my website, Eco Cajun, to share ways that others in our community can live greener.

I think practicing recycling sets an important precedent for students, and allows for instruction and educational opportunities to teach why it's important to protect the earth and its natural resources. One of the most important aspects to changing habits, especially for recycling, is learning to do so at a younger age. Wouldn't it be great for Lafayette Parish students to supplement what they learn by practicing recycling every day?  

Project Front Yard has worked with schools for the past two years to conduct a plastic bag roundup, with students collecting thousands of plastic bags that were then sent off to a company that makes recycled plastic park benches. This has served as a valuable project and teaching tool.

I don't yet have children, but so many of my friends do, and it's extremely important for them to know why we should protect our environment and reduce our trash impact as much as possible. If children are our future, then it's up to us to set them on the path to sustainability and responsibility early in life.

As Gretchen from the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability says, "Lafayette Parish has had curbside collection for decades. UL has had a full scale system for many years, including at Ragin' Cajun Athletic events. Our wonderful festivals and Downtown Alive have recycling. It is time for our K-12 students to have the same access in their learning environment."




(Don't know who your school board member is?)
  • Superintendent - Dr. Donald W. Aguillard: daguillard@lpssonline.com
  • Director of Planning and Facilities - Mr. Kyle Bordelon: kvbordelon@lpssonline.com
  • Chief Academic Officer - Annette Samac: alsamec@lpssonline.com
  • Chief Administrative Officer - Joe Craig: rccraig@lpssonline.com
  • District 1 - Mary Morrison mmorrison@lpssonline.com
  • District 2 - Tommy Angelle tangelle@lpssonline.com (President)
  • District 3 - Elroy Broussard ebroussard@lpssonline.com
  • District 4 - Dr. Tehmi Chassion tchassion@lpssonline.com
  • District 5 - Mr. Britt Latiolais blatiolais@lpssonline.com
  • District 6 - Justin Centanni - jcentanni@lpssonline.com
  • District 7 - Dawn L Morris dmorris@lpssonline.com (Vice-President)
  • District 8 - Erick Knezek eknezek@lpssonlne.com
  • District 9 - Jeremy Hidalgo jhidalgo@lpssonline.com

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Photo Friday | Eat Lafayette 2016

Kicking off its 12th year, the annual Eat Lafayette campaign heralds a summer season of celebrating locally owned restaurants and some of the area's best chefs.

Running from June 20 through September 18, more than 100 participating restaurants are offering Eat Lafayette specials to patrons. You can view all specials on the campaign's website.

As I say every year, there is NO shortage of restaurants to choose from in Lafayette and Acadiana, and luckily, so many of them are locally owned. Additionally, a lot of restaurants use local and regional produce, meat and seafood, further contributing to the area's economy. Supporting our local restaurants is so important to preserving and expanding our culinary culture.

It's much more than small shops serving fried seafood. Although that remains a staple in the area (and deliciously so), the crop of restaurants who participate run the entire gamut of cuisine. There's southern regional, Mexican, Italian, fusion, Indian, traditional burgers, barbecue, breakfast, desserts and pastries, and vegan options.

 

At last night's Eat Lafayette kickoff party, I definitely spent more time sampling amazing food than getting really any photos of said food. As my fiance and I walked around, ducking between the crowds and balancing plates while splitting our samples, we enjoyed trying new dishes and restaurants we don't get to visit often.

There were so many good offerings this year, and I think Dark Roux had the most creative one, with a pickled shrimp accompanied by cantaloupe and topped with caviar. Dark Roux often uses local and regional food in their menu items, and have a delicious brunch each weekend.

What I can remember us trying are shrimp and grits, seafood stuffed mushrooms, gumbo, chicken biscuits, quinoa tabouli, fried green tomatoes, chicken salad sliders, baked pasta, bacon-wrapped chicken, shrimp salad, crawfish enchiladas, crab cakes, cheesecake, macarons...and that's about where I lost track!


These macarons from Poupart's Bakery are officially the best I've ever tried. The one above is a green tea and lemon flavor that was absolutely light and indulgent. I tried another apple-flavored combination that was just as amazing.


This year, the kickoff party was held at the new UL Lafayette Student Union, a building that is LEED-certified (a standard that ranks how green and sustainable the building is, from materials to efficiency to waste).

Because of the location, it was easier to provide recycling bins like the one above, throughout the lobby. I wish the ballroom could have held some in addition to the trashcans, however, the majority of the disposable plates and cups were styrofoam. The forks, spoons, and plastic cups and plates at least could have been recycled more easily.


And you can never argue with a perfect sunset through the moss-covered trees in the UL Swamp.

Follow the Eat Lafayette campaign for the next three months through any of their social media channels:
Facebook | TwitterYoutube | Pinterest
Instagram
| Vine | Foursquare | Snapchat: eatlafayette15

Now, it's time for your homework...pick which restaurant you'll dine at first! And if you don't want to get out of the house, use Waitr to have your local meal delivered.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Giving Packing Peanuts a Longer Life

This post is going to be a test of, "How many times can Caitlin say 'packing peanuts' in one entry?"

Photo: Cars With Cords

Packing peanuts, made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) are recyclable, but most curbside programs, including Lafayette's, do not accept the material. In most cases, your best bet is to save and reuse or donate old peanuts.

Although I don't have factual backup on this statistic, I believe there are about 93,029,284,893 packing peanuts in existence on this planet right now.

Consisting of up to 98% air, packing peanuts are very lightweight and easily littered. Many of them are not biodegradable. However, starch-based packing peanuts come from a crop base rather than a petroleum base. They can biodegrade, although they have their own drawbacks, like being more expensive (as most eco-friendly alternatives are), and heavier.

Although it can be difficult if you lack storage space, you can collect packing peanuts you receive in a large cardboard box or even trash bag, then use the collection when you need to ship or package something new. They also come in handy during the holidays when you need to wrap gifts, and when packing delicate items for a move.

According to UPS, you can bring your excess packing peanuts to your local UPS Store, where they will collect and use them when shipping out customers' packages. (Teehee. Okay, sorry. I won't giggle again.) This is probably the easiest and best way to clear out your home and still give the peanuts a new life, plus it saves UPS money and the environment from the natural resources needed and production pollution.

I called a local UPS Store franchise to find out if they have any restrictions on accepting packing peanuts, and the woman answered that they do not take the starch-based biodegradable ones.

"How can I tell the difference?" you might ask. Well, according to All Green Recycling:
Packing peanuts are color coated to let you know if they will be biodegradable or if they are mostly “earth unfriendly.” White and pink packing peanuts are the traditional kind – they are composed of 70% raw materials, and will take quite a while to decompose (Caitlin's note - but they never truly go away). These packing peanuts need to be recycled. Green packing peanuts truly are “green” – they are made up of 70% recycled material and will biodegrade easily.

If you are not sure what type of packing peanuts you have, do a brief test: run the peanuts under water for two minutes. If they break down under water, you can use them as compost in your gardening, or plant containers.

While it can be highly entertaining to watch your pet play with packing peanuts,
I don't recommend letting them do it, because the styrofoam can be dangerous if they bite and eat it.
Think of the menews. (Photo: Jackson Pack N Ship)

Although this doesn't help an issue of recycling/reusing packing peanuts, your best bet if shipping something on your own is using more sustainable and easier-to-recycle materials, such as crumpled newspaper or other scrap paper. Alternately, any online retailers, especially Amazon, use those plastic air packs in their shipments. While those are a pain in the ass, you could save these like you would packing peanuts and reuse them.

If you're packing items for a move, use newspaper, or even your sheets, towels or t-shirts to protect breakable items.

So, long story short: Donate packing peanuts to a shipping store, keep and reuse them for your own packages, or use more biodegradable ones in your garden.

More resources:

Other places to recycle packing peanuts:

(And, 22. 22 times in one blog post!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Beat the Heat, but Conserve Too!


Now that it's officially summer, let's talk about how you can stay comfortable at home even when the temperatures rise. Utility rates typically rise in the summer to follow the increased demand, so it's even more important to conserve energy where you can so you can save on your bill, or at least keep it from climbing too high.


There are easy, inexpensive changes you can make in and around your home to help with your comfort, and there are more long-term investments that can leave a huge impact on your home's energy efficiency.

Inexpensive Options

  • Turn your thermostat up a degree or two. You might be surprised to find it's almost as comfortable, and you'll save money on your utility bill.
  • Use your ceiling fans. They require much less electricity than the air conditioner, and they help keep YOU cool in a room. When you're not occupying a room, turn off the fan to help wear and tear.
  • Hang curtains. Blackout and thermal curtains are one of the best ways to block out light and heat during the summer. But, with the exception of sheer panels, just about any curtain will help to some extent. I recently replaced the valance in my bathroom with a spare curtain (folded in half height-wise because of course we have a window that doesn't fit a standard curtain size), and it has already made a huge difference. With the way this summer is going already, I couldn't stand the thought of that harsh 5:00 sun beating through the window, past the valance, and making the bathroom feel like a sauna.
  • Keep your blinds, shades and curtains closed, especially during the day and when you aren't home. I'm not sure it gets any easier than that! However, sometimes you just have to let a couple certain stinkers be able to stare outside for birds and squirrels.

 

  • Use the majority of your electricity in off-peak hours. Don't wash your clothes or cook during the afternoon, when the temperatures are at their hottest. The electricity rates will be higher, and the demand from everyone else will contribute to putting a strain on the grid. Do laundry or your hair in the morning or evening.
  • Change up your cooking methods. Using your stove and oven contributes to a lot of excess heat in the kitchen. This can require our air conditioner to run more to regulate the temperature to keep things comfortable. Use a slow cooker or cooking dishes that don't require heat. (And I can hear many of you thinking, "Well, I might as well go out to eat or order takeout!" It is an option, but it can get more expensive and keeps more cars on the road.)
  • Use CFL or LED lightbulbs in all lights and lamps. Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, making them more energy inefficient. CFL bulbs are cooler to the touch and use less energy to give you the same end product. LED bulbs tend to give off really good light, don't have that slow-lighting tendency that CFLs do, and are the most energy efficient type of the group. The bulbs cost more in the first place, but they have the most impact on your utility bill. The lights in the above photo of our ceiling fan are LEDs, and they are amazing. They instantly reach full brightness and do a better job of lighting the room than the previous CFLs did.

 

An LED light bulb we recently transitioned to at home.
 
  • Check for cracks around windows and doors. If you can see light peeking through, then a lot of your cool air is escaping too. Patch or seal any cracks or fix anything broken to keep the air from escaping.
  • Embrace shade! A house sitting out in the open is going to bake in the hot summer sun. While it's important to make sure trees themselves don't pose a threat to your home's safety, it's beneficial to keep (or plant) trees around your home to provide shade.

More Expensive, But Very Impactful Investments

  • Have screens installed on your windows, especially if they're single-pane. They'll help cut down the harsh glare.
  • Have solar film installed, which helps with heat reduction and solar glare. Check out this post from 2012, when I had Lafayette, Shutters, Blinds and More install solar film at my former office, making a huge impact on both our comfort and our utility bill.
  • Have thermal, double-pane windows installed.
  • Insulate your attic or home. Older homes, like ours, typically don't have great insulation, and it is one of the biggest factors toward escaped energy and wasted money. If you can, look into getting fresh insulation and enjoy the comfort.
  • Invest in a Wi-Fi thermostat, like the Nest. There are many brands out there these days, but we invested in a Nest when my fiance first moved into his home. It has been so convenient to have the app, and the Nest learns your habits and adjusts the AC usage accordingly. We also have the Auto-Away feature set, so it learns when we aren't home for a long period of time, and it runs the AC less frequently, saving us tons of wasted energy and money. And because I'm a nerd, I love to check the weekly report to see how well we did, usage-wise. But all of the Wi-Fi thermostats enable you to run



What other ways do you stay cool during the heat of summer?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Friday | Water Sense

It's only June 17, but this heat is making me angry, y'all. I do not do summer very well. (Very NSFW video that sums up my feelings.) These past few days have felt like a sweaty elephant with a blow dryer is sitting on me. Thanks, Louisiana.

But, as we get fully into summer here, I would like to take a moment to remind everyone to not be a-holes with lawn watering. Most of these water conservation tips apply to those who use automatic sprinklers. Convenience can be so wasteful.



In disclosure, this photo is about a year and a half old, taken when it was around 45 degrees outside (oh, sweet temperature, how I love thee). But the principle is the same. It has just rained. It was cold. That's a sidewalk. And the automatic sprinklers are tsh-tsh-tsh-tttttssssssshhhhhh-ing away.

Yes, automatic sprinklers are easy to keep the lawn and landscaping green and lush. But they waste so much water (and money on your water bill I'm sure) compared to manual watering. Statistically speaking, you are 100% wasting water by letting the sprinklers water already soaked grass or landscaping.

A few easy rules:
  • If it is raining, has recently rained, or is about to rain, turn off your automatic sprinklers.
  • Don't point your automatic sprinklers at the road, driveway or sidewalk. Unlike plants, concrete does not need to be watered.
  • Follow the LUS lawn watering ordinance, which is aimed at combating low water pressure during the peak hours of late afternoon and evening.The ordinance applies to LUS residential, commercial, and wholesale (Youngsville, Broussard, Milton, Scott, Water District North, Water District South) customers using automated watering systems and sprinklers.
    • Customers with odd-numbered home/property addresses (ending with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
    • Customers with even-numbered home/property addresses (ending with 0, 2, 4, 6, 8) water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
    • No watering on Mondays.
    • The designated times for lawn watering are from midnight to 2 p.m. (for 14 hours of possible watering time each designated day).
    • Fines are accumulative and stay on record for three years. 
    • Manual watering, soaker hoses and watering newly planted sod, landscaping and ground cover are exempted by the ordinance. To be exempted for new plantings, you must qualify with LUS.
  • Use a rain barrel in your yard and hydrate your landscaping with natural rain instead of city water.
  • Especially do not water during the hottest part of the day, roughly between lunch time and dinnertime. It will evaporate too quickly to do your plants any good, and that's even more wasteful.
 http://lus.org/index.php/water/water-conservation/water-conservation-ordinance
If you would like more information, history and tips on water conservation, read this ol' blog post. Even if you aren't a resident of Lafayette, your city may have its own watering ordinance. Check with your city government before you set the automatic sprinklers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

Safer Sun Protection

Even though I haven't had a "summer vacation" in nine years now, I still consider the beginning of June the start of the summer season. Students are free for the next three months, my morning work commute is magically 10 minutes shorter, my gym is overrun with teenagers, and my Facebook news feed is overrun with beach vacation photos.

So naturally, it's time to load up on the sun protection anytime you leave the house, especially if you're heading to a pool, lake or the beach for the day. But before you reach for the first bottle of sunblock you find at the store, take a step back and read the ingredients list.


Conventional sunscreens and sunblocks contain many harmful chemicals that seep into our bodies through our skin. For the same reason we look at chemical-free beauty products and other bath products, we should look at chemical-free sun care products.

It's important to remember that sunscreen is not the onlyor bestway to protect yourself from sun damage. While Louisiana summer heat and humidity make it almost unbearable to wear more than a swimsuit 24/7, it's better to wear sleeved and panted clothing made of natural, lightweight and breathable fabrics.

If you're planning to spend an extended amount of time outside (even to mow the lawn or garden), grab a hat and sunglasses. If a hat cramps your style, whip out an umbrella.

If you have the option, stick to the shade.

And always, always, always stay hydrated. Maybe it's not related to protecting your skin from the sun's rays, but if you're spending time outside in the heat, it's super important.

Now, back to the sunscreen.

The Environmental Working Group annually studies hundreds of sunscreens on the market, looking at their ingredient lists and marketing claims. They've found that in the past 10 years, many products are safer, but there are still concerns over some products. And part of their guide looks specifically at children's formulas (best scoring and worst scoring), since children's skin is typically much more sensitive and their systems are still developing.

The EWG puts out an annual guide recommending the best sunscreens for both children and adults.



For an easy way to check products you're looking at, install the Environmental Working Group Healthy Living app. When you're out shopping, you can scan product barcodes to see how each ingredient rates on a health scale.


As I wrote about in my Alternative to Sunscreen post last year, chemicals from conventional sunscreens are not just harmful to our skin and bodies, they're extremely dangerous to the world's coral reefs. When my fiance and I visited Hawaii two years ago, we encountered many signs about the dangers of sunscreen to the native coral reefs, especially at Hanauma Bay State Park.

Gratuitous photo of Hanauma Bay, because, just look at it!

Coral feed on algae, and they provide a safe breeding ground for fish and other marine species. Coral reefs also protect shorelines against damage from storms and floods, acting as a buffer against erosion.

NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers and their partners have discovered that BP-2, a sunscreen chemical commonly used in many soaps, cosmetics and fragrances, is highly toxic to corals. As of 2003, 27% of the world's coral reefs have been lost. By 2033, 60% could be destroyed.

Statistics show that approximately 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off in coral reef areas around the world every year. These ingredients bleach hard corals, even at extremely low concentrations:
  • Oxybenzone (BP-3)
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate)
  • Propylene glycol and Butylparaben
  • Camphor
  • Cinnamate
Look for sunscreens that don't contain these chemicals, or parabens (common preservatives that can lead to endocrine system disruption).

  • Just want a cheat sheet of the top brands? Lucky for you, it's a short 203-product list of brands that meet EWG's criteria!
  • Read their FAQs for all the information you need on sunscreen safety.
  • Shop the EWG's best-rated sunscreens through their Amazon-powered store.

Other Resources




Get sunscreen smart and grab a hat before you go outsideyour skin and body will thank you for it!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

Photo Friday | NOLA Getaway

Sometimes, the best vacations don't require traveling out of the country for over a week. This week, I was able to take a short vacation to New Orleans, and had a blast celebrating my birthday while getting a little break.


I enjoyed exploring, visiting new restaurants and businesses, especially ones I follow on social media. The Louisiana summer was in full force, from the unwavering sun to the heat and humidity, to the surprise rain showers that lasted all of 10 minutes. But it didn't stop me from leaving the car parked most of the time and walking where we wanted to go. And then there's the gorgeous summer sunsets that paint the sky pink. When you have those, you find a rooftop bar to hang out at.


Peche Seafood Grill is an award-winning new restaurant in the Warehouse District, and we visited there for my birthday dinner following a recommendation from an Instagram friend. We tried the smoked tuna dip, seafood salad, crab & jalapeno capellini, and smothered catfish. It was one of the best dinners I've ever eaten, and we enjoyed getting to dine with one of my really good friends and her husband. Peche uses fresh, local ingredients, and even share their farm information on their website, so you know where the food comes from.


One one of my morning walks to Willa Jean, I discovered this narrow, partial-brick, tree-lined street, and instantly felt like I was staring down Beacon Street in Boston. It's amazing how no matter how often you visit a city, you can find new gems every time you go. Side note, I'm ready to go back to Boston!


I stopped in to Ellen Macomber Fine Art and Textiles because I love her use of this New Orleans map print, and I was excited to see that she uses organic cotton and eco-friendly inks in her textiles and apparel, plus she recommends washing everything in chemical-free detergent.


Magazine Street is one of my favorite spots to just park the car (not in a freight zone though!) and walk around browsing in different shops. I visited Green Serene and Branch Out, which happen to be across the street from each other. Both shops focus on sustainable and eco-friendly goods. Green Serene had a lot of options by environmentally dedicated and responsible brands, and Branch Out had more of a combination of those brands and vintage goods.


I unfortunately visited Hattie Sparks a few days after my birthday, or I would have treated myself to this eco-friendly confetti. While confetti is festive and beautiful, it's also litter, plain and simple, especially if it's made of mylar or metal instead of paper. These confetti push pops contain bits of seed paper, so if you let it explode in the yard, you'll eventually see flowers grow! I mean. How awesome!! I believe they also suggest reusing the package after to make a real push pop.

Until we meet again, New Orleans.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Year Older

Welp, I'm solidly in my thirties now. Most of what I have to show for 31 so far is a new driver's license (no more photo from age 22!) and a few more gray hairs. But, let's attempt to age gracefully, shall we?

Photo: Family Sponge

It's been a low-key celebration so far, but a fun one nonetheless, from visiting with my parents, to volunteering at a bicycle safety festival, to a dinner date at Bread & Circus, an amazing local restaurant.


So, what do I want for my birthday? A little love for Mother Nature! Doing any of these would be an amazing gift. :)
  • Pick up a piece of litter you come across, and either throw it away or recycle it.
  • Use a reusable mug for your coffee or water.
  • Go for a walk outside (weather permitting).
  • Turn the water off while you rinse dishes or brush your teeth.
  • Turn the AC up a degree or two.
  • Don't idle your car unnecessarily.
  • Check out my newest birthday Spotify mix, 30+1 songs I'm currently jammin'.


I'll be back later this week with a look at summertime sun and fun without all the chemicals and waste.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Photo Friday | Choosing the Better Alternative

One of the things I've been focusing on this year in my own green journey is choosing more eco-friendly alternatives when I'm shopping.

A while back, I decided to look for an off-white top to wear to work and on the weekends in the summertime. I instinctively looked on a big chain website before realizing this was the perfect opportunity to find an item made of organic materials with fair-trade practices.

I found this top from Fair Indigo, a company whose tagline is Style with a Conscience, for less than I would have found it at a larger store. It is made of the softest organic cotton, passes Oeko-Tex standards (which means it's free of harmful substances), made fairly in Peru, and reduces waste by not using clothing tags. Both the sizing information and care instructions are stamped on the fabric, and the attached tag is made of recycled/recyclable paper.


Beyond all that, the top fits perfectly, is flattering, is not sheer like most standard clothing, works with just about everything in my closet, and is so comfortable. I'd call it a total win!

I'll be doing some more in-depth posts on fair trade and eco-friendly clothing throughout the year. You can also check out a blog I've started following lately, Sustainably Chic, for all kinds of great discoveries.

At Fair Indigo, you’ll find a carefully curated collection of clothing, accessories, and gifts that are stylish, sustainable, and the means to a happy, healthy life for people like these. Thanks to you, they work in safe surroundings - not sweatshops - and earn a fair wage that enables them to house, feed, and care for their families and strengthen their communities. Just a handful (7 to be precise) of people who are privileged to share a daunting, humbling, but uplifting purpose: we comb the globe--from small towns in North Carolina to highland villages in Peru--to find uniquely beautiful clothes and accessories, all made with immense care by people whose lives have been changed by the availability of safe, clean work, fair wages, and mutual respect for Mother Earth. Our fair trade clothing and gifts help lift people up in the developing world. Made in USA clothing and gifts keep much needed jobs at home. And both of these collections include a large selection of organic clothing.

Hope you all stay dry this weekend! Looks like Eco Cajun's birthday weekend is going to be a washout, but I still plan to make it a fun one.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Making Your Hurricane Supplies More Sustainable

When you're a kid, the beginning of June signals the start of summer vacation. Off of school for two and a half whole months, yay!

When you're an adult, the beginning of June signals the start of hurricane season. Not yay.


There are always wildly varying predictions of how each year's hurricane season will turn out, but no matter what, it's best to be prepared, so you aren't scrambling at the last minute to get that last pack of toilet paper on the shelf.

And by preparing early, you can make your supply kit more sustainable. Yes, it's possible!

There are tons of supply checklists online, including in Lafayette Utilities System's annual Hurricane Handbook. I won't provide a complete list of what you should have, but I'll share a few sustainable alternatives to popular (and necessary) items.

View a copy of the annual LUS Hurricane Handbook here.


Lighting

Always keep a few flashlights on hand for if the power goes out. Hand crank lights work well, and some are solar-powered.

Many storm flashlights come with radios built in, but watch for ones that say they can charge cell phones. I tried one of these combination lights a few years back and it wouldn't even charge my Blackberry.

Be careful using candles for light, especially with children or pets in your home. Candles can be easily knocked over, causing even more danger. Plus, the fumes can be toxic if you are in a boarded-up house and you can't open the door because of the weather. If you stock up on candles, look for soy, vegetable or bees wax candles, which burn chemical free, with lead- or zinc-free wicks, which can also emit toxins.

Power/Energy

Stock up on batteries, and choose rechargeable ones if you can. Just keep enough charged and on-hand so you don't have to worry about it while the power is out.

Conserve energy in your refrigerator or freezer by opening it as little as possible.

Keep your cell phones charged as much as possible in case the power goes out. Invest in a few backup power banks to give you an emergency battery boost if you need it. (Many companies give these out as promotional items - keep them and keep them charged!)

Food/Water

Canned food is the best since it "can" last a long time and remain unspoiled before it's opened. But get food you would eat normally! That way, you can ensure the food gets eaten even if it's not during a power outage. Also pick up healthier options, so you don't resort to eating pure crap.

Be sure to have a manual can opener, or that food will be staying in the can. And if you have an electric stove, look for food you can eat that doesn't need to be heated.

Save your cans for recycling, but remember to throw the lids.

Buy snacks and other nonperishables in larger containers instead of single-serve to eliminate some unnecessary waste.

When you're getting bottled water, go for what has the least amount of packaging - and recycle the bottles. I always go for gallons of water, but if you need personal size bottles, choose the ones with eco-friendly packaging, no BPA, and less plastic. And conserve your water from the sink or bathtub. Keep your showers quick!

If you stock up with adult beverages (or throw a hurricane party), get canned beer or boxed wine, especially now that glass is not accepted under Lafayette's curbside recycling contract.

Don't forget to shop with your cloth bags.

Other Essentials

I don't like to advocate for paper materials, but especially if you have a family, it can be too much to wash dishes or clean rags during an extended power outage, especially if you need to conserve water or are under a boil advisory.

Look for paper plates made with recycled content, or invest in some bagasse plates and boils, made from sugarcane byproducts. Use reusable plastic cups.

Get toilet paper and paper towels made with recycled content.

If you have pets, make sure to get enough extra food and litter in advance. Save plastic bags to reuse for scooping when your pets have to go. If you use canned food, recycle the cans! 

If you like to keep all of your supplies packed together, get a reusable container made with recycled material that can be stored away, or thrown in the car easily. Larger cloth bags also work well.

Keep plywood boards safe and protected between seasons so you can reuse them each year.

Entertainment


If you have children, get old-fashioned toys and games to keep them occupied, so they don't drain the battery on your computer or phone. Coloring books are fun for kids and adults.

Stock up on books from the library.

Keep board games or a deck of cards on hand.

Just don't play ball in the house!


Prepare your home in advance, and you won't have to waste supplies at the last minute. There are many ways to outfit your home so it's always more protected from storms, from functional shutters to reinforcing your roof. Building or renovating your home so it's stronger will help minimize damage and destroyed materials.

If you make the decision to evacuate, secure your house first, and choose the most fuel-efficient car you have in your family. Gas will be a scarce commodity, and prices will go up. And you may end up traveling further than you want to. Stretch what you get as far as you can. Pack smart and don't forget your valuable documents. Keep them in a waterproof container.

Even if you don't live in a hurricane-prone area, use this guide for any kind of storm supply kit you might need.

Other resources:
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.