Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Photo Friday | Mardi Gras Weekend

Happy almost-Mardi Gras, y'all! How are you planning to party over these next five days?

I spy reusable mugs on the float!

Whatever your plans are, please remember to respect your city and our environment, and don't leave your trash behind. If you bring it, you pick it up!

On Instagram last weekend, I shared a few shots from the Krewe of Carnivale En Rio parade that rolled through Lafayette. It's always one of my favorite parades, but the litter left behind strikes a sour note. As a reminder, your trash is YOUR responsibility. Don't rely on Public Works to pick up your mess. Yes, they clean the route, but it's still your responsibility to clean up your own mess, especially when it's outside the barricades.



 
Read my blog post from last week for guidance on how you and your group can reduce, reuse and recycle.

And, check out this week's Times of Acadiana for a column by yours truly on how we can green Mardi Gras in Acadiana. Click here or on the photo below to read the column, or pick up a copy around Lafayette!

http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/entertainment/2017/02/21/dont-leave-your-trash-mister/98050900/

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

How We Can Work Toward a Litter-Free Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is one of my favorite times of year, especially as a native Louisianian. You can feel the energy and festiveness in the air, and everyone just seems a little prouder to be Cajun. We're all sharing in the excitement of a culture that's uniquely ours, and you can't help but smile a little when you hear the opening strains of Mardi Gras Mambo.



 

Sure, the barricades are a pain in the ass. The crowds can be overwhelming. But to me, the worst is the trash. Thousands of people flock to the four-mile parade route (in Lafayette alone...so multiply this by every city that puts on at least one parade), and after the last float has rolled past, you can't miss what's been left behind.


Beer cans. Soft drink and water bottles. Fast food containers. Pizza boxes. Toys. Stray bits of clothing. Plastic bags. And tons of broken and nonbroken Mardi Gras beads and throws that didn't make it from the float into the hands of a reveler.


Every year, I notice more and more how the streets look like a trash bomb has gone off. As I've gotten more dedicated to my own environmental passion and gotten more involved in my community, I've become that much more aware of how Louisiana's most celebrated time is also our most wasteful.

And the change starts on an individual level. You and your group can easily help reduce the amount of waste left behind, choose reusable containers, and recycle what you can.

  • If you're able, ride your bike or walk to your favorite spot on the parade route. It will help tremendously with traffic and parking, you'll get some extra exercise, and you'll save a little gas.
  • If you're heading out with a group of family or friends, carpool instead of driving separately.
  • Bring only what you need for the parade. Instead of bringing a ton of single-use food packaging out to the parade, either eat beforehand or pack food and snacks in reusable containers. Especially on days with multiple parades, pack snacks in lightweight reusable containers that can be put back in your vehicle or your bag.
  • Do NOT bring glass bottles out to the parade. If your glass becomes litter, it can be dangerous to car and bike tires, and someone’s feet. Pour your beer or other cold beverages into a reusable bottle.
  • Addtionally, skip the Styrofoam or other single-use drink cups. If you’re stopping to pick up a drink on the way to the parade, ask the bar if they can pour it into your reusable container instead of a single-use cup.
  • Don't forget a reusable bottle filled with water. 
  • If you don't want to bring your own drink cup, choose the better option on the waste totem pole, and bring drinks in aluminum cans. Don't: leave them on the street or toss them in somebody's front yard. Do: save and recycle those cans.
  • Use cloth bags or plastic bins/baskets to hold all of your beads and throws.
  • Be responsible for what you and your group hauls to the parade. Bring an extra bag to keep your trash and/or recyclables in, or use your ice chest to hold your trash. If you bring it, you make sure it leaves, whether you throw it away or take it home to recycle.
  • 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. 


So, about those Mardi Gras beads! Do some good, and keep beads out of the trash and the street, by donating them to LARC or Arc of Acadiana. Both nonprofits repair and resell beads, which brings them much-needed funding for the services they provide.

This weekend, LARC will have a trailer behind the Carencro and Scott parades, and next weekend in Youngsville, where parade-goers can toss their beads back for LARC to collect.

In Lafayette, you can donate any of your beads to LARC by depositing them in the bed of a truck located at Le Festival De Mardi Gras a Lafayette. The truck will be located near the stage.

If you are near Downtown Lafayette, head over to the LAFAYETTE sign in Parc Sans Souci and drop off your beads in the wire Y for donation. This is the third year the wire Y has been out for Mardi Gras, and it's been a very successful collection point.


There will also be bead drop-off points at area Goodwills.

Get your Lafayette Mardi Gras information here, and don't forget to download the Lafayette Mardi Gras app (keep up with the parade schedule and band schedule, and use the super-handy GPS Float Finder during the parades).

Let's work hand in hand toward a litter-free Mardi Gras!
  • Do your own part to reduce your waste and litter, which helps LCG Public Works.
  • Show the Mardi Gras Association that you support a cleaner Mardi Gras (and let's get float waste cleaned up!)
  • Show your support for bead recycling by donating your piles to a nonprofit organization - and then, by purchasing your beads from them next year to throw.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Photo Friday | Putting in the Work

Part of my personal goals this year is a goal to DO more in the community. Being a treehugger means getting a little dirty sometimes, but even when it's 50 degrees and windy outside, it feels good to do something that makes an impact.

Bayou Vermilion District and No Waste Louisiana organized a paddle trip for last Saturday morning to pick plastic bags out of trees along the river. Another group, which included myself, went through the Nature Trail across from Vermilionville to pick up litter.


Although I'm not sure the total number of bags and pounds of trash collected, it was certainly enough to open your eyes to the serious litter problem we have.


The Bayou Vermilion District operations crew goes out on the river in Lafayette Parish every day they can, depending on weather and river level, and they work continuously to keep the river clear of litter and natural debris like fallen trees. Last January, I had the pleasure of riding along to get a firsthand view of what the operations crew does - check out that feature here!

Unfortunately, there's still a litter problem. Especially compounded from the flooding last August, our river is seeing a lot of trash from both within the city, and floating down from areas north of us. It's a problem larger than what the operations crew can truly handle.

And it's a problem that we can all tackle.


Where does it come from?
  • Accidental litter that ends up on the road (flying out of vehicles or garbage trucks)
  • Intentional litter thrown out of vehicles or by pedestrians
  • Intentional litter tossed into the water 
  • Litter floating downstream
  • Flood debris
The litter you see on sidewalks or on the side of the road WILL end up in our river. When it rains, that litter is washed from the road into the storm drain, which then washes into our coulees and into Bayou Vermilion.

If the litter isn't collected while in the river, it'll float downstream all the way into the Gulf of Mexico.

The focus on cleaning up plastic bags is an important one, since plastic doesn't biodegrade, but becomes harmful to wildlife that try to eat it. I noticed very early on in our cleanup that these plastic bags were super brittle, and some were buried in mud from recent rains. Although not as easy to spot in some places, they were still doing their harm.


What can you do? Simply, focus on not littering. Dispose of all of your trash properly. If you see windblown litter, pick it up and throw it away. Don't let it get into our rivers.
 

And furthermore, take a look at how much single-use you use on a daily basis, and see how you can eliminate some of it. The more we can each reduce, the less litter we'll have to begin with.

Photo courtesy: Lee Celano, The Daily Advertiser

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Valentine For Your Boo and the Environment

I know that Valentine's Day is not everyone's jam, but can we all at least agree that we need to show a little more love toward each other? Or at least be nicer to each other?

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all heart-shaped chocolates, teddy bears and Mylar balloons. Understated and sustainable can be just as, if not more, romantic! Show your boo just how much you care with items that don't harm the environment.


My husband and I have really started to enjoy quiet Valentine's Day evenings together at home. Our first few holidays together, he would take me out to delicious local restaurants. Last year, since it was on a Sunday, we fired up the grill for dinner and dined al fresco, with real plates, utensils, placemats, napkins and wine glasses, of course! We gave each other cards, mine made of recycled paper and featuring a tree joke that still makes me giggle.


This year, we'll probably do dinner at home again and find a good movie to watch. Note to self: Pick up organic wine for the occasion.

Flowers


Easily the most popular Valentine's Day gift, flowers can put a strain on the environment from conventional farming, to traveling long distances, to requiring special packaging and shipping.

Go eco-friendly by ordering your bouquets or arrangements from a local florist and supporting a small business. Many times, you’ll be able to choose more seasonal or unique flower varieties and styles.

Or, consider giving flowers that last longer. Instead of a bouquet, visit a local nursery and pick out flower seedlings or a small potted plant. Your garden, or even your apartment patio, will have a cheerful reminder of your love all year long.


If you want to go the DIY route for flowers, use what you have! Our sweet neighbors recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and for their party, the wife created flower arrangements using spray painted secondhand teapots (I wonder where she got that idea from! Ha.) and greenery from their own yard.


Gifts


Shop at local stores for gifts for your loved ones, or purchase locally produced items, like handmade jewelry.

Make your own gift with salvaged or reclaimed items.

Instead of giving something material, go for an intangible gift. Do something nice for your loved one; gift them a service like a massage, manicure or yoga class; or donate to a charity they support.

Instead of the heart-shaped box of mystery chocolates, go for organic or fair-trade sweets. Organic treats are made without additional chemicals and pesticides, and fair-trade means the workers who’ve made the item earn a fair living wage.


Pick out a sweet reusable coffee mug or water bottle.

Buy a Valentine card made of recycled paper, make a card using scrap wrapping or decorative paper, or go paperless by sending an e-card.


Plans

Going out for the evening? Dine at a local restaurant, and call ahead to see if they take reservations. (And if you tend to bring leftovers home, don’t be afraid to bring your own to-go container.)

Show off your sustainable style with a secondhand, vintage, or even rented/borrowed outfit and accessories.

If you’re not into crowded restaurants for Valentine’s Day, plan to cook a special dinner at home with your loved one. Shop at a local grocery store or your nearest farmer's market to find fresh, seasonal produce, meat, or seafood. Don’t forget your cloth bags! (A phrase I'm starting to feel like I need tattooed on my forehead. Practically my middle name at this point!)

Find an organic wine to pair with your meal. Organic vineyards don’t use artificial or hazardous chemicals on the grapes. And a bottle of organic wine is less expensive than you might think. If you’re not into wine, pick up a local craft beer. Your local grocery store or liquor store should be able to help you on both fronts.

Use real dinnerware, utensils, glasses, and napkins instead of disposable.


Take your dinner outside or plan a picnic if the weather is nice. (If it's cold where you are, and you're cursing me for suggesting eating outside - I'm sorry. Louisiana had a two-day winter this year. I'm forgetting that it's actually still winter right now.)

For Children

It's been years since I've dealt with classroom valentines, but they can definitely be wasteful and unhealthy, between the paper and the candy. Don't tell your children that I suggested recycling all of the valentines once the holiday has passed. (But I'm totally suggesting to recycle all those valentines instead of just throwing them out.)

Make classroom valentines a fun, eco-friendly project with your children. Get crafty with some decorative recycled paper, plantable seed paper, or even recycled cardboard. Children can draw their own pictures or write their own messages, or you can use a festive stamp and nontoxic ink pad.

Instead of candy, go for a more eco-friendly gift idea, like flower seed packets or colored pencils made of recycled content.

This Valentine’s Day (and every day), power your day with love — it’s a renewable resource!


What are your plans for this Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

How to Avoid Single-Use Straws

Some of the most prevalent pieces of litter I tend to find on cleanups are plastic straws and straw wrappers, going along with the rest of the fast-food trash tossed out the window. Since straws and wrappers are so small, they are easily washed into storm drains and then our waterways. Very much a single-use item, we use 500,000,000 straws every day, on average, according to the National Park Service.

So, let's talk about reducing straw waste. There are two easy options:
  • Refuse straws
  • Carry reusable straws


Seriously. That easy.

When you order your coffee, ask the barista not to give you a straw. When you order at a restaurant, ask not to be given a straw. At the gym, skip the straw for your water cup.

If you prefer to drink with a straw, or your children need straws, invest in a set of reusable straws. Made of food grade stainless steel, glass, or BPA-free silicone, the straws can be reused countless times and carried with you so you're always prepared. While I'm personally a fan of stainless steel, the silicone options are proooobably a little safer for the kids, from a safety standpoint. If you're even a little clumsy, don't go for the glass straws.


When you choose a set of straws, make sure to get one that comes with a tiny brush, to keep the insides clear of gross stuff. Stainless steel straws are also dishwasher safe.

I admit, I'm super late to the get on the reusable straw train. I don't use straws at home or at the gym in general, but at restaurants, they would've come in handy a long time ago. I've had my set for a few weeks now, and I'm happy with the assortment I picked up - four bent ones for regular use, a tall one for larger mugs, and a wider one for thicker drinks.

Another bonus to stainless steel is that your cold drink stays cold all the way through the straw! I'll do a little field research to let y'all know how much better a margarita tastes through a stainless steel straw and report right back.


My next step is to find a convenient carrying case for the straws, so I can keep them protected in my bag without making a ton of noise everywhere I go.
 
And of course, sometimes, there are drawbacks. I was recently out for a group lunch, and the waiter put a handful of wrapped straws on the table. I had a reusable straw with me, so I gave the waiter mine and asked him to take it back because I didn't need it. He didn't want to take it back, saying something about how the restaurant wasn't worried about wasting a straw from a financial standpoint. So, I kept it and put it in our break room at work for someone to use.

If you still prefer to use plastic straws, do us a solid and don't litter them along the roadway or in parks, or anywhere.

Have you made the switch to reusable straws? How do you deal with restaurant servers automatically providing straws for the whole table?


Eco Cycle - Be Straw Free Campaign
The Last Plastic Straw
Choose to Go Strawless
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