let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I got a spark of creativity tonight (after creating a wonderful home-cooked meal for my family) and created some paper snowflakes to hang on my walls.

Out of brown shipping paper and the weekly junk mail pile. I think I love them. Now I'm actually excited to check the mail tomorrow and get a new junk pile so I can make stacks more of these snowflakes.

So, if you're looking for a very inexpensive craft idea for your family, give these a spin! Just make sure the kids don't make a snowflake out of the utility bill...


donatin' and all that jazz

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the gift exchange - finding something to give someone else and, of course, getting things you want as well. But as I get older, I've become more interested in donating during the Christmas season. It makes you feel good inside, to help someone you don't know receive necessities they otherwise don't have access to. For the past couple years I've donated to my local United Way, and this year I have a list of three charities to which I plan to donate for the holidays.

The first is to UNICEF to give children clean water, nutrition or the proper immunization.

The second is to Reverb, which I read about earlier today, which works to green tours and events by famous musicians. I have been to six or seven concerts this year, so I am all about helping tours become greener. As much as I'd love to believe those tour buses run on music notes and audience screams (much like Monstropolis was powered on children screams and laughs), I know they don't. And I certainly don't want the tours to stop.

The third is Charity: Water. They have holiday gifts and the Little Black Box, $24, provides clean water to one person for 20 years. (And you get a snazzy little bracelet.) Safe drinking water is something so easy to take for granted, but so many people just don't have it. I'm sitting here, drinking my filtered water from my Klean Kanteen, and realizing just how lucky I am to be doing so.

Last year I also donated to Take the Walk, Hanson's charity to help children in Africa in different areas. You can choose to put your money toward shoes, clean water, SMS credits for children to be in contact with a doctor, build schools and fight AIDS. Of course I'm biased since I pretty much live for all things Hanson, but I love that they have dedicated themselves to this cause and started this charity in order to make a difference. Before the start of every concert on their last three tours, Hanson have put on one-mile walks near each venue. I finally got to participate on this past tour and it felt great to be "walking for change", as Taylor kept declaring to oncoming cars. They also donate one dollar for every person who walks and have raised over $25,000 so far.

So with these donations, I will certainly have a merrier Christmas, knowing I've helped make a difference to people who don't have anything and to the earth, who needs a little lovin'. I may not make a ton of money, but to the children who don't have shoes or drinking water, I'm Richard Branson. My tiny little heart can't ignore that, and since I like to go crazy on Christmas spending, I might as well put it to something beyond XBox points. (If my brother is reading, you didn't read that!!) And I won't turn this into a plea for you to donate as well, but if you feel that twinge, look around online and find something to which you'll be excited to donate. I started my browsing through Treehugger, who has compiled a list of different green organizations, but of course, there are hundreds of great organizations.

12 eco-friendly days of christmas

I saw a table at the bookstore labeled "eco-friendly gifts" while out shopping on Black Friday. I really didn't have a need for more Christmas cards, but if I did, these would have been them.
This is not the best photograph, but the table was out in the open and I try not to be taking pictures of merchandise when employees pass by.

So, now presenting, the 12 eco-friendly days of Christmas!

A Partridge in an Organically-Grown Pear Tree
Two Ecotours
Three Free-Range Hens
Four Recycling Bins
Five Gold Green Dwellings
Six Sustainable Forests Growing
Seven Fluorescent Bulbs a-Dimming
Eight Maids Goat-Milking
Nine Earth Mamas Dancing
Ten Compost Piles Steeping
Eleven Cyclists Cycling
Twelve Hybrids Humming

Now go have fun wrapping your gifts in newspaper and scrap cloth!

all in the wrapping

Wrapping paper and gift bags are a big part of Christmas. I always love to peruse the different designs, especially after the holiday, when everything is 50% off. However, we spend so much money on paper that is used once, then thrown away. Last year, I checked with our local recycling company and they confirmed that wrapping paper is not recyclable, because of the wax coating put on it.

So how can we be less wasteful and more environmentally friendly when wrapping gifts? For other occasions, I've taken to buying a nice cloth bag and putting the gifts in there, making the bag a gift unto itself. I've toyed with the idea of ordering cloth bags in bulk from a promotional products company, creating a little graphic to be printed on each bag, and using them for all gifts. And in my family, we reuse gift bags each year. I believe there's still a Christmas Barbie gift bag floating around my parents' house. There's a Ready, Aim, File program box dating from the mid-90s that is the hot box to use every Christmas. There's always a mad dash to see who can be the first to get to it.

But my child voice is still in the back of my head. "But opening presents is so much fun! Hearing the paper rip is fulfilling!" Well, for all you child voices, there is recycled wrapping paper. Smith and Hawken (whose site seems to be down), Paporganics (whose site also seems to be down right now), Of the Earth and Fish Lips all make recycled or organic wrapping paper and ribbon. Botanical Paperworks creates gift tags (and other products) that are biodegradable and contain flower seeds. And Lucky Crow makes (the most gorgeous!) reusable gift bags.

But - if you want to save money, newspaper and magazines always work well. Last year, my brother wrapped my gift in newspaper, and my boyfriend, who doesn't own a scrap of wrapping paper or ribbon, found materials he had to lovingly wrap my gift - a red tie and the junk mail sale papers.

No sacrifice necessary in this department!

update and editorial

About two months ago I wrote about the city of Houston and NRG Energy being close to a deal that would provide solar energy for city buildings and linked to the New York Times article. Today the NYT has a follow-up article saying the deal is pretty much dead, due to the city wanting to renew the contract annually and NRG wanting an upfront 25-year contract.

NYT also has an editorial from Thomas Friedman about legislative opponents to cap-and-trade taxes and their seeming disagreement that some kind of change needs to happen. I think it's very well-written and I agree with the points he makes. And I still think there's a twofold challenge to environmentalism - getting people to understand the need and the danger, and getting people to ACT to work against the destruction. Friedman mostly talks about getting people to understand the need and know that the world can't keep functioning on its current system.


the holiday debate

Artificial trees have grown exponentially over the past years, bringing the question "Which is better for the environment?" An artificial tree that can be used more than once or a real tree that isn't made of toxins and can be recycled?

The Daily Green has a well-timed feature this week on what exactly the greenest Christmas tree is. From most green to least green, here's their list:
Decorating an existing outdoor tree (In my apartment, this might have to mean putting lights on the pumpkin on my patio!)
Making a tree from tree scraps
Live, plantable bulb trees
Local, sustainable or organic trees
Artificial OR conventional live trees (a few extra points if either tree is made in America)

The negative points on conventional live trees are that they must be shipped long distances, which requires lots of fuel for the trucks and pesticides for the trees, and can take up space in landfills if people don't turn them into compost or recycle them somehow. Though, since many live trees are grown on farms, they do not contribute to deforestation.

Artificial trees are primarily made in China of oil-derived PVC. (A merry Christmas indeed!) Many of these have been found to contain lead, and according to another source, the USDA quarantined some Chinese artificial trees for containing a potentially harmful beetle in the center pole. (Though, this makes me think of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the squirrel that was hiding in the Griswolds' second Christmas tree, that came from the front yard!) Another source I found says that the average family keeps their artificial tree six to nine years before throwing them away to live forever in a landfill. This leads me to think part of the reason people do not keep artificial trees longer is due to the changes in tree features - such as how pre-lit trees are commonplace now. And trees that come with lights built in are assuredly not recyclable.

This year is my first Christmas on my own, and while I should probably consult my roommate, I have already made plans to be a smaller live Christmas tree to put in our living room. I am personally on the side of real trees - they just smell so good and are so classic looking. The people who run the tree farm my family goes to every year are from North Carolina, so I know we buy American frasier fir trees, plus we support a family over a large corporation. Artificial trees rarely come shorter than seven feet, and I would like something on a smaller scale than that. So the weekend after Thanksgiving, it'll be on to find MY very first tree. (The fact that I've already bought a star, lights and ornaments for it is neither here nor there!)

Plus, living in south Louisiana means it's a common practice every January for the yard waste company to pick up all real Christmas trees and deliver them to the eroding wetlands, so really, the trees get to have a use all year long in saving our coastline. I would rather that than having to throw out a non-recyclable artificial tree if it wasn't able to be used any more. I successfully convinced my father last year to buy a real tree when he wanted to go artificial. However, I do have a small artificial tree, that looks like the Charlie Brown tree's older brother, that I've put up in my bedroom for about 13 years now. I quite enjoy it, though I'm not looking forward to when it finally gives out on me, and I'll have to dispose of it.

Now, my next step is to find an environmentally friendly tree skirt... but that's another post for another day.

What are your ideas to make Christmas trees as green as possible?

update to lafayette recycling

Following up on my previous post, I received a call back from the Department of Environmental Quality today. I explained again my situation, that I would just like to know where I can drop off my recyclables and I was told there are two fire stations in Lafayette that continue to have a drop-off. One is the fire station on Johnston and St. Julien, near UL, and the other is a fire station on Ambassador Caffery, somewhere near the Bertrand split. Neither take glass, which is nothing new. My other option would be the Recycling Foundation office on Cameron, somewhere near Eraste Landry, and they accept glass, but are only open during normal working hours. (My knowledge of west Lafayette is not the greatest since I am never there.)

Thus, I have two completely out-of-the-way choices to drop off my recycling, meaning I will continue to mooch off my boyfriend's neighbor's bin and invite myself into the city's contract with the Recycling Foundation.

So for those of you who don't have a residential bin or those of you who don't live in the city limits – those are your options. One fire station in the middle of Lafayette or one in west Lafayette.

(And coupled with the frustrations I'm having regarding my company's recycling bin and ITS lack of pickup, I'm not a content treehugger at the moment.)

can't stop won't stop

It had been about three weeks, and my recycling bin was overflowing, so while out on errands today, I stopped by the fire station near my apartment to empty the bin.

I found zero recycling bins and a sign saying "Drop off closed, please call for information." So bet your ass I left a voicemail for the Department of Environmental Quality asking them where us lowly non-homeowners should be dropping off recycling." I don't expect a call back, but I will get my answer somehow.

For the time being, I decided to use my boyfriend's next-door neighbor's bin, since I am actually closer to that than the fire station, and I can mix in my glass.

I had heard of another fire station's drop-off being closed recently, and sometime in the last month, mine was as well. Maybe because I don't read the newspaper, but I surely hadn't heard rumblings of this happening. And I haven't heard of alternative options, which I do not appreciate. Of course business is all about money and the bottom line, but I fully believe being environmentally responsible goes BEYOND that. I don't know what I would do without being able to recycle, as that is what I do with close to 70% of my waste, and I cannot physically throw a piece of paper or a can in the trash anymore. But I don't think I'll face my worst expectation, as all city residents pay for residential pickup through a contract with the city. So from now on, it's about mooching off of that city contract. And if the city doesn't like it, they can talk to me.

By no means is Lafayette the most progressive, environmentally responsible city, but I can't sit back and watch us move backwards. Especially since I, personally, will not move backwards.

Ironic this comes on the heels of LUS receiving Smart Grid grant money to install smart meters on homes. But I guess that still would have no effect on apartment dwellers and residents outside the city limits. We don't count, I suppose.


I had some shopping to do this past weekend, and since I vow never to step foot in Wal-Mart again, I made my way to Target. I mostly needed medicine and food, but I can never keep myself from walking around the entire store.

Halfway through my trip, I looked down in my cart and realized I had Method plant-based laundry detergent, LED Christmas lights (already planning for the tree!), solar-powered LED lights (for the patio) and organic cotton pillowcases (which I thought were bamboo until just now. Sorry cotton, but bamboo is way softer.)

So if I didn't know I was dedicated before, my shopping cart proved it. I also went on to buy organic green beans for the casserole I am making tomorrow night.

It's not easy finding all green products at a big box store, but Target is getting there slowly. I would've felt more successful if they'd had the casserole dish and medicine I needed, but I was still happy to get all my green items. I think the casserole dish situation worked out for the best since I got one for free from my parents. Keeping the circle of kitchenware life going and saving myself money (that I'll cough, spend in Houston this weekend.)
I've been using the Method detergent for about six months now and I think it's great. I can't vouch for how well the solar LED lights work, but I can't wait to try them out. The instructions said to point the panel south to get the maximum sunlight, which poses a problem here in my northwest-facing apartment. I don't think the sun hits my patio until around 3, leaving just a few hours of sunlight come winter.

link roundup

I suppose I should really pick an actual day of the week to have a link roundup. So I'll decide now. Every Friday I'll compile a list of links I've found throughout the week that I have an interest in.

The New York Times has a piece on ToughStuff, a company determined to bring low-cost solar panels to the impoverished in Africa. I'm a fan of companies dedicated to helping developing countries (see: TOMS Shoes) and this is something so many people need.  
ToughStuff introduced its panels in Madagascar earlier this year, and villagers are using the devices to light small rooms, power radios and charge mobile phones. Previously, Mr. Sowden said, “most people would either steal power, or walk 10 miles each way to the nearest town for power.”

This is an older link, but it's a list of 10 simple ways to reduce household waste. I'm a practicer of most of these (still haven't begun composting though), but it's something you can always stand to read. I wish more mainstream stores had a bulk option though. It's just not something common in my area. However, I have very little waste that actually goes in the trash can. I end up emptying my recycling bin more often.

How Green is My Town is a project that's focused on studying the problems cities have and finding solutions to create greener places.

Dow Chemical has created and released a lightweight solar shingle that works with asphalt shingles. Dow claims their solar shingles can offset between 40% and 80% of a home's electricity consumption. They also claim that regular roofers can install them, instead of a dedicated solar installation crew. However, an electrician is still needed to hook all of the shingles into the inverter and home electrical system. I'm very interested in seeing if these shingles take off. They keep the conventional look of a roof while being very innovative.

Planet Green posted a five-minute guide to the Senate Climate Bill that was passed two weeks ago. It explains the positive and negative aspects and compares it to the House's Bill.

The New Republic has a piece looking at why many companies are resigning from the US Chamber of Commerce board over their stance on global warming.

Need to order office supplies for yourself or your company? Check out The Green Office!

This is something I want to dedicate a post to. I've heard about this sustainable home near Opelousas, Louisiana, before, and I'd love to check it out to see all the green elements that work together to make this home absolutely sustainable.

Organic food has become more popular as of late, but the same principles should be applied when looking for makeup. The Daily Green has a list of toxic ingredients that many cosmetics contain. Make sure to find makeup that doesn't contain them and you can feel gorgeous, natural and safe!

wonder cork

The New York Times Green blog has a post today on the new partnership between ReCork and SOLE, an American wine cork recycling company and Canadian footwear company, respectively. ReCork will supply SOLE with corks and in turn receive national marketing exposure.

Shoes consisting partly of cork is a great reuse and goes beyond the standard "make a bulletin board from cork" idea. 

team beausoleil coverage

Treehugger has an entry on Team BeauSoleil in Washington DC praising the house for being green while exemplifying Louisiana culture and being tough enough to survive hurricane-force winds. Some good press from a major force in the green world is definitely a good thing for our team!

friday morning links

I found two interesting articles yesterday that I'll share this morning.

The US Department of Energy is holding a contest to create an LED alternative to a 60 watt lightbulb. Philips is the first company to be submitting an idea. The contest states that the lamp cannot use more than 10 watts, the light color must be like traditional bulbs today and the bulbs must last 25,000 hours. The New York Times has a longer write-up about it.

Houston is the oil capital of America, but with some new developments they may be heading toward being the renewable energy capital as well. A proposal is very close to being approved to allow NRG Energy to build a plant in the area and the city would purchase its solar power from it, providing about 1.5 percent of the city government's power needs. Houston is not terribly far from here, so it will be interesting to follow their rise to becoming a renewable energy hub, if everything works out. It could also be a part of Caitlin's future life!

party pictures

So last Thursday evening UL's BeauSoleil team held a bon voyage party to celebrate the completion of their Solar Decathlon entry and imminent departure for DC. I made it out to get a few pictures and see the house for myself.

Probably my favorite part of the house are those slats to the left of the window. The inside area with the window is the kitchen and those slats house an herb garden. Need basil? It's right outside the door in your cute little vertical garden.
The house is designed to embrace the outdoors and create essentially an indoor/outdoor living space.
This side of the roof is covered with solar panels, along with that retractable door cover. The shutters are also a great feature. They are beautiful but functional. They slide to cover the windows in case of bad weather while still adding an accent to the exterior.
And a large solar water heater.
Other features I didn't get great pictures of are the large deck spaces on the front and back of the house. The house itself is 800 square feet, in accordance with Solar Decathlon rules. The interior featured a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and laundry protrusion (for lack of better word - see right side of second picture.) The inside was very contemporary, yet still warm. Many well-known local artists donated pieces to the house, which along with many touches of UL red, make the house unique and cultural.
All in all, I think the house is great, and I would definitely live in a version of it, larger than 800 square feet, of course.
The team embarks for Washington DC on September 28, so good luck to everyone making the trip!

park(ing) day 2009

Today is the fifth National PARK(ing) Day, where parking spots across the country are turned into mini green spaces.

Check out the website, which features a comprehensive Flickr slideshow of this year's parks.

I should start brainstorming for next year!

where does it end up?

The New York Times has an interesting article today about a woman in Seattle who invited researchers from MIT to tag her trash with electronic devices in order to study exactly where her trash and recyclables end up.

One purpose of the project, said Carlo Ratti, director of the lab, is to give people a concrete sense of their impact on the environment in a way that might lead them to change their habits.

“If you see where a plastic bottle ends up, a few miles down the road in a dump, you may want to get tap water or some other container for the water,” Mr. Ratti said.

This type of project is being done in other places around the country as well. For the next three months, MIT is tracking 3,000 pieces of garbage from the Seattle area to see where it ends up and if recyclables are actually being recycled.

“If I found out that it wasn’t going where I think it does, if it is less recycled than I hoped,” Landsberg said she “might think about buying less of it or doing without.”

Great read.

bon voyage

Tonight is the big night for UL's Solar Decathlon team. They're holding a bon voyage party for the BeauSoleil house before it heads off to competition in Washington DC. I've written about the house before and I'm interested to see how the team has brought together all sorts of eco-friendly and sustainable elements to create a beautiful home.

The party has been gathering lots of local press and I
plan to make it out tonight to take a few pictures of the house for myself. If you are in the area, the festivities begin at 6:30 and the christening is at 7. The lovely Cajun band BeauSoleil will also be performing.


green roofs

The Huffington Post has a piece and photo slideshow today on some of the best green roofs around the world. I particularly love how the roofs become a part of the architecture and design of these buildings to create a real statement.

My boss had mentioned one time she was interested in a green roof for our building, but that would take more than laying down grass as it leaks any time it rains. I'm not sure how complicated or costly it is to implement a green roof, nor how much it saves on electricity, but it would be interesting to get some numbers.

today's link roundup

This entry to a design competition solves the problem of milk going bad before it's all used. The shrinking jug keeps air out of milk and keeps it fresh for up to a week longer than a regular carton. If these go into production, I'll take one!

This article came out last month, but it's still an interesting dichotomy. The US Department of Energy failed its own energy audit. What does it say that the ones in charge don't follow their own standards?

I watched this piece on American E-waste in China last night on 60 Minutes. It's a very stark look at what happens to our old computer monitors once we seemingly send them off for recycling. They're ending up in China and basically poisoning the residents of Guiyu, even though exporting monitors there is illegal. It raises the question of which electronics recycling companies are actually doing the right thing and which are just passing off our trash to other countries, where they're left to poison drinking water and harm the workers who dismantle the equipment. I would love to do more research on this issue, as I've been taking old electronics to Best Buy for recycling.

Newsweek wonders where the new green jobs are, and what is actually constituted as a "green job". They interview President Obama's green czar, Van Jones, with a skeptical attitude about if we can implement such large-scale change by creating these green jobs.

A teenager in Canada did his science fair project on decomposing a plastic bag in three months, leaving behind simply water and carbon dioxide. I officially feel dumber than a 16-year-old.

Planet Green has a great resource page for all sorts of composting information. I have not begun my own composting system, but this page has given me lots of good information that will help me once I do start.


solar mifflin

At work a few weeks ago, I was given the task of finding solar panel options. Louisiana has some great tax incentives for people who install solar panel systems, so if we end up going the solar route, now is the time.

I have also begun researching alternative lighting options. Since it has been so hot this summer, we have kept the about 10 of the 13 400-watt light bulbs off to keep the heat down, much to the chagrin of my aesthetic-focused boss. I emailed a coworker's architect father about my plans, and he advised that skylights may not be the best option for us since they also let heat in. Solar tubes are used for places that actually have a ceiling - we just have the underside of the roof. Therefore, the best, least-expensive option would be alternative light bulbs.

So today I started the search for CFL or LED 400-watt-equivalent light bulbs. If we had bulbs that didn't give off so much heat or didn't create almost-blinding intense light, I would be less opposed to turning the lights on in the first place. Of course the bulbs will cost more than conventional bulbs, but they will need replacing less often, so they pay for themselves in the end.

I'm still a bit skeptical that my office will be a solar panel leader, but even just researching these options will teach me a lot of valuable information and put me in contact with people who could really help me in the future.

still here

I've been preoccupied lately, but I've been spending a little time to figure out what my next green adventure will be.

I've talked before about my idea to influence restaurants to ditch the styrofoam. Last week I was at a restaurant for lunch and the person I was with needed a to-go box. The waitress brought over a small and large styrofoam box and he took the small one. I didn't see, but I heard that unmistakable sound. The waitress tossed the never-used large styrofoam container. And my coworker asked, "Is that killing you?" "Yes. Yes it is."

And it's just more of a motivator for me to get started on my campaign. I want to begin by getting all kinds of facts and research and essentially writing a paper on why styrofoam is such a bad idea, then getting research on the best, most cost-effective alternatives. Then I'll need to figure out how to distribute it. I think I shall start researching during my lunch hours.

I have also been ruminating on the idea of getting a bicycle. I love the idea of biking to my boyfriend's house, the nearest fast food restaurant and the big box store across the street, along with the produce stand not far away. The reality is that I do not live on a bicycle -friendly street, and I'm kind of terrified of biking in the street. I live too far from work to bike, but I'd love to bring my bike so I could go for rides during lunch hour. I would require a kitschy, hot pink crate on my bicycle, no matter what.

helping the earth and getting drunk while doing it

I was at the grocery store last night getting ingredients for dinner and decided to grab a bottle of Cabernet, since it's been a hell of a week. My system for choosing a good bottle of wine goes something like this: look for anything less than $11, then look for the one with the prettiest label or most ironic name. Yesterday, I couldn't make up my mind, but then came across the Fetzer cabernet, which looked very fancy for its $7.50 pricetag, so in my cart it went.

While I was making dinner, I popped the cork, and that's when I really noticed the label. Fetzer is "The Earth Friendly Wine." Hey HEY hey! Go me for inadvertently picking the green wine. I perused the website and found that not only do they produce organic wines, but their winery is very eco-friendly, with them cutting down on emissions, having solar panels, using recycled bottles and putting biodiesel in their trucks.

It's great that there's an environmentally responsible wine company, and even greater that Wal-Mart carries it, and EVEN greater that it's not astronomically expensive. But the important part – does it taste good?

Hell yeah!

This one's a winner.

eat local louisiana challenge

The Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner, Mike Strain, has issued a challenge to all Louisiana residents: Eat locally for the week. Buy food grown in the state only.

The Independent's blog has a post about this, and they will be updating it with a list of where to find great local products.

“Think of the possibilities: peaches from Ruston, watermelons from Franklinton, blueberries from the Felicianas, crawfish from the Atchafalaya and pork and beef from your local meat markets and rice and gravy. Seasonings would be no problem because Louisiana hot sauces are among the best in the world and the state is a leader in salt production."
Mike Strain

Just this weekend, I hit one of the farmer's markets in town and got some cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini and wheat bread. Since I was looking for some okra, I ended up later at Fresh Pickins, where I went crazy buying different things, including okra. I ended up at the honey shelf, with different kinds made by a lady in Colfax. FYI, the wildflower honey in green tea is excelente. I've had two cups in order to get through the day. Yesterday I made a delicious vegetarian lunch of spaghetti with olive oil and garlic with a side of grilled squash, zucchini and eggplant. I think this is the beginning of becoming a locavore. I enjoyed my time at Fresh Pickins, because I was able to get just enough for what I could eat, instead of having to get a large quantity of something. It was also a lot less expensive than if I'd gone to a grocery store. 

Also on Saturday morning, I went to a friend's garage sale and came away with a few things. So between the garage sale and the farmer's market, I'm pleased with myself. Giving new life to a couple shirts and pairs of earrings, supporting local farmers and eating vegetarian. 

And now the rest of the state has a challenge for the week. Louisiana produces some amazing food - take advantage of it! (When you're not dining at a local restaurant for EatLafayette, of course.)

banning the bags

Members of the Portland Chapter of Surfrider Foundation and Leave No Plastic Behind have requested that the Portland City Council pass a ban on plastic bags. They presented a petition signed by 43 businesses, collecting over 2,700 signatures.

I love that Portland is one of the most environmentally progressive cities in the country and I think if they make serious progress with this ban, it could lead lots of other cities to following suit. 

Part of the article mentions the plastic bag as something that will last thousands of years but only be used once. I think, even if some cities don't want to impose actual bans or fees on bags, there should be a serious incentive to REuse the bags – at least the ones that didn't rip. How many people take all their plastic bags, wad them up and shove them in a cabinet? They'll survive another trip to the store (unless they were forced to hold cans the first time around.)

I can just imagine, in my so-behind-we're-going-backwards city, the people in slippers and glorified pajamas at Wal-Mart complaining about having to bring their own plastic or cloth bags. I can hear the "unfair" cries already. But with the fact that there are probably 5 plastic bags for every 1 person on the planet, I would gladly set up some sort of donation system.

Anyway, I hope Portland can set a precedent and influence more cities to follow suit in some sort of plastic bag ban. 

sustainable product index

So Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to implement a sustainable product index for every product it carries. I am by no means a fan of Wal-Mart, even if I practically live in the parking lot of one. And fine, their groceries are less expensive. But if they are serious about this product index and see it through, it might bring me around. Unless, of course, it proves that the products they carry are harmful to the environment.

I will be interested in following this plan, because if it works, it will be an influence to other major national retailers. And it would be nice for retailers to be honest with its customers on what impact their products have on the environment. It's certainly not easy now, 1. to find items that are earth-friendly, and 2. to discern them from the items jumping on the earth-friendly bandwagon.

wanting to make a change

This week one of my coworkers proposed an idea to me and asked my advice on how to start it. He wants to eliminate the sometimes unnecessary waste of receipts. I told him it was great idea that could make a huge effect on the amount of paper thrown away and that I would support him in his quest. My suggestion to him is to start with our state representatives and to compose a letter stating why stores should ask customers if they would like a receipt before printing them. In this day and age, records are kept online, in my opinion, eliminating the need for printed receipts on the store's end. And many times, especially when paying cash, customers immediately throw them away or worse, litter the parking lot. 

This coworker spent some time in the Midwest this year and said it was standard for store clerks to ask before handing over a receipt. Just today, I was at a store and I didn't need a receipt for my two soft drinks and bag of candy, so after the clerk asked and I said no, she just balled up the receipt and threw it away.

It's not that he's looking to ban receipts, he's just looking for clerks to ask before printing, in order to save the paper if you don't need it. I think it's a very realistic goal and offered my support in storming the capital steps if necessary. I would love to see him follow through with this and see if he makes any sort of effect on this practice. 

At the very least, it will get him involved in our state government to make a change, which is incredibly respectable.

It's also gotten me thinking about one specific area I want to make a change in - restaurant to-go containers. Around here, the standard is leftover portions in a styrofoam container that is put into a plastic bag. Non-biodegradable packaging in more non-biodegradable packaging. When I first set out to make a personal change, I asked for at least some recyclable plastic packaging, which one restaurant had. Then I went out and bought a couple reusable containers and was doing well at remembering to bring them with me. I have fallen off the wagon a little with this (although I eat out way less now that I'm on my own), but my next goal is to get restaurants to look into better options. I want to start with figuring out why restaurants will put one styrofoam container into a plastic bag. Is it because of the handles, for easy(-ier) transporting? If so, why not create a to-go box that HAS handles?

I think, now inspired by my coworker, I would like to pursue this to-go box issue more and see if I can't at least get restaurants thinking about making a switch (but really, getting restaurants to actually make a switch.) 

going solar

Is it ironically appropriate that today's post is about solar energy when it's the anniversary of the moon landing? I think it is, so humor me.

While I am still a bit skeptical about the chance of actual implementation, I have been given the task of finding solar panel options for my company. This, of course, is more enticing than my day-to-day work. Now is an excellent time for Louisiana residents and businesses to look into and invest in solar panels because of the availability of both state and federal tax credits. The state reimburses 50% of your purchase up to $25,000 and the federal government reimburses 30% with no cap. Businesses also receive a 30% no cap credit. (And how to actually go about getting those credits is beyond me, but I guess it would make me a better person to learn.)

I found a crop of solar panel companies in southern Louisiana that I will begin contacting to see about quotes. Louisiana Solar Solutions is based in Lafayette, South Coast Solar is located in New Orleans, and Gulf South Solar and Louisiana Solar Works are located in Baton Rouge. I also learned through my excellent Googling skills that there is a Louisiana Solar Energy Society. They should be a great resource for anything I would need while I go about finding a solar panel system for my office.

Another thing I'm looking forward to researching is solar tubes. These tubes simply take in light through a diffuser and spread it around whichever room it's placed in. That way, we would be able to use the abundant sunlight Louisiana has instead of using energy to light the warehouse lamps that are currently just off. I think a combination of solar tubes and solar panels would be a great solution to our energy conservation needs.

I was told today about a woman in Lafayette who outfitted her home with $26,000 worth of solar panels. After all the tax credits, the total was $6,000. And her electricity bill was $4.12. Simply amazing and what I dream for my own home one day. I may take a ride soon to check out the panels with my own eyes (I am a geek like that.) I think the most inspiring part of this story is that the woman is in her 80s. Even at her age, she understands the need to be environmental, especially in the importance for future generations. It's a point I wish I could drive home stronger to people in my own life.

"I believe ... we should make choices that benefit our descendants, our country and our planet," she said.

"And if these choices require sacrifices, then we should be willing to make them."

making an impact?

Environmentalism is obviously my passion. What I want to feel like is that I'm inspiring others to make small changes to better the environment. One of the places I would love to see change is my office. This week I thought I had actually made progress with some people, only to basically find I had not. Energy conservation was being compromised for aesthetics.

It frustrates me, but it mostly makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. How can I actually influence people to realize the greater need for being greener? I feel like all of the tactics I use just fall on deaf ears. I have had problems recently with people scoffing at me anytime I make a remotely "environmental" statement (up to and including directions to use paper towels in the bathroom instead of a cloth towel. I said absolutely not.) I end up feeling like I'm just dismissed as the crazy treehugger, and I'm not actually listened to.

And even if people hear what I'm saying, I feel like it doesn't help because I haven't actually inspired change in actions. Does it mean all is lost and I'm alone in my crazy bid to recycle and turn off lights when I'm not using them?

What's the best tactic to take with people who don't realize the need for change? I've tried city-wide conservation mandates, I've tried the future generation angle, I've tried the non-sacrificial angle, and I've tried the money-saving angle. Maybe it's where I live. Louisiana is not exactly the most environmentally progressive state.

I think it's time to sit back, collect my thoughts and figure out a new way to approach this with others. Even with all the changes I've made in my life, I won't feel like I've made an impact until I can inspire others to change.

today's link roundup

I recently read about the Carteret islanders, whose lives are all disrupted due to global warming. They are being relocated to another group of islands, but they are essentially losing a lot of their culture due to the effects of the climate change. There is a documentary being made about them called Sun Come Up, but the filmmakers are having a tough time finishing, due to funding.

Some pizza boxes have been tweaked just slightly to become a lot more green. They are being made of recycled material and are scored in order to create plates and a storage container, making them completely multi-purposed.

A McDonald's in Cary, North Carolina, will be the first of the chain to have an electric vehicle charging station. The restaurant is also LEED-certified. It's great to see elements like solartubes and renewable materials being used for such a cookie-cutter store, especially one that creates so much waste.

A Danish music festival has gone green. It happened the first weekend of July, six months before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Elements included bikes that charge iPods and cell phones, LED lighting at campsites, a wind turbine and carbon offsets.

organic milk

Horizon Milk is probably the most popular organic brand on the market and will now be selling "natural" milk, which really means nothing, except that it's not organic. The company producing the natural milk will sell it cheaper than organic milk, essentially undercutting its original product.

Horizon has been the only brand of milk I've gotten in the past few months, because of its availability and it being organic. I am not sure if they will stop producing organic milk, but either way I will be more attentive when I'm at the store. I know there are other, not as popular, organic brands, but it won't take much to switch if Horizon does get out of the organic business.

one of my favorite places

Part of the success of my transition to organic beauty products is due to a store in town, Drug Emporium. It's been around for ages and has one of the best selections of organic products that I know of. I believe it's also locally owned, which benefits our economy.
While it's only the back corner of the store, there are about six aisle that contain organic/vegan food (fresh and frozen), drinks, beauty products, cleaning products and (maybe not all organic) vitamins.
I always think of Drug Emporium first when I'm looking for something organic, knowing they are my best shot at finding what I need. It was there when I made the switch to organic shampoo and conditioner about nine months ago (which I am very happy with and can't go back to conventional.)
I think the sad thing is I never actually noticed the fruit stand before I was sneaking around taking pictures the last time I was there.

Stop by this Lafayette staple whenever you need, or just want to browse, organic products.

conservation needs

Down here in Louisiana, it's been extremely and uncomfortably hot. Yesterday was the hottest day since the 1930s, I believe, with an actual high of 102. And it hasn't rained for the entire month of June.

These circumstances have led to the utility companies issuing a moratorium on energy and water usages. The high temperatures are causing a major strain on the area grid and the utility company issued a statement telling everyone to curb energy and listed tips on conservation.
  • Customers who need air conditioning should set the thermostat at the highest comfortable temperature.
  • If possible, customers should use fans instead of air conditioners.
  • Don't use major appliances, such as electric dryers, ranges, washing machines and dehumidifiers -- if necessary, shift their use to night-time hours.
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the heat of the day.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and refrain from using computers.
I already have most of these in practice at home, but the real problem is in the office. The windows are not insulated or covered. There are plenty of unnecessary lights and electronics on. I turned a few off, but it isn't enough. If I had my way, everyone would be working solely by the sunlight, but I don't have the clout to flip the breakers. There are some people who don't believe these things are issues and there are others who see the ridiculousness but aren't bothered to do anything about it.

There's only so much I can change alone, and with the office mentality, I'm just seen as the eco-freak and my statements go in one ear and out the other. At least today I've got a press release from LUS as my shield.

i try to walk away, but i stumble

I got a page-a-day eco-calendar from a very dear friend, and I enjoy reading each day's tip or quote and applying them to my life. They have some very poignant quotes that I like to stick on my bulletin board.

But Monday's tip came at just the wrong time. I want to follow the tips, I really do. And I'm always up for an excuse to treat myself to a lunchtime cookie.
But just last Friday, something happened. I was going down the stairs and I tripped. Fell about five stairs before my butt and my hands broke the fall.
Besides being less eco friendly, there are many reasons I will not ride the office elevator. It's old, it's hot, it makes weird noises, it's slow, I feel safer on the Tower of Terror... Anyway, I always take the stairs, but now I have a small vendetta against them too. I don't want Friday's fall to be the precursor to a complete wipeout!
And you can rest assured I rewarded myself with a lunchtime treat anyway.

summertime heat

June has certainly been a hot one for Louisiana. It also serves as a reminder to get your air conditioner checked out to ensure they are running properly for these hot months.

Living on my own is teaching me these things and I finally called maintenance to have them look at our air conditioner. I could tell it was not working to its full potential, leaving it to run nonstop but only cooling off to my set temperature in the middle of the night.

So hopefully as of today, my air conditioner will be back to normal, lowering my electricity bill back down. While I still don't have to pay much, my second month's bill was almost twice as much as my first month's. I'm looking forward to being appropriately energy efficient.

Another step I took to cool my apartment off, especially in the evenings, was inexpensive and stylish. I had a pair of khaki curtains I brought from home that serve as our living room curtains. However, khaki does nothing to block sunlight, so I bought an identical pair in chocolate brown and draped them on the rod together. It has done wonders for blocking light and heat.

So with a thermostat setting I'm sure is still higher than most people like, use of our ceiling fans and curtains that have a function, I'm taking steps to make sure my apartment is as energy efficient during these summer months as possible, and effectively save money on my utility bill. 

linking kind of monday

Sometimes while at work, I'll come across an interesting environment-related site, and I stick it in my Google task bar so I can write about it later.

Yeah, about 10 links later, I've yet to write about any of them, so today you get a whole roundup. Cleaning out the task list!

  • A section of an old Manhattan rail line has been turned into a green space, complete with park benches. They also left parts of the old railway, in an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the green.
  • Tired of receiving multiple phone books, especially when Google is way easier? Put an end to those useless deliveries.
  • Possibly the cutest reusable shopping bags I've seen so far. (Just hard to justify ordering some when I already have a small army of cloth bags.)
  • Can styrofoam really make biodiesel engines run more efficiently? It's about time it did something good. Very interesting, I must say.
  • SunChips is working on creating a completely compostable bag. And they are helping the town of Greensburg, Kansas, one of the premier 'green' towns as a result of a devastating 2007 tornado.
  • You can pretty much clean your house without harmful chemicals.
  • A big contributor to trash are fast food containers, bags, wrappers and the like. A student at the University of the Arts created biodegradable fast food packaging for McDonald's. With them being part of my work life, I would very much love for McDonald's to follow this idea and take a step toward becoming McGreen.
And that's it until next time!

birthday presents

So far, this summer has been fairly eventful. My family went to Disney World for a week and I turned one year older. Since I couldn't go with my family, I made sure to send them off with a list of things to give me as birthday gifts.

I know that Disney has jumped onto the green bandwagon, so I asked them to keep an eye out for anything interesting of the green variety. They did not disappoint.

T-shirts made of organic cotton, note pads and sticky notes made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper and a gorgeous mug with "How to Save the Planet" illustrations. There was also a gift shop in Animal Kingdom that sells purses made of recycled candy wrappers, but one did not make its way home to me (which is okay, since those bags are stupidly expensive for something made of what litters the trash at work.)

One thing I was curious about was if Disney had made any effort to curb the effect of the millions of plastic bags they go through each year. Their bags are now 100% recycled, conveniently stated on the bag in English and Spanish. The bags also point you to Environmentality, dedicated to Disney's environmental mission. I know every other time my family has gone, we've come home with a small mountain of plastic bags with Mickey on them. This year, my parents also chose to get larger bags and use them as shopping bags instead of getting one bag at each store and creating another collection.
Sounds like I just need to become a Green Supervisor in Disney World! I could be all about the organic/recycled merchandising and recycling programs in the happiest place on Earth.

what i plan to do this summer

In this first week of June, I am setting some green goals for myself, in some areas I can improve on.

First, I am going to get back to being styrofoam-free. I had been doing fairly well at bringing my own reusable container to restaurants, but after moving and subsequently visiting restaurants less, it fell by the wayside. While there are many reasons it's better to eat at home anyway, when I do go out to eat, I will make the conscious effort to arm myself with a reusable container. I've gotten in the habit of not ordering a drink where they are served in styrofoam cups (except for the damn daiquiri places...Looks like the end of daiquiris for me.)

Second, since I do eat at home more, I cook more. For myself. It's difficult to make just enough for one or two servings, leaving me with tons of leftovers. I do what I can to not waste food, but sometimes, there's simply too much for one person and I can't eat the same thing for lunch and dinner three days in a row. So my second goal is to do some research on composting. Since food is mostly what I throw out these days, I would love to be able to compost it, but I'm not sure just how feasible it is in an apartment complex. I also don't know what I would do with it once I have compost. I don't have a yard and my parents don't garden. Their next-door neighbors, however, do. I believe there is also a city compost. These are all things I can tackle in my summer compost research.

Third, I'd like to make the effort to conserve more. Energy-wise, I'm doing well at that. The lights in my bedroom and bathroom are CFLs and I need to switch out the dining room soon. I keep the lights off most of the time, especially during the day, and we run the air conditioner on the warmer side, using fans instead. But I'd like to try to consume less waste material, such as packaging or paper. I need to cut out the junk mail since it goes straight to my recycling bin. I need to find products that don't use as much packaging, and simply buy less in the first place, especially if it's not necessary. It's great to reuse and recycle, but I need to start reducing more. It's also a goal I want to try to implement in the office. We throw away too many newspapers immediately after receiving them. There has to be a way we can either not receive them or not receive so many copies. Another of my thoughts is if we have to receive so many, use them for box stuffing instead of buying bubble wrap and brown paper.

At the end of the summer, I'll recap how much I've done.

eco chick

I found the book The Eco Chick Guide to Life last night and decided it would be a great resource. As part of my plan to save money, I bring my lunch to work four days a week, but don't get to enjoy getting out of the office enough. I have decided to spend my lunch hours this week reading parts of this book.

Today I read about beauty products and green tips for all things body-related. I've already made the switch to recycled toilet paper (which also brought me to where I didn't buy any TP at Target over the weekend because I didn't see any recycled options. Note to self, need toilet paper.) I think my next switch may be to organic toothpaste once I finish the tube I have. I don't think this would be a huge change as long as I find a mint flavor organic toothpaste, which I know exists. I have tried organic deodorant, and while I still use it, I can't fully switch over. Right now I alternate between it and my regular deodorant. I already use natural soap from Pure & Natural, and it has an absolutely lovely scent. It's much better than the regular soaps that are full of waxes and other things that no longer make me feel clean. I have been a convert to organic shampoos for about seven months now and I don't miss conventional shampoos at all. My hair is clean, soft and shiny without being exposed to parabens and all the other harmful ingredients in conventional shampoo.

I've written about making the switch in beauty products and this is something I need to adopt in my actual makeup purchases. Physician's Formula is a great eco-conscious brand that isn't terribly expensive, which is great for all of us. But it all needs to happen in due time, as in, when I'm out of my existing makeup. 

Also, I found that Starre, the author of the book, runs a blog of the same name. Another blog to add to my Google reader!

storm preparations

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Hurricane season starts Monday, which for all residents of southern Louisiana means it's time to let out a collective groan and start stocking up on emergency supplies.

This weekend is a Louisiana state tax-free weekend for all hurricane supplies, so of course I'll be out stocking up, so I'm not buying flashlights one day before a hurricane hits. But as with any scenario, I asked myself, how can I do this greener?

When buying flashlights, make sure to get ones with LED bulbs, which are brighter, more efficient and last forever. Lots of emergency flashlights and radios have hand cranks, which I will be keeping an eye out for. This way they either use less or no battery power, saving tons of chemicals from landfills. There's also the option of using candles for light, though I'm not sure scented soy candles officially count as hurricane supplies.

When buying canned food to store, go for the organic options. There's no need to be unhealthy in the event of a power outage - go for the organics! There's pretty much an organic alternative for any food you would need in the event of an emergency.

And the water. Cases of bottled water for $4. When storing water for an emergency, it's easy to just buy a ton of plastic bottles, even though it's terrible for the environment. If you really want bottled water, look for the companies that use less plastic in their packaging. Or you can buy larger containers, such as gallons of water and using your regular glasses to drink from. Or do like my family does and refill containers you already own with water and seal them to make sure nothing gets in (though we always end up with a case of bottles as well). It's also customary to fill the bathtub with water in case you need it for anything else. If you end up not needing that water, don't just pull the plug and let it drain - use that water in your garden! The plants won't mind (if they're still there after a storm!)

So if you live in Louisiana, make sure to get out this weekend and get your hurricane supplies, while still keeping the environment in mind. View FEMA's full supply checklist before you head out.

(And should you need to evacuate, look for a green hotel! And my posts come full-circle!)

green lodging

Since Memorial Day marks the official beginning to summer and since my family is en route to their summer vacation, I figure a hotel-centric post is appropriate.

More and more hotels are becoming eco-friendly, partly through a motivation to become a designated green lodging facility. My father told me the hotel they are staying in on the way to Disney World is one such certified green hotel. Through a search of green Florida hotels, I found a list from the Department of Environmental Protection of all the certified hotels in the state. 

What's great about this list is that it shows you don't have to spend a ton of money to be green on vacation. My family is staying in a Holiday Inn Express - an economical choice.

So while you plan your summer vacation, take into account where you can easily be more eco-friendly. Check out green hotels in your destination area and see if it's possible to make the better choice. 

make it green

Yahoo is having a contest right now where DIY green ideas are submitted and the best ideas could be featured on an episode of Everyday Edisons. Even if you don't have wear the inventor cap too well, the site features all of the submissions and ideas.


all you ladies

Warning: No boyz allowed! Squee! Go away so we can paint our nailz and prank call Timmy!

Some of the most annoying things women must buy are tampons (and other feminine items). They're a necessary evil for many reasons, but one large evil to take into consideration is how bad they are for the environment.

The components aren't safe for the environment, they use plastic and they aren't safe for us women. But what better options are there?

Seventh Generation has a great article about the damaging effects of tampons on the environment and also sells organic tampons. Their site has a store finder, but a search pulled up nothing within a ten mile radius of my zip code. Nevertheless, I will be on the lookout while I'm at health food stores. CVS' website also carries organic tampons, but they are listed as online only. 

This is honestly one green path I have yet to go down, so I can't say if organic tampons comparably do their job (or say if they're ridiculously more expensive than generic tampons), but after reading Seventh Generation's article, they are worth a shot. There has to be something that can do the job without putting toxic materials in girly places. It also makes me want to throw out the toxin-encased-in-plastic ones I have now. But that's still wasteful.

the plastic island

I wrote last week about what happens to plastic bags after we throw them away. Today I found another sobering article, about the plastic island floating in the Pacific Ocean that is now twice the size of Texas.
This is what happens when people are simply careless with trash. I’m sure the majority of this trash is even recyclable and could’ve saved us from using more resources. This is probably the most extreme form of littering, but it still comes down to not dumping that old fast food bag in the parking lot or leaving beer bottles all over the sidewalk after a night out.
It doesn’t a master’s degree to properly dispose of simple items, yet people still don’t care what happens with things when they are through with them. But what I feel is forgotten is that these items don’t just disappear once a person is through with them – they have to go somewhere. And the Pacific Ocean is the one suffering for it.
This has major implications for wildlife, besides just the environment. To the millions of marine animals in the ocean, their home is being taken over by our leftovers. And the trash is making its way into the food chain, killing animals and harming even us. The longer this goes on, the more we’ll end up eating plastic toxins.
When I was younger, I remember being taught to cut the six-pack rings because they can easily strangle animals like turtles and birds. I always threw them away, but made sure to cut them first. You just never know where they’ll end up.
It’s a long but incredibly riveting article. Please take the time to read it. It’s just further evidence in the argument of reducing the materials you use and throw away. The less we use, the less there’s a chance of it being discarded and polluting the earth.

feliz cinco de mayo!

How about an organic margarita tonight?

I will now be on the hunt for 4 Copas organic tequila. You know, for all those times I drink tequila.


greener festivals

This past weekend was Lafayette's biggest festival, Festival International.

Now, Lafayette is not the most eco-forward city around, so I wasn't expecting anything from the Festival. But next to every trash can in the area was a cardboard box dedicated to recycling.

And people did actually use the bins. Lots of people in a small area for one weekend - that's the potential for a lot of waste. And these bins went a long way to reducing that waste.

Turning to another festival (one that I long to go to one day), Austin City Limits has an entire eco-program in the works, the Rock & Recycle. Basically, you participate by doing something on the green list (such as riding the free shuttle, riding your bike or purchasing carbon offsets) and you receive stamps, then get entered to win a hybrid car. It's a great idea to bring some environmental awareness to a huge music festival. Plus, I'm in love with the guitar recycling symbol.


plastic bags

I came across a slideshow about the dangers and negative effects of plastic bags that I think is extremely worthwhile. It is from the Pocono Record and makes you realize what happens to plastic bags after they carry your milk and frozen pizza home once.

Reviewing the slide show makes me feel renewed in my fight against plastic bags and store cashiers who make sure I notice I'm interrupting their pattern. It can annoy me but it won't stop me.

Cloth bags, unite!

10 ways to save the planet

I was sent this link last week on Earth Day and thought it was a change of pace from the standard group of "How to go green" tips.


The link goes into detail on each point. So, there aren't easy solutions to these points, but they do present something to think about.

I was a bit curious on why empowering women was a way to save the world, and it says that "by giving women equal rights we also help create a more sustainable world. Research shows that women who have access to education and rights over their own bodies choose to have fewer children, who they can give more to. Overpopulation is a serious issue, with huge implications for problems like climate change."

While there are many reasons I choose to stay away from motherhood, this is one that kind of surprises me. I think I harp enough on it without bringing "I'm saving the planet" into the mix. But it's a good point - overpopulation does exhaust the planet of its resources.

The tip about a future-forward diet is also timely. "We can greatly decrease our environmental and social footprints by eating locally, organically and mostly meat and dairy free (according to the U.N. report Livestock’s Long Shadow, livestock produce more greenhouse gases than all of the world's transport combined)." My post on vegetarianism is as yet unwritten, but one of these days it'll come around. But anyway, with all of this swine flu business going around, it again brings to the surface how animals are treated in order to get meat meant for consumption.

The list is definitely a thought-provoking one, so please check it out.

beyond the product

When I find great green products while out shopping, I like to mention them here as a way of showing there are green options to just about anything.

Over the weekend I had to buy some baking sheets so I can actually bake cookies in my apartment. I was at Wal-Mart (sigh) looking at their selection. I took notice of the sheets by NordicWare and made the decision to buy them over the Wal-Mart brand, even though they were more expensive.

What really sold me on the baking sheets was not just the natural aluminum, but that the company practices sustainable methods. They focus not just on green products, but green production also. They have won green awards, use Energy Star appliances in their facility, recycle scrap metal, require distribution trucks to not idle at the dock and reuse whatever material they can. They've been doing so for years, which shows they have been committed and don't just flaunt green products because it's now popular.

And I'm happy that companies like these are able to sell their products in mainstream stores. It's becoming easier now to support both green products and green companies. I need to do some research and find other companies that have green practices. And since it doesn't look like I'll stop shopping anytime soon, at least I can be green while doing so.

still working

I recently wrote on my personal blog about how in the past week I bought physical CDs for the first time in awhile. I normally download music these days, but just wanted something tangible lately.

After relentless harassment from a coworker that included points about downloading music being greener than buying CDs, I watched the G Word on Planet Green (woohoo, digital channels!) tonight. The subject? Downloading music being better for the environment than CDs, because CDs don't biodegrade. But the story that followed was about a company that actually turns old CDs into CD cases. Here's where I would link to the company, but I cannot find anything on Planet Green's website and I don't remember the name. I'm terrible. A search of the site did turn up Greendisk, which does take all sorts of technological waste and recycles it.

At least years from now my Silversun Pickups and Tinted Windows CDs can find new life. And I'll be back to downloading music and enjoying the bonus tracks.

earth day 2009

Tomorrow is Earth Day 2009. Planet Green has a great compilation of Earth Day information to help you make the most of it.

I am still sad about missing Vermilionville's Earth Day Festival Sunday, but I am determined to still pitch in tomorrow.

For Wednesday, April 22, 2009, I pledge to:
Use only my Klean Kanteen to drink out of.
Drink my organic milk.
Not eat meat.
Not use any plastic or styrofoam.
Turn on only the lights I need at that moment.
Wear my Go Green Boston t-shirt.
Check out the Disney Earth movie.
Take nature-y photographs and participate in Earth Mosaic 2009.

And of course, some of those have become standard practice, but I still want to focus on them tomorrow.

Oh, and I joined the Earth Day Network.

What do you all plan to do?

alright, alright

I confess. I did not make it to this weekend's Earth Day festivities. Chalk it up to a Friday evening of stupidity. Sleep + contacts = Eye Infection Caitlin. I was somewhat like a vampire, not able to see in the sunlight, hence no driving or public outings.

But, I did receive my free T-shirt in the mail. Does this make up for anything?

My wicked awesome Go Green Boston (maybe I can tape a piece of paper with Lafayette over Boston) T-shirt and my "Allergic to Trash" postcard from the Logan airport can be friends. Massachusetts wants to be green, even if Louisiana doesn't.

mais it's almost earth day, yeah

Earth Day 2009 is almost upon us, and community events are springing up all over the place. Don't have to celebrate alone!

For those of you in Lafayette, Vermilionville is hosting an Earth Day Family Festival on Sunday, April 19, from 10am-3pm. There will be all sorts of activities – fishing, fabric dyeing, guides on growing your own food and a recycle challenge. Since this is south Louisiana, there will of course be a couple bands playing.

I am excited for this, partly because I haven't been to Vermilionville since the last elementary school field trip. And it's Earth Day with a Cajun flair...what could be better? I plan to be there, camera ready.

Also on Sunday, there will be a joint Earth Day benefit concert at Artmosphere and Blue Moon Saloon.

Four Bands/Four Bucks Earth Day benefit. $4 for both venues:
• Artmosphere. 4 p.m. Drew Landry, followed by VoSteen at 6 p.m., Emily Guidry and the Picardy Birds at 8 p.m., and Langolier at 10 p.m. 902 Johnston St. 233-3331.
• Blue Moon Saloon. 4 p.m. The Cell, followed by The Moss Pickers at 5 p.m. and Mike Dean at 7 p.m. 215 E. Convent St. 234-2422.

Go to some, go to all, but do something to show your support for OUR Earth.

see the light

I spent this weekend moving into my new apartment, being green whenever possible.

I was always planning to put CFL bulbs in my new bathroom, but was figuring I'd have to live with looking at five spiral bulbs every day. This weekend I found that GE makes CFL bulbs in the 'classic' light bulb shape. Still energy efficient, but more pleasing to look at. I made the investment and bought the bulbs. I don't regret it for a second, one because I'll be using less energy, and now that I'm the one paying the electric bill, I'm all about saving money. And two, the light is just better - softer and less yellow. I am all about flattering light in the bathroom.

After the bathroom lights were changed, I found some teardrop-shaped lightbulbs at Wal-Mart that are also covered CFLs. They fit perfectly into my overhead light/ceiling fan. I'm so happy that CFLs now come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They no longer have to be used only in standard light sockets. The teardrop lights also give off a softer glow to my bedroom.

Commence saving energy.

get out those old cell phones

I have recently learned that this week is National Cell Phone Recycling Week and the goal is to raise awareness of cell phone recycling. Right now only 1 in 10 are recycled, even though recycling them reduces greenhouse gas emissions and conserves natural resources.

You can either take your phone to a retailer (including Best Buy), or go a charitable route. One of the most popular options is Cell Phones for Soldiers, where your old phone becomes a prepaid calling card for a soldier overseas. Check out the Daily Green's list of other charitable donation options.

In this day and age, we've all got an old phone lying around somewhere. I still have a Motorola from 2003 sitting in a junk drawer. I already recycled my other Samsung by passing it along to my brother. Maybe he will be willing to recycle his old phone...


I have spent much of this weekend packing up my bedroom and getting rid of things I just don't need anymore. It's fitting, then, that today's tip on my green-tip-a-day calendar is about freecycling.

Freecycling is simply taking the items you don't need trading with others to get items you do want or need. And this reminds me of one way I've been acting green since childhood.

My mother and I used to go garage-saling all the time. We would get the classifieds on Thursday, pick the sales that sounded the best, then map our Saturday morning route. Somehow this involved a child willing to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. Anyway, we found so many things over the years - furniture, clothing, toys, books, etc. It's such a great way to recycle - clean out your junk and even make money off it.

My family is actually planning a garage sale in the next month or two so lots of the things I choose to get rid of now are going toward that. So, you know, if you want that Backstreet Boys VHS, call me and I'll save it for you.

Back to Freecycle, check out their network website and find the group nearest to you. I know my region has a Yahoo group that I actually have yet to join. Hey, I'm not perfect!

But in this economy, you look for any way you can save some money. Freecycling is perfect for that, especially if you are in need of something others are giving away.

the electronics chain

If you have plenty of old, outdated electronics, but don't know how to dispose of them (without involving a dumpster, of course), Wired has a great summary of electronics recycling options and processes.

The first one they list is Best Buy's fairly new recycling program for all sorts of electronics. A few weeks ago, my boss bought a used computer online. Fine and dandy, but the massive, ancient monitor was busted. I mentioned the recycling program at Best Buy, but the monitor was in the dumpster before I could say much else.

That's where my recycling renegade moment came in. With the help of a coworker, we unlocked and almost fell in the dumpster to retrieve the monitor. We were successful and I brought the monitor to Best Buy. For certain items, they charge a $10 recycling fee, but offset it with a $10 gift card (which I later used to buy an eco-friendly iPod case.)

The whole process was very easy though, so kudos to Best Buy for embracing the responsibility. Hopefully more stores will soon follow and electronics recycling won't seem so elusive anymore.

a day without shoes

This is slightly off the green path, but it's another cause I like to support.

TOMS Shoes is coordinating A Day Without Shoes on April 16. Go barefoot on the way to the water cooler, to the mailbox, in an afternoon meeting or on your lunch break; go barefoot for the entire day or long enough to raise awareness.

It's not too much to ask and it raises awareness for children who don't have their own pair of shoes. TOMS' mission is to give a child a pair of shoes for every pair they sell.
Fact #1: In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to food, clean water and to seek medical help.
Fact #2: Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.
Fact #3: Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.
Fact #4: In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.
Fact #5: Podoconiosis is 100% preventable by wearing shoes.
Check out the information in the link above and show your support by kicking off your shoes for a little while. And if you often wear heels like I do, it's a nice little break (you'll just be a few inches shorter for awhile.)
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