the workplace

The office in which I work is pretty eco-unfriendly. I am doing my part, but with the dynamics of the space, there's so much more I want to do but can't.

The one plus I see is that we moved offices fairly recently, into a 100-year-old building. At least we are using an existing, semi-historic building, even though it's not energy efficient.

Last summer I implemented a recycling system. We go through enormous amounts of paper, cans and plastic. For a few months, I kept all of my waste paper and would bring it home once a week or so. But I was already changing my habits and conserving more. A few phone calls later and a lovely blue 96-gallon container was in our back area. I became the one in charge of bringing the container down for pickup each week. We also have a can designated for recycling by the printers that fills up fairly quickly. It's great that we recycle as much as we do, but it's not even as much as we could be recycling. Sometimes people just aren't willing to get up to recycle paper when there's a trash can within arm's reach.

In the nature of our business, we receive a lot of newspapers from around the area. And we receive multiple copies of some magazines with different employee names on each. The majority of these go straight in the recycling bin. We take what we need from the newspapers, but they all get tossed not long after arriving. But, we buy bubble wrap and rolls of brown paper for when we need to ship things. I believe my next scheme for this office will be to convince them to stop buying stuffing paper when we have tons of newspaper available to do the same thing. 

As I've mentioned previously, we have lots of computers, mostly Apples, which are fairly energy efficient, but which are never turned off. I understand there are nightly backups to be done, but they don't take all night, and the majority of the computers sit each night with screen savers going. But, since I've got one ally in the office who happens to be "IT", we've managed to solve most of the problem. Now each computer is set to sleep after the backup is complete, saving a great amount of energy each night. (And causing said coworker to call it the computer slumber party.)

There are four flat screen televisions throughout the office, all of which are on every day and one of which is on all the time. (That one is in the boss' office and is specifically requested to stay on, even if he's not here.) The only thing is, no one actually watches the TVs. I can see one TV from my desk, but can't actually read any news headlines. But, they are supposed to be on every day; my eternal question "Why?" goes unanswered. 

There are at least 30 windows in the space. On top of that, there are 12 warehouse-strength lights hanging from the ceiling. On top of those, there is one wall lined with eleven desk lamps - and no one works at those desks. There are two rooms that have lights that stay on (unless I sneak and turn them off) even though no one stays in them. When people do go in the rooms, they don't turn the light off when they leave. The one day over the summer we left the warehouse lights off, everyone else complained it was too dark. Plus, the windows are around 100 years old - they are not energy efficient. They leak air worse than a punctured tire.

Also, this is Louisiana. It's hot in the summer. We have four massive air ducts that blow air throughout the open space. But, one duct doesn't work, and the three that do aren't managed properly. Some areas are constantly hot while some (mine) are constantly cold. In the winter, when we use the heaters, it's still cold. We have 15-foot ceilings and heat rises. Needless to say, I am always cold in here and bought a sweater that stays here.

We print. A lot. While many people are in the habit of printing double sided, there are still times where pages of just email signatures come through. Or there's a printer error that causes things to go haywire. (I have actually created a binder full of still-usable printer error sheets that I use to make notes and task lists.) Many people print emails that don't need to be printed, or if they lose something, they just print it again. Conservation really isn't a word used around here.

And of course, I am seen as the crazy one because I make an effort to not leave a giant carbon footprint in my workspace. I have had to fight to keep the recycling bin around - which by the way, I won.

how i spent my earth hour

It's amazing how peaceful a Saturday evening can be when you just turn off the lights for an hour. My hour consisted of makeup by candlelight, a little bit of Twittering, getting dressed and just sitting in my candlelit room enjoying the quiet. My bedroom was quite fragrant at the end of the hour. It put me in a better frame of mind, just in time for sitting in a smoky college bar listening to my boyfriend's band.

Even at the bar, the college-age bartenders were talking about Earth Hour and I just had to join in the conversation. They said they didn't know how to turn off lights in the bar for an hour and I helpfully suggested they turn off the Budweiser light over the beer pong table (I am too old for this.) I also suggested turning off the lights and just having a row of Flaming Dr. Peppers along the bar for light. It's appropriate, is it not?

Flickr has some great shots of Earth Hour around the world, so feel free to pretend to work as you peruse all the pictures.

powering down

The 2009 PC Energy report is out and the findings are quite interesting.

About half of the 108 million office computers in the United States are not properly shut down each night. U.S. companies are spending about $2.8 billion each year simply by leaving computers on overnight. And, if the world’s 1 billion PCs were powered down for just one night, it would save enough energy to light the Empire State Building – inside and out – for more than 30 years.

I do have to say, I work in an office where the computers are left on overnight. We run nightly backups of all our data, and I'm not in a position to go against that. But I have set my work computer's energy settings to be as efficient as possible. I believe the CPU powers down around midnight, well after the backups are complete. And I'm pretty sure I'm one of the only ones to even give it a second thought. As the USA Today article says, many employees don't care about the energy expenditures because they don't feel responsible. (Which is true for more than just energy saving, but that's for another rant.)

Saving energy and money is as simple as powering down when you don't need it on. Your email doesn't need to be automatically checked every three minutes in the middle of the night if you're not going to check it until morning anyway.


Today at Target I saw a display containing picture frames and coasters made out of albums and circuit boards. After looking at them closer, to see if they were actually recycled albums and circuit boards, I noticed they were from TerraCycle. I've come across TerraCycle's website before and found it interesting. They will take certain used items and pay you a small amount for each of them, which they then use to create new items. What I really enjoy is how Target now carries their recycled products.

And my new apartment will now feature six coasters made of albums, one of which is All Saints and one of which is Debelah Morgan's single "Dance With Me."


bad styrofoam

I have always heard about how styrofoam is absolutely terrible for the environment. On top of that, I simply hate the screeching sound it makes when you rub it against itself.

A few months ago, I decided to take a proactive stance against every restaurant in town putting leftovers in styrofoam to-go boxes. First, I asked if there were any other options; a few told me they had plastic boxes, which are at least recyclable.

But since not everyone had alternative options, I went a step further and bought a small but still big enough Rubbermaid container (still plastic but reusable) to bring to restaurants. It took a while to get in the habit of remembering it each week, but I was determined to hold my ground. I haven't had much fuss from waiters, mostly because I don't wait for them to offer to box my leftovers. I have had thoughts about drafting a letter to send to local restaurants asking them to at least consider more environmentally friendly options, such as biodegradable containers, even offering websites for them to look at. It hasn't happened yet, but that's not to say I still may do it.

This morning in the office, biscuits were ordered for employees who wanted one. And when they arrived, each biscuit was in a separate small styrofoam container - as opposed to previous times when they came in one larger box. It confused me as to the change in container, especially a change much more wasteful and harmful to the environment. That's just six more containers to sit in a landfill for the next few thousand years.

I guess this means, though, that I'm the treehugger armed with my Klean Kanteen and Rubbermaid takeout box. Don't mess with the reusable power!

world water week

March 22-28 is World Water Week and UNICEF has a project where they supply water to children in places where water is scarce. The Tap Project supports UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene programs. For every dollar raised, a child will have 40 days of clean drinking water.

If you want to help out, you have two options. You can click the link above and donate through the website, or you can search for a restaurants in your area that are participating. Should you choose restaurant, for the rest of this week, you simply donate a dollar for each glass of water you order. Extremely simple and extremely needed by children who don't have ready access to clean water.

this saturday

Sign up, show your support, read in the dark, take a nap, watch the stars, whatever you want to do for an hour - this Saturday evening is Earth Hour.

You don't even have to turn everything electrical off, just flip off your light switches and vote for the earth!

Throw away your television, salivate to repetition, alleviate this ill condition now. It's a repeat. - Red Hot Chili Peppers

recycling recession

It seems like every day there is more news about falling price values, and the recycling industry is not immune to that. I read an article in the New Orleans CityBusiness back in November about their residential service cutting cardboard and glass from the list of accepted items. About two months ago, our city's recycling program had to begin charging for monthly commercial service because they just couldn't stay profitable. As the director told me, and I had read elsewhere, recycling was going for about $200 a ton just last summer and is now going for about $25 a ton.

And it's frustrating that recycling is being compromised because of the economy. I know there's always more to it than what I see, but I hate that it's almost like giving up because it's not profitable. It seems like when times are hard, it would be the easier option to go for reused/recycled things.

I could not imagine, after all I've learned, to have no choice but to go back to throwing everything away. If I think about it, probably 95% of what I dispose is recyclable. I can't physically put a piece of paper in the trash anymore, knowing it can easily go to making something else.

So the more I think about the hardships of these recycling programs, it becomes apparent that the need to conserve is becoming more important. It's great that so many people are recycling, but it's to the point where conserving is an even better option. I can think offhand how much paper is wasted by having a useless last page of a printout, usually containing two lines of an email signature, or by not printing double-sided. Or how many water bottles could simply be refilled and reused instead of getting a new one every time. I can't imagine how many water bottles I've avoided since I began using my Klean Kanteen. And I need to become more observant over how to save sheets of paper here and there.

And beside creating new conservation habits, the other solution is to actually buy items with recycled materials. What's the point of recycling if we don't actually use the recycled product? Recycled items are becoming more common, even if it's just a shampoo bottle made of recycled plastic. Plastic and paper can be made into so many new things. I even have an umbrella made from recycled plastic.

I hope the economy can get straightened out soon, for many different reasons, but also for the added bonus of having profitable recycling programs. They are important to the future of the planet and if they can't survive, we're all just taking one giant step back.

beau soleil

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's architecture department, among others, has been working on building a solar house. I'm not terribly educated on the entire process, but I know it's been in the works for awhile now. Over the weekend I saw a billboard for the website and remembered to check it out.

Their mission is to build a house that is environmentally sustainable, a uniquely regional work of architecture and a marketable prototype for housing. According to the website, it should be completed in September, and I am excited to see how it turns out.

I'm also happy to see the university embracing a project like this, especially for entry in the Solar Decathlon. I'll be sure to follow the progress of this house and hopefully be able to visit myself (and get more ideas for my own house, which is light years away.)

natural beauty

I visited one of the top women's amusement parks this weekend, the place known as Sephora. With a gift card from Christmas still burning a hole in my wallet, I headed in on a mission to find all natural or organic beauty items.

Makeup has been one area where I haven't yet completely transitioned to the green side. I wasn't going to throw all the makeup I currently have out, as that would be wasteful and none of it is terribly old. But I knew Sephora had great natural brands, and they did not disappoint.

One brand I am kind of falling in love with is Korres, a natural brand straight from Greece. Half the packaging is even written in Greek, further making me want to up and take a holiday in Santorini. They have a lot of cleansing and toning products, as well as actual makeup. The cleanser I got is silicone-free. And I got pomegranate makeup remover wipes, because I am nothing if not a sucker for ANYTHING pomegranate (Hi Burt's Bees pom chapstick! Love you!)

Another brand I found is Juice Beauty. All of their products are certified USDA Organic. Hello, isn't that awesome? I've heard it millions of times, but I'll repeat it here: your skin is very important and the products you use on it daily should make it as healthy as possible. Juice Beauty's stuff is wax-free, which really helps with complexion because it's light and airy and your skin can breathe.
So my first foray into quality natural/organic beauty products was a success. I'm already making plans for the next trip, which may well include a Lavanila fragrance.

Now it's time for me to try everything out and see how much better natural products are, without all kinds of synthetic products that just don't have my skin's and the earth's best interests at heart.


I am somewhat of a shopaholic. Since I've started my green journey, I've realized that I can still be a consumer but I just need to be more informed and logical about the things I buy.

I've been doing well looking for organic or eco-friendly items for when I move out. It takes a little longer to find things because the first or easiest options I find aren't the best for the planet. But, with a little searching and the help of my friend Mr. Google, I manage to find good products that are good for the earth.

Anyway, I'm a slave to my iPod, which in itself is fairly eco-friendly. And I've been downloading music more from iTunes instead of buying physical CDs, saving resources. But back to the iPod (call him Sebastien, thankyou)... the case I had for it was falling apart and needed to be replaced. I'd held off on buying a new one because I was looking for a greener option. I didn't want acrylic or silicone and that's about all the stores in town have. Finally today I found a great option.

This green leather case is really pretty and very soft. Imoeba, the company, makes cases for different size iPods and Best Buy carries a few of them. The one I bought was actually the last on the shelf. I debated that one or a different brand's eco option in black. I chose well on accident, as the Imoeba case was half the price of the other one. And proceeds from Imoeba products are contributed to Earth 911. So, $16 dollars for a pretty new case so I can stop dropping Sebastien on the floor at work. In the end it cost me $6, as I had a Best Buy gift card.

I think the best part is that my gift card was from when I brought an old computer monitor in for recycling. Best Buy has to charge $10 for certain items to be recycled, but they'll give you a gift card for the same amount. So I recycled a computer monitor and used the discount toward a recycled leather iPod case. I suppose it couldn't have worked out better. (Just means that Tinted Windows CD won't cost me $2 anymore, but that's for another blog.)

Now just imagine how treehuggery I felt at the gym today with my green iPod case in one hand and my Klean Kanteen in the other.

one of my favorites

One of the biggest problems these days is the abundance of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills, where they will pretty much stay forever.

And this is probably one of the easiest eco problems to solve, in my opinion. Even just reusing that plastic water bottle a few times helps tremendously. And I did so for a few months, but last September, I went a step further.

I discovered the website and all of the eco-friendly items they sell. It was there I found the Klean Kanteen. The Kanteens come in all sizes, all colors and a variety of tops. I chose the 18oz orange one. I'll buy just about anything orange. And then I chose the flat top for office use and sport top for gym use. One week later, my package arrived - a used Verizon Blackberry box and sale papers. It was then I was officially in love with Buy Green. 

It took a little time to get used to bringing my Kanteen to the gym, but even if I forgot, I refused to use the styrofoam cup and plastic straw and lid. It wasn't hard to adjust to filling it every morning and carrying it to work (in my cloth lunch bag). And so every day, I have my Kanteen with me. Sometimes I'll even bring it to lunch instead of ordering a drink.

So for an upfront cost of about $30, including the Kanteen, an extra cap and shipping, I have ceased using plastic water bottles. Even if I used just one water bottle a day, that's approximately 210 water bottles I have kept out of a landfill and even out of the recycling bin.

And that makes my green heart happy.

growing up greener

For the past few weeks I have been on the hunt for apartment furnishings. (Yay!) I figure there's no better time for environmentally friendly home things than when you're moving.

I'm very happy to have found green bath options on Bed Bath and Beyond's website, namely, a shower curtain, shower liner and bath mat. The problem appears when the items aren't carried at the stores as well. I had to resort to ordering online, using boxes and packaging, plus energy for UPS to bring them to myself. And of course, my three items came in two boxes. I now can mummify myself in brown paper.

But, I was set on finding environmentally friendly items and that's what I bought. I am in love with my shower curtain and rug. I was pleasantly surprised to see the curtain came in a reusable zippered bag and is much softer than the picture lets on. The shower curtain liner is free of chlorine and odors. There may be a slight problem affixing it to the shower curtain as the buttons on the curtain and the grommeted holes on the liner are the same size. I may end up buying ribbon to tie the curtain to the shower rod.

And you bet I'll be using the brown paper to wrap breakables when I start packing. There's absolutely no sense to get rid of it.

So in addition to those three items, I have amazingly soft organic towels from Target and a nifty conservation illustration to hang on the wall. The next things on my list are a recycled glass toothbrush holder, soap dish and whatever else goes around the sink. And I will clean my green bathroom with safe cleaning products.

Now to see if the apartments use low-flow showerheads, and if not, how I could convince them to let me install one...

alright, samsung

You get a pass this time. While looking for a PDF of my new phone's manual, I noticed on the website my new phone's charger is Energy Star-rated. I suppose I can live with that.

And by the way, thanks for the PDF manuals. Now I actually know where you buried the All Calls menu. I understand the media mall and Yellow Pages app are important enough for the main screen, but anything relating to a phone call should be three menus deep.

industry problems

I got a new cell phone last night (yay full keyboard!) and part of my reasoning for purchasing another Samsung was because I expected to be able to use the same car charger.

When I mentioned that to the customer service rep, she told me that it was not the same type of charger. When going from one Samsung slider to a new Samsung slider, the size of the charge port changed and I have a completely different wall charger.

Why must this be the norm? Why can't chargers at least be universal across all of a brand's phones? It is ridiculous to me that I have to buy a new car charger to accommodate my new phone. It does make sense that it is a good portion of business for cell phone companies to have to buy a new suite of accessories for each new phone, but it is extremely wasteful. I turned down the new car charger, because at least for awhile this battery will hold a charge for a long time.

One good thing that comes from this is that I may pass down my previous phone to my younger brother. It's still in great shape (I got a few comments on how nice my phone looked after two years) and can easily be switched to his number. In that case, I can also pass down my car charger to him instead of figuring out how to dispose of it.

But honestly, it's not necessary to change charger types with each phone made, especially within one brand. I love Samsung phones and all, but I'm not pleased with this. I think that could increase brand loyalty, as it was a reason I didn't look harder at other phones. I'm sure there are others who would like to be able to use their accessories with more than one phone. And I'm still annoyed they moved the menu button from the left side to the right. Help a girl out here!

steps toward conservation

I have been to the state of Massachusetts exactly once in my life, but having two close friends there means I get lots of state news.

Today, the state signed an agreement to cut down on the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. Part of the plan is to offer incentives to shoppers who use reusable bags. According to the article, one incentive is to offer shoppers five cents for each bag they bring on their own.

The interesting thing about this is how my area grocery stores have been doing this for years. I remember being about seven years old and going with my parents to Albertson's and Delchamp's (which, man that place has been closed a long time) with our cloth bags and getting five cents off for each bag. We fell out of practice for a few years, but when the stores started offering their new cloth bags, we started using them again. And Albertson's still gives me five cents for each bag, even if I don't use them all.

The only thing is that, most of the time, I'm the only person walking around with a wad of cloth bags at the store. Some stores are more open to the bags than others. The girl at Bed Bath and Beyond thanked me for using a cloth bag (for my water pitcher filter, no less). The people at Wal-Mart only half listen and act pained to be broken of the routine.

It will take a long time for the majority of consumers to embrace the practice of either using cloth bags or using plastic bags more than once, but I think more incentives like these could help. Some people just have to be the ones to get the ball rolling. I think even just promotion of these incentives could help.

Consumers just need to learn that plastic bags can have more than one life. I finally convinced my boyfriend last year to not throw them away after one trip home, and he now uses them instead of whole kitchen trashbags for cat litter. I use them for small trashcans, which could pose a problem when I'm living on my own, as I refuse to even bring them home from the store. But that can be a post for another day.


One of my earliest memories of being an environmentalist comes from sixth grade. Once a week or so, my teacher would read a portion of the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. I remember being so enthralled with the book and its tips that I bought my own copy from a used bookstore. I wish I still had that book, but I haven't seen it in years.

I remember a lot of the tips were things like turning off lights when you leave a room, using the three Rs and not wasting paper. I may have hated carrying the three recycling bins to the curb each week, but I knew that it was all helping the planet. And while those things seem like common practice to me now, I think that book had a lot to do with the shaping of who I would become many years later. Now, I can't imagine leaving every light on even if I am not around, but things like that will be the subject of many future posts.

So now, while not armed with that book, I am armed with The Green Book. And I'm ready to continue my mission of caring for and saving the environment. I made an active decision for 2008 to focus on being environmentally friendly. I'm very happy with the things I accomplished that year, even if just on a personal level, and I've continued that goal into 2009.

The environment is my passion. This space is all about my thoughts, my practices and things I learn in an effort to restore this planet to its natural beauty.
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