earth day festival

I missed it last year due to a freak eye infection, but this year I made sure I attended the Earth Day Festival at Vermilionville. It was this past Sunday and it was a nice little afternoon. I hadn't been to Vermilionville since, oh, the last time my class took a field trip there. Probably 4th or 5th grade.

Anyway, there were tables set up for different aspects of the green lifestyle throughout the village. I got a cloth bag, plenty of brochures, and talked to some great people. Finally, not talking to myself about being eco-friendly!

I've got some ideas about where I want to go next in my environmental quest and I'm ready to put them into action!

Until then, enjoy the 40th Earth Day and some photos from the festival this past weekend.

The lovely and brown Vermilion River.
Green Living section of the festival.

The sweet little ferry ride across the bayou. Completely eco-friendly, as it involves pulling yourself by rope to the other side.

Solar display. I'm fascinated.

Green living tables.

Where the sidewalk ends.




Today, April 15, Starbucks is giving away a free brewed cup of coffee to anyone who brings in their reusable mug.

Visit their site and make the pledge to help make a difference.

And I learned that you can bring your reusable mug in anytime and get 10 cents off any coffee order.


As I occasionally shop for cold medicines, one thing always comes to mind. Why, exactly, does every single liquid medicine come with a dosage cup? In the first place, there should at least be a universal dosage measuring system so you could use one cup for any medicine. And for the argument that you either lose the cups or you need more than one, I feel like you should just be able to buy replacement dosage cups as necessary. If people just throw them away when the medicine is over, then medicines need to carry “Please recycle this dosage cup” labeled on it.

I live on my own and I’m on bottle 2 of my nighttime cold medicine and bottle 3 or 4 of my sore throat medicine. And in my bathroom cabinet is 5 dosage cups. I am but one person. What am I going to do with 5 dosage cups? Line up shots and call it a party? As much fun as that sounds, I do have to go to work in the morning.

Why can’t medicines not come with a dosage cup by default and replacements be sold separately? That way, they would be used more on an as-needed basis and lots of plastic could be used for something else. Is there an actual, concrete reason every bottle of cold medicine comes with its own dosage cup, or is it just a standard practice?

what i've learned

I feel like I'm writing a final thesis on my six weeks of vegetarian research. Easter was today and my official stint as a vegetarian has come to an end. I will, however, be continuing my meatless diet, because I enjoyed the time and the new recipes and missed eating meat less than I thought I would.

I've thought about it many times over the past six weeks, why I wanted to go vegetarian. I'm not discounting animal cruelty and welfare, but it wasn't the main reason. It was a lot of thinking how I rarely cooked with meat in the first place and I always strive to eat healthy, so eliminating meat was a logical idea. What I found was that I cut out trips to fast food places and ate healthier at restaurants. But I also found I ate at restaurants less and opted to eat at home. My grocery trips were much more fun when looking for organic, vegetarian options. I made (almost) vegan lasagna last week and it came out delicious. Tofu, organic spinach, organic lasagna noodles, organic tomato sauce. The only thing I cheated on was using regular mozzarella cheese instead of a vegan substitute, because I just couldn't find an acceptable substitute.

I learned more about alternative ways to get protein, and have eaten even more hummus than usual. I also ate chickpeas with more of my meals, and have shelled edamame in my freezer. I limited the amount of fish and seafood I ate, but didn't give it up completely. (I can quit burgers much more easily than I can quit sushi - even though I have conducted a mini survey of the veggie rolls in town. It was very tasty research.)

Through my research, I found two great magazines, VegNews and Vegetarian Times. I also came across a book of veggie burger recipes, even though I've yet to go through it. I suppose the piece de resistance is my viewing of Food, Inc. tonight. I know that'll throw a lot of new thoughts into the mix.

The biggest thing right now that sticks in my mind about the animal industry is the sheer amount of grain and energy it takes to raise these animals (cruelly) for the sole purpose of making meat to sell. All this food going to the animals, all the water it requires to make that food and give to the animals, plus the energy it takes to run the factories - it uses more resources than we even have. If more Americans switched to a plant-based diet, world hunger would decrease dramatically. Basically, we are taking all this grain and giving it to the animals we're going to kill and eat ourselves. Instead of giving the grain to humans who have nothing. Plant-based diets are simply more sustainable for the planet and its inhabitants.

Now, if I may get back to my Sunday night cinematic feature...

earth hour 2010

Mark your calendars: two weeks from now, Saturday, March 27, is Earth Hour 2010. From 8:30 to 9:30 your time, turn your lights out in support of Earth Hour. 23 states have signed up so far (not including Louisiana, shockingly) and a bunch of celebrities are showing their support.

You don't have to turn everything off, just non-essential lighting. You could take a nap, lay out in your backyard and stare at the stars, sit inside and watch the rain (hey I'm not a meteorologist, I don't know what the weather will be like next weekend), read by candlelight, drink a bottle of (organic) wine, pay bills by candelight...


brushing the dust off

Okay, so I fell off the wagon again. Please accept my sincere, biodegradeable apologies.

I haven't been doing much outside of my standard green routine - recycling, Klean Kanteen, saving paper, but even so, I'm not doing enough to make myself happy. I still haven't gotten in the habit of taking a reusable container with me to restaurants for leftovers. I haven't figured out a way to gently convince other people to do a little more, and I end up just watching people toss paper and water bottles in the trash. Because my city took away most of the fire station recycling drop-offs, I don't empty my home recycling often, and it just piles up (even though the place I drop it off now is half a mile away and next door to my boyfriend's house.)

The main thing I've been doing is my six-week period as a vegetarian. It is going very well and I find I even eat healthier snacks (except for Cadbury mini eggs.)

So, I need to get back into doing more and learning about more ways to be environmentally friendly. Soon I'll post a list of great books and websites that I use in my journey.

I have noticed that since I became committed to the environment, my brain is hard-wired differently. I cannot bring myself to throw something away unless it's absolutely not recyclable. I'm looking at you styrofoam. I save plastic bags for recycling and small trashcan liners. I hoard boxes. (Boy, do I hoard boxes.) I have tissue paper to last until my brother's 30th birthday (he's 18.) All this leads up to the urge I got to clean out my closet. The top shelves, where I store all of my extra junk and holiday decorations. This weekend and tonight, I pulled everything down, went through it, grouped it, put it in boxes and labeled it. I magically have a large hole on my shelf now from all the streamlining I did. Amazingly, I barely threw away anything. But it was difficult because there is always a pile of "Now what to do with this!?" And I just cannot throw anything away. I think it ended up going in a box labeled "miscellaneous", but at least it's somewhere and labeled. I flattened my extra boxes for future possible use. I found the super glue my boyfriend gave me a few weeks ago. I've got an "art station" with all of my paint, can tabs, wine corks and bottle caps for future recycled material projects. My next art project, however, will involve film canisters.

This has somehow become a stream-of-consciousness post and for that I'm sorry. I just don't have any tips coming to mind at the moment. I'll get back to that too, I promise.

hooray veggies

I've been toying with the idea of going vegetarian for awhile now. The thing that always holds me back is that reoccurring craving of a cheeseburger. I love a good cheeseburger. However, when I cook at home, more often than not, I end up making meatless dishes, because it's quicker, cheaper and more difficult to screw up/give myself food poisoning.

When I was a child, my father became vegetarian, so in a sense, I've already done it for a period in my life. All I really remember was the lack of a tasty tofu dog in 1993. Of course I'm not sure any tofu dogs are made for eight-year-olds.

Anyway, I was at a Greek restaurant last week, enjoying some spinach pies and a vegetable pita sandwich, when the idea came back to me. Lent is coming up next week, why not give up meat? It's already not an option for some of those days, why not just go all out?

Once I made up my mind I took to the kitchen to do a rundown of all the meat products I need to keep frozen or eat before next Wednesday. Thanks to that I've been eating sausage jambalaya for four straight days and finally finished today. I separated all of my bookmarked recipes so the vegetarian ones are in a special folder.

And now I'm on my last hurrah - getting in my last cravings before it's veggies and seafood for six weeks. I have to admit, my last hurrah isn't that hardcore - a turkey sandwich tonight and chicken nuggets for lunch tomorrow.

Treehugger had a great article today about being a weekday vegetarian, where as the name implies, you only eat meat on weekends. It cuts down on meat consumption enough to make an impact, but you won't have to swear it off forever. Paul McCartney has also started a Meat-free Monday campaign, though it's not as much of an impact as cutting out meat five days of the week.

Reducing meat consumption helps to slow global warming, reduce carbon emissions, fight global hunger and improve animal welfare. Plus, it'll save you money and possibly keep you from getting sick. In these times, it's not complete culinary torture to give up meat - there are so many delicious vegetarian dishes. It's not just tofu or bust!

So, February 17 - April 4. Let's do this!

gifts with heart

I discovered World of Good during my Christmas shopping this past season and fell in love with the entire site. Every item they carry is eco-friendly, fair trade or sustainably produced. And they have so many great things.

Since this is the Wednesday before Valentine's Day, my eco-friendly tip is to check out the site if you need gift ideas. Though with shipping times, I probably should've done this LAST Wednesday!

Anyway, they have a huge variety of items that are great for any sort of gift you need to buy. And you'll feel good knowing your gift is doing good in the world, whether supporting workers in India, or using recycled materials. It's always a bonus when you can help multiple people with one gift!

collected stuff

Cleaning out my Google tasks list and I came across a ton of links I saved for the purpose of blogging.

I just realized I never wrote about Discovery Green in Houston, Texas. I was there for Halloween weekend, Taking the Walk, and we passed this beautiful area with some sculptures that I took a picture of. When I got home, I did a little research and found the area is called Discovery Green and is an official Houston Green Space. It's LEED Gold certified and is a 12-acre park that is neighbors to the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park and the convention center. There are a bunch of different features of the park, and if I wrote about them all, we'd be here for days. Check out their site to see just how awesome it is.

Amazon has a fantastic compilation that supports 1% for the Planet. I previewed the tracks earlier and cannot wait to purchase the whole album. There are 41 tracks and it's only $7.99. Please check it out; all proceeds go to 1%. And one of the bands is from Louisiana - glad to see Sons of William representing Louisiana on a compilation like this.
Ecosia is a search engine that donates their revenue to saving the rainforest. You can install the search engine to have it become your default and do good each time you have a search urge, which face it - WE ALL DO.
I wrote a post on my personal blog last Mardi Gras about just how much trash the holiday and its parades generated.
The rest of it? I don't know if it's possible to truly make Mardi Gras a
green holiday, unless every parade-goer intends to change their own habit. It is
impossible to convince every person along the route to pick up their own trash
once they leave. It seems like common sense, but sometimes I feel I'm
overestimating a large group of people. It's an idea I do not like, but people
have to want to change themselves, and I'm not sure the Mardi Gras crowd is the
group to turn green. If they intend to set up camp on the sidewalk with a card
table full of food, they are going to use disposable plates/forks/napkins/cups,
and chances are, everything not in a trash bag will end up on the ground.
Well, there's a group I found recently, known as the Green Monkeys, and I was visiting their website when I noticed one of the events on their calendar is for February 16. They will be picking up the trash left behind by Mardi Gras parades, accompanied by wagons and a marching band. They'll recycle the cans and donate the money to EarthShare Gardens. When I read it, I wished I would actually be in town for Mardi Gras this year (instead, hola, Tejas!) but I'll just have to be there in spirit.

restaurant "gifts"

Alright, I know it's Thursday. And I only have a decent excuse for not posting last night. I took the afternoon off work because I wasn't feeling well and promptly slept most of it away. And then I was just lazy.

Anyway, here we go on this week's eco suggestion.

Take what you can from restaurants! Now before you go putting plates and spoons in your purse as you leave, continue reading. Restaurants are pretty notorious for bringing a stack of "extra" napkins the height of the Sears Tower. But if you don't use them all, they all still get thrown away. So take the ones you don't use! What's the point of letting unused napkins go in the trash? Bring them home, keep them in the car or in your purse, or put them in your desk drawer. Napkins will always find a way to get used. Extra straws? Extra plastic utensils (which are really a beast unto themselves)? Bring them with you!

Sugar/Splenda packets are also fair game, if you request some and they bring you more than enough. But I can't advise dumping the whole sugar caddy in your bag. Sorry!

And if you're in a fast food restaurant, don't throw those extra seven ketchup packets away! If they give you a handful, use the whole handful, even if that means six months later you're using that last packet that's been sitting in your fridge.

The whole point is to use what the restaurants gave you and would throw away if left behind. They can't use your leftovers for public health reasons, but you can use them! And napkins and ketchup packets add up quickly and come in handy. Right there, you've saved a ton of waste from landfills, without costing you anything more than the price of dinner.

it's wednesday!

First off, a little bit of housekeeping is necessary.

Thanks to reader Joshua's comment on last Wednesday's post, I checked out Red Plum's website and removed myself from their mailing list. It takes "5-6 weeks" to take effect, and I'm watching you and my mail slot, Red Plum. There was only one grocery store circular I read, and it's available to read on their company website, so there's that. Anyway, on the Red Plum website, you click on Contact and follow the link to be removed from the mailing list. My next hurdle is the phone book.

I didn't watch all of President Obama's address tonight, but I did see the segment on clean energy and green jobs. I particularly enjoyed the jab at those who don't believe in climate change despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and the comment that even if you don't believe in climate change, it's not an excuse to continue wasteful practices. (Sorry to my napping boyfriend whose ear I cheered in.)

This week's issue of The Independent is dedicated to green subjects, interviews, and news. I'll let some of the features serve as this week's tips. Edward Cazayoux, a former UL architecture professor has some green building suggestions that save energy and money in the long run. I'm not here to mess with copyrights, so click that little link above and check it out. There are some interviews as well with four environmental guys in the area that I find pretty interesting. This city is really not known for its progressive environmental stance, but I think The Independent has done a pretty good job of showing that there is some action being taken.

This kind of brings me to add to what they've written about this week. If you're starting a new project, like renovating your home or buying a car or renting a hotel room, do some research. It doesn't have to be thesis-quality, but just get online and check out the greener options. Even if you don't end up choosing the greener route, at least you'd have a reason for it, besides just not knowing there are other options.

hold the mail

Tons of everyday mail is unsolicited. Advertising people (like me) call it direct mail. Consumers (like me) call it junk. Direct mail really can be effective, but it has to be done right. And most of the time, it's just not.

Since I moved I started getting my own set of weekly salepapers, known as the Tuesday Junk. Three times now, I have received four exact same letters from an insurance company, return-addressed from four different representatives near my house. After the second instance, I wrote a letter and mailed all of the junk mail back to that company. I also tweeted it and the company replied to me, telling me where on their website I could look for help.

But help it did not, as this week, I received another set of four duplicate letters. Hilariously, I already use this company and met with a representative today about some things I needed to take care of. I brought the four letters with me, and gave them to her during our meeting. She got on the phone immediately to have them stop sending the letters. It's a waste of money and a waste of paper. And since I already pay this company money, I didn't want them spending it to send me junk mail four times over.

So. Weekly tip.

Find out how you can reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. If you don't get a terribly huge amount, or you know which company it comes from, you can contact the company directly. While you are requesting to be removed from the list, you can also suggest a way for them to make their marketing more effective. I've also received multiple postcards for a home security system. The postcards were mailed to my...apartment complex. I'd suggest that they limit their direct mail to strictly homeowners. I suggested to the insurance company that they make sure their mailing radiuses don't overlap with each other, because I'm sure other renters here got the same amount as me and would just trash everything.

If you receive mail for a previous homeowner or renter, call that company to let them know that person is no longer at your address. I've stopped a couple magazines coming in because they were for previous renters. I simply told the circulation person that so and so wasn't there anymore, and I had no need for a Southern Poverty Law Center magazine, but thanks!

I looked on the USPS website to see if there was a way to stop junk mail. I found their Go Green page, and one of their tips is to update your address when moving. However, I find that doesn't streamline any mail, that just puts your actual name instead of "Our Neighbor" on the junk mail. Anyway, tangent.

If you want to cut down on the amount of junk mail you receive at your office for employees who are no longer there, check out the Ecological Mail Coalition. It's a free service that allows you to enter the names of former employees and your business address and they work to stop the mail coming to those people. I've done it for a few employees in my office and the last time I checked, the office manager had noticed a decrease in duplicate junk mail. I'll have to check again to see if there's still a decrease.

There are also ways to stop delivery of the Yellow Pages, but I have not tried any to be able to recommend any. And it's too late for this year as I received two copies of two phone books. A small and a large. Still haven't figured out the difference, or why they delivered two sets within a week. If anyone has successfully stopped phone book delivery, please share!

shop green new orleans

One thing I love about visiting New Orleans is walking down Magazine Street and checking out the little shops. As we were heading to Winky's, a retro shop, I saw a sign for UP/Unique Products. They have a shop in the top floor of Winky's and they have a ton of really interesting recycled products. I loved their vintage purse clocks, but most of all, I loved their melted Mardi Gras bead pendant lamps and lampshades. Nothing says Green New Orleans more than repurposed Mardi Gras beads.

I intended to buy one of their t-shirts, which are made from organic cotton and recycled soft drink bottle polyester and printed with vegetable-based inks, but they unfortunately did not have my size. I just may need to order one from the website. They are the softest t-shirts I think I've ever felt.


walk in, walk out, light off

This week's tip was inspired by my boyfriend and his geeky fascination with little projects around the house.

If you have the best intentions of turning off a light when you leave the room, but just can't remember to do so, you can purchase inexpensive occupancy motion sensors, which replace standard light switches. Simply set how long you want the light to stay on once it detects motion, then set the switch on auto. Now you don't have to remember to hit the switch, because the light will go off automatically. The boyfriend's bathrooms and kitchen are motion automated, making it convenient and conserving, since he rarely turns lights off himself.

Though I don't have kids or a foyer, I would imagine these would work well such a room, so when your kids come home at night, the light will see them safely in (before or after curfew!) My parents also always leave a lamp on in the house so when they return after dark, they don't stumble into a dark house. These motion detectors would help with saving energy while no one's home, yet still allowing light when it's needed again.

I've thought about getting one of these switches for my closet light, since that's the one I have the most trouble remembering to turn off, but since the switch is facing my bedroom, I'd be inadvertently turning the light on much more often than necessary.

new weekly feature

Happy new year, everyone! I apologize for sort of neglecting this place, but I resolve to be attentive this year.

I'm starting a new weekly feature, so each Wednesday I'll post a suggestion that is an easy way to make a green change in your life.

eco-cajun tip for January 6:

It would be nice if printers always worked as they were supposed to and we could always remember to check that we print double-sided or check to see if only two lines of an email signature will print on their own page.

But there will always be pages that print with one line of text, or one line of error code. Or the best, the pages that get slightly crinkled in a paper jam. And we can always toss the papers into the recycling bin, but following the Reduce Reuse Recycle motto, recycling should be the last option. Even if you try hard to reduce your waste, there will be times when you accidentally use extra paper. But a few months ago, I began collecting all the waste paper, found a slightly trashed binder in the supply cabinet that was probably on its way to the dump, and created a notebook.

I told a few coworkers that I would collect any almost-blank sheets of paper, and I have yet to come close to running out of paper for my notebook. It's such an easy way to see how much paper I've saved even from the recycling bin (or at least used before sending to the recycling bin.) I use it for notes to myself, notes during phone calls, to-do lists and notes during meetings.
Thanks to a printer freak-out a couple weeks ago, I scored enough paper to last my little binder into 2012.

So for no cost, I have a binder full of fully usable paper that keeps me from needing to use brand new tablets or notepads! Less paper in the recycling bin overall.
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