year in review [link saturday, 12.29]

Well, here we are...the final weekend of 2012. What a year it's been! I've really enjoyed reopening eco cajun this year and being dedicated to helping y'all learn green tips and save a little money.

Let's look back at this year, shall we?
And a little housekeeping, if you're in the Lafayette area: If you live in a home with curbside trash pickup, you can leave your cleaned real Christmas tree on the curb on yard waste day, and it will be picked up and brought to the compost facility. If you live in an apartment, you can bring your cleaned real Christmas tree to the compost facility (North Dugas Road on the way to Carencro). For other information, see the Lafayette Consolidated Government New Year's Week trash schedule press release.

And this is it for the year from me! See y'all on Tuesday, starting fresh!

weekly simple eco tip, 12.26

Well, I hope you've all survived these holidays! It was another great year, and I'm excited for all of the eco-friendly gifts I received.

This week's simple eco tip follows the nature of The Day After Christmas. If you have gifts you don't like, don't need or already had, exchange them for something more useful. Keep the clutter out of your house, get functional things you'll actually use and you'll give unwanted gift a chance to be useful somewhere else. Save the waste of needless items! You can also make sure to use your gift cards wisely.

Now...go play with all your new toys!

merry christmas, happy holidays

Click on the image to see a Paperless Post Christmas card I made just for you. Sending merry greetings in an eco-friendly's just how I do.

Hope y'all have a lovely, merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with your family, friends and loved ones. And remember Mother Earth as you celebrate.

Thank you all for reading this year, and I look forward to making eco cajun even better for you next year!

geaux cajuns!

The Ragin Cajuns are playing in their second New Orleans Bowl game today, and I'll be one of the thousands of fans in the Superdome cheering them on to another victory. And I'll be green every step of the way.

around the web [link friday, 12.21]

To close out this final week before Christmas, I'll share a few links culled from items I've seen on Twitter.

Now, go finish wrapping your gifts and drinking your eggnog. See you all back here next week!

weekly simple eco tip, 12.20

Well, here we are, five days to Christmas! Buckle up and hold on, because the sleigh will be moving full speed ahead!

These are two recycled-material Christmas crafts I've come across in the past few days, and both are crafts I intend on making at some point in the next week. And they both look very easy to make! If you have some time between now and Christmas (hahaha, I know, right?), these would be great little finishing touches, and both are great for getting children to help out.

These wine cork Christmas trees can be made by gluing the corks together (though, Gorilla wood glue may not be the best of the glues to use...speaking from experience). There are tons of varieties on Pinterest that can give you lots of inspiration. I love the look of the stained wine, but I have ideas on painting the ends of the corks to make it look even more like a small tree. 

And since corks are very lightweight, this smaller version with a bow would be a fantastic Christmas ornament. Glue the corks together, use a cut piece of cork as the trunk, and tie some jute around it to form the ornament loop.

And these gift bows are a great solution to get beautiful, traditional bows from recycled materials - in this case, magazine pages! How About Orange has a step-by-step tutorial on making these bows, and it probably takes about 15 minutes to complete. You could use any kind of sturdier paper for these bows, from extra scrapbook paper to junk mail.

A few simple crafts to put the star on the tree this holiday season.


christmas eco wishlist

Now that I've covered the biggest aspects of the holiday season, it's time for the 2012 eco cajun Christmas wishlist. Santa, I know you've got to be somewhat eco-friendly with that about some green gifts?

  • More city-wide recycling.
  • More acceptance and adoption of electric vehicles (and hybrid vehicles).
  • A hybrid vehicle for me. (Worth a shot!)
  • For people to put more thought put into disposing an item properly. For example, recycling something if it's recyclable, instead of throwing it away, even if it means slightly more effort.
  • More electricity, water and fuel conservation.
  • More discussion and action on climate change measures.
  • More recycled/eco-friendly products carried in national and local stores, instead of just online.
  • More acceptance of bicyclists, and more instances of sharing the road. And fewer bicycle-related accidents.
And hey Santa, if you need an elf to be head of the Eco Department, I'm your girl!

practically green [link friday, 12.14]

This week, I signed up for Practically Green, a fun, interactive website that helps you achieve small steps in becoming greener.

Once you sign up, you take a simple quiz where you mark which green actions you may have taken already. From there, you can peruse different categories, such as Food, Energy or Travel & Transportation, and view different green actions. The more actions you mark as done, the more points you get, and the higher level you achieve. The afternoon I signed up, I stopped at level 6 out of 10. Not too shabby!

You can also mark larger actions, such as buying a hybrid vehicle, as goals, and set a date by which you want to attain it.

Practically Green is very helpful in giving you a sense of just what small things you can do to be more environmental. I noticed a lot of actions were things I've adopted in my own life and things I've written about here, and it's a great way to carry these lessons over into something measurable. All the little things add up!

weekly simple eco tip, 12.12.12

Offices create a lot of waste, but there's one easy way you can help to cut down on that waste, and in the process, save your office some money on paper expenses.

Before you print, check your print settings, and adjust them accordingly.

If you don't have to print single-sided, don't! Always check that you'll be printing double-sided, cutting the number of pages you use in half. If you don't have a doubled-sided printing feature, look into getting or requesting a printer that does, and make the case that it will help save paper.

If you don't have to print in color, don't! Go for grayscale printing if the color aspects are not necessary. You can also look for a 'draft'-type printer setting, which reduces the amount of color printed. Black ink is less expensive than color, so this is one easy way to conserve your color ink and save a bit of money.

And if you're printing a document, run a quick print preview and make sure you don't have a small amount of text on its own page. One of the biggest things I see in my own office is pages with part of an email signature or runoffs from a spreadsheet . If you see pages with one or two lines of text in your document, make some adjustments so it can fit on the page before. Change your margins or scale the document to fit on as few pages as possible. 

Make these your habit to check for, or even make the adjusted settings your default, and you'll be on your way to saving paper, ink and money! Then you won't feel like smashing your printer in a field.


christmas gifts

Now that you've done your shopping and decorated your house, it's time for the third eco cajun Christmas post, all about wrapping gifts!

Eco-friendly wrapping really allows you to get unique and creative. But first things first:

Your standard gift wrap is NOT RECYCLABLE.

Now, we'll cover green wrapping from the inside out.

The biggest way to be eco-friendly is to keep what's in good condition and reuse it from year to year. Keep good tissue paper, gift bags and bows. There are so many alternatives to buying conventional tissue paper. Cut up junk mail, weekly sale papers, newspaper, phone book pages or even scrap printer paper, and use it to stuff the gifts.

 Photo: My stash of used tissue paper and gift bags.

If you bought any gifts online and had them shipped to you, don't get rid of those boxes! Those are the easiest to use when wrapping gifts. If you didn't buy any gifts online (and first, I'll say I don't believe you!), check around your office or ask your coworkers if they have spare boxes for you to use. Most offices have leftover boxes from various shipments.

You can also keep gift boxes from year to year. If that sweater you bought your sister came with a store gift box, use it, but make sure it doesn't get thrown away after one use. If someone gives you a gift with a box in good condition, keep it and store it with your gift wrap supplies. You never know when you may need a box!

My family has always been green, even without trying, I think. We've always saved and reused gift wrap when we could, and it somehow turned into a tradition. My dad acquired this one box in the early to mid-90s and it's become the box you want to get each Christmas. This beauty of a computer program required Windows 3.0 or higher to run!

Now, to get those boxes looking pretty! Any kind of shiny, waxy paper is not accepted by recycling companies, so it all has to go in the trash. But it doesn't have to stop you! Plenty of gift wrap is made with eco-friendly, recyclable paper. Make sure it's not shiny before you buy it. Or you can buy plain brown shipping paper and dress it up either through fancier bows or getting artistic on the wrapped package. A Lovely Escape has a great post showing different ways to dress up brown shipping paper to make beautiful gifts. Susty Party also has a feature on upcycled gift wrap - with a demonstration of paper bags, tinfoil and wine corks!

Photo: Wrapping Michelle's gift with recyclable brown-paper gift wrap, green Scotch tape and twine!

You can always use newspaper or junk mail to wrap gifts, especially if they are smaller.

As for tape, Scotch Magic makes an eco-friendly tape now. It's made from more than 75% renewable or recycled materials. The boxed refill roll, including packaging, is made from more than 65% renewable or recycled materials.

And get creative for ribbons and bows. I've used fabric ribbon before on gifts, and I save the ribbon for future uses. Raffia, jute and twine are all great natural options. You can also use items like ties or scarves for an extra nice touch.

Photo: A gift wrapped in weekly sale papers and a red necktie.

If you're just not a wrapper and prefer bags, one great idea covers two bases. Use reusable bags AS your gift bag. Not only is it a greener alternative to traditional gift bags, it also helps spread the reusable cause. The bag then becomes part of the gift and encourages the recipient to use it when they need to. Off the Christmas note a bit, I've used both baskets and reusable bags as gift wrap for baby and wedding showers, and I love it because it gives the recipient an extra useful item, instead of another bag or box that would get thrown away.

Dig around your house and get creative. You might be surprised at what kind of gift wrap you have just lying around! An older shirt and a shoelace? It can work!

Beyond giving your loved ones a great gift, you're also giving the planet the gift of less waste.

epa [link friday, 12.7]

In today's very brief Link Friday, I'll shout out to the Environmental Protection Agency Twitter and hashtag #EPATip.

This week the EPA posed the question "Have you shared your with us today? Tell us how you intend to green the holidays." They then shared their favorites, and I felt like a mini-celebrity when they shared my answer of " I will also be using recyclable gift wrap, and recycling magazines and junk mail as box stuffing instead of tissue pepper. ".

Check back here on Monday for a full post on greening your gift wrapping!

weekly simple eco tip, 12.5

Sometimes simple eco tips are born of necessity. This one is a recent problem solver in my own house, thanks to my obsession with candles.

Have votives, but no candle holders? Use old food jars! They're clear, and the grooves help bounce the glow around. I had these stored for future uses, and they came in very handy.

And when you've burned down the whole wick, just put the jar in the freezer in order to get the wax out. The jar is free to hold a new votive!


christmas decorating

Welcome to the second weekly installment of the eco cajun Christmas series. This week focuses on decorating, or as I will henceforth call it, Griswold Goes Green.

There's a Lowe's ad this year that promotes Lowe's saving and tracking purchase histories, so people can know how many decorations they bought the previous year, so you'll be able to "get the same great look again this year". Except, there should be no need to buy an entirely new set of identical Christmas decorations one year later. The first thing you can do to be greener about your holiday decorating is to use what you already have!

Photo: A little musical house that has been part of my parents' decorations since I was about three. And now it's mine, muahaha...

If you do buy new decorations, make a trade out of it. For every new thing you purchase, get rid of one old thing. And donate your old decorations to Goodwill, or even possibly churches, schools or retirement homes.

If you aren't already using LED Christmas lights, make the switch! The lights are more expensive than regular Christmas lights, but since they use much less energy, the overall cost balances out. Eventually, the LEDs will have paid for themselves. LEDs don't get as hot as regular lights, making them less of a fire hazard. These days, LED lights come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and shapes, for both indoor and outdoor.

Photos: My Christmas tree and wreath, adorned with LED lights.

And for outdoor lighting, go one step further into solar-powered Christmas lights. The past few years I've been in an apartment with no outdoor electrical source, and I refuse to (what I classily call it) ghetto-rig an extension cord inside to power Christmas lights. So I bought a string of solar-powered icicle lights, and they worked great for about three years. This year, they don't seem to be charging and lighting, so now I have the task of figuring out how to dispose of non-working lights. In the meantime, I adopted four solar snowflakes!

Photos: Solar-powered snowflake lights and snowflake lantern, both from Target.

For the inside of your home, consider crafting your own decorations. Pinterest is always a great source for craft ideas, but sometimes, even shopping can be a source of inspiration. I recently saw some cable-knit cone-shaped trees at the store, but decided to try crafting one myself instead of buying one (especially since I knew the cone was made of styrofoam.) I plan on making one out of some spare pieces of cardboard and an old thermal shirt. This year, I also picked up a few $1 ornaments at the store and crafted my own garland with it. Even I'm impressed with how well it turned out! Crafts can be a great way to involve your children or family in decking the halls.

Photo: Handmade garland.

And then there's the great debate on which is more eco-friendly: real or artificial Christmas trees? Real trees are really only able to be used once, and artificial trees are usually made out of toxic materials. The Daily Green posted a few years ago about green Christmas tree options. Conventional live trees are grown on farms, so they don't contribute to deforestation, but 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.

Artificial trees are primarily made in China of oil-derived PVC. 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. 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.

Every January in South Louisiana, the yard waste company would 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 believe the tree recycling doesn't happen anymore, but it's not to say the practice can't be used elsewhere.

I am personally a real-tree supporter, because nothing beats the wonderful smell, and because buying a tree each year was (and still is) a tradition in my family. But when I was younger, for about 15 years, I had a small artificial tree that I would decorate for my bedroom. I finally got rid of the poor thing this year (because two trees in a one-bedroom apartment is a little overkill, even for me), but I brought it to Goodwill, so hopefully someone else will get to enjoy it this year.

But whatever tree you use, there's the issue of what kind of tree skirt to dress it up with. A great eco-friendly option is to use recycled fabric. For some reason, I always had some extra red fabric lying around. When it came time for me to need a tree skirt, I discovered the red fabric was the perfect shape. All I have to do is put it down and adjust where needed. If you like to sew, you can go a little further, and use recycled sweaters or t-shirts, or any other leftover fabric! Just the fabric into larger squares and sew them together. If you prefer to buy one, look for one made of organic or recycled materials.

When you decorate, remember to be energy-efficient, look for eco-friendly materials and reuse where you can!

giving [link friday 11.30]

Following on the heels of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, there's a new day kicking off the holiday season - Giving Tuesday. It was this past Tuesday, November 27, but this is one day that truly should go beyond.

#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

Here are some eco-minded charities, should you consider donating this season.
  • charity: water. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
  • World Wildlife Fund. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.
  • Architecture for HumanityBuilding a more sustainable future using the power of design. Through a global network of building professionals, Architecture for Humanity brings design, construction and development services to communities in need.
  • Greenpeace. Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
  • Global Green USA. Global Green USA is the American affiliate of Green Cross International, founded to foster a global value shift toward a sustainable and secure future. 
  • Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future doesn’t just plant trees for their ecological benefits, but to benefit people in need.
  • People for Bikes. is dedicated to channeling that passion to improve the future of bicycling. Their goal is to gather a million names of support, to speak with one, powerful voice—to make bicycling safer, more convenient and appealing for everyone.
This one is not eco-minded, but it's one close to my heart.
  • Jessica Redfield Sports Journalism Scholarship FundThe Jessica Redfield Ghawi Scholarship Fund was created to provide scholarships for aspiring female sports journalists in honor of the life and dreams of Jessica Ghawi. She was killed in the Aurora, CO, movie theater shootings on July 20, 2012.
And of course, there are many local charities wherever you live, and donating to them benefits your own community.

Giving feels good!

weekly simple eco tip, 11.28

Life is messy, and we spend a lot of time cleaning things up. But why should we contribute to the amount of trash in landfills in our quest to clean up messes?

Your simple eco tip for this week is to simply use less paper towels and more cloth towels.

Image: Gold Notes

By stocking up on a good supply of cloth dish rags and towels, you can help reduce your amount of waste, and you can always have a clean supply on hand while others are dirty.

Some tips on using cloth towels include only washing towels when actually dirty, and washing towels in a full load instead of a light load. You can go further by washing in colder water with eco-friendly detergent, and line-drying if possible.

Mother Nature Network compares different paper towel and cloth towel options in order of least green to most green. But if you aren't one to focus on whether you're picking up recycled paper towels or conventional paper towels, remember to just use no paper towels. Go with reusable! It'll help save you money and help you cut down on your waste.

christmas shopping

Today kicks off a three-week eco cajun series about greening Christmas...putting the GREEN in red-and-green, one might say. (And by one, I definitely mean me.)

This week focuses on Christmas shopping, since chances are, you've already started. There are many ways to make shopping less impactful on the environment. 

Last week I mentioned Small Business Saturday, and the support doesn't have to stop after one day. Shop local first, and if they don't have what you're looking for, try the bigger stores. Shopping local benefits your community so much more. No matter where you shop, be sure to bring your reusable bags. You'll have enough going on at your house without an extra pile of plastic bags adding to the craziness.

If you don't want to even face holiday traffic, shopping online is a great alternative. You save your fuel and time by not leaving your house or office. But shop smart. Even though you'll be saving your own gas, you'll still be paying for it through the gas required by the delivery trucks. Look for places that have more than one item you need, so you can consolidate the number of packages being shipped. The more you can buy from one site and have shipped in one box, the less impact you'll have on the environment.

Or, you can support green retail websites. One website I've used before is Buy Green. My favorite thing about them is how they reuse packaging when shipping items. I ordered my first Klean Kanteen through their site years ago, and my Kanteen arrived in a used Verizon cell phone box. Some other eco-friendly retail websites for you to consider:
  • Abe's Market. Has a large variety of natural goods.
  • Ebay Green. Used to be World of Good, and I've used World of Good in buying gifts for Christmas parties in the past. While they sell eco-friendly products, I'm not sure they focus as much on fair-trade and artisan-made items. 
  • Uncommon Goods. Not a completely recycled/green retailer, but they do have some great upcycled products.
  • ReuseIt. Similar to Buy Green; sells lots of great recycled or eco-friendly items.
  • United by Blue. For every item sold, the company removes one pound of trash from our oceans and other waterways.
  • DwellSmart. Another retailer with a large variety of recycled and eco-friendly things.
  • HipCycle. Great unique upcycled products.
  • Vine. A newer site with all kinds of green products. You can also shop by city in order to shop local, although the list of cities is not large yet.
And if you do order your gifts online, keep the boxes and whatever stuffing material came in them. You'll benefit from them when it's time to wrap your gifts, but that's another post in the eco cajun Christmas series.

happy thanksgiving!

Always be thankful for this wonderful earth we have.

weekly simple eco tip 11.21

One way to cut down on waste is to use things only when you need them. Libraries are a great way to read books without having to keep them. So this week's simple eco tip is to use your library!

And if you're cleaning out your own collection at home, look to see if your library accepts used books, either for a book sale fundraiser or simply to add to their collection. Donating is a great way to give your old books a new life!


black friday preparations

It seems as though this week is becoming known less for Thanksgiving and more for the Black Friday mania/extravaganza/cluster. Remember what Thanksgiving symbolizes, and enjoy your day off, spending time with special people.

And while Black Friday will hopefully bring me a nice, new, Energy Star-rated laptop, for many, it's a day to be extremely wasteful and materalistic. If you are going out, buy only what you actually need or would like to give to someone, instead of buying everything in sight just because it's super cheap.

If you plan to visit multiple stores, do it strategically, so you don't have to drive extra and waste fuel.

But if you can wait one more day, I highly suggest you take part in a day that becomes more popular each year - Small Business Saturday. Begun in 2010 by American Express, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is designated Small Business Saturday, and many local small businesses participate. The benefits of shopping small businesses are many. The stores are generally less crowded, you enjoy more personal customer service, you can find wonderful unique gifts and you benefit your city's economy more. A study done in 2004 in Chicago found that of every $100 spent at local businesses, $68 remained in the Chicago economy, while of every $100 spent at a chain, $43 remained in the Chicago economy.

So, happy Thanksgiving, y'all! Be thankful for this planet we live on, and remember to be nice to it!


startups and ideas [link friday, 11.16]

Something big is always born from something small. This week I've come across a few articles and links about startups and tech innovations that focus on making workplaces and cities greener.

  • wrote about JouleBug, an app for iPhones that functions similar to Foursquare. Except, instead of checking in at places, you check in for green actions that you take, and you can earn points for them. The app tracks dollar savings for each green action you check in to, so you can get a concrete sense of how your actions can save you or your company money. 
  • The City of Raleigh, NC, is an early adopter of JouleBug, and have a page dedicated to the initiative on their website. The app was developed in Raleigh as well.
  • I'm very late to this one, but SXSW held an Eco conference at the beginning of October in Austin. They had a Startup Showcase where entrepreneurs could present their ideas, and the winner of the showcase was PlanetReuse. 
  • PlanetReuse helps facilitate building material reuse nationwide and is launching PlanetReuse Marketplace to provide technology and services to bring connection, convenience, and awareness to the reuse industry, ultimately making it as easy to shop online for reclaimed building materials as it is to shop for new materials.
  • And Bloomberg Philanthropies is hosting a Mayors Challenge. The top 20 finalists were recently revealed. Quick shoutout to Lafayette, LA for being one of the finalists for their Level Up, Lafayette!, a community-wide initiative to play multiple games, generate epic wins and increase quality of life for all residents – even those who aren't playing.
  • Two of the other finalists in the Mayors Challenge are Houston, TX and Knoxville, TN. Houston's idea is a one-bin-for-all concept, where partnerships with the waste companies would allow residents to throw all waste into one bin, and the companies would sort it between trash, recycling and compost. Knoxville's idea is to encompass the entire urban food cycle by connecting land, farming jobs, processing facilities, food transit, sale, and composting. Part of their idea is to transform vacant lots around town to food production areas.
So many great ideas from so many passionate people. 

Have a wonderfully green weekend, and settle in before the wild ride known as the Holiday Season begins!

america recycles day

Today, November 15 is America Recycles Day!

Check out the website and see if any events are happening in your area. Even if not, take a minute to recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum or glass, and do your part!

You can follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook as well, for continued updates.

weekly simple eco tip 11.14

Seriously, November 14 already?

So, this week's simple eco tip may be simple to me, what with my non-children-and-pet-having and living alone-ness independence, but I'll throw it out there anyway.

Bundle your errands into one trip.

By doing all your errands at once, instead doing all of them separately, you save gas (and time). You'll save on all those trips to and from your house between each stop. Or, figure out if you can combine errands. Need stamps and groceries? See if the grocery store sells stamps before you trek to the post office, then you can take care of two tasks at once.

And instead of driving all over town in a lovely Spirograph pattern, take a few moments before you leave to run your errands and figure out an efficient route of your errand stops. This way, you can make one circle before heading back home.

I am fully aware that there are forces in life that will prevent you from doing anything logical, and opposing schedules can affect that nice, easy errand route. But sometimes you can make outside forces work with your schedule, and you'll be able to get your tasks done in a more efficient manner, saving your gas!

giving greener thanks

Am I the only one wondering how it's actually almost time for Thanksgiving? Where has this year gone!?

Whether you're staying in and having a simple dinner, hosting a large gathering or traveling for Thanksgiving, there are many things you can do to make the holiday a little more eco-friendly.

Since food is the main part of most Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you've got your bases covered. Shop locally for your meats and vegetables - from visiting a local grocery store to purchasing local products. Local products don't have to travel as far, saving on energy and gas costs. Local products also help keep the money local. If you're doing some vegetable side dishes, try to visit your farmer's market before the big day and stock up on as much as you can. And if you can't get what you need from a local company, look for organic products that were kinder to the environment during production. When you go shopping, take those reusable bags! (You know I'm always going to remind you of this, and you know you love me for doing so.)

If you're having a small dinner, skip disposable dinnerware and cutlery altogether, and just use what you have. If you're having a larger gathering and not enough place settings for everyone, look into getting sustainable dinner party supplies, such as the ones from Susty Party (which I wrote about more extensively here). Be sure to cover everything from plates and bowls, to cutlery and cups, to napkins.

Decorating the table, or, to use one of my least favorite words in existence, creating a tablescape? Do it greener! Look for organic table cloths and placemats, such as ones from Rawganique or BambEco. Put out soy or vegetable wax candles instead of traditional paraffin ones. Choose flowers or plants from a local nursery instead of ones from the grocery store.

And as you always should, be sure to recycle what can be recycled. Put out a clearly marked bin for guests to encourage them to recycle as well. If you're a composter, throw what food scraps you can into your bin. The less trash, the better!

If you're a guest at someone else's house, bring a local or organic bottle of wine for the hosts. Fetzer is one of my favorite wines, and it's partly due to their efforts in being a sustainable vineyard. You can also look for the Eco Glass label on many different bottles of wine. Eco Glass uses 25% less glass than traditional wine bottles, saving materials and shipping weight, which saves in fuel consumption for delivery trucks. 

Image: Eco Glass

If you're traveling, then take steps to make your travel greener. From making sure your vehicle's tires are properly inflated to taking an empty (per TSA's can fill them up after the security checkpoint) reusable water bottle on your plane trip, there are small things you can do to lessen your carbon footprint this Thanksgiving.

Here are a few linky-link resources on Eco-friendly Thanksgivings.
So now you've got a week and a half lead-time to get your Thanksgiving whipped into eco-friendly shape. AAAAAND....GO!!!

two wheels are better than four [link friday, 11.9]

I am a big fan of bicycles as a greener transportation alternative and would love to see my city become more bike-friendly. Just this past weekend, we rode to a friend's house for an early Thanksgiving dinner party with our food containers strapped down, so we wouldn't have to drive a car a very short distance. I liked to call it Meals on Wheels.

And in honor of tonight's monthly Critical Mass ride, today's Link Friday is all about bikes and related eco-friendly products.

  • Recycled Cycles of Acadiana. A local bicycle shop that sells bikes and accessories, included restored used bikes. They also rent bicycles, if you need one for a short period of time, which is wonderfully eco-friendly.
  • Blackburn Design. Front and rear lights are a very important part of any bicycle, and there are varying degrees to how green they can be. LED lights are very popular and easy to find at any store, since they are extremely bright and energy-efficient. Blackburn's lights seem to go one step further, being LED and rechargeable. The lights can be charged through any USB device, saving you from needing to replace any batteries at all. They've also got some solar-powered lights. However, a quick Google search for LED bicycle lights will find you tons of options.
  • Alchemy Goods. Alchemy Goods uses discarded bike tubes to make bags and wallets. They've got partnerships with Trek, REI and independent bike shops across the country in order to get their stock of materials. I've got one of the mini-wallets and I love it!
  • Earth 911. There's an article from this week about someone who used campaign signs to make bike accessories. I'm personally loving the yellow basket made from corrugated plastic signs, since I'm still brainstorming ways to make a new and better bike basket.
  • Re-Cycled Accessories. Jewelry and accessories made from bike parts. 
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you have a bike, get out and ride it!

weekly simple eco tip, 11.7

Try as you might to use cloth bags, chances are you still end up with a small mountain of plastic shopping bags at home. 

Don't just throw them away once you've unloaded the contents - use them again!

The easiest way to reuse a plastic shopping bag is as a small-trash can liner. For years I have used plastic shopping bags as the liner in my bedroom and bathroom trash cans. They are the right size for a smaller trash can, and they help you save money by not buying small trash bags. Why spend money on a plastic bag that will be used once, when you can use something you already have and didn't specifically pay for?

Another simple way to reuse plastic bags, especially plastic produce bags, is as a refuse bag while cooking. When I'm cooking and have waste from the ingredients, whether vegetable peelings or wrappers or non-recyclable packaging, I keep a bag out and throw all the waste into it. Whenever you're done with the bag, you can knot it and throw it into your trash can. If you aren't bringing the trash out immediately, this can help with the smell also. 

So, put those plastic bags to work before you get rid of them for good!

And if you don't plan to reuse the plastic bags, make sure to bring them somewhere that accepts them for recycling. Many grocery stores have a bin near the entrance where you can deposit all your bags, similar to this one at my local Rouses!


office transformation

I started writing in August about a project in my office that was important to me. After enduring yet another brutal Louisiana summer, I took some time to research solar film installation and local companies. I took all that research and wrote a proposal to my bosses about why it was a good idea to install the solar film on our 30+ 100-year-old single-pane windows. And I was shocked when they agreed that it should be done and put me charge of making the project happen. 

 Image: Newspapers in my office exposed to constant sunlight. The left newspaper was on top and the right newspaper was underneath. Check out the damage from just a few months!

So, with the help of Lafayette Shutters, Blinds and More, I set off transforming my office into a more energy-efficient and comfortable place. It took a couple days for the project to be finished, but we could see the difference after the first pane was done.

We went with a film by Vista Films that had a greenish tint to it, and 65% solar heat rejection. It also has a 61% glare reduction. In the proposal, I compared this film to another brand, and my boss made the decision to go with Vista because it was simply a stronger film. The return on investment for the film is between 1 1/2 and 2 years, I believe. So for what we spent on installation, we would save on our utility bills and recoup the cost in 2 years or less. That's pretty incredible. 

On that sunny Wednesday afternoon, after the first pane got its film application, we could clearly see the difference. The sunlight was not pouring in the window and the colors outside were more defined and vivid. Our copier is located underneath a window, and since the film was put on, I've noticed that it's less necessary to wear sunglasses while making copies in the afternoon. (Not that I ever did that, mind you, but I certainly came close a few times.)

 Image: The solar film installation crew in the middle of a window.

Image: Close-up of one window: the top pane has film, the bottom pane does not.

Now, of course, there were a few setbacks to the project, as there typically are. With the fact that we were all dealing with 100-year-old single-pane windows, we were also dealing with aged caulking and a few measurement flaws. And that is how we ended up with one window down on the sidewalk below. While care was being taken with each window, one just managed to come loose and take a tumble, taking the solar film along with it. It was also the time I realized I'm really not ready to be a homeowner, because me in charge of figuring out how to replace that window? Was not really something I wanted to. But we got everything settled and the window was replaced and solar-filmized the next day.

After a short break to repair the caulking on a few more windows, the solar film installation was wrapped up and we've been enjoying the benefits ever since then. The scenery outside is more vivid and less washed-out, and the film managed to keep some of the heat at bay. (The other issue was malfunctioning air conditioners, and that seemed to be fixed a few weeks ago with new units put in.)

Getting this project done was a proud moment in my life and work, because I put effort into the proposal that paid off and helped me bring my environmentalism into the office. One thing that I think helped was knowing who I was writing to. One of my bosses has a very clear writing style, and I made sure to reflect it in the proposal. And I showed all of the statistics and presented photographs as evidence.

And while solar film doesn't help as much toward keeping heat in during the winter, it does have some effect, and I'm looking forward to that as well. If it ever gets cold down here!

extreme storms [link and news friday, 11.2]

Being from South Louisiana, I am always transfixed when a hurricane sets its sights on the country. This past week, I have absorbed as much information about Hurricane Sandy as possible, including articles discussing the possible link between a storm like Sandy and climate change.

Most of the articles/opinion pieces I read were more scientific in nature and very interesting and eye-opening.

And two bonus links:

It's a scary thought that storms like this could be the norm, but it's something that should be thought about and acted upon.

To anyone reading who was in Sandy's path this week, I wish you a speedy recovery and return to daily life.

weekly eco-cajun tip, 10.31

Around your office, you probably go through a lot of toner cartridges. And you might throw them out when it's time to replace them - but you don't have to!

Many major toner supply companies offer a return recycling program, including Xerox and Brother. Offer to head up a toner recycling program! Request that all empty cartridges go to you, and use the supplied materials in the box, then ship them back to the manufacturers! Shipping is usually provided by the companies.

Or, you can have a part in helping two groups out at once. Many elementary, middle and high schools will accept empty toner cartridges, as they can raise money from the collection and recycling of the cartridges. Find a school near you, or if you're still near, find out if your alma mater collects the cartridges. For the past few years, I've made semi-regular trips to my high school to donate boxes of empty toner cartridges. In fact, there's a box at my desk that's been waiting most of this year to be donated for recycling and fundraising.

Recycling toner cartridges really can cost you nothing but a few extra minutes sometimes. And can earn you a few warm fuzzies inside, because recycling just feels good!


sustainable sports

We're getting into the swing of football season, and no matter how your team is doing so far (coughSAINTS), there's one thing that everyone can cheer for: the NFL greening its act.

The National Resources Defense Council is one of the NFL's green advisors and has set up a wonderful site detailing the different ways the NFL is greening its games, stadiums and other operations. You can learn what the NFL is doing from energy, water, waste, paper, concessions, chemicals, travel, buildings, suppliers and in their own front office.The Green Sports Alliance also works with many football teams on their environmentalism efforts.

The Philadelphia Eagles and their Lincoln Financial Field are leading the league in green measures taken. With the assistance of NRDC, the Eagles launched their program in 2003, and became one of the first teams take steps to reduce their environmental impact. In 2010, they announced that Lincoln Financial Field will be the first professional stadium in the country capable of generating 100 percent of its own electricity onsite, with the installation of about 2,500 solar panels, 80 20-foot-high wind turbines and a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel. Through energy, water and waste reduction efforts, the Eagles have saved over $3 million since 2005. $3 million!

At the beginning of the 2012 season, the MetLife Stadium welcomed fans with a new ring of solar panels and colorful LEDs on its roof. The panels generate 350,000 kilowatt hours, and power left over after making the LEDs work is put back into running the rest of the stadium.

The New England Patriots have also installed solar panels for Gillette Stadium that will generate about 600,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy.

The Arizona Cardinals offset 100 percent of energy used on game days at their stadium throughout the season.

The Detroit Lions used 300,000 pounds of recycled rubber tires, 20 million pounds of recycled steel in the ceiling and 10 million pounds in the concrete frame when they constructed their new stadium, Ford Field, between 1999 and 2002. They also recycled part of an unused warehouse. It is designed to save approximately 15 percent on energy costs. 

Many teams and stadiums are also working to reduce the amount of waste put out on game days, including the St. Louis Rams.

Among other practices, the Houston Texans released the NFL’s first interactive media guide in 2009. The guides are housed on USB drives instead of printed books, and the switch allowed the Texans to save an estimated 2,600,000 pages.

And the NFL works to green each Super Bowl game. The environmental program has five main initiatives: solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, sports equipment and book donations and greenhouse gas reduction. It's great that the NFL makes sure even extra food goes to soup kitchens, shelters and other local organizations instead of being thrown out. 

So when you're watching your team this weekend, whether from home, a gathering or the stadium, remember that your teams are doing their part, and you can easily do yours. Reduce your waste and conserve your energy!


wasteless denim [link friday, 10.26]

You might be thinking that recycled-material products are a nice idea, but that they may look just a little too recycled for your tastes.

But some items may surprise you, because it won't be obvious what they used to be in a former life.

These jeans are made from plastic bottles. 

Yep, you read that right. Levi's has created and announced their new Waste

But don't worry, it won't feel like you are wearing recycled plastic. I have both a t-shirt and umbrella partially made of recycled plastic bottles, and neither remotely feel like plastic.

So, would you wear clothing made of those water bottles you recycled this week? (Because I know you recycled them instead of throwing them away!)
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