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.
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