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!
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