hurricane kits [link friday, 5.31]

Now that you've learned about greener ways to prepare for hurricanes, it's time to make your hurricane kit.

Don't wait until a storm is threatening your area to prepare - do it now! Get a few supplies each time you go to the store, and soon it will add up to an emergency supply kit.

hurricane preparations

It's almost that time of year for anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast - hurricane season. Six months of living with the potential of the next big storm hitting home. Being prepared goes a long way toward some kind of peace of mind though.

The NOAA is predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season, we go.

Having essentials on hand and ready to go way in advance is better than waiting until a storm is on its way and stores are packed with everyone else who procrastinated. There are tons of hurricane supply checklists online, and they range from simple to extremely detailed.

It is possible to be greener when gathering hurricane supplies.

One key supply is a flashlight. And there are many handcrank flashlights that require no batteries. Amazon has a ton, and you can find them in many department stores. I got a simple flashlight and a flashlight radio combination a few years ago, and still use both when I need to. Some handcrank flashlights are also solar powered.

When choosing batteries, choose rechargeable ones and make sure they are fully charged before a storm hits. Also keep your cell phone charged as much as possible in advance, especially in today's world of crappy phone battery life. If you have children, get old-fashioned toys and games to keep them occupied, so they don't drain the battery on your computer or phone, since you may need it. Last year during Hurricane Isaac, even though we didn't lose power, my boyfriend and I had a blast coloring in a superhero coloring book.

Handcrank cell phone chargers exist, and last year I bought one, excited to be eco-friendly...only to find out that it wouldn't work. I plugged my BlackBerry in and it displayed a message that the USB port did not have enough power to charge it. Even putting batteries in the charger and hand cranking did not do the trick. It went back to the store. Hopefully others work better than the one I bought - it's a very useful idea.

Be very very careful using candles for light. They can be knocked over so easily and cause their own disasters. Plus, the fumes can be toxic if you are in a boarded-up house and you can't open the door because of the weather.

Canned food is the best to get for your hurricane supply since it can last a long time and remains unspoiled before it's opened. But get food you would eat normally! That way, you can ensure the food gets eaten even if it's not used in a storm, instead of being thrown out. Be sure to have a manual can opener for when the power goes out, or that food will be staying in the can. And if you have an electric stove, look for food you can eat that doesn't need to be heated. When you're getting bottled water, go for what has the least amount of packaging - and recycle the bottles. I always go for gallons of water, but if you need personal size bottles, choose the ones with eco-friendly packaging and less plastic. Conserve your water from the sink or bathtub, and conserve energy in your refrigerator or freezer by opening it as little as possible.

Prepare your home in advance, and you won't have to waste supplies at the last minute. There are many ways to outfit your home so it's always more protected from storms, from functional shutters to reinforcing your roof. Building or renovating your home so it's stronger will help minimize damage and destroyed materials. If you buy plywood for your windows, be sure to keep the boards safe and protected between seasons so you can reuse them the next year.

If you make the decision to evacuate, secure your house first, and choose the most fuel-efficient car you have in your family. Gas will be a scarce commodity, and prices will go up. And you may end up traveling further than you want to. Stretch what you get as far as you can.

Don't forget to include supplies for your pets. This will be my first hurricane season with a pet, and I plan on getting a box of litter and a large bag of food to keep in a cabinet for emergency use. And Milo's got plenty of eco-friendly toys that could keep him cardboard boxes, my chair and my blinds.

Gathering your hurricane supplies in advance will help you be greener since you will have time to look for the best options, and you won't be scrambling at the store at the last minute buying whatever is left.

It's time for another hurricane season. Prepare now and hope that Mother Nature doesn't show her ugly ways!


weekly simple eco tip, 5.30

Computers are great at helping us be green in so many ways. Why not take a few steps to make your computer itself a bit more energy efficient?

Change the settings on your computer to maximize energy efficiency, and set it to run in a low-power state while you aren't using it (if you can't turn it off altogether).

At work, ask your company's IT person if there is an energy efficiency system in place. If not, ask them to consider setting one up. It helps save money along with saving energy.

There are a few different ways you can help your computer consume less energy while you use it. Turn your volume down, turn your screen brightness down, or set your sleep and hibernate settings to kick in faster. Don't leave laptop chargers plugged in all the time.

And beyond that, look for an energy efficient computer!

around the web [link friday, 5.24]

Like my brain right now, this post is mostly a scattered collection of links I've come across during the week. (Coffee brain really messes with you sometimes, you know?)

A few links appropriate for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend:
Enjoy your weekend, and take some time on Monday to remember the sacrifices of all of our fallen soldiers. See y'all back here next week!


for moore, oklahoma

Rebuilding is a long, tough road, and no one can do it alone. 

Visit NBC News for a list of ways you can donate to the Oklahoma tornado victims through any of these organizations:

  • American Red Cross
  • OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund
  • Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief
  • Salvation Army
  • Central Oklahoma Humane Society
  • Feed the Children
  • United Way of Central Oklahoma
  • Feeding America
  • Operation USA
  • Convoy of Hope
  • Direct Relief
  • AmeriCares
  • Operation Blessing International
  • Samaritan's Purse
  • Save the Children
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief
  • Jewish Federations of North America
  • Oklahoma Tornado Relief 2013

If you choose to donate, be sure to do it through a charity organization that you trust and that is legitimate.


weekly simple eco tip, 5.22

While Abercrombie and Fitch has recently made news regarding destroying its clothing, it's not the first company to have done so. In the past few years, H&M and WalMart have been found to destroy unsold clothing.

So while some companies destroy their unsold clothing in a ridiculous attempt at "brand integrity", you can still help out the less fortunate and help them have clothing to wear at all.

Donate your unwanted or no-longer-fitting clothing to charity, from a local coat drive to Goodwill to Salvation Army. Clothing being worn by someone's idea of the "ideal consumer" is much less important than everyone having clothing to wear. At the end of the day, a piece of clothing is a piece of clothing, no matter what label it has.

Unless your old clothes are already destroyed, they will still be valued by people who don't have much, so why not donate and keep the cycle going? After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Don't destroy their treasure!

mason jar terrarium

A fun, quick project to give my office desk some new life!


graduation day

This weekend, a lot of students will be receiving their diplomas and degrees, so foremost, HAPPY GRADUATION if you are one of them! My own not-so-little brother will be a college graduate tomorrow, and I'm extremely proud to get to watch him walk and begin his adult life. Seriously, where has the time gone!?

If you're still looking for graduation gift ideas, think green and/or local! Using those guidelines, your gift will convey positive messages to your graduate.

Some places I visited in my furious search for a gift for my brother are:
Plain old Internet searching can help you find that perfect gift as well. I hunted with the filter of new job and/or new apartment items, in order to look for something useful, instead of a generic gift.

And of course, by finding items at a local store, you help your local economy and find awesome unique gift items that are extremely useful for a new graduate.

So for all graduates, CONGRATULATIONS! It's an exciting time before the next chapter begins. Make the most of it!


dixie lust guest post

Head on over to Dixie Lust today to read a feature post written by your favorite Cajun tree hugger! I stray from environmentalism for a bit to revel in the beauty of a picturesque Southern weekend. 

Meesh is one of my favorite bloggers and people in general, and I'm happy to contribute to her gorgeous site! Go show her some love and tell her I sent you.


weekly simple eco tip, 5.15

So, you've learned how to cut down printer paper waste, how you can reuse scrap paper, and even how to go paperless with bills and statements. Following these tips, in the spirit of paper conservation, this week's simple eco tip is to go paperless when taking notes or writing memos.

Earth911 features 5 different note-taking apps for iPads, iPhones and Androids, some of which can be synced between mobile and desktop versions: Notability, Corkulous, Springpad, Todo Task Manager and Remarks. Another popular app is Evernote. Mashable recently featured Use Your Handwriting, which allows you to 'handwrite' memos. These apps help you cut down on using scrap paper while still helping you jot down notes or memos to yourself.

Beyond actual note-taking apps, look for other memo-pad type apps for different purposes. iPhones come with the Apple Notes app. My Android came with S Memo, which I mainly use for quick lists or ideas for blog posts. I recently downloaded Grocery Smart, a grocery list app that can be synced with a web account. My favorite part of Grocery Smart is the actual ability to check items off your grocery list. 

Grocery Smart Android App

I find that writing quick grocery lists is my last real holdout to using paper over an app or website, especially since I switched from Blackberry to an Android and hadn't installed a new grocery list app until very recently. I always made sure to use scrap paper for grocery lists, such as junk mail envelopes or waste printer paper from work, but it's still best to go totally paperless.

Do you use a memo or note app? Which one is your favorite?


unique green homes

Building a home can be a very intensive process, from the planning to the materials purchasing to the actual construction. And some innovative people have made the process very unique and earth-conscious.

From buildings made out of plastic bottles, to housed inside shipping containers, to using old airplane wings, some homes around the country and world are completely recycled and eco-friendly.

Probably my favorite recycled home is Malibu, California's Wing House.

The home, built starting in 2006, utilizes wings and many smaller parts from a Boeing airplane that was considered scrap metal. The home takes advantage of the landscape, location and beach views. In addition to the construction materials, the main residence and other buildings use solar power, radiant heating, natural ventilation and insulating window glass. The wing pieces were transported to the house's location by helicopter and police escort down the freeways. 

You can read more about the Wing House and view more pictures at Earth911.

If you're near Carlton, Oregon, you can choose to stay in a bed and breakfast built out of repurposed corn silos.

Or you can rent a water tower townhouse in London. The home began its renovation in 2009 and is owned by British furniture designer Tom Dixon. You can see more photos of the townhouse, including interior shots, over at Inhabitat.

Earth911 also features a sea fort resort in England and a plastic bottle exhibition hall in Taiwan.

Flavorwire features 10 amazing recycled houses, including a beer can house and a grain silo house.

Photo: Peter Mier

WebEcoist also has a feature on homes made from reclaimed building materials. They show homes made with tires and even boats.

And I can't leave out shipping container homes, which are growing in popularity. Mother Nature Network features eight great shipping container homes, some of which don't look like their former selves. 

On less grand scales, The Phoenix Commotion is an initiative to build affordable, energy-efficient recycled-material homes for lower-income residents.

It's fun to dream about the endless possibilities of using recycled materials to build your very own house, and to dream of how you can repurpose almost anything in order to build a house.

What's your favorite type of recycled house? I'm partial to the beauty of the Wing House, and could see myself living in a repurposed shipping container one day. But even if that never happens, I can guarantee my future house will incorporate recycled materials throughout!


recycling troubles in vermilion parish [link friday, 5.10]

Much of Lafayette's recycling is managed by The Recycling Foundation, based out of Baton Rouge. In March, The Recycling Foundation's facility was heavily damaged in a fire. Unfortunately, when you've got a building full of cardboard, fires can get very out of control. Read KATC's coverage of the fire below:

And unfortunately, even as it comes up on two months since the fire, the effects are still being felt. The Recycling Foundation is still not operating at full capacity and cannot accept Vermilion Parish's recyclables on top of what it accepts from the City of Lafayette. That led to The Vermilion Parish Police Jury announcing this week that it would suspend recycling service. The parish government does not have space to hold the recyclables itself, so everything must be thrown out with the garbage collection. The lack of recycling collection is expected to last one to two months.

And if you enjoy newswriting errors like I do, I will share with you my favorite excerpt from that article:
Police Jury President Nathan Granger says the parish government does not have the space to store recyclables, so residents will have to be thrown away with regular garbage.
Makes you feel bad for the residents of Abbeville and Vermilion Parish, huh?

So, another setback in the recycling initiatives here in South Louisiana. It's a shame to think about the amount of potential recyclables that will instead be sent to the landfill. 

It's times like these that the need for conservation should be a priority. Create less waste in the first place, and you will still help to fight the amount of waste going to a landfill. Don't buy something with excess packaging; don't buy something you don't really need; reuse what you can; compost if you can. There are other options besides tossing it into a recycling bin or trash can.

How are you going to create less waste this weekend?


butt out!

This week I'm expanding on what was going to be a weekly simple eco tip, and it's only partly intentional.

Photo: Lexington Herald Leader
According to both the Ocean Conservancy and Keep America Beautiful, cigarette waste is one of the most common forms of litter around the world, and 65% of cigarette butts are improperly discarded. In fact, cigarette filters and other related tobacco waste are the number one item recovered during the annual Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day. They've collected more than 52 million cigarette filters in the last 25 years.

Cigarette butts make up a large part of litter in of public outdoor spaces, including sidewalks, roadways, parks, shopping centers and office buildings. Anywhere you look, you're bound to see a few discarded cigarette butts. When we volunteered for recycling at Festival International recently and our first task was picking up trash, cigarette butts were the most common item I found littering the pavement (aside from straws).

In 2009, a Keep America Beautiful study found that cigarette waste accounted for 38 percent of all U.S. roadway litter. And did you know that cigarette butts are not biodegradable and do not break down quickly? Even the butts that are "properly" thrown away are sent to a landfill where they take up space. And they can leach their bad chemicals into the ground.

Graphic: Texas Elite Angler

These statistics inspired TerraCycle, a popular upcycling company, to start a program to collect and recycle cigarette butts and use them to create new industrial items, such as pallets. Remaining tobacco is worked into tobacco composting. The Cigarette Waste Brigade collects cigarette butts from any citizen who mails them in and turns them into new items.

And there are other ways to recycle cigarette butts. InnovaGreen Systems is another recycling program that collects the butts with a special outpost. One designer has found a way to use cigarette butts to make yarn for her fashion designs.

So this week's simple eco tip simply requests that you dispose of your cigarette butts in an earth-minded manner. Don't simply flick them behind you or throw them in the trash. Consider collecting your butts and sending them to a recycling program. Or even if you aren't a smoker, consider starting a program at your workplace or neighborhood for recycling.

Of course, the greenest way is to not smoke, but that subject and debate are a whole other ballpark. And both smokers and nonsmokers can contribute to reducing the amount of cigarette waste in the country and around the world. Let's change those statistics and clean up our space.

national bike month [link friday, 5.3]

Happy National Bike Month!

Wednesday kicked off National Bike Month, spearheaded by the League of American Bicyclists. Get out and ride as often as you can this month, before the sweltering summer heat sets in.

  • Peruse the Bike Month page at the link above for all kinds of great resources related to bicycling.
  • Find Bike Month events in your area.
  • Read The League's Getting Started Guide to National Bike Month. (Or download a PDF of it here.)
  • Look into local bike groups and get involved! 
  • If you're in the Lafayette area, join in Bike Lafayette's Ride of Silence (9.5 miles) on May 15. It will honor Betty J. Noel, Jaquil Provost, Mickey Shunick, Nell Taylor, Roxanne Richard, Carl Menard, Leigh Holland, Mark Weinke, Scott Coco and Monique Koll, local citizens who have been killed or injured in the past year while riding bikes.
  • And check out national bike organizations.
  • If you're looking into getting a bike, check out your local shops. Some great Lafayette shops are:
  • Live in a larger city? Check to see if there's a bike sharing program! Sustainable Business has more great information on bike sharing programs around the world.
  • Biking to work? Eleanor's, an NYC boutique, has a great online shop of stylish bike-friendly clothing and accessories to help you make the trip. (Tip: Bags or baskets are a must to carry your items! Panniers would be great to carry extra clothing or your work materials.) I definitely want the skirt that unzips to give extra fabric for riding modestly! There are many other places around the Internet that have great bike accessories as well.
  • Learn how to tune up your bike on your own. Maintenance is extremely important to keep your bike riding well.
  • Get a helmet if you don't already have one. There are many many places online to find a helmet that suits your style. I received a Nutcase helmet for Christmas and I love it! I am drawn to the more urban styles instead of those racing-style helmets. Let's face it, I won't be doing much speed racing on my cruiser. But whatever style you like, get a helmet and save your head!
  • Learn your local and state bike laws. Lafayette, a reminder once again of our laws!

Now that you're prepared, go ride! Have a lovely, two-wheeled weekend from eco cajun!

weekly simple eco tip, 5.1

Today kicks off National Bike Month, but biking is only part of this week's simple eco tip. (Come back Friday for more goodies on National Bike Month!)

Looking for a way to save gas, get exercise and enjoy your city and scenery? Get in on that alternative transportation!

Whether you bike, walk, run, skateboard, carpool, zip line (wouldn't that be awesome!), by using something other than your car, you're helping to cut down on emissions and gas usage.

Quick, close trips? Bike or walk!
Work or errands? Carpool!
School? Bike or carpool!

What's your favorite mode of alternative transportation, and how often do you get to use it?

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