weekly news recap [link friday, 6.28]

There's been a lot of good information floating around this week, so here's a snappy little roundup of my favorite or mentally-marked-as-noteworthy articles!

Go out and have a wonderful weekend! Or cry over the fact that it's ALREADY the last weekend of June...

filtered. [weekly simple eco tip, 6.26]

In keeping with relevant summertime talk, this week's simple eco tip will help you maintain energy efficiency in your air conditioning.

Change your air conditioner's filter regularly. A dirty and clogged filter forces your air conditioner to run more in order to force the air through the filter. The more the AC runs, the more your electricity bill goes up. And a clean filter prevents dust and dirt from building up in the system, avoiding expensive maintenance or early system failure. It's recommended that you change your air filter every three months, but in extremely hot or cold months, check it once every month to make sure it isn't already clogged. Another benefit to having a clean filter is having better air to breathe – extra important for people with allergies.

summertime gone green

The heat of summer has set in, so now we have the choice of simply surviving it, or making the best of it. This week, I'm taking a look at some eco-friendly products that help to do both! To catch up on some summertime conversation tips, head this way

Insect repellents are necessary to summertime survival, but unfortunately many conventional repellents contain DEET, a chemical that can irritate skin and has caused seizures in children and adults. Be sure to choose only repellents that don't contain DEET for your and your children's safety. Wellness Mama has recipes for making your own bug spray, using mainly essential oils. I haven't tried doing any of these, but my curiosity has been piqued! The Daily Green also features DIY recipes, natural products, and other eco-friendly ways to avoid bugs – such as wearing long pants, a hat or scarf. (The key is to finding long pants that don't make you feel like you are being smothered!)

You can also turn to candles to help you block bugs while you're enjoying an afternoon or evening outside. Citronella oil is an essential oil that has been classified as a nontoxic plant-based insect repellent in the United States since 1948. Look for Citronella candles made from eco-friendly wax, such as the selection at Buy Green, and enjoy your outdoor barbecue!

Don't forget to outfit your home's windows with light- and heat-blocking curtains. This will save you from misery and extra energy costs.

When you go outside, always be sure to put on sunscreen. This is something my parents have always told me, and something I may not have always listened to. But as I grow older, I know that when I spend time in the sun, I don't want to feel like I am baking, so I slather on the sunscreen. I've also recently committed to using a BB cream with sunscreen in it, and I feel so much better about going outside every day. And there are natural alternatives to sunscreen, but I cannot personally vouch for how well these work. 

Tropical Seas offers eco-friendly sunscreens and other sun-care products in biodegradable packaging. Their goal is to create products that are also nontoxic to sea life, which is a nice thought to the fact that their packages just might end up in the ocean among the sea life. They also do not test on animals and do not use animal byproducts. The Honest Co. has a chemical-free, vegetarian sunscreen, and Abe's Market has an organic sunblock.

Now, for the fun stuff!

A fun project to do with your children (or by yourself, because we are all just overgrown children anyway!) is to make bird feeders out of materials lying around the house. Bonus fun, this also provides entertainment for kitties sitting in the window, as it gives them endless birdies to watch during the day!

Earth911 shows how to make seven different recycled bird feeders, from materials such as milk cartons to Coke bottles to even floppy disks! I smell an eco cajun project happening soon.

If you have a garden, consider making eco-friendly plant markers. Buzzfeed and Apartment Therapy each have lots of different ideas for using materials you already have lying around.

Decorating your outdoor space will make you want to spend more time out there! And decorating it with eco-friendly items will make you feel good about spending time there.

Add color to your space with a recycled outdoor rug, such as the ones from Outdoor Rugs Only. Since they are made from recycled plastic, they are durable enough for outdoor use.

You can also look for recycled rubber welcome mats, such as the lovely owl mat I found last year (featured above). Check out last summer's post about eco-friendly patio furnishings.

Another bit of decorating fun comes from adding recycled accessories, such as solar-powered string lights and other garden features. These solar-powered lights are going through their fourth summer with me and are still working nicely.

This recycled metal hummingbird feeder was something I chose as a birthday gift for my best friend this year, and her husband gave her this solar-powered lantern, both from Uncommon Goods.

And the last big part of decorating your outdoor space is the furniture. Look for pieces made of recycled plastic or rubber. Furniture made of recycled milk jugs is popular and sturdy, such as the chairs below from Polywood

Some other recycled outdoor furniture vendors include By the Yard, Loll Designs, West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Breezesta.

And get creative! Reuse items that you already have in a new way. Use an old colander as a planter. Use a large old bucket upside down as a small patio table. Use pallets in all kinds of ways. The possibilities are endless!

What's your favorite eco-friendly summer solution?


don't stand idly by! [link friday, 6.21]

Today, I came across this good.is post featuring an infographic about the facts of idle vehicles and found it intriguing. With gas over $3 a gallon still, an idling car or truck just seems like the pinnacle of waste – between money and resources.

You can click on the image above to view the full info graphic. You can also visit the Sustainable America Turn It Off campaign website, and follow Sustainable America on Facebook and/or Twitter.

With it being the first (ha.) day of summer, I know it's hot, and if you have to sit in your car for a few minutes, it seems unthinkable to turn the car off and lose the cool air. But, you are wasting precious fuel doing that. You can maybe consider keeping a portable fan in your car. By making the effort to reduce your idling, you are already improving the planet. If you're picking up food on the go, park and go inside rather than wait in a drive-thru line. If you're stuck at a railroad crossing and a neverending train is passing, turn off your car until it's time to go again.

And that's it for this week! Eat local and don't idle your vehicle! See y'all back here next week! (Or you can follow me on Instagram or Twitter for bits and pieces of green fun in the meantime!)


ate lafayette, alright.

Just three of the local restaurants I featured Tuesday for being members of the Eat Lafayette campaign. And just three of the many local restaurants I sampled food from at the kickoff event last night! Talk about stuffed.


receipt-less [weekly simple eco tip, 6.19]

What's the most annoying thing you can think of cluttering your purse, car or countertop in your house? Probably a wad of crumpled receipts, right? The ones above are the ones currently residing in my own purse, and that's actually a small pile compared to normal.

So, one very simple eco tip is to simply refuse receipts when you're asked, or inform the cashier ahead of time that you won't need a printed receipt. Now, of course, some places automatically print receipts for you, and would just throw them away if you tell them you don't want it, so there's really no winning solution at those times (since receipt paper is not always recyclable, and many receipts may contain BPA). But if you're asked before the receipt is printed, simply tell the cashier you don't need a receipt. One of the easiest places to do this is at the gas pump. My favorite places are the ones who ask if you would like a receipt emailed or texted to you – such as many places who use Square for credit card transactions.

Of course, sometimes receipts are necessary – such as for large purchases or when you purchase something you may decide to return later (though some places can accept returns without a receipt, with conditions), or when you are purchasing something on behalf of your workplace and need to submit receipts for reimbursement. And the point is not necessarily to never accept a receipt again in your life, but to cut down when you can. If you don't need one, don't take one. If you do need one, then at least that receipt is serving its purpose, and not just being another piece of waste.


celebrating local eats

This week kicks off an annual Lafayette summertime tradition: the Eat Lafayette campaign. The campaign brings focus to the locally owned and run restaurants in our town – of which there are many! We aren't known as one of the best foodie cities for nothing.

If you're in the Lafayette area, be sure to visit the 72 (!) participating restaurants between now and September 2 and take advantage of the special offers!

Beyond the benefit of being a locally owned restaurant, some of the participating restaurants are also eco-friendly, from using locally sourced ingredients to being truly farm to table, and serving local craft beer. Some of these include:

Cafe Vermilionville – uses local ingredients in some of their dishes.

Everything Else is Cake – offers gluten-free, grain-free and sugarfree desserts (eco-friendly in that it's less processed than traditional desserts).

Guidry's Reef – serves Louisiana seafood (and to be fair, most Lafayette seafood restaurants use Louisiana seafood.)

Jolie's Louisiana Bistro – is a farm-to-table restaurant; uses seasonal Louisiana ingredients.

Rusted Rooster – uses local ingredients.

Saint Street Inn – is another farm-to-table restaurant; uses local ingredients.

Sandra's Cafe and Health Food Store – serves and sells organic, all-natural and local products.

Social Southern Table & Bar – uses local ingredients; serves local craft beer (and site of my birthday dinner a couple weeks ago!)

Tsunami Sushi – saves their cooking oil for biodiesel use (I believe!)

Twins Burgers and Sweets – makes their own bread for their burgers (and maker of my birthday cupcakes and cookies a couple weeks ago! Shoutout to my parents for supporting local businesses!)

Whole Wheatery Eatery – serves vegetarian and organic dishes.

There are also a couple restaurants I can think of that are eco-friendly, but not participating Eat Lafayette restaurants, such as French Press and Great Harvest Bread Company (who are certified as a green restaurant). I am now both hungry and inspired to visit them in order to share photos and reviews with y'all! The Eat Lafayette kickoff event is this week, and I'll be sure to share photos of the local food for y'all, because I'm just generous like that!

And if you're not in the Lafayette area, it's okay! Once you're done wiping the drool off your keyboard,  be inspired by Eat Lafayette. Make it your own campaign to support locally owned restaurants in your area. Eating local allows for so much variety in dishes and helps your area's economy.

When you're out supporting local businesses and eating delicious food, be sure to clean your plate, or bring home and eat all your leftovers. Because, after all, leaving food wasted isn't very eco-friendly, is it?

Allons manger! Let's eat!

greener hotels [link friday, 6.14]

Hotels are not instantly perceived as being mindful of their emissions or focused on being carbon neutral. But now, many corporations are choosing hotels for their events based partially on what their carbon footprint will be.

Testing by about 50 hotels shows the report takes about two hours to complete from data such as energy bills and suppliers. After being entered into a spreadsheet, the hotel can analyze its carbon footprint for guestrooms and meeting spaces during a specified year, per night and per guest.

The working group behind this initiative include Accor, Beijing Tourism Group, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Diamond Resorts International, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, Hyatt Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marriott International, Meliá Hotels International, MGM Resorts International, NH Hoteles, Orient-Express Hotels Ltd, Pan Pacific Hotel Group, Premier Inn-Whitbread Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, TUI AG and Wyndham Worldwide.

It's a big step on a larger scale for hotels to move forward in creating less emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. This is also nice bit of news that will transition to a larger post soon on how to lower your own carbon footprint when traveling and staying in hotels.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and happy Father's Day to all dads!

weekly simple eco tip, 6.12

Great for everyone who brings their own office snacks and families with children, one easy way to be greener and waste less packaging is to stay away from single serve packages of snacks and drinks!

It seems convenient to buy a box of single serve snack bags, but the amount of packaging being thrown out is much higher than buying a full size box of the same snack. With the full size box, you get to make your own single serving! Just put your snacks or drinks in a reusable container and be on your merry way, or send your children on their merry way. You'd have one plastic bag to throw out (and one box to recycle), compared to eight plastic bags to throw out (and one box to recycle).

I tend to use the small stackable Rubbermaid containers to bring snacks to work (such as my Kryptonite up there, Spicy Cheez-Its®), but there are also cute reusable snack bags, like these snack sacks from SnackTaxi. If you use a plastic zip bag, be sure to reuse it, or you're basically creating the same amount of waste as you would if you bought pre-portioned snacks. 

And you can do the same with juice, soft drinks, milk or water by putting it in a Klean Kanteen or any kind of reusable cup. This week, I bought a large carton of iced coffee and have been bringing a Kanteen-ful to work each morning, drastically cutting down on waste from my newfound weakness of using the pod coffee maker at work.

park-friendly cities [link friday, 6.7]

Parks are an important part of any city - they improve the quality of life and create a peaceful outlet amidst the roads and busy-ness.

The Trust for Public Land ranks the largest 50 cities' parks in an annual ParkScore, based on acres of park space, investment from the city, and the percentage of people who live within 10 minutes of a park. They just released their rankings for 2013. None of the top 10 cities are located in the south, and no Louisiana city makes the cut in being one of the 50 largest cities in the nation. The closest city to southern Louisiana is Houston, which comes in at #38.

Visit the TPL website to view all the data about the top 10 cities. While there may not be any Cajun representation on the list, it serves as a great inspiration for all cities. There are many great ideas and elements that cities can adopt in their own park planning in order to become more park-friendly.

Locally, The Horse Farm is a park space undergoing some transformations and becoming a central spot of green in town - and they just launched a Saturday morning Farmer's Market! I am excited to see how this park will grow and flourish as a much-needed space.


an eco cajun's birthday

One more year down, more awesome years coming up. This treehugger is 28 years young today!

world environment day [weekly simple eco tip, 6.5]

Today is World Environment Day, a project by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
Your weekly simple eco tip is to check out the website and take action today to have less food waste in your household or office. This great poster gives 26 simple ways to do so!


saving energy during the summer

Poo yi. Summer is just not my season, y'all. I do love swimming and sundresses, but Louisiana summers are basically Survivor: Bayou, and I'm just not cut out for this humidity.

But in any case, summer and its heat and humidity have arrived. So now it's time to talk conservation practices, to save on energy bills and misery. A little conservation from everyone goes a long way toward making sure the whole area doesn't suffer as much. In the dog days of summer, city utility grids have quite a strain put on them, and the demand causes higher rates and possibly rolling blackouts.

Some actions you can take to conserve energy around your home include:

  • Plant trees for shade. The part of your home that faces west is the part that will benefit most from shade and protection, since the afternoon sun burns hotter and longer than the morning sun.
  • Get blackout or thermal curtains for your windows to block out light and heat. Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day. They can't work to their full potential if they aren't covering the window!
  • Turn your AC thermostat up when you leave for work or school in the morning, then turn it down when you return. It won't feel as good when you get home in the afternoon, but you will save money from running the air conditioner in an empty house during peak heat hours. To be extra energy efficient, look into a thermostat like the Nest. It learns your schedule and programs itself to turn the AC on or off at the right times. You can even control it from your phone. There are also standard thermostats that have a program feature. You can simply program it to be set higher while you're away and to lower right before you get back home, for more comfort.
  • Use the majority of your electricity in off-peak hours. Don't wash your clothes or cook while the temperatures are at their hottest. The electricity rates will be higher, and the demand from everyone else will contribute to putting a strain on the grid. Do laundry or your hair in the morning or evening. (Or let your hair go natural!)
  • While we're on cooking, look for recipes that don't require as much use of your stove or oven. The oven especially heats up the kitchen, requiring your air conditioner to run more to regulate the temperature. Using a slow cooker or cooking dishes that don't require heat will help to keep your home cooler.
  • Place CFL lightbulbs in all lights and lamps. Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, and thus, cost more to run. CFL bulbs are cooler to the touch and use much less energy to give you the same end product.
  • Turn on ceiling or tower fans for less energy-sucking air regulation. They will help reduce your need to run the air conditioner continuously. Just make sure to turn them off when you leave the room.
  • Water your lawn in the morning or evening. Watering in the middle of the day just means that the water will evaporate faster and not soak into your lawn. And for the love of the Earth, if it is raining, turn OFF the automatic sprinkler! You are just wasting water and money, and making environmentalists like me angry. According to the American Water Works Association, as much as 30% of water can be lost to evaporation when you water your lawn midday. And if your town has a lawn watering schedule, follow it!
  • Use a windshield sun shade in your car when you must park in the sun. It will make the interior of your car feel much better and help reduce the need for frantically blasting the air conditioner as soon as you get in.

Summer isn't comfortable, but by using a few of these conservation tips, you can be comfortable while still remembering to be green.

This year poses a new summer energy efficiency challenge for me, as I've found I've had to relent on some of my practices. Having a kitty means the blinds are up most of the day, in order for him to be able to see outside. In the afternoons this means the place gets really bright and hot. I still tend to keep my air conditioner up, so I know it will only get more uncomfortable for the both of us as summer goes on. So I'm working on a few ways to combat the problem efficiently. I would love to apply some solar film to the bottom portion of my windows, so my kitty can sit in the window and watch the birds without feeling all of the heat, and it will cover what the blinds haven't been. And I'm shopping around for blackout or thermal curtains to replace the current unlined ones shown below. I will hopefully be trying out a new set soon (hint, if Mom and Dad get a pair I picked out for my birthday), and will report on how well they work (or don't).

Do you practice any of these conservation tips already? What kinds of differences have you noticed from before you started?

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