link friday, 9.27

After last week's rainfest, I'm looking forward to a nice, sunny, still-too-warm fall weekend. Gotta send out September in style! 

Here are some interesting green things I've found over the past week:

Hope you all have a happy September weekend! See you next week!


making a house an eco-friendly home

My boyfriend recently purchased his first home, and one of my first tasks was to appoint myself as his green consultant. Finally, a place to practice all kinds of things I want to do, but can't in a rental!

We've been extremely busy transforming his house into his own unique home, and one of the big things we've been working on is making the place more energy efficient. Older homes are not exactly the MOST efficient homes around, but in some ways they are built better than new homes. 

Insulating the house, one of the biggest elements to the efficiency overhaul, has still yet to happen. There are only so many things that can be done at once! But many of the smaller elements have been taken care of, which should ease the shock of a one-bedroom apartment's utility bill turning into a three-bedroom home's utility bill.

One of the other main elements that will help the house tremendously will be to replace the single-pane windows with some double-pane windows, which temper heat and cold a lot more and keep the inside air inside the house. (If anyone wants to donate some new windows to my boyfriend, he would love you forever!)

For the very large, very beautiful front living room window, we chose some nice thermal curtains. They add interest to the room, and help to block the light and the heat. Just ignore the fold creases in the panels - they're still brand new and I don't call myself an ironer (ironist? ironing wizardress?).

This is the morning light streaming through the open blinds, and you can see how much of a difference the thermal curtains make in blocking light and the accompanying Southern late summer heat.

Ceiling fans are a staple of any Southern home. We replaced the master bedroom and living room's existing ceiling fans with new ones that have lights on them. The living room ceiling fan is Energy Star rated and came with CFL light bulbs. But even if the master bedroom fan isn't Energy Star rated, it's still energy efficient, as it helps to cool you off in the room without having to run the air conditioner as much. The ceiling fans in each room, coupled with an oscillating fan in the bedroom, have helped keep the house comfortable over the past month, and will continue to help as we move into fan-only weather.

One way to keep the outside air out and the inside air in is to seal leaks in doorways. This happens to be an interior door (to the air conditioner unit), but we fixed each door that had slight cracks, both with these little flappy things on the bottom of the door and with sticky foam weatherstripping. (With this expertise, I'm ready to start hosting an HGTV show any day now!) Sealing cracks in doorways also helps keep critters out.

And of course, one of the easiest switches for energy efficiency - replacing standard light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. The house's former homeowners had some kind of grand love affair with tiny candle shaped bulbs. I immediately swooped in and removed all the old bulbs and put in CFLs. One tip when you move, and you had CFLs in your old place - take them with you, especially if you put them in. When my boyfriend moved to his apartment I persuaded him to buy CFLs for the lights and fans, and they were all still good a year later, so we took them out and brought them to the new house. It saved a ton of money over having to buy all new CFL bulbs, especially since we still had to buy some.

In some cases, they give off more light than the original bulbs did, and in the other cases, they give off the same amount of light.

And in my favorite part of the efficiency overhaul, it's the item I have wanted for myself for years. This was my big housewarming gift to my boyfriend - a brand spanking new Nest thermostat. It's so preeeeettyyyyy!!!

While we (or I, at least) haven't noticed how it's affected the utility bill for a few reasons, we have enjoyed using it. I don't believe it is fully programmed yet, but my boyfriend has been enjoying the iPhone app very much. Being able to control the thermostat remotely is an amazing feature. Due to the lack of decent insulation in the house's attic, we keep the thermostat on 78-79 and the air conditioner still runs pretty regularly. Once the insulation is put in, we should be able to lower it a few degrees and have it run a bit less. The Nest also tells you if the temperature you choose is energy efficient or not so much, and displays a little leaf under the number. There are so many different ways to set the thermostat, and once you do, it begins to learn your patterns and adjusts itself as it sees you need it. But if you don't have it set and you leave home without remembering to turn the thermostat up, you can easily do it from your phone. When my boyfriend had it first installed, he spent most of the first evening excitedly showing me how he was controlling the temperature while sitting on the couch in the living room. It's the little things in life for them, right ladies? 

These improvements are helping to make the new house more of a comfortable, energy-efficient home, and should also help bring the utility costs down to a less scary level. I also can't wait for the insulation work to be done and then we can really sit back and enjoy his comfortable home.

I'll do some more features in the next few weeks on other ways I (and others) have helped to make his home a green one! 

changing seasons

It's been overcast and rainy for the past day or so, and I have to say, I'm kind of enjoying it. I stayed in and just relaxed for the first time in a very long time, and the pairing of that downtime with the cloudy weather and autumn officially starting tomorrow is putting me in a great mood. My apartment is now adorned with the amazing colors and smells of autumn, my favorite season. Milo is also enjoying the leaves that land on my patio.

This week I saw that the Lafayette Public Library has some great energy efficiency devices available for checkout, and wanted to share with y'all. The Kill A Watt EZ Meter is a handy little device that you plug in to the wall, then you plug any appliance into it. From there it is able to study and tell you how much energy that appliance is using. Then you can know how to adjust your use of that appliance, or if it's simply using too much energy, you can consider finding a more efficient version!

What I love most about this is that the library has a bunch of these meters available for people to check out. It's like a double whammy of greenness - not only do you get to test your appliances' energy usage, but you can do it without having to BUY another appliance. You can simply rent it and then return it for others to use. It looks like just about all of the meters at all of the library branches are currently checked out, but I would love to check one out in the future to give all of my appliances a quick test!

But even if you're not in the Lafayette Public Library area, you can still find these meters online and get one for your own home. 

And now, back to my quiet, rainy day. The blinds are open, the rain is hitting the roof and Milo is taking a cat nap by the window. Happy last day of summer, y'all! Bring on the fall weather!


cutting down paper [weekly simple eco tip, 9.18]

I was visiting the eye doctor recently, an event I have had the pleasure of experiencing for the past 18 years. So I know the routine. But this year, it was a little different and I was pleasantly surprised. And a little jealous I didn't think of this idea sooner.

If you have a particular form you routinely complete, and it must be printed out for a signature or anything else, this paper-saving tip is clever.

Simply print out the form you use and laminate it. Then use a dry erase marker to sign it. Then scan it. That way you have the paper on file in case you need it in the future. And then once you've scanned it, just wash off the information and use it again!

I believe it was the standard HIPAA form at the eye doctor's office, but it was a nice thought that even though we have to physically sign the form, they are taking steps to reduce their paper usage. And all by simply having patients sign a laminated sheet of paper with a dry erase marker, so the record can be stored on a secured computer.

green hotels?

I stayed at the Le Meridien hotel in Dallas recently, and I was impressed with its seeming attention to environmental friendliness. When I checked in, I took note of the Energy Star plaque on the desk.

Many hotels like to put out information about their green practices, but I take it with a grain of salt, because it doesn't seem to be a true commitment, just a marketing ploy. But I believed Le Meridien might be different, since they seem to be different/more boutique compared to standard chain hotels.

And I realized the first night that they might not be. When I arrived in my room, it was a cool 66 degrees inside, with the thermostat set on 65. I immediately upped it to 75, but the fan didn't kick off within a couple minutes, so I turned the entire unit off. And it wasn't just for the energy usage factor; I was also freezing cold. About an hour later, I heard the unit kick on again, and when I looked at it, it was set back on 65. I'm assuming the default setting is 65 degrees, and even if you mess with it, it eventually reverts back to the default setting.

After some button-pushing on the first night, I found a way to keep the room comfortable overnight.

I spent a couple days in the hotel's conference room, where the air temperature was about equal to a morgue. My sweater, pants and copious amounts of coffee didn't seem to help any. I went to my room at the day's end hoping for some relief, and I found my room back on its 65 degree kick, after having turned it off before I left for the day. So I repeated the button-pushing process all over again to try to find some relief for my popsicle limbs.

I never did figure out why the default setting was so cold, but I mentioned it upon checkout and again in the online survey I completed for the hotel. Hopefully they will take the feedback into consideration, especially after I pointed out having seen that Energy Star plaque and commenting that it's not very energy efficient to have an AC's default setting on 65. I understand that I am more comfortable in the warmth than others are, but 65 is a little unreasonable. 70 or 71 would be much more acceptable universally, I believe, and would cut down a LOT of energy use in the hotel.

But another green aspect of the hotel that impressed me was their Green Choice voucher system. I found a hang tag on the desk in my room that stated if you leave the tag on your door before 2am each day you are staying (excluding checkout days) that notified housekeeping you are willing to forego clean towels and sheets that day, you would receive a $5 voucher good to use against your room bill or redeem for Starwood Preferred Guest points. So for the one day I was eligible, I left out my hang tag and received my voucher under the door. I certainly didn't need fresh towels since I was only there for two mornings, and Lord knows I don't wash my own sheets every day at home. I was excited to be able to apply a $5 credit to my total room bill just for my Green Choice. 

I had an overall great stay at the hotel and would visit again, but I'd hope that they rethink their energy efficiency standards in regards to the chilly room temperatures.

(Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.)

eco cajun is one year old!

It's already birthday time! Now, technically, eco cajun was born on March 11, 2009, fell by the wayside the next year, and was reborn on April 10, 2012. And then I set everything in high gear with a new design from Michelle and the official relaunch last September. So since this is my domain and I can do what I want, I am calling today the official birthday.

It's been quite an incredible year and I hope to have many more even better years around here. Thanks to all of you who read my treehugging ramblings! I've quite enjoyed sharing my crafts, my practices, my research and my discussions with y'all. Thanks to everyone who has helped provide me with content, including Lamar, Lafayette Shutters Blinds and More, Great Harvest of Acadiana and all the various blogs and sites I've discovered. I've enjoyed running my accompanying Twitter and Instagram accounts, and I'm planning to launch a Facebook page sometime in the future.

I've learned so much from my own research and writing and I hope to continue that as well. There are still those areas where I don't feel I'm as green as I can be, and I plan to explore those more.

These are just some of the scenes from the past year in the eco cajun life. May there be many more by next September! I hope y'all will stick around with me, because you're pretty and I like you. And because you recycle. (I hope you do, at least.)


friendly reminders

A quick post today to end this ridiculous week.

Sometimes you just need to post two signs like this on your company's recycling bin, to remind the other people on the block what can and cannot go in the bin (that they don't pay to have picked up).


making a move

Moving is an expensive, tiring and time-consuming process. But at least sometimes it can be green. With a little advance planning and a lasting determination, your move can have a smaller impact on the environment.

Image: Buttoned Up

When packing, don't buy new cardboard boxes - obtain some from your office or from a local grocery store or other retail store. Many of them will allow you to take boxes for free (or for a very small cost). And get creative! You can leave clothing in dresser drawers, or pack items in suitcases or duffel bags. You have to move them already; why not pull double duty?

And don't buy packing materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts, use what you have! Newspapers, old magazines, junk mail, t-shirts, scarves leftover packing material from online orders - all make great stuffing. And if you use clothing, then you're saving space by packing them in with breakable items.

Moving is a good time to pare down your belongings so you move only the things that actually matter. If you're getting rid of a lot of things, don't just throw it all in the trash. Donate what others can use, recycle what's accepted, and only then, throw away what's trash.

And once you're in your new place and are busy unpacking and emptying the boxes, make sure to break them down and recycle them. Unpacking and putting away can get hectic, especially if you have a group of people helping out, but let them know from the beginning that there's a separate place for recyclables and ask them to use it. You can even mark one empty box as a makeshift recycling bin.

If you're in a place that has curbside recycling, find out how to get a bin if there isn't already one, and then find out what day pickup is. If you're somewhere that doesn't have recycling, find out how you can recycle - whether it's at a drop-off point or there's a dumpster nearby.

The more materials you can minimize while moving, the better! Pack strategically and use items you already have to cushion breakables, and you'll be able to cut down on the amount of boxes and bubble wrap/styrofoam needed. Pair that with cutting down on your possessions and you'll have less to move in the first place, which will also cut down on headaches!

Next week I'll feature some ways to be green once you're in your new place!


paperless coupons, weekly simple eco tip, 9.4

Coupons are a great thing, especially around your birthday. (Unrelated note: Sign up for the email lists of your favorite restaurants and include your birth date when asked. Free food birthday coupons are one of the greatest things in life today!)

And more and more companies these days, are allowing you to redeem coupons through your smartphone, without needing to print out a paper coupon. If you have that option, use it! Don't use a piece of paper to print a coupon if you don't have to. Instead, you just show the coupon to the sales associate and let them see the coupon code that's included (or at least, should be). And remember to make a note of the expiration date on your calendar or somewhere, since you won't have the paper shoved in your purse or stuck to your fridge. Because expired coupons are a bummer!

So if you can, save money and paper with mobile coupons!

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