super football parties

Side note: Does anyone else realize how stupid it is to trademark the name of a particular football game, thus making everyone either pay to use the name, or use another name when talking about it? Most people end up calling it the Big Game in their ads, but seems like using the real name would actually help the brand out more. But then again, this is the NFL. Comme çe, comme ça.

So the BIG GAME is this Sunday and if you're like me, you still don't know what your plans are.

Whether you host a party or attend another one, make it greener!

If you are hosting a party, look for disposable plates and cutlery made of alternative materials, such as bamboo or tapioca starch. Alternative disposable dinnerware is recyclable, biodegradable, and/or compostable, giving them a greater purpose than plain polystyrene dinnerware that can only be thrown away and is not biodegradable. Many Whole Foods Markets carry the Susty Party line, and probably a few others as well. Bonus: Susty Party also has straws, so you can even be green with straws! (If you even need a straw!) But if you're focusing more on the "reduce" aspect of the 3 Rs, don't use disposable dinnerware at all! Just use regular plates, cutlery and glasses (and mason jars) and wash everything afterward. (Make sure your dishwasher is empty beforehand!)

Use an extra bin or trash can as a recycling bin and make sure it's clearly marked so guests will know what it's for and what can go in it. Here's a suggested handy list of what can be recycled at your party: Beer bottles, wine bottles (for the ladies), beer cans, liquor bottles and plastic salsa containers or jars. Did I miss anything??

When you're decorating, use items that can be reused - you don't need paper streamers or a plastic table cloth. Get creative! Susty Party has a great pin board for recipes and decorating ideas, and shows a table wrapped in brown kraft paper (recyclable) decorated to look like a football field. But seriously, don't go overboard spending money or time decorating with disposable decorations for a football party. Quick and free is where it's at when the focus is on the football (drink once when they talk about the outdoor stadium) and the commercials (where it's at for me!).

If you're attending a party somewhere, reduce your own footprint while influencing others to reduce theirs! Bring your dish in a reusable container, and if you get to bring leftovers home, put them in your dish. Bring booze that comes in a recyclable container - bottles or cans (let's not start on boxes). If there's no recycling bin at the party, save your containers to recycle at home. It's not THAT embarrassing, I promise. I've done it.

Whether you're hosting or attending a party, make a dish or two that features local food or super healthy foods.

And whatever you do to make your viewing party greener, you won't be alone. The NFL continually looks for ways to make football season greener across the country, and work specially to green the big game.

This year may be the most environmentally friendly big game yet. This year the MetLife Stadium will be composting food waste from the game; the first in big game history, but not in stadium history. The compost can be used for landscaping. Talk about super landscaping! The cooking oil will also be processed to make biodiesel fuel. After the game, the NFL will donate fabric signage to nonprofits for repurposing - which also happened last year in New Orleans, and the material was used to make purses, dresses, shower curtains, tote bags and wallets. With the fuel emissions from so many people descending upon one area, and the amount of garbage they all generate, all these steps toward making the game environmentally friendly are extra important.

Other places for party ideas:
Mother Nature Network
Susty Party Pinterest board

So, who are you hoping will win? I'm on Team Commercials!

louisiana snow day!

Excuse me, "sneaux day".


keeping warm with eco-friendly insulation

Insulation is easily one of the most effective ways to make a house more temperate all year round. If you're cold, you typically put a sweater on before you turn up the heat. Insulation is just a home's sweater!

I've written before about winterizing your home and the ways in which you can be more energy efficient in heating and cooling. By far, proper insulation is the base on which all these other methods build upon for maximum efficiency.

All insulation is "green" by nature, but there's a wide variety of insulation types, ranging from toxic to your health to super green and recycled.

Foam and fiberglass are the most common forms of insulation today. Foam products no longer use CFCs, but they do use HCFCs, which are better than CFCs, but still not great for the environment. Fiberglass manufacturing uses 20-25% recovered glass cullet, while mineral wool uses 75% recovered slag. Both still have controversial health risks, so they need to be carefully and expertly handled.

Fiber insulation materials (like cellulose, fiberglass, mineral wool and cotton) tend to have a lower environmental impact than foam-plastic insulation materials, but their thermal resistance is not as highly rated.

Back in the day (and still today to a lesser extent), popular traditional insulation used in homes and commercial buildings also contained asbestos, because the material has great sound absorption, resistance to fire, and affordability. However, the fibers are incredibly toxic to humans. Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen, yet it is still widely used in the US.  It affects water, air and soil quality, because it does not break down or biodegrade. When asbestos is inhaled, it becomes embedded in the lungs, and in many cases, leads to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining. You don't want your home's walls to contain cancer-causing fibers, right? And you wouldn't want to subject the professional installers to the same dangers. (For more information on mesothelioma, check out the Mesotheloma Cancer Alliance.)

But luckily, there are better options than cancer-causing fibers with which to insulate your walls. One of the more popular green insulation options from the past few years is cotton insulation made from shredded, recycled denim. But don't go stuffing old pairs of jeans inside your walls just yet. Cotton insulation comes in rolls of batting and is installed the same way conventional insulation is. And cotton insulation has better sound-dampening qualities and fewer potential health problems than fiberglass insulation.

A company in England even makes insulation from recycled plastic bottles.

Wool insulation is a great green option, because it's natural, renewable and sustainable. It requires less energy in production than conventional insulation, and it can help slow down a fire in a home, due to its noncombustible properties.

Foam insulation is another category of insulation that has separate benefits from the batted materials. Foam insulation can be sprayed inside existing walls, making it a good choice for those retrofitting a home without tearing walls down. One local company, Southern Spray Foam, uses foam that contains green materials and is eligible for federal tax credits.

One couple in Chicago insulated their old home with spray foam made out of soybeans. They chose it even though it was the most expensive option because of its eco-friendly properties and a tighter air barrier than batted insulation. On This Old House's website, they discuss the changes the insulation has made in their kitchen, which include soundproofing and improved indoor air quality.

Whichever type of insulation you might choose, SCGH has tips on how to best do the work. Start with insulating the attic first, which can be an easier solution than going into the walls. They also suggest wrapping your hot water heater with an insulating blanket, which can help save water waste. And be sure to address any water leaks in your home before you put insulation in, because you don't want it to get wet!

If you have an upcoming insulation project, do a little research beforehand and see if you can feasibly make the project a little more eco-friendly by using better, less toxic materials.

louisiana arbor day

While the national Arbor Day is held in April (the 25th this year), some states have their own Arbor Days that follow their best planting times. Since Louisiana's optimum tree planting season ends in March, Louisiana's Arbor Day is held each year on the third Friday in January. So happy Louisiana Arbor Day! (And happy Florida Arbor Day if that's where you are. All you other states will have to wait until at least next month for your special Arbor Day.)

Arbor Day was started in Nebraska in 1872, and is focused on planting and caring for trees. The Arbor Day Foundation is an organization that oversees Arbor Day activities and provides information on tree planting for anyone interested.

So what's going on in Louisiana today and this weekend to celebrate Arbor Day?

Whether or not you participate in a city-wide Arbor Day event, or you plant a single tree in your own yard, you'll be making a difference in your local nature!

shedding some light

I have to admit, the incandescent light bulb ban that went into effect on January 1 took me by surprise. I am 100% an advocate of using energy-efficient lighting, but was did not know that traditional bulbs were actually being phased out of production. Way to be up on your green news, Caitlin. So, what's the deal with all these kinds of light bulbs, you might ask.

In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sought to improve fuel efficiency, increase production of biofuels and save energy in industrial and commercial buildings. Part of the way to cut unneeded energy was to make the widespread transition to energy-efficient light bulbs. At the beginning of 2013, 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs were phased out, and as of the new year, 40- and 60-watt bulbs joined the club. While you can still buy these bulbs until stores run out of their stock, you should embrace the switch.

Why ditch traditional incandescent bulbs? Easy. It saves you energy and therefore, money. According to the US Department of Energy, the average household dedicates about 10% of its energy spending to lighting. It may not seem like a lot, but spending 10% of your utility bill to turn lights on and off can really add up. Especially when you realize that the majority of the energy used by incandescent light bulbs is actually from the heat given off. Buy a light bulb and pay to run it, only to see most of your money going toward the wasted, needless heat. Energy-efficient light bulbs emit less heat and require less electricity to be 'on'. This is also a great safety change for children and pets.

Money-wise, according to Dayton Power & Light, the average cost to run a 60-watt bulb for one year is $8.74. To run the equivalent 13-watt CFL bulb would cost an average $1.89 for the year. Small numbers, but still a big savings. By replacing about 15 incandescent light bulbs in your home, you could save $50 on your utility bill over one year.

And, you can expect to replace your bulbs less often. CFL bulbs last 10-25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, giving them a greater value (unless you happen to be my coworker, who claims that his CFLs last the same amount of time...). So, while CFLs are more expensive up front, they cost less to run and last longer than their predecessors. You definitely reap the benefits in the long run, once the bulbs save enough money to have paid for themselves.

Another lighting option is the LED light bulb. LEDs are the most expensive, but most efficient and longest-lasting bulb for general use. They're also very commonly found in flash lights, tap lights, desk lamps, or outdoor lighting (and Christmas lights!). LEDs are able to be set on dimmers as well. They work well staying on for long periods outside because of their great energy savings.

I would imagine many people will, at some point this year once stores have run out of their inventory, complain about not having the option to be cheap incandescent light bulbs. While it may seem as if you're being forced to buy something more expensive (and in many opinions, uglier...however, I disagree), you will save money and pay yourself back in the (not very) long run through savings on your utility bill. And who does love saving money on their utility bill?

why cold weather does not disprove global warming

The temperature here in South Louisiana has been hovering around freezing for the past couple days and has dipped into the upper teens overnight. The last time I remember it being this cold was about this time four years ago, as I remember driving to New Orleans to spend the weekend with a dear friend and watching my car's thermostat never get above 29*.

But anyway, when that cold cold air blew in, so did two other things. Scores of complaints about the cold weather, and jokes about how global warming must not be real. I will remember those complaints when we're entering month four of 90*+ heat, when I am hot, sticky, crabby and my hair is a frizzy mess. (You can always add clothes, but you SURELY can't take away when it's hot as eff outside. That just wouldn't be prudent or professional, am I right?)

So, about that global warming? A few cold snaps do not disprove climate change. The short answer is because weather is not climate. (And I'll preface this by saying I am neither a climatologist nor a meteorologist. Unless you count my second-grade report on cloud types and my fourth or fifth grade science fair project on the science behind temperature changes as expert research. In that case, I might know a little bit. I did make good grades on them. Otherwise, I just have a few handy links as source information so you know I'm not totally making things up.)

Here's why. Some simple grade school science definitions, courtesy of NASA:
Weather: what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time.
Climate: how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.
So, this awesomely named Polar Vortex is a weather phenomenon, and cold fronts are weather patterns. Temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and wind are all weather, and all short-term, but the statistics and data are all collected for research. Over the years, all that data is crunched to discover the long-term trends of what's happening in our atmosphere, and the results are known as the climate. For example, recording the daily temperatures for fifty years and then averaging each year's group of temperatures create data to show how the weather has trended to create a region's climate. Some scientists define climate as the average weather for a particular region and time period, usually taken over 30-years. It's really an average pattern of weather for a particular region.

The planet's average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past 100 years, and is projected to rise another two to 11.5°F over the next hundred years.

So, to correlate these crazy winter storms to global warming. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather. The rising of the planet's temperature basically makes everything a bit more unstable… don't you get a little more agitated when you're hot and sweaty? So with the warming trends of the planet, it's causing weather to behave more erratically, leading to higher sea levels, stronger hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes (and other perceived causes of earthquakes from man-made activity is a whole can of worms I don't even delve into), and cold storms. And don't you behave a little more erratically when you're hot and agitated? I surely know I do!

Climate change is also a very natural phenomenon. It has happened for the billions of years our planet has existed and it will continue to happen long after we are gone. But there's scientific evidence supporting the theory that man-made contributions are changing our climate a little faster than it would have if we weren't producing crazy amounts of greenhouse gases. And yes, if you stop using aerosol cans in your daily life, you won't magically solve the global warming crisis. But as that saying goes, every little bit counts. And if everyone did their little bit, then maybe nature could do what it wants on its own time, instead of us speeding up the process.

So, for those people you know (relatives on Facebook, coworkers, many Southerners, etc.) who are all "Oh, it's so cold outside! How about that global warming, huh? What of that?", now you know how to tell them that their clever observation is incorrect. You're welcome!

(Thanks to my friends at Green Philly Blog for sharing some of these links on their Twitter and making my research super easy!)

christmas recycling

I always dread the beginning of January because it means the Christmas decorations must come down. Just when the tree is starting to get fragrant again!

Luckily, most Christmas decorations can be put away and reused for years. For the more disposable decorations, see how you can recycle before you throw away.

Save your favorite holiday cards and frame them for decorations in later years, instead of throwing cards away.

If you're getting rid of your Christmas lights, you have a few options. If they work, donate them to a school, church or nonprofit. If they don't work, I believe you can still take them to Lowe's or Home Depot at the beginning of next Christmas season and trade them in for a discount on new lights.

And for that natural Christmas tree? Don't throw it away! If you have a fireplace or outdoor fire pit, save your tree and chop it up for firewood. Should you have a grinder, you could make mulch for your yard. My boyfriend and I have been collecting neighborhood trees that will go up to his family's camp and be sunk for fish habitats. If you leave it on the curb, send it off to a good home. Some cities, including Lafayette back in the day, take trees to drop in the swamps to help with erosion, or to combat weeds. These days, Lafayette picks up trees with the yard waste collection. All residents can bring their trees to the compost facility in north Lafayette for free. But no matter what you do, make sure you take everything off the tree first!! Don't accidentally throw out Baby's First Ornament in your desire to recycle.

welcome, 2014!

Don't you just love the smell of something shiny and new? It's a brand new year! I'm still a sucker and still make new year's resolutions, and for some reason I still share them with people. Just don't come fuss me at the end of the year when I've failed to achieve most of these.

  • Write more on eco cajun.
  • Start a compost system.
  • Start an herb/vegetable garden.
  • Buy a hybrid car. (It hilariously did not happen this year. I hilariously thought it would be possible.)
  • With my boyfriend, learn to cook more family recipes.
  • Learn to let it go. (One of my biggest challenges all the time.)
  • Be more adventurous and see my hometown and region from a new perspective.
  • Truly enjoy my last full year in my 20s.
What are your resolutions for this year?
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