gadgets to help you go green

Going green can be made much easier with the assistance of electronic gadgets, whether they help you go paperless, save you energy, or save you money.

Before sharing a few cool devices, let's start with the one that everyone has: your phone. Smartphones can do just about anything now, which means they can easily help you go green. I've recently been transferring to a more cloud-based system, allowing me to access files from my computers or my phone. I'm testing out a task management app for this blog, and it allows me to stay on top of things from my computers, phone, and even any browser - without the use of paper or a combination of five other tools.

There are other simple ways to make your phone help you be greener. List and notetaking apps come in handy for just about anything. Instead of sticky notes, use these apps. There are dedicated grocery list apps, some of which allow for syncing between family members, that help you cut down on paper -- and the threat of forgetting the list at home. There's also a benefit of being able to update your grocery list at any time, not just when you're at home next to the fridge. Being able to update/access your information from different devices is a huge bonus from having to make copies of the same item to keep in different places.

Yahoo recently featured a few green gadgets as options to help you save energy and money:

  • Sunforce Solar Fan with Light - The fan looks like a larger kind that would function well on a patio or elsewhere in the yard, making this a useful green option.
  • American Standard Multi-Functional Shower Head with FloWise Turbine Technology - I have always been interested in switching to a low-flow shower head, but didn't have the ability to do so in my apartment, and the idea of less water pressure is not appealing to everyone. This shower head claims to not compromise performance, however. 
  • myFC PowerTrekk Fuel Cell Charger - This charger claims to be able to power your cell phone with only a few sips from your (reusable) water bottle. I am skeptical of most green phone chargers, because I have a 100% failure rate with the ones I've tried. Many cannot draw enough power to charge a smartphone. But an old Motorola flip it can probably handle!
  • Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac - Typically, items like this I find are victims of greenwashing. A wireless solar keyboard certainly SOUNDS green, until you think of the logistics. If it has to be solar powered, it has to be near sunlight. How many people would want to leave their keyboards outside just to power up? How many workers don't even have a window in their office? Logitech took that into consideration and made their solar keyboard able to be charged by any light source, including desk lamps. Smart!
  • Belkin WeMo Home Automation Switch + Motion Sensor Bundle - The WeMo is a great invention. We have a standard WeMo outlet that powers a lamp in the house, and would have the motion sensor upgrade if we didn't have two feline children running around all the time. What I like about the WeMo is its wireless connectivity. "In an OUTLET?" you might ask. Yes, and it allows you to control anything plugged into the outlet via your smartphone. Forgot to turn off that lamp before going to work? Don't worry about leaving it on for hours; turn it off from your desk! You can also set schedules so items turn on and off at your chosen intervals, making it a great home security addition.
  • EcoSmart Electric Tankless Water Heater - Shockingly, I have zero experience dealing with water heaters. Not exactly sure how this one works compared to a standard heater.
  • Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor - These monitors seem like a great way to test how well you're doing in regards to wasted electricity. But, if you're interested, check around your city and see if there's not another way to acquire one of these. For example, Lafayette Utilities System worked out a partnership with the Lafayette Public Library locations that provides a bunch of these monitors to be checked out. Extra green!
  • WIBO Thermoquick 160 Gallon Composter - I'm not highly educated on composters, but this is one I would look at once I start a garden in the backyard and have a need for compost!
  • Honeywell MyEnergySmart Infared Whole Room Heater - Space heaters are not typically the most energy efficient appliances, but this one claims to have EnergySmart technology so it draws less power, and it has an energy usage indicator. But for any space heaters you use, use them smartly so you don't run your electricity bill up or burn your house down. Only use them in rooms where you are; don't run them for too long at a time or too close to furniture; don't plug them into extension cords; and especially don't leave them running overnight. 
What are your favorite green gadgets?


a Festival 2014 recap

Festival is over, Downtown Lafayette is returning to its normal self, and my feet don't hurt so much now (but my legs are a different story). So how was the weekend? Here's a Festival recap by the numbers!

16: Bands we saw, some twice
18.18: Miles walked during Festival
25ish: Miles biked to and from Festival
23ish: Hours outside all weekend
6: Bottles or cups saved by using my Klean Kanteen
1: Times I reused the plastic cup I did get
5: Pieces of litter I picked up, that weren't actually mine
75: Number of recycling bins put out on Friday after a protest from passionate Festival-goers to bring recycling back

How Eco-friendly?

  • Used Klean Kanteen to hold ice-cold margarita (mmm!)
  • Picked up pieces of litter as we crossed paths (and I could've picked up much more)
  • Used a cloth napkin and real silverware
  • Rode our bikes to and from Festival every day
  • Didn't litter, and used recycling bins
  • Packed necessities to avoid having to purchase more
  • Used the same (ratty) schedule all weekend instead of picking up fresh copies
  • Didn't bother using electricity to fix my hair, letting it go natural instead (only way to go, really)

Being Greener Next Year
  • Make a recycled hat from an empty case of beer
  • Figure out a way to avoid styrofoam plates and bowls from food vendors
  • And decline all plastic utensils
  • Use the Kanteen for all drinks, not just some
  • Pick up more litter and recycle it (it's such a compulsion!)
  • Volunteer for recycling team again

What was your favorite part of Festival?


festival international de louisiane 2014

Ah, dear residents of Lafayette, one of our favorite times of the year is back! Festival International kicked off last night and powers through the weekend.

Last year, I created the Eco Cajun Guide to a Green Festival to help you be less wasteful as you enjoy the music, food and shopping. Check it out and pack your bag with everything you need to be green!

And don't forget to use the recycling bins that are provided throughout the festival! But please, use them correctly. No food, no liquid, no styrofoam, and no vomit! (True story.)


Happy Earth Day!


How have you been doing on your Earth Month pledges? I've shown y'all a few new ways to be a little greener, and I've been sharing photos on Instagram. Posting new pictures each day is certainly one way to reinforce the idea of daily little green moment!

I've got on my favorite Dirty Coast shirt and I am ready to celebrate! No styrofoam, no unnecessary trash, and recycling everything that isn't reusable. And, chances are, you can find me neurotically picking up litter I cross paths with. I just can't help it!

Have you been keeping up with the EPA's daily Act on Climate tips? Are there any you already practice, or ones that you'd like to start doing? These are easy ways to make a difference in your household and car! Read more about each on the Act on Climate EPA page.

  • Change five lights
  • Choose WaterSense
  • Recycle
  • Drive smart
  • Caulk entrances
  • Take the Energy Star pledge
  • Power down
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Take a shower
  • eCycle
  • Maintain your car
  • Think life cycle
  • Use smart thermostats
  • Fill your dishwasher
  • Fix a leak
  • Check tire pressure
  • Reduce food waste
  • Clean outside air conditioner area
  • Save energy at home
  • Reuse
  • Spread the word
  • Turn off the tap
  • Compost
  • Give your car a break
  • Insulate water heater
  • Change air conditioner unit filters
  • Plug into power strips
  • Try the Energy Star online home advisor
  • Wash efficiently

This year, I decided to make you guys a little Earth Day present, because I love y'all just that much, and I now present to you the Eco Cajun Earth Day Spotify mix! 30 songs, spanning 2 hours. From nature imagery to environmental messages, I think this mix covers the spectrum pretty well.

Hope you enjoy the mix, and I hope this Earth Day treats you well!


spring saturdays

When the weather is beyond immaculate, you tend to find yourself doing everything you can outside. Which is how, after four hours of laying down mulch and cleaning up flower beds, I find myself at the patio table with my computer and DIY manicure supplies.

And it feels amazing! It feels like a mini Earth Day celebration, just by being outside and reveling in the sunshine and low humidity and green everything.


celebrating earth month

This past Sunday was Vermilionville's annual Earth Day Festival, and this year the weather held up just long enough!

We walked around, ate a small lunch, listened to some of the band playing, visited with the Acadiana Permaculture Guild and went for another canoe ride around the swamp.

Some of the exhibits featured the Vermilionville garden, plants from the Permaculture Guild, cooking demos, tables for the Teche Project, Palmetto Island State Park (a great little campground just 30 minutes south of Lafayette!), Lafayette Master Gardeners, Trees Acadiana, and others. There was also a scavenger hunt for children, which unfortunately I did not participate in.

There were talks given all afternoon about Bayou Vermilion recreation, the LA Trail hiking and biking networks, the recreation portion of the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan, and the vision and design for Lafayette Central Park.

The canoe ride was again my favorite part of the festival, though it was not without its moments. I was not exactly ready to paddle against some strong winds, and I'm not exactly a cool cucumber in quick moments. Oar form got a little lost in a moment of panic and I sprayed water all over my boyfriend in the back of the canoe. OOPS! We just went for a longer ride to help him dry off! Sorry, babe! When we were paddling back toward the bank, one of the volunteers let us know that there was a baby alligator just under the water very nearby. Nature! (I didn't look too hard for him because I was too busy paddling quickly back to the bank.)

From the Acadiana Permaculture Guild, we picked up some peppermint and parsley to add to the herb garden. The girls with the Guild were very friendly and explained to us how to best grow our herbs. Out front there were free trees for the taking, so we may have Googled each tree to see what it will look like in the future before we selected a gorgeous red maple for the backyard. Fall color, here we come!

I always enjoy doing something a little different, and I love spending time in local cultural spots, but I wish that there were more Earth Day in this Earth Day festival. A celebration of Acadian culture and nature is always great, but I would have enjoyed to learn a little bit more about environmentalism amongst it all. In 2010, there were tables set up for green organizations, solar companies and other related groups to share information. I would love for Lafayette to have an Earth Day festival that focuses more on alternative electricity sources, locally grown food (with some available to eat, instead of soggy french fries in a paper basket or jambalaya in a styrofoam bowl!), sustainable practices, and alternative transportation.

Maybe next year I can get a table for Eco Cajun and get that going myself! Hmm…

Elsewhere in the land, the UL Office of Sustainability is having their Earth Week celebration this week, doing everything from cleaning up campus and storm drains, to putting up a plastic bottle display, to hosting Fete de la Terre in a few short hours. If you're on or near campus today between 11:00 and 2:30, swing by the corner of Hebrard and St. Mary to join in the festivities! Best part…you can ride the St. Mary bike lane to get there!

On Sunday, April 27, Baton Rouge is hosting the Louisiana Earth Day Festival downtown. We went last year and it was a fantastic afternoon with lots of people, exhibits and sunshine. This year, however, it's happening on the last day of Festival International, so the chances of driving to Baton Rouge are about 10% to 0%! Sorry, Earth Day, but this is Festival International we're talking about. But, if you are considering a trip to Baton Rouge, I highly recommend this festival.

We're getting closer to Earth Day!

local event notice! vermilionville earth day, april 13

Vermilionville's annual Earth Day celebration is happening this Sunday, April 13, from 10:30-4. If you're in the area, make it a point to stop in and learn about Acadian culture and green living at the same time! The schedule of events is over on Vermilionville's website, so you can plan your trip around what you're most interested in!

There will be craft and activity tables for children, cooking demonstrations, canoe rides (EXTREMELY FUN!), live bands and a lecture series about outdoor recreation on the Bayou Vermilion.

You can read my recap of last year's rainy Vermilionville Earth Day. I'm hopeful that the weather will hold out this year and all exhibitors should actually be there.


one packet at a time

One of the most frustrating parts of restaurant doggy bags is the sheer amount of waste that comes with bringing your food home. But there are many ways you can make your dinner leftovers more eco-friendly.

One way that I've failed in being less wasteful is in bringing styrofoam containers home from restaurants.Years ago, I started attempting to bring my own Rubbermaid container with me to restaurants where I might have leftovers. However, I only remembered about 1 out of every 4 trips out. It WOULD work...if I would do it.

When I do need a container, I at least always ask for the smallest option available. And I request no plastic bag if I only have one container to bring home.vfggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg```````````````````````````
Hi Milo.
And then there's the dilemma of ordering food to-go and receiving enough napkins, disposable chopsticks and condiment packets to supply a football team. It seems simple enough to just ask for no condiment packets, but the odds are against you on that one. But you can still be eco-friendly even if you do end up with a bag full of disposable stuff. If you have a collection of condiment packets, use them up instead of buying new containers of the same condiments. Pack them in your children's lunch bags, or bring them with your own lunch.

My boyfriend recently had an idea to not buy ketchup or mayonnaise and use only the condiment packets we happened to end up with. It's great idea in the way of saving money, if you don't use condiments much at home, like we don't (except for crawfish dip and potato salad). While smaller packets are more wasteful than one large container, it's a good practice to use everything you bring home.

My boyfriend's friend would also like to add that you should not save condiment packets for too long, or they will not be edible…he says from experience.

You can also find creative reuses for extra sets of plastic forks and chopsticks. Green Philly Blog listed a few ways to reuse chopsticks, such as using them for garden markers, which could also go for plastic forks!

The best way to cut down the amount of waste from restaurant leftovers is by bringing your own containers or refusing extra cutlery. But if you forget or the restaurant makes a mistake, just make the most of it and use everything you bring home!


reducing waste in the laundry room

Clean laundry is a great feeling (and sometimes a mystical enigma hiding under the eternal pile of dirty laundry), but it can come at a very wasteful cost. Finding small ways to reduce waste during laundry will help save your money and the environment.

First things first. Detergent. Look for detergent with a minimal amount of useless packaging. Typically, large jugs of detergent use less plastic than the tubs of prepackaged detergent packs. But if you choose to go with the little detergent packs, make sure the plastic wrapper dissolves and doesn't need to be thrown away first. Either way, save the larger containers to reuse elsewhere. After properly washing all of the detergent out of a jug, use it as a garden watering can - it even has a spout for you. If you have the tubs of detergent packs, use the tubs for other laundry area needs, such as holding your recycled dryer sheets (oops! spoiler alert!), a collection bin of items left in pockets (in my case, 839 bobby pins and sometimes my Fitbit), or whatever else you might think of.

Eco-friendly laundry detergents, such as Seventh Generation, are free of the harsh chemicals that make up traditional detergents, and they work well in cleaning clothes (which is still the basic goal here). My clothes get clean, smell good, and don't leave me itchy. They are more expensive than traditional detergents, but you can stretch out the length so it will last. No matter which detergent you use, don't use too much! Use the measuring lines on the cup, or just pour a small amount into your wash and don't go overboard with the suds.

Now to drying. Look for an alternative method to disposable dryer sheets. You can make your own dryer sheets with cheap washcloths (or even old socks or cut-up t-shirts!) and a fabric softener/water solution, or use dryer balls that reduce static. Bog Berry wool dryer balls are another eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets. The balls are reusable, chemical-free and made of wool, which lasts longer than yarn. (I haven't tried these dryer balls yet, but I plan to soon!)

But if you feel very loyal to those traditional boxes of good-smelling dryer sheets, you can still reduce your waste. For smaller loads, cut a dryer sheet in half and only use half. According to Gaiam, clothing made of natural fabrics don't get static cling - so if you don't have many synthetic fabrics in your laundry load, don't worry about putting a dryer sheet!

After your laundry has dried, check your dryer sheet real quick before you toss it out. Does it still have a fragrant smell to it? Use it again! If it seems to look barely used, save it for another load. If it's a little too worn for that, use it in a sock drawer or elsewhere in your closet to keep a nice, fresh smell. Once the smell is gone, you can save the dryer sheets to use as spare dust rags. The chemicals in dryer sheets that keep your clothes from getting static electricity also picks up dust on electronics.

Other ways you can reduce energy during laundry time:

  • Wash as much of your laundry on cold water as you can. Towels and sheets, of course, are better washed in warm water to kill germs, but most loads of clothing are washed perfectly in cold water. Plus, colors won't bleed as much and fabrics won't shrink quite as much.
  • Follow the wash directions to prevent accidentally destroying clothes (ahem). It's a bit of a waste to do laundry only to have to get rid of the shrunken, stained or ripped clothes. And it's just depressing if they're new clothes. 
  • Line dry delicate or hand-washed items. If you don't have a drying rack, just hang clothes on your shower rod or an empty space on your closet rod. No electricity needed, and you don't have to have a line set up outside.
  • Turn the dryer heat setting down a notch. It won't affect drying too much, and you won't be pushing out as much electricity.
  • Wash full loads so you can maximize the energy use of the appliances - but don't fill them so full that they overload and break. Running a small load takes the same amount of energy, but you don't have as much to show for it. If you only have enough for a small load, and need an item before laundry day, consider hand-washing it to save energy. (But I can already hear you asking who has small loads of dirty laundry for days…I know, I know…laundry multiplies itself. I'm just gonna say it anyway!)
  • Run the washer and dryer in the morning or evening, when energy use isn't at its peak - especially during the heat of summer. (Why am I reminding myself of this misery…?)

earth month 2014

With each April 22 being known as Earth Day, in recent years, the whole month of April has taken on the air of Earth Month. With spring taking over for most of the country, everyone is warming up and thawing out, so what better time to appreciate the earth than now? Open the windows and let some fresh air breeze through your home. Enjoy the plants that are starting to grow and bloom. Go for a bike ride. Clean up litter in your neighborhood or apartment complex. 

I may be a couple days behind, but I like to use Earth Month as a way to choose one green action to focus on. This month, I'll share with y'all more simple ways to be greener (including a great one inspired by a goal my boyfriend came up with), and I'll be posting daily photos over on Instagram.

April 1: Garden blooms! 

April 2: Garden bloom FAIL.

April 3: A newspaper delivery gone awry within an hour. All picked up and recycled by me!

The EPA is using Earth Month to share a daily tip to help you act on climate. Check out the list at their website, and sign up to receive the tips emailed to you.

The Earth Day Network recently started a two-year campaign for Green Cities, focusing on the three key elements of buildings, energy and transportation. Spanning Earth Day 2014 and 2015, the campaign will work with an international team of partners, including local organizers, nonprofits, businesses and governments to help increase public awareness, mobilize support for appropriate policies, and generate concrete commitments for innovative and replicable initiatives.

So, happy Earth Month to all of you! Let's make this one a great one! What kind of pledge are you going to make for Earth Day and Earth Month? How would you act to make your own city a little greener? 

eco cajun housekeeping

Today I'm introducing a new (still very much in progress) part of Eco Cajun – a more personal blog running alongside this main one. To be honest, I still don't have a name for it, so I'll make it sound a little more exciting once I do come up with one. But I wanted a space to be able to write about topics not related to the environment. And yes, I chose now because of the How I Met Your Mother finale and the entirely too-large spot it holds in my world. Head on over if you're also still reeling!
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