A Green Spice Rack

Because of their size, spice jars may not be something you think about when it comes to living more environmentally friendly. Whether they are glass or plastic, they're recyclable...but even more so, they are reusable!

First things first: skip the cheapie salt and pepper mills at the store. They are built to be one-time use, and are not refillable. And believe me, I've tried to refill them. My last empty pepper grinder had to be thrown away because I couldn't even open it to recycle. I have since bought nice, grown-up, refillable salt and pepper mills.

Whether your spice jars are empty because you use fancy magnetic or matching jars, you used all the spice, or that paprika was seven years old, there are many things you can do with the empty jars. I tend to reuse the glass jars more than plastic ones, although both can be reused. Want to decorate them before reusing? Scrub off those labels and get crafty, my friends.

  • Tiny vases for herbs in your kitchen or wildflowers (or greenery) at your desk
  • Essential oil reed diffusers (use glass jars for this)
  • Containers to bring to the bulk section of your grocery store (especially if your store sells spices in bulk)
  • Travel containers for jewelry or beauty products (the plastic ones could work well in your 3-1-1 carry-on bag)
  • Pet treat jars
  • Travel vitamin containers
  • Thumb tack or paper clip jars
  • Craft containers (especially for jewelry making)
  • Bobby pin or hair tie jars (how cute would a row of mismatched spice jars look in your bathroom??)

As a side note, most herbs and spices have "best by" dates compared to expiration dates, so they last longer than you may think! Herbs and spices beyond the date are still good, but not nearly as flavorful as fresher ones. In general, ground spices last between three and four years, leafy herbs last one to three years and whole spices can last for four years.

Eat By Date has a very comprehensive chart of how long many specific herbs and spices will last. It may help you save money by not throwing out jars that can still be good!

Check out a Treehugger list of seven ways to use spices that may be too bland for cooking but that are still useful. Bonus Eco Cajun eighth way - Easter egg dyeing!


Tiny Beads o' Plastic

So, we know that plastic is made from petroleum, and we know that most (but not all) plastic can be recycled.

But what about bits of plastic so small, they can't be recycled, or even properly disposed of?

"Oh, I don't have anything with plastic that small!"

Well...you might. Look in your bathroom products. Does anything say 'scrub' or 'exfoliator' of some sort? Then you've got microbeads to think about.


According to Beat the Microbead (no beating around the bush there), polyethylene microbeads flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system - which is what they are designed to do.

However, wastewater treatment plants are not designed or able to filter out the tiny (usually smaller than two millimeters) particles, so they end up in our water systems and into the world’s oceans. Microbeads are not biodegradable and they are impossible to remove from the marine environment. Sea creatures absorb or eat these microbeads, which are passed through the marine food chain. And they can come back to us in our food, especially fish.

The Story of Stuff says that fish humans harvest for food have been known to eat the tiny plastic particles at an alarming rate, and the toxins absorbed in those plastics transfer to the fish's tissue. It's dangerous because plastic microbeads absorb persistent organic pollutants (long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and more) and other industrial chemicals that move up the food chain when the toxin-coated beads are consumed by fish and other marine organisms. A single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water around it!

Manufacturers are taking action to ensure microbeads are removed from their personal care products and replaced by naturally biodegradable alternatives, but not all products are there yet. Beat the Microbead has a list from July 2015 of products in the United States that still contain the tiny scrubbing, exfoliating, polluting beads.

Mother Jones reports that a single tube of face wash can contain more than 300,000 of the plastic beads, which are cheaper than other common natural exfoliants like apricot seeds, coconut husks or even diatomaceous earth.

Just last week, the Marin Independent Journal reported that San Francisco Bay is more contaminated with plastic bits than the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants — a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny “microbeads” found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed. - Marin Independent Journal


Microbeads are a perfect example of how something may seem small and insignificant, but adds strength in numbers.

Next time you're shopping for face wash, toothpaste or shower gel, look for microbead-free options. There are plenty of tested, toxin- and plastic-free products we can use instead, saving our waterways and oceans from these particles.

Bag the Plastic!

Landfills. China. The trees down the street. Storm drains. The ocean. In the stomachs of animals. Recycling facilities.

Just because you throw it away, doesn't mean it just goes away. After all, where is away? There is no away.

The documentary Bag It touches on many great points highlighting the need to reduce our dependence on disposable, single-use plastic. From bags to containers to excessive packaging.

I'm sure you're thinking, "Caitlin, did you REALLY watch an hour-long documentary on plastic bags?" Yes, yes I did. And I took notes. #ForeverANerd

Although the length of time I had this movie in from Netflix before I watched it might tell you otherwise, this was a pretty interesting documentary on our dependence on plastics, specifically plastic bags.

Did you know that plastic bags started being used in 1977, and as of 2010 (the year this documentary was released), our country was going through one million bags every minute? Worldwide, we were going through 100 billion bags a year.

Since then, plastic bag bans have popped up in cities throughout the United States, but we are still far behind other countries, where there's a widespread ban on the bags.

How bad is our obsession with single-use plastic?
We package plastic...in plastic.

Thinking of my own experiences, disposable coffee cups are some of the worst offenders of this. An office receives a box of 1,000 styrofoam cups. Those cups are stacked, sealed in a plastic tube bag, and packed in a cardboard box. Styrofoam in plastic in cardboard. It's like Russian nesting dolls of disposable items. Shipped on a truck or an airplane so someone can drink one cup of coffee and throw the cup away. And only the cardboard can be recycled.

One woman reasons:
It's really about not being quite selfish for the moment, but thinking about the next generations to come.

She hit on one of my main sentiments for caring so much. Our planet is not just for us, it's for everyone who comes after us too. We are only here for a short time, but in that process, we are trashing the planet and taking valuable resources away from future generations.
You're gonna make something to use for a few minutes, out of something that's going to last forever, and you're just going to throw it away. What's up with that?

The documentary discusses how plastic does not actually go away (like styrofoam). It may look like it's going away, but instead of biodegrading, it photodegrades. For example, the sun will photodegrade a plastic bag floating in the ocean, breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, that remain in the ocean. For animals to eat and get sick from.

I didn't want to see a turtle carcass with litter all up in its stomach, but I saw it. It's unsettling to see a decomposed turtle to know that plastic can float all the way to islands in the middle of the ocean, get eaten by animals, and then kill them.

The subject of BPA and pthalates is targeted as well. Plastic is enough on its own, but plastic with chemicals that can leach into foods and drinks is really unnecessary. Aluminum cans can be lined with BPA-filled plastic. Even baby bottles had BPA. At least some stores have banned BPA in baby products.

What about alternatives? When San Francisco banned plastic bags, they offered paper bags as an alternative, and many raised a stink that paper bags are just as destructive to the environment as plastic. SF Department of the Environment Director (and now EPA Region 9 Administrator) Jared Blumenfeld notes that the bags are made of 100% recycled paper AND they are recycled 10 times more than plastic bags. Their impact is in fact, much lower.

Documentary host Jeb Berrier sprinkled bits of humor throughout the documentary, and one of my favorite moments was his grocery trip with no reusable bags. He passed on paying 10 cents per bag, instead "going commando" carrying his groceries.

Reducing your dependence on plastic is a continual focus point on Eco Cajun, and Bag It reiterates the simplest ways:
  • Bring your own (bag, water bottle, bulk containers)
  • Reduce single-use (don't buy something packaged for single-use, buy used goods)
  • Don't drink bottled water
One last thought on getting away from the plastic obsession?
Live more like how our grandparents lived.

Stream Bag It | Amazon | iTunes

5 of My Favorite Acadiana Eco-Friendly Instagrams

Yesterday I shared a peek at some of my favorite green Instagrams, and today I'm bringing it back to town with my favorite local accounts! It's fun to follow and get to know all these guys, and band together on our commitment to greening Acadiana!

A photo posted by Market at the Horse Farm (@marketatthehorsefarm) on

The Market at the Horse Farm uses their Instagram to share the spirit of Saturday mornings and keep you updated on what's for sale. It's a great way to plan out your trips!

Dark Roux focuses on local produce and meats for their brunch and dinner menus, and they recently installed a small garden for herbs and vegetables. If their feed doesn't make you hungry, I don't know what will.

A photo posted by Urban Naturalist (@urban_naturalist) on

Speaking of the small garden at Dark Roux, it was planned and installed by the Urban Naturalist! These photos are inspiring for anyone who dreams of having a fabulous garden.

Bayou Vermilion District works tirelessly to maintain our area waterways, including the Vermilion River. My favorite posts from them are not the most glamorous. Rather, they give a great representation of just how littered our waterways are. Litter on the streets gets flushed into the storm drains, and travel all the way to our rivers. It all piles up to look like this.

TECHE Project also works on our waterways, in conjunction with Bayou Vermilion District, and their focus is more on the recreational aspect of our waterways. Makes you want to get out and enjoy nature, doesn't it!?

6 of My Favorite Eco-Friendly Instagrams

Part of my green journey involves following inspiring people or companies that give me new ideas or perspectives. And sometimes you just need to step back, take a breath, and refresh your perspective. Okay, maybe that's just me. Since my favorite of the social networks is Instagram, I'll share a few of my favorite profiles for their photography or inspiration qualities!

Julie over at Green Philly Blog is one of my favorite green people to follow, hands down. Julie is dedicated to sustainability in Philadelphia, and is incredibly involved. Plus, she recently went car-free! When I decided to restart Eco Cajun after a hiatus, I found her blog, and have gotten to know and bond with her over the years.

A photo posted by kleankanteen (@kleankanteen) on
We all know my obsession with Klean Kanteen. While my Klean adventures usually involve the gym and my desk, their Instagram makes me feel like I'm all over the world with a cold bottle of beer water.

The man himself, Jack Johnson. He of laidback surfy music and a solar powered studio.

Susty Party is a popular Brooklyn-based company that makes compostable and biodegradable party supplies. Their Instagram goes beyond simple product shots, instead, showing them "in the wild'. And I'm a sucker for composition and bright colors.

So, I really am a sucker for gorgeous, adventurous scenery. I could flip through feeds of this all day long. Not that I do already. But I could. United by Blue is a Philadelphia-based company that uses organic or local materials for their clothing and bags. For every product the company sells, they clean a pound of trash from our oceans. How amazing is that!?

A photo posted by Give a Shit about Nature (@gasanature) on
Give a Shit about Nature is one of my favorite bluntly named Facebook and Instagram accounts. Sometimes you need a reminder why you focus so much on your passion. And I believe the best way to make a difference is to simply give a shit. The easiest way to go green is to give a shit.

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing my favorite local Instagrams!

Introducing Yardley | Project Front Yard's First Anniversary

Project Front Yard is celebrating its first anniversary and held a press conference today to recap all the accomplishments so far, and announce all the awesome new initiatives for the coming year.

I've been a big fan and support of Project Front Yard from its early days, because it takes a full look at how to clean up Lafayette's physical landscape. As Mayor Joey Durel said this morning:

"It's not about a litter pickup, it's about cultural change. We all have to take ownership and do something. And as you can see today, the momentum is going too strong for us to stop now."

What can we expect to see from our neighborhood beautification, cleanliness and education project?
  • A brand-new storm drain awareness campaign.
  • More focus on the Bayou Vermilion District river app.
  • Embrace the Space program expansion.
  • A "Protect Your House" house numbering safety campaign, along with a new general PSA.
  • More painted electrical boxes at intersections all over Lafayette.
  • The second annual Project Front Yard awards.
  • YARDLEY! Project Front Yard's brand new spokesgnome.
  • Coloring and activity books featuring Yardley for children (and some adults, including myself.)
  • A Project Front Yard exhibit on display at the Lafayette Science Museum for the year.

Phew! What a jam-packed hour of announcements.


Cydra Wingerter, Katherine McCormick and Carlee Alm-Labar, the main Project Front Yard gurus, spoke about the accomplishments so far and gave a preview of what's to come, before a host of community members spoke on particular areas.

Artist Kelly Guidry was on hand to unveil the new spokesman, in conjunction with Right Angle Advertising. And you might remember Blake from his shining moment as the Project Front Yard logo during the Krewe of Rio parade earlier this year!

Yardley is watching to make sure we keep our front yards clean. After all, it IS his home.

Katherine and Gretchen Vanicor, my UL Office of Sustainability girl, unveil the new storm drain campaign. Gretchen and Kate Durio work with ReCover Acadiana, and are using the organization to print these decals and place them on city storm drains to remind us that what goes into the storm drains comes out in our waterways. Think twice before you toss your trash onto the sidewalk or road. Once rain washed trash into the drains, it starts affecting our water quality and wildlife.

And now Yardley is watching to make sure you don't litter our waterways!

Speaking of waterways, Eric Chapman with CGI spoke about their role in developing the Paddle Trail app over the past year, which provides information on waypoints along the Vermilion River for kayakers and other outdoorsy adventurers. Everything is accessible via mobile phone, but as Eric stated, CGI is not responsible for wet phones!

Yours truly shared updated on Keep Lafayette Beautiful and our litter index project, which ties in to a lot of work for both groups. The final results on Lafayette's index should be coming in the next few weeks!

As an inaugural Project Front Yard award winner, I was also excited to announce the second annual award ceremony, happening on September 30 at Iberia Bank downtown. I cannot wait to see who wins this year!

Fire Chief Robert Benoit and Randall Mann introduced the Protect Your House campaign, which focuses on the importance of having clearly marked and visible house numbers, so in the event fire, police or EMS needs to get to you, they can find you. 

Project Front Yard Iberia homegirl Shelley Duran makes an appearance in the newest general PSA, soon to grace your TV screens!

The Lafayette Science Museum downtown is now holding a Project Front Yard Exhibit for the next year, where you can explore the Bayou Vermilion river app, see a video on Amelie (the most adorable six-year-old treehugger you will ever find) meet Yardley, and learn a lot about the lifespan of litter. Quick quiz. How long does it take a baby diaper to biodegrade?


You can also pick up your own copy of the coloring and activity book! I now have my next rainy day plan.

Will you make the pledge to be a litter quitter??

To keep up with all of the PFY happenings, hop on over to their Facebook page.


Nonstick Doesn't Equal Nontoxic

I love to cook, usually focusing on quicker evening dinners, and many times experimenting with food blogger recipes or Pinterest finds. One of the items I find myself using the most when I cook is a skillet, since I'm usually grilling chicken, fish or vegetables. A few years ago, I needed to upgrade my skillets, and asked for some eco-friendly nonstick pans for a birthday gift.

Eco-friendly nonstick pans? What's the difference?

Nonstick pans are great, because they're easier to use and need less cooking oil, but the Teflon (chemical name polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE]) that keeps foods from sticking has been controversial, with experts going back and forth on whether or not it can be harmful to humans when heated.

A chemical used to make the nonstick surface, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been detected in almost all humans across the world. While factory workers exposed to relatively high levels of PFOA don't seem to have particularly severe health problems, animal studies strongly suggest that when enough PFOA builds up in the body, it can cause cancer, liver damage, growth defects, immune system damage, and death.

In 2006, chemical industry leaders agreed to an EPA plan to phase out the chemical used to make Teflon, microwave popcorn bags, waterproof clothing, and many other products.

Even without the PFOA, DuPont does warn consumers to use its nonstick pans only on low or medium heat, and says that possible fumes that may lead to “polymer fume fever," which has symptoms similar to the flu, and may be off-gased at temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
So it's maybe not the worst health offender out there, but if it's important to you, it's easy to find eco-friendly alternatives to these nonstick skillets. And they still work just as well and can be affordable. My chemical-free nonstick pans have worked well for more than two years now, and cleanup is a cinch.


In addition to chemical-free nonstick pans, alternative materials include anodized aluminum, ceramic, cast iron, Pyrex and copper lined with stainless steel.

Mother Nature Network lists 10 popular nontoxic cookware brands that include GreenPan, Earth Pan, Calphalon, Pyrex and Mauviel.

Green Family ranks Cuisinart, Bialetti, GreenPan, Ozeri and Scanpan as their top picks.

Now, what are you going to cook with your new nontoxic cookware? If it's something good, I'm inviting myself over for dinner!

Zero Waste Game Day Tailgating

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability, under the leadership of the lovely Gretchen Vanicor, has been busy making an impact on campus. Starting with last year's football season, recycling is again readily available for tailgaters and football fans! 


Recycling and waste bins will be available at every (yes, EVERY) tailgating spot and in other high-traffic areas. Tailgating spots will have green recycling bins and blue trash bins. Inside the stadium, recycling materials go into red containers, while trash is collected in black bins.

UL Lafayette will determine the volume collected during home games this season to compete in the Game Day Challenge, a nationwide college recycling contest. So, the more you recycle, the better UL will do in the competition! Last year, UL placed 10th in the nation by diverting 65.528% of game day waste into the recycling stream. This year, we can do better!

Tailgating Tips

Tailgating is one of my favorite parts of football. You always see tons of friends, there's so much good food (and everything smells so good!), everyone is wearing the same two colors, and the festive spirit in the air can't be beat. 

Skip driving your car. Traffic is a mess and parking is already a hassle, so carpool with others, ride your bike or arrange to get dropped off. My fiance and I always ride our bikes because it's easier and we can park closer to the stadium. The Daily Advertiser has new parking and traffic information, in case you do drive.

Don't use styrofoam cups for your drinks! They are not recyclable and not biodegradable. Bring a reusable plastic cup, or a stainless steel bottle (insulated keeps beer cold for a long time, just saying). Beer cans are recyclable and safer than bottles.

For tailgating purposes, keep your glass at home. If it breaks it can cause injuries or flat tires. And no one wants a shard of glass in their foot on game day. 

In fact, according to the Office of Sustainability, you CAN bring your stainless steel bottles into the stadium for the game. Plus, the souvenir soft drink cups are reusable.

Pack tailgating food in reusable containers instead of disposable.

Bring napkins and paper towels made with recycled materials.

Choose disposable plates/silverware made with recycled materials. (Or go for compostable, plant-based party plates from Susty Party. I LOVE this red party pack for UL!)

Don't litter! Whether you are inside or outside the stadium, put trash where it belongs. And on the ground is NOT where it belongs. The hundreds of bins are there so waste can stay off the ground.

Items that go in recycling: aluminum, paper (as long as it's not wet), plastic and cardboard. 

Items that don't go in recycling: food, styrofoam, plastic bags, wood, bottle caps, disposable plates/silverware.

No matter which school you root for, tailgate sustainably! FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE!

#DamnCaliforniaHippies | Green City Spotlight: San Francisco

It's no secret that I love San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. Not only are the hills a nice break from our flat lands, but it's like visiting a treehugger's paradise. I recently went on a quick getaway, but while there, I found myself taking lots of mental notes and nerdy pictures of different eco-friendly things. An incredibly fun blogging field trip, if you will.

How does Lafayette compare to San Francisco?


San Francisco: 

85,827 Priuses, 16 the same color as mine. (Yes, I counted.) (Although, I still wonder how all those Prius drivers get any sort of fuel efficiency driving up the slightly terrifying hills and keeping up with traffic. Never mind my confusion at how Smart cars get anywhere at all on those hills.)


22 Priuses, 1 the same color as mine.

San Francisco: 





San Francisco: 

Free EV car charging at Crissy Field.


Not even sure there are EV stations at our Whole Foods. For the one Volt I've seen driving around.

San Francisco:

Transportation options include hybrid taxis, electric buses and lots of bike lanes.


Taxis really not an option here, and they certainly aren't hybrids. But the bike lanes are coming along! And it's easier to ride here anyway. Also, part of our bus fleet runs on compressed natural gas.



San Francisco: 

Do you want to purchase a paper bag for 10 cents?


Do you want your one item triple plastic bagged for free?


San Francisco: 

All the compost and recycling bins in public!


Some trash cans in public!


San Francisco:

Please, take a cup made of compostable plastic, and place it in this convenient recycling bin when you're done.


How big of a styrofoam cup do you want?

San Francisco:

"Can I get my drink in my reusable bottle?" "Sure!"


"Can I get my drink in my reusable bottle?" "...Um...I think I can do that."

San Francisco: 

Locally sourced, free range, vegetarian-friendly.


Locally sourced, fried.


San Francisco:

Our parklets are located outside of bean-to-bar chocolate shops in the Mission District and are equipped with solar panels (for what exactly, I do not know).


Hey, our downtown parklet really is awesome!


San Francisco:

Recycled materials all up in our decor!


Seen those pallet crafts on Pinterest? Totally wanna try them!

San Francisco: 

Solar panels on all different kinds of houses.


Solar panels on about three homes.


San Francisco: 

Water available upon request, mainly due to the massive drought. And I saw one waitress use the water another table left behind to water some nearby landscaping.


Pour all the free water!

While this might be a green city spotlight, San Francisco actually has a public service campaign in effect called Brown is the New Green. Because of the drought and water scarcity, officials are trying to enforce widespread water conservation for nonessential uses. We saw a fire truck pull up to a dripping faucet outside, and I can only assume it was to take care of the wasted water.

San Francisco is just one of those places that inspires me and gives me eco-friendly ideas that I want to make happen here in Lafayette. Why can't we make recycling more widespread? Why can't we encourage more cloth bag use?  

How can do my part to make these things happen?

Looking for photos that aren't recycling bins, compostable cups and bathroom signs? This part's for you!

Muir Woods

One of my must-dos on this trip was get out to Muir Woods to see the redwood trees. (Hello! My name is Joe!) Perfect time to go is around 8:30 in the morning. Especially if the whole area is experiencing a heat wave. The morning is less crowded and less hot. And the hike was incredible. Did I record a video of a babbling brook for the peaceful sounds? Yes. Did my fiance ruin my first attempt by making a fart sound? Welcome to my life.


The City

We devoted one day to exploring the city itself, either seeing things again that we really loved, or seeing new things. And we walked everywhere. Almost 39,000 steps and 16 miles. No, my legs still have no recovered. Instead of going, "We walked how far!?", I have taken to calling it an urban hiking trail. Russian Hill, Marina District, Crissy Field, Palace of Fine Arts, Fisherman's Wharf, Financial District? We done walked it all. Eco-friendly transportation, and no waste left behind.




My fiance and I love dreaming about future home styles, from the realistic to the tiny home to the house on a hill overlooking the bay. During our urban hike in San Francisco, we found ourselves wandering neighborhood streets, checking out houses and what we liked about particular ones. I'm a sucker for a good midcentury modern design and found it all over the city. We'll gladly take a house in or near the Marina District, and I've already found the closest grocery store. We can exercise easily outside and the area is relatively flat. Win win win!


Food + Wine

Anytime I travel, I am drawn toward trying local restaurants with food I can't necessarily get at home. This trip definitely fulfilled a lot of that. Tacolicious in the Mission District had the best shrimp street tacos, and their guacamole didn't last long at our table either. We also checked out Zero Zero in the South of Market area, for a nice little date night. A glass of wine for me, and a Castro pizza and gnocchi dish to split. One of the best Italian meals I've had in a long time, and we had a gorgeous window seat to boot!

On Labor Day, we took a trip out to Napa for a few wine tastings. Even though it was ridiculously hot (coming from a Cajun), we had a great time day drinking and relaxing near the vineyards.


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