Game Day Sustainability

There are one and a half days left in August, pro football preseason is underway, and school is back in session. Oh yeah, one more thing: college football is back this weekend! It's still hot as balls outside (meteorological terms), but this time of year always has me ready for that transition to fall. And part of what I love about fall is football games.

But even more than the game itself, I look forward to the tailgating. While I'm sure it's a nationwide pastime, it feels like the south really embraces the spirit of tailgating, and it adds to the big event that is each Saturday's game. The spots are reserved, the food is prepared, the drinks are flowing, and the children are playing games. Okay, the adults too, probably.

And the waste piles up, both inside and outside the stadium.

But thanks to campus sustainability efforts, football games are going as green as the field! (Ohhh...sorry, y'all.)

For the third season, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability is working to make Ragin Cajun football games more zero-waste. Check out their PSA here, and get a load of these stats:

In 2014, the diversion rate (amount of waste that went into the recycling bin instead of the trash) for the season was 28.94%.

In 2015, the diversion rate jumped up to 59.28%!

The office's goal for the 2016 season is the achieve a diversion rate of 70%. And it's up to all you Ragin Cajun fans to help them get there!

How can you do that?

Look for the recycling bins located literally ALL OVER Cajun Field. Every single tailgating space will have one trash can and one recycling bin. And the recycling bin has a guide on top of what can and cannot be placed in there. It's that easy! I mean, you're going to dispose of everything you use, right? I KNOW you aren't just going to litter the ground...


Inside the stadium there are divided bins everywhere to collect your recycling.

And, the office evaluated their efforts last year and realized the entrance gates needed the most improvement - so now, there will be more bins (where you can toss what you can't bring into the game), and zero-waste team members will be around each gate to remind everyone to recycle bottles and cans.

"But Caitlin...I cheer for the Tigers!"

Although I'm a Ragin Cajun alumni and season ticket holder, I love seeing the efforts from other state schools to reduce their waste as well.

LSU's campus sustainability also provides recycling bins around Tiger Stadium. And for the 2015 season, their recycling efforts earned the top spot in the Keep America Beautiful Game Day Recycling Challenge! They collected the highest amount of recycling among all participating schools, collecting 86,400 pounds last year. UL Lafayette also participates in the challenge.

I like to think my efforts of placing this lost beer can inside the recycling bin it was on top of last year is what helped LSU earn first place. I'm sure the person who drank this beer is happy to know that it DID find its way inside. I'm sure.

Back to the Game Day Recycling Challenge...last year, UL Lafayette, LSU and Tulane all participated, and this year UL Lafayette and LSU are registered for another season.

Now that we've got recycling programs and zero-waste efforts out of the way, let's talk about other ways YOU can be more sustainable when tailgating, no matter which school or team you cheer for.

  • 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. 

Beats parking in a field half a mile away, does it not?
Strategic bicycle loading system.

  • 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).
  • Leave the 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. Beer cans are recyclable and safer than bottles.
  • Reuse the souvenir soft drink cups.
  • Pack a reusable ice chest instead of those cheap disposable styrofoam coolers.
  • Pack tailgating food in reusable containers instead of disposable. Reusable plastic containers are usually the perfect solution. Again, skip the styrofoam!
  • Bring napkins and paper towels made with recycled materials.
  • Choose disposable plates/silverware made with recycled materials. Many grocery stores carry options with a recycled material percentage. Or go for compostable, plant-based or bagasse plates! If you are committed to a reusable option at your tailgating spot, melamine is a great lightweight, unbreakable option, especially for children.

  • 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 #1-#3 and cardboard.   


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

Flashback from the 2014 season - I always shake my head at the irony of litter outside of a trash can.

Don't forget your tailgating sustainability for pro football as well. I wrote a post back in 2012 on how the NFL and some individual teams are going green, although it's probably due for an update this year!

Once Saturday is over, get ready to do it all again on Sunday for NFL football! Geaux Saints!

Zero-waste is a touchdown!

Okay, I am now more ready than ever for football season to start! These sunsets. The rewatching of Tim RigginsI meanFriday Night Lights for the fifth time. The smell of everyone's food during tailgating. Visiting with old and new friends. The marching band jams. The hint of cooler air.


Photo Friday | National Park Service Turns 100

Yesterday, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday. For the month of August, NPS is holding celebrations in each of its parks.

Visiting a national park gives you the chance to appreciate some of the country's best natural outdoor spaces and take in the best scenic views.

On August 25, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday.

Many national parks have dedicated zero-waste initiatives, in an effort to keep the spaces as untouched as possible. And there are different kinds of parks - from monuments, to preserves, historic sites, trails, memorials and seashores, so you can take in lots of different environments.

I don't make trips to national parks very often, but during last year's trip to San Francisco, we made it a point to visit the Muir Woods National Monument. A Sunday morning among the tallest trees you've ever seen, with a cool breeze, is a pretty perfect Sunday morning.

Read more about my trip to San Francisco (my eco-mecca!) in this blog post.

Find a national park near you, or plan a vacation getaway!


How Green Were the 2016 Summer Olympics?

Well, the Rio Olympics ended two days ago, but since we still have four years until Tokyo, it's okay to talk about green efforts leading up to and during the Games.

I'm a big fan of watching the Games, although I missed a lot of the coverage last week, as I'm sure most everyone else in Louisiana did. I've got my fingers crossed I can still watch events On Demand, so I can catch up on my synchronized swimming viewing. I'll always be in awe of gymnastics, especially considering I can't even balance on one foot in yoga class on a flat surface, much less on a four-inch beam. (A fact I thought about during yoga class last night as I fell over during crescent lunge twist!)

But back to the point of all this - how sustainable were the Rio Olympics, really? There were a few different articles talking about the efforts the city and country took to make the Games eco-friendly, but does it balance out the overall impact? With thousands of athletes flying in and requiring additional resources, it can be tough to truly consider the Games sustainable.


The medals

The Brazilian Mint created 5,130 medals for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The medals comprise 30 percent recycled silver and bronze, while the ribbons are made from 50 percent recycled PET (aka, made from plastic bottles). The recycled raw silver is 92.5 percent pure and is sourced from leftover mirrors, waste solders and X-ray plates. 40 percent of the copper used in the bronze medals came from waste at the Mint itself.

The gold medals are mercury-free and meet sustainability criteria from extraction to refining, as well as meeting strict environmental and labor laws.

Photo credit: IOC/Ian Jones via

The plans

According to this infographic from Inhabitat, the Rio 2016 Commission planned to use modern technologies to mitigate carbon emissions; offset carbon from all athletes and staff traveling by air; and clean up the waterways in and around the event locations.

Public art projects highlight plastic pollution, using tons of recycled plastic bottles as sculpture materials. One sculpture is the Plastic Madonna, made from 5,000 plastic bottles collected in Rio de Janeiro. It was coordinated by Dutch social enterprise Dopper with the support of local organizations and government, and built by Brazilian artist Eric Fuly, based on the design by Dutch artist Peter Smith. Plastic Madonna was unveiled in Rio’s Botafogo Beach and now is in one of the city’s public parks, with the intent to bring awareness to plastic pollution.

Photo credit: Dopper/Eliseu Fluza via PlasticsNews
About 143 pounds of recycled plastic bottles were also used to build an Olympic Rings sculpture on Copacabana Beach.

The opening ceremony

During the opening ceremony, Rio shared a video on global warming that was, unsurprisingly, met with both positive and negative reactions.

According to the Washington Post, Brazil has about one-third of the world’s rainforests, and more than half the Amazon rainforest lies within its borders. Significant portions of the land has been lost to deforestation, and drier, hotter weather is expected to affect the rainforests even more in coming years. However, frequent storms and heavy rains could further threaten Rio’s terrible water quality.

During the parade of nations, each of the 11,000 athletes were handed “Seeds of Hope,” which consisted of a seed of a native Brazilian tree and a cartridge of soil. The athletes then brought the plants to the main stage where they were placed in mirrored towers that later erupted into green. The explosion of color represented the growth of the Athletes’ Forest that will eventually be planted with the 207 species of trees, one for each country represented.

And the problems

When Rio bid on hosting the Olympics years ago, they promised to host the greenest Games yet. However, many sources have pointed out that they didn't live up to their own expectations.

"It was supposed to be the Green Games for a Blue Planet." 

The highest profile broken promise, according to Vice, means large amounts of untreated sewage is still flowing into Guanabara Bay, where the Olympic sailing events took place. Olympic organizers had said 80 percent of the wastewater around the Bay would be treated by the time the Games started. Officials admitted that the new sewage treatment plants that have been installed will clean up only 48 percent of the waste, but it the real figure could be even lower.

A lagoon in front of Olympic Park contained a lot of dead fish, partly from sewage being dumped into the connected waterways.

The carbon footprint from an event as big as the Olympics will always be large, but the efforts each city makes can help somewhat. Even if Rio didn't accomplish its own promises and goals of cleaning itself up for the Olympics, the truly important takeaway is whether they continue to work toward their goals after the Games are over.

Making a real impact doesn't happen through a short-term effort or a PR spin. It will take time for the city to become more sustainable, but it's something all cities should be working toward, whether they have international media attention or not. 

In-depth articles:


Photo Friday | Louisiana Strong

I've seen this graphic circulating around Facebook this week, and although I don't know who created it, I thought it was only fitting to share for this week's Photo Friday post.

The past seven days have been hellish, but we are moving forward as much as we can. Our residents are coming together to help each other out in innumerable ways, businesses are doing what they can to offer goods and services as relief, and donations are pouring in.

I don't wish this experience on any community, but I am proud to see how so many people have stepped up to help others.

I've had this Lafayette Strong prayer card hanging at my desk since last July, and one morning this week, the words caught my attention again. These cards were created after a very different tragedy in Lafayette, but nonetheless, the passage is more than applicable to this week.

Next week I'll transition back into some regularly scheduled content (and choosing the winner of the candle giveaway), but will keep updating my social media pages with recovery and donation info.

Stay strong, everyone!

Come Hell or High Water

Oh, how we have seen both in the past week. The water hasn't nearly gone away, the rain insists on still falling, and everyone is focused on recovery.

Saturday morning, Highway 167 southbound.

We've seen the best in people - those who worked tirelessly to rescue residents. And the worst in people - those who still choose to loot and rob from the vulnerable.

It's still extremely surreal, even after looking at thousands of photos, both on the ground and from the air, to know that so much of our home has been underwater. Places that we all frequent. It's still so hard to wrap my head around that.

Heymann Park, along the Vermilion River, where I helped lead two groups of students painting park railings last fall.

Vermilionville flooded after the levee breached. The water reached the door knob of the Bayou Vermilion District office. Spots I was standing in just one week prior were now under feet of water. The spot where I photographed the candle I will be giving away (when the time is a little more right) is under feet of water. The no-till drill I wrote about is probably ruined, sitting in the shop, before it ever had a chance to serve its purpose. BVD employees are still kayaking to get to work and clean up.

The chapel at Vermilionville on Sunday, August 14.

One of the entrances to Vermilionville on Sunday, August 14.

During the Keep Lafayette Beautiful litter index survey last week, we toured parts of the city - and many of those parts ended up flooding. The photo I snapped of the illegally dumped recliner was taken near the bank of a bayou, so there's a good chance that recliner is now floating downstream.

So many homes were affected. Oh man, so many. It's hard to see yet another friend on social media posting photos of water damage in their home or their neighborhood submerged, or asking for help or advice or donations. If you weren't personally flooded, you know at least 10 people who were. It's mind-blowing.

Neighborhoods throughout Lafayette, Crowley, Branch, Abbeville, Maurice, Denham Springs, Central, Walker, Livingston, Baton Rouge and many more are focused on drying out and cleaning up.

Mother Nature has been so violent, unleashing the worst rain we've ever seen. We've done everything we can to protect our belongings and our worlds, but natures still knocks us down sometimes.

The Vermilion River at Surrey Street on Sunday, August 14, before the levee breached.

Through the heat and the God-awful smells, it's time to focus on cleaning up. The piles of contaminated and waterlogged debris are beginning to appear on curbs.

It's not the time for preaching about recycling your water bottles, or choosing reusable containers or bags. We all have a long road of recovery ahead, and the most important thing is keeping everyone safe, healthy and comfortable along the way. It's not anyone's fault; there's nothing sustainable about a devastating flood. There's not much that can be salvaged if it's been contaminated. It sucks to see so much trash, but it is literally trash at this point. What can be salvaged certainly will be. Those items will now hold dearer memories and more memories.

But it is important to conserve water to reduce the demand from already-overloaded treatment and waste facilities.

On Sunday, Phillip and I heard that United Way of Acadiana needed help transporting food to shelters and those in need, so we took his truck, got loaded down with MREs, and brought them where they needed to go. This week I helped clean up my future in-laws' yard and garage. It was not even close to the amount of effort so many others have put in. No matter how much or little you can do, it makes a difference to someone. It's dirty, it smells like crap, and it's not glamorous, but somehow the work must get done.

It's not about the statistics, although they're scary. More than 30,000 evacuated residents across the state. But behind that number are 30,000 people with unique stories. Beneath the sweeping aerial photos are each family's backyards. Even if you only make a difference to one or two of those people, it changes their world for the better.

It's not about whether national news covers the tragedy. We're here whether they talk about it or not. And our local news sources have done a phenomenal job keeping everyone updated.

It's been incredible to see people giving back during this time, through volunteering and donating. Our local nonprofits have been receiving the items they need, thanks in large part of spreading the word on social media. It's important to see what these groups need before showing up with a donation, so the process goes as smoothly as possible all the way down the chain.

Clothing is not needed right now. But toiletries and cleaning supplies are. Check where to bring them first.

If you read this before Thursday evening, KLFY is teaming up with United Way of Acadiana on Thursday, August 18, for Flood the Love. KLFY's website has a list of what UWA needs, and you can drop it off at the UWA location on Pinhook near the Thruway between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. Let's truly flood Louisiana with love.

The sunny days are coming, y'all. We'll get there.

The Big Flood + How to Help

(Assistance lists below updated as of Tuesday, August 16, 8:15a.m. Post originally published Saturday, August 13, 4:30p.m.)

The past two days in South Louisiana have been unreal. In these low, flat lands, we're no strangers to rain or floods, but this is water we have never seen or will see again in our lives. The normally soothing sound of raindrops hasn't stopped since 4 a.m. yesterday, and now just brings a sense of dread about how much worse things might get.

I am so extremely grateful that our house is okay, but my heart breaks for all of my friends and family who are losing their homes. If you've been affected, my thoughts are with you and your family.

The Vermilion River in Vermilion Parish this morning.

It's a stark and tragic reminder of what nature can do, no matter how hard we prepare and protect ourselves.

The Vermilion River in Lafayette is at its second highest recorded level in history, and won't crest until tomorrow.

Graphic from KATC's Facebook

If at all possible, stay inside and off the roads. So many neighborhoods are flooded and residents stranded or evacuated. Wakes from traveling vehicles just makes the problem worse for already flooded homes. The coulees throughout the area are overflowing.

There are curfews in effect all over Acadiana this weekend, and the one covering Lafayette Parish (city of Lafayette, Carencro, Broussard, Youngsville, Duson and Scott) is from 7 p.m. tonight to 6 a.m. tomorrow. Drivers on the road during the curfew can be cited.

It's very important right now to conserve your water. Limit your water usage to what's absolutely necessary - because the drainage systems are so overloaded, flushing or draining water can back up into your house. The water that drains from your plumbing is treated and discharged to the Vermilion (or other bodies of water in the area) and right now that water has nowhere to drain.

Coulee Mine at the Horse Farm around noon on Saturday

If you're outside in the water, be careful of snakes or other Cajun creatures that may be hidden.

Damn right I checked first.

The road to recovery is going to be a long one, but generosity and community go a long way.

Want to help?

Need assistance?

    If there are additional ways to help, or additional assistance available, I'll keep updating this list and sharing on my Facebook page.

    The Vermilion River more than twice its normal size.

    Please stay safe as we endure yet another evening of rain. Follow all city curfews, and don't drive if you don't need to. (And chances are, you DON'T need to.) If you have to evacuate, do it before it's dark. Watch out for wildlife in the water.

    Meanwhile, Dax is handling up on the wildlife situation currently at our house.


    Photo Friday | Have a Seat

    Earlier this week, Keep Lafayette Beautiful conducted a litter index survey throughout the city and unincorporated areas of the parish. The survey is a stark reminder of which areas have perpetual litter, like the spot pictured below.

    In more remote areas of the parish, wooded areas become illegal dumping grounds. This spot in North Lafayette is so picturesque, and has the Vermilion River in the immediate background. But even so, the area is littered with beer bottles, fast food packaging, panes of glass, shelving and even a recliner.

    Scenes like this are unfortunately not unique to Lafayette, but it's unacceptable that people still actively pollute remote areas. There's no way that recliner fell out of a truck and landed 20 feet off the road on an embankment. Even if furniture isn't picked up by the curbside garbage crews, there are responsible ways of disposing of it. Bulky waste removal can be scheduled; or the item could be donated to a nonprofit, or even sold at a garage sale.

    If you can drive your litter somewhere to dump it, you can take the time to dispose of it properly.

    Giveaway Time!

    Last year, I had a lot of fun visiting with Shaylyn, the creator of Syrup Row repurposed wine bottle candles, as she showed me her process. Read her local business spotlight here!

    Since then, Shaylyn has explored beyond candles, and now makes repurposed wine bottle drinkware! She's also rebranded as A Higher REpurpose and created a new logo to encompass the updated branding. You can shop directly through her Facebook page.

    To help celebrate and promote her updated brand, I worked with Shaylyn to bring you the first ever Eco Cajun contest and giveaway.

    What will you win? This very unique, custom Eco Cajun candle by A Higher REpurpose! The scent is a calming, delicious blend of Australian bamboo and Basil & Herb (which WAS my favorite scent before this one!)

    To enter:
    1. Visit the Eco Cajun and A Higher REpurpose Facebook pages and Like both. If you're already a fan of one or both pages, you've already got the first step done!
    2. Share the giveaway post linked here, and make sure to share publicly so I can see it!
    3. Or, visit the Eco Cajun and A Higher REpurpose Instagram pages and follow both.
    4. Regram the contest photo and tag both @ecocajun and @a_higher_repurpose.
    5. If you enter on both Facebook and Instagram, you'll earn TWO entries in the contest!
    You have until Sunday, August 14, at 11:59pm CDT to enter the contest, and entries only count on Facebook or Instagram. You must follow both pages and share the original giveaway posts in order to be qualified. You must be a US resident to win.

    Photo Friday | Wishing for a Nature Getaway

    Let's just spend the weekend dreaming of being out in nature, shall we? I know I already am, but I also dream of doing it when the heat index isn't pushing 110!

    Image via Treehouse Point

    I'm currently obsessed with the idea of spending a long weekend in an eco-friendly treehouse, doing yoga among the leafy canopy, and relaxing a little extra. Maybe I'll settle for posting up my hammock somewhere local and enjoying another gorgeous sunset!


    A New Tool to Help Reduce Runoff Pollution

    Part of being environmentally friendly is working to protect our land and natural resources, especially from aggressive methods that can cause more harm than good.

    Tilling land, especially land close to waterways, can have a negative impact on the water and the environment, by stripping the land of nutrients and causing runoff pollution that sends pesticides and fertilizer into our water.

    But beginning today, two local groups are offering an alternative to farmers - a no-till drill. Thanks to the Hammond Capital Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) securing a grant from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Bayou Vermilion District and the St. Martin Parish Soil & Water District have each received a drill that will be available on a rental basis to livestock farmers.

    Debuted during a press conference at the Bayou Vermilion District office today, the drills allow farmers to plant grass and seeds over the existing grass and soil without turning it over. This method preserves the land and seed while preventing runoff and erosion.

    “There exists a need to conserve our natural resources and improve our water quality in south Louisiana,” RC&D President Don Ashford said in a press release.

    "This kind of river pollution is known as nonpoint runoff, because it doesn't come from pipes. The reddish tint in the water is from that sediment, and after farmers use this no-till drill for awhile, there will be less sediment and the river won't look so red," said Jeff Durand of the St. Martin Parish Soil & Water District, and Durand Ponds & Farms.

    An example of runoff pollution from tilled land, fertilizers and pesticides. Photo courtesy Bayou Vermilion District.

    Representatives from Louisiana DEQ, BVD, RC&D, and the Lafayette and St. Martin Soil & Water Districts gathered at today's debut and braved the sun for a group photo.

    BVD Operations Manager Tom Melancon was one of the many staff members present today and the real star of my post on BVD's cleanup efforts from this past January!

    About the The Hammond Capital Resource Conservation & Development Council
    The mission of the RC&D is to provide leadership in the wise use of our area resources and provide economic opportunities in Southeast, Louisiana. RC&D is a unique program that is led by local volunteer councils. RC&D is a way for people to work together to plan and carry out activities that will make their area a better place to live. Such activities lead to sustainable communities, prudent land use and the sound management and conservation of natural resources. Program objectives focus on “the quality of life” improvements achieved through natural resources conservation and community development.

    About the Bayou Vermilion District
    Since 1984, the Bayou Vermilion District has been worked to beautify, conserve and manage sites along the Vermilion ensuring the preservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural resources for the citizens of Lafayette Parish. The District manages boat, canoe and kayak launches, and public parks along the Bayou Vermilion including the Vermilionville Living History Museum. The District also removes trash and large debris from the bayou, works with local government to monitor water quality and water height of the Vermilion, and host a comprehensive watershed education exhibit for local and area students and teachers.

    To inquire about renting the drills, contact Bayou Vermilion District.

    Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Bayou Vermilion District.
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