Photo Friday | Mele Kalikimaka

I'm still not quite adjusted back to regular time, but we're back from our honeymoon and Christmas in Hawaii. It was a pretty epic and active trip, and I'll have lots more to share in the next couple weeks, so today's Photo Friday post is mainly a teaser.

It certainly never felt like Christmas as I was wearing workout clothes, swimsuits, or shorts for the entire trip. We spent Christmas Eve afternoon at the beach, where we spotted an appropriate snowman and snow woman. I loved that the scarf and coconut bra reuse items that were found on the beach, and I hope they got properly thrown away.

Christmas morning was completely nontraditional, but we've got incredible memories and photos from our adventure. My husband, brother-in-law, and I woke up early enough to probably still see Santa's sleigh in the sky, and we ventured to the Pillbox Trail for a sunrise hike. Sitting on top of a mountain waiting for the sun to rise and light the land below was absolutely incredible.

And this was how we could tell we were out on Christmas morning.

I picked up this Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii tote bag while we were shopping, and it ended up being very useful throughout the trip. I used it during a couple shopping trips, once for a day at the beach, and as a carry-on bag for the long trip home. I'll talk more about it in another post, but Hawaii has become the first state to ban plastic bags. If you want plastic, you're charged 10 cents a bag, so most retailers have signs promoting the use of reusable cloth bags. There's still work to do, but it's great to see a state as a whole trying to tackle one of the most prevalent pieces of litter.

I hope you all are having a great holiday season and a happy new year! See y'all back here in 2017!

Resolving to Be More Green in 2017

I don't know how this year has felt so simultaneously slow and quick, but here we are, staring at 2017. Here's to hoping it's slightly less exhausting than this year!

I've made it a tradition to share a few of my own green new year's resolutions here on the blog, and as I look back on those posts, I'm actually surprised at how many I've worked toward or accomplished. (2016, 2015, 2014)

So, this year is no different. I've got a few goals I want to work on in 2017:
  • Continue my yoga practice and see how far the journey can take me, both physically and mentally. And get back into my morning at-home sun salutation routine!
  • Write and develop more blog and social media content on sustainable lifestyles, with a focus on brands with sustainable products and/or eco-friendly missions.
  • Ride my bike more!
  • Shop at the farmer's market at least one Saturday a month.
  • Finally start my backyard compost pile.
  • Get out in nature more often, whether it's an afternoon at the Moncus Park at the Horse Farm, an overnight camping trip with my husband and some friends, or a long weekend at my husband's family's camp. Or even just enjoying our own backyard more often!
  • Check out books from my local library and read more (possibly while out in nature and lying in my hammock!)

Well...maybe it's more than a few goals. I do tend to set my own bar pretty high! Maybe I should really work on relaxing a little more often!

Are you thinking about adding a green new year's resolution or two to your list? I shared a few suggestions in my Times of Acadiana column this week, and here are a few others to consider:
  • Create less waste in your home or office. 
    • Use cloth towels and dish rags instead of paper towels
    • Use real coffee mugs instead of Styrofoam or paper
    • Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic disposable ones
    • Grocery shop with cloth produce and shopping bags
    • Use real dishes instead of disposable ones
  • Shop at your local farmer's market.
  • Recycle more.
  • Cut down on driving. 
    • Carpool
    • Ride your bike
    • Walk
  • Pick up litter. 
    • Look around your workplace or places you frequent and pick up litter you find. 
    • If you have children, make set plans each month to go out in your community and pick up litter. It's exercise, family time, and good for the environment!
  • Stop littering cigarette butts.
  • Save electricity at home by using energy-efficient light bulbs and thermostats. 

 What are some of your 2017 new year's resolutions? Let's hear 'em!

Post-Christmas Recycling

Although now presents are unwrapped, the food has been eaten, and the gift cards are beginning to burn a hole in your wallet, it's still important to be less wasteful and eco-minded.

Gifts and Packaging

I hope you used recyclable wrapping paper on your gifts, but if not, remember that waxy, metallic papers must go in the trash. 

Collect and save all bows, ribbons, tissue paper, bags, boxes and gift tags in good condition, and store them for future holidays.

When it comes to packaging, recycle everything that's accepted in the bin: cardboard boxes, paper and plastics #1 and #2. Break down cardboard boxes for both space and security. Everything needs to fit inside the bin so it can be picked up by the mechanical arm. Especially if you have new electronics, you want to be discreet when disposing of the box so you aren't showing off just what expensive valuables are inside your home.

Styrofoam is a popular packaging material, but remember that it has to go in the trash. Same with plastic bags, plastic sleeves and twist ties.

If you happen to have packing peanuts, call your local UPS Store to see if they will accept a donation.

Exchanging Gifts

It's always an awkward situation, but if you've got a gift you simply don't need or want, it's better to return or exchange it, than to let it take up space and gather dust. If you're not sure where to return an item or it's past the deadline to return, look at selling it online (unless the gift giver would see it and be offended) or saving it to regift. Some may find it tacky, but it's better to give an item to someone who would actually use it!

When It's Time to Take the Christmas Tree Down

Louisiana no longer manages a Christmas tree recycling program for the coastline, and Lafayette Parish does not collect trees for coastal programs.

If you’re a resident of the city of Lafayette or unincorporated areas of the parish and you have a real tree, put it out for collection with your yard waste in the weeks after Christmas. The yard waste materials go Lafayette Consolidated Government’s compost facility and are made into mulch. An important note: trees must be free of ornaments, lights, tinsel, flocking and tree stands!

Any Acadiana resident can drop off their trees to the compost facility (located at 400 North Dugas Road) for a small fee. During the winter, they’re open Monday through Friday, 7-3:30, and on the second Saturday of each month (December through February) from 7-noon.

Do NOT burn Christmas trees in your interior fireplace. The sap from trees can create a fire hazard in your chimney or vent piping. And be careful if you burn it outside - they burn hot and fast.

If you’re into fishing, reuse Christmas trees by sinking them in lakes to create fish habitats. Three years ago, we collected about 45 Christmas trees for my father-in-law, who used them at their camp. It was definitely a chore, but it was pretty fun to watch him sink them all under the dock.

Taking Down the Decorations

My least favorite part of the holidays - putting all the festive decorations away for another year. Save breakable items by wrapping them in newsprint - OORRRRRR even used wrapping paper! Yes, I might have just thought of this one. Instead of throwing out wrapping paper, especially if it's the non-recyclable kind, save it to wrap breakables!

Use small tins to hold tiny items like ornament hooks or spare light bulbs.

Store decorations in reusable organizers and containers.

Save empty candle jars and tins by putting them in the freezer for a couple days. Take them out and run them under water to pop out the wax, then wash and clean the jars/tins. You can use them to hold tea light or votive candles, or make your own candles.

By storing your decorations safely, you can ensure that you'll get years of use out of them, saving them from the landfill.

Merry Christmas from Eco Cajun

It's Christmas morning already! No matter where you are or how hot it may be, I hope you're wearing your finest Christmas socks as you open gifts with loved ones.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see how we're celebrating nontraditionally this year, and I love that our first married Christmas will be one that's unique and memorable.

I'm wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you're recycling as much paper and packaging as you can. :)

Photo Friday | Repurposed Wrapping

A short and sweet post on this Christmas Eve Eve, as you're probably finishing up wrapping your gifts and drinking hot chocolate.

A few weeks back, online secondhand shop Thred Up shared this statistic on how big an impact we could make if we used repurposed materials to wrap gifts instead of new, shiny paper.

Graphic: Thred Up

By using materials like newspaper, used paper bags, fabric, recycled-content paper, or cloth bags, we can save a lot of trees and keep a lot of materials out of landfills.

If you've still got wrapping to do, consider repurposing materials instead of buying another roll of wrapping paper that cannot be recycled. (More on that in this blog post!)

And with that, I hope you all have a very happy Friday and enjoy the beginning of Christmas weekend!

Looking Back on 2016

This year has certainly been rough in many ways, but at the same time, it will hold some of my biggest highlights, and that's what I'll choose to remember.

Hands down, my favorite memory is our wedding. The year and a half of planning built up to a night even better than I dreamed of. The perfect venue, miraculous fall weather, a dress I love, our closest family and friends, a wonderful wedding party, delicious food, a really fun reception, and of course, my groom. My other half. My partner in everything.

People ask us how married life is treating us, and we honestly answer that it feels the same so far. And we love it that way. Not every day is going to be awesome, but we laugh together, relax together, love and support each other, and look forward to our journey together. And I'm very much enjoying my new last name. :)

Behind the scenes, and when not planning a wedding, I've been working on building up the blog and the brand, and I'm so excited to have been picked as a contributing writer for the local weekly paper Times of Acadiana. Although I've only had two columns run so far, I'm excited to be able to share my eco-obsessions with a new audience.

In addition, I've loved seeing my own transformation through my yoga practice this year. It's something I share about ad nauseum, but it really is one of my favorite aspects of my life right now. It's more than a workout, than toning, than making new friends in class, than achieving Instagrammable asanas. I find now that I can sleep better, and I haven't been sick in over a year. And best of all, I think it's truly helping me find myself and change my perspectives on myself and the world around me.

The year started off tough when our cat, Dax, took a turn for the worse healthwise. (More in this blog post.) It was a long, expensive road to recovery, but we are so happy to still have him around, and he's more energetic than even before he got sick.

This Christmas, I feel like we've definitely taken a less materialistic approach, and while I almost feel lost without my usual traditions, I also like the simplicity. Having a chance to just enjoy the season. We downsized our Christmas tree to a mini three-footer that fits on a side table, and I almost love it more than our usual six-footers. My husband and I decided not to do gifts for each other this year, especially since we're just two months out from the wedding. And maybe it's the grown-up in me finally coming out, but it's refreshing to not be frantically running around shopping for gifts.

Last year, I made a Spotify Holiday mix, so if you need a little extra cheer while finishing up your wrapping and cooking, go ahead and hit play!


Photo Friday | Cajuns Don't Waste

I'm so excited for today's Photo Friday post! I love seeing when people simply do good work, especially if it's something that other people would find a reason not to do.

As finals have wrapped up, students head back home, and UL Lafayette's fall graduation is today, the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability saw an opportunity to divert a lot of food waste after the semester ended.

The office's graduate student, Dylan Harrell, spearheaded the project that collaborated with UL Lafayette Dining Services, and together, the groups collected unused food that will go bad over winter break and donated it to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Office of Sustainability Director Gretchen, left, and Service Grad Student Dylan, second from left, work with others to donate unused dining hall food to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Instead of leaving the food to go bad and trashing it all, families in need will now have fresh produce and dairy products available to them right around the holiday season.

Office of Sustainability Director Gretchen Vanicor reported that the group was able to donate 306 pounds of produce and 74 pounds of dairy products!

I absolutely love seeing people take this kind of tangible action. While many hesitate to donate unused food to shelters or food banks, UL Lafayette went ahead and did it anyway, and many families in Acadiana will benefit from the generosity.

On that note, congratulations to all UL Lafayette fall graduates, and good luck to the Ragin Cajuns in tomorrow's New Orleans Bowl!

Travel the World without Adding to its Landfills

Whether you're preparing for holiday travel, a honeymoon, or you're referring to this blog post before summer vacation, it's important to pay attention to just how wasteful your trip can be.

Buying a ton of travel-sized items and single-use packages can get expensive and leaves behind a lot of unnecessary trash.

Don't worry, it's very possible to make your travel and your packing more eco-friendly. Of course, flying and driving farther distances require extra natural resources, but by being mindful of what you've packed, you can lighten your load and reduce your impact on those resources.

As I've prepared and gotten ever more excited for our honeymoon, I've looked at how I can make the trip as green as possible. (Beyond making my list of yoga poses for photos in Google Keep to stay paperless!)

We don't fly often (if only we had money...and more time off!), but when we do, we always try to travel light. While just being easier to manage, it also reduces the weight on the plane (every little bit counts). Typically when we fly, I'm able to stick to only a carry-on suitcase, and I love not having too much stuff with me. (Which is funny, because on any given day, I am normally NOT traveling light!)

For our honeymoon, I set out to fix one problem I always encounter when I fly - those damn quart size bags for toiletries. Y'all know I don't like single-use Ziploc bags, but every time we fly I end up with one, and it almost always gets destroyed by the time I get home.

So I shopped around for a reusable option. Most of what I found online was expensive, and I ended up purchasing a reusable zipper bag at my local Target to save the impact of shipping one clear bag. While it was the least expensive option I found, it also came with empty travel-size containers that I probably won't need to use, and the bag itself isn't recyclable.

Finding a more sustainable option (especially last-minute) can be more expensive, but with less procrastinating, I probably could have found something better. At least I plan to use this one for the next few years!

Instead of buying travel-sized toiletry items, stock up on reusable travel-size containers, and refill them as you need. I've had these squeezable tubes for a few years, and love using them over generic plastic containers. They're made of a food-grade silicone and are BPA-free.

If you're looking at upgrading or replacing your luggage, consider investing in pieces made of eco-friendly materials. Even if it's just your backpack to take on the plane, you can find some made of recycled cotton.

Travel Well magazine shares a few of their picks for eco travel gear. As I read through the list, I realize we check off a few items I didn't know were focused on sustainability. My husband swears by his Eagle Creek packing cubes for efficiency and organization. The brand's website includes a statement on environmental responsibility, and I appreciate that they focus on creating lasting products, not ones that will end up in a landfill after two or three uses:

We are keenly aware of the environmental impact of everything we produce and so strive to minimize material waste, and source and manufacture with the least environmentally impactful materials. Many customers tell us they’ve been carrying their Eagle Creek gear for years. And that’s our intention; we make gear that lasts to lessen the amount of waste in landfills.

Osprey is another outdoor-focused brand that has a commitment to sustainability. Their packs have recycled and recyclable packaging, are free of BPA, PVC/phthalates and triclosan, and they limit waste in production. I use my Osprey backpack fairly often, although most of the time it's carrying my yoga clothes to the gym.

For our honeymoon, I plan to use my backpack as my carry-on item and adventure pack. And check out that sweet logo! Quick tangent: I wanted a patch with the Eco Cajun logo to stick on my backpack for the trip, but couldn't find an online vendor to print only one. While talking to a coworker one day, I got the inspiration to reuse the button my bridesmaid made for my bachelorette party. It's a plastic button that snaps apart - and conveniently, it's the exact same size as my Eco Cajun stickers. Free and reused...I'd call that a win!

If you're traveling with gifts, especially during the holidays, leave them unwrapped in your luggage. Anything is subject to be searched by TSA, and if they have to unwrap your gifts, that's a lot of wasted paper. Save the wrapping for when you arrive at your destination.

Download your airline's mobile app, which will allow you to use mobile boarding passes. If you don't have paper passes, you won't crinkle or lose them!

When you travel, bring your reusable bottle. While TSA won't let you bring liquids through the checkpoint on it, you can fill it up with your favorite drinks post-security checkpoint.

In the airport, take advantage of available recycling and even compost bins. Choose items that are packaged in recyclable materials, instead of materials like Styrofoam.

Bring a cloth napkin for on the plane, and decline the paper napkins from the flight attendants. Most major airlines recycle the plastic cups from the drink service, so make sure your cup is empty when you give it back.

Before you embark on a road trip, check that your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes. When everything is inspected and working properly, you'll maximize fuel efficiency and engine use.

Fill up your tires to their proper inflation to increase fuel efficiency (and for safety).

Pack what you can inside the car, as those roof luggage racks reduce efficiency and increase drag.

Especially on car rides, it's easy to load up with bottles of water and small bags of chips or candy. By stocking up before you leave home, you can eliminate a lot of the waste. Pick up your snacks at the grocery store beforehand, instead of loading up at the gas station after you've left home. Get the larger bags of snacks instead of the single-serve, and portion them out into smaller reusable containers to bring in the car.

Fill some reusable bottles with your drink of choice. As you stop for the restroom or to refuel, refill your bottles.

Pack gifts or extra items, like games for children, in cloth bags. They can hold a lot of items and are stronger than plastic bags. Plus, they can serve multiple purposes while you're on your trip.

Essential Eco-Friendly Travel Gear

  • Reusable quart-size bag for carry-on luggage
  • Good quality travel-size toiletry containers
  • Reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug
  • Reclosable and reusable snack containers
  • Cloth bags
  • Airline apps for mobile boarding passes and flight information
  • Cloth napkins
  • Eco-friendly luggage/bags/accessories (a few brands I'm familiar with:)

What are some ways you cut down on trash when you travel?

Photo Friday | Vital Elements

I came across this photo on Paper Culture's Facebook page during the week, and I love the simple way it reminds us how vital our earth and its resources are. We need the earth in order to survive and it needs us back.

Courtesy: Paper Culture

I hope you all stay warm this weekend! Get cozy and be merry!

(And if you live in Lafayette, bring your household hazardous waste and electronics to Cajun Field for Household Chemical Day tomorrow!)

Simply Having a Sustainable Christmastime

Show of hands. How many of you have completed your Christmas shopping? How many of you haven't started? (As I raise my own hand.)

As you wrap up your shopping (and if you still need inspiration, head over to my Green Gift Guide), learn how to plan any gatherings and decorate the house without being extra wasteful.

Wrapping Gifts

One of the most wasteful parts of the holidays is all the gift wrap that's thrown away after one use. And most wrapping paper and tissue paper are NOT recyclable. Shiny, glittery and waxy wrapping paper is often made with metallic foil and plastic, and tissue paper is too thin to go through the sorting process.

Choose recyclable white or brown kraft paper or bags, and for extra flair, customize the wrapped gift with stamps, or choose holiday-printed kraft paper. Bonus: it’s less expensive than fancy gift wrap! Pick up a large roll, and especially if it's plain, you can use it for any gift-giving occasion throughout the year. (If you enjoy decorating the plain paper, stock up on a couple stamps for each holiday.) One thrifty option is to reuse newspaper for wrapping or tissue paper.

This week, Kasha over at Green With Style shared a link to Wrappily, a small business that makes 100% recyclable and compostable wrapping paper printed on recycled newspaper with soy-based inks. Each sheet is reversible, and all patterns are created by independent designers. They also utilize old newspaper printing presses.

Reuse all those boxes from your online purchases instead of buying gift boxes. 

Put the final touch on your eco-friendly gift with reusable fabric ribbons or natural items like jute string, twigs or Christmas tree clippings. And get creative with it! Use a stretchy headband for a female's gift, and she can use it after she opens the gift. Reuse a necktie to make a nice ribbon. You might be surprised what you can find around the house that works as gift embellishments.

Make your own gift tags with scrap wrapping paper (you know you have a ton of too-small scraps!), reuse store-bought tags year after year (especially within your immediate family), or simply write recipient names on the gifts themselves.

My favorite zero-waste option is to use a cute cloth shopping bag to hold your gift - it’s like two gifts in one!

Make it easy when your family or group opens gifts: designate a bag for trash and an empty box for recyclables/reusables. Save any gift boxes, bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows you receive, in good condition of course. The more you can save to reuse, the less trash you'll send to the curb and the more money you'll save next year!

Share time. This is my collection of tissue paper. Not one of these sheets I purchased. It's all been collected from previous gifts (and cough, donated from a couple baby showers), and I spent this past Black Friday folding tissue paper and color coordinating it in order to get it looking this organized. It was tedious but very therapeutic. And very helpful in the future.


For your interior and exterior lights, go LED. They're widely available, use less energy than conventional lights, helping to lessen the impact on your utility bill at a time when you're already spending extra money. LEDs stay cool to the touch better than conventional lights, making your tree less of a fire hazard.

Our 2015 Christmas tree featuring 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights. Or just four strings of cool white LED lights.

Decorative solar-powered outdoor lights work well if you have an open yard, and especially if you don't have outdoor outlet access (say that three times fast).

Use natural elements instead of glitter, styrofoam and other shiny stuffs to decorate. Think Pinteresty: burlap, twine, wood, recycled clean food jars and cans, even spray painted wine bottles for vases.

If you have a real Christmas tree, trim a few branches (no one will notice if there are a few bare spots in the back!) to use in floral arrangements or table centerpieces.

Burn candles made of soy wax instead of the more toxic paraffin wax.

Look for locally made ornaments to add some personality to your tree. In the first photo up top, our magnolia ornament is made from redfish and garfish scales by Cajun Ornaments. I believe I picked it up at a small local festival where they had a booth set up. Plus, we've got a few other local ornaments adorning our baby tree this year.

Vintage Christmas decorations and ornaments are a great way to incorporate holiday flair with a nostalgic feeling. Over the past few years, my parents have given me some of their older decorations, and I love using them in my own home. By reusing decorations for many years, or finding vintage decorations, you're keeping unique, nostalgic items out of landfills.

Make paper snowflakes with scrap printer paper, newspaper, paper shopping bags or even junk mail. It's a fun way to get children involved in decorating!

Party Time

If you're having a holiday gathering, the most eco-friendly dinnerware is the kind you use normally. Make sure your dishwasher is empty before the party starts! Alternatively, you can go a little more casual by using melamine plates and bowls and acrylic drink glasses, even though the materials are not the greatest. They are at least reusable and work well in a larger party setting. And there are BPA-free options, which makes them better for children especially.

Reusable plates and wine glasses from our Thanksgiving lunch.

But if you're having a large gathering and choose the disposable route, look for plates and bowls made of recycled or compostable material instead of styrofoam, which cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable. Wheat straw, plant-based, and bagasse are all sustainable and functional options.

Choose drinks in cans instead of bottles. For water, provide a pitcher and let guests use their own cups. 

When you're prepping for your holiday get-together, remember to recycle as much as you can. And before the guests arrive, set out your trash can and add a recycling bin next to it. If you have more than one trash can set out, place a recycling bin next to each one, so no matter what, your guests have a convenient alternative. You can even pull other items for double duty as a recycling bin, from a lined basket to a plastic storage bin.

To make the distinction easy for guests, place a sign on the recycling bin labeling what can go in it. Since I'm in the giving spirit, I made a festive printable PDF that you can tape onto or above your recycling bin! Click on the image below to download.

Download this sign to label your recycling bin.

Now, back to decking those halls!

Photo Friday | Household Chemical Day

For all you residents of the city of Lafayette and unincorporated areas of the parish, mark your calendars for next Saturday, December 10. Lafayette Consolidated Government is hosting its biannual Household Chemical Day from 8 a.m. until noon at Cajun Field. 

This is your chance to properly dispose of your household chemicals, and some electronics, at the event. All of the items accepted at the event are not safe to throw in your curbside trash or recycling bin, because the contents can contaminate landfills and threaten your health.

In addition to collecting traditional chemicals like paint, poison, chemical cleaners and mercury, CGI is sponsoring an electronic waste disposal option. Residents can bring old computers, printers and other digital electronics to be refurbished and recycled. The collected electronic equipment will be refurbished by Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council to provide technology to low-income families and nonprofits.

Residents can also turn in unwanted latex paint, which will be reblended and repackaged for use by Lafayette Habitat for Humanity. In partnership with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the paint reblending project not only provides a needed product to a worthy cause, it also significantly reduces waste that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. 

At this past spring's Household Chemical Day:
  • 235 residents brought in more than 10,137 pounds of electronic waste for recycling.
  • 540 gallons of usable latex paint were salvaged, which saved LCG $8,000 on disposal costs, while also preserving the landfill.

If you live within the city of Lafayette or uincorporated areas of the parish, please take advantage of this event to practice responsible chemical disposal. 

Attendees should enter the Cajun Field parking lot at Gate 2 off of Bertrand Drive, across from Rouse’s.

Click on the banner to go straight to the Facebook event.

Courtesy: Lafayette Consolidated Government

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