Photo Friday | Scenes from Festival International

Now that Festival International has kicked off, it's time to practice what I preach and suggest to y'all!

Don't forget to review my guide to sustainable Festival fashion and guide to celebrating Festival sustainably.

We made our way downtown last night by bike, enjoying the perfect evening weather. It was inspiring to see so many others doing the same.

Working on my own sustainable Festival style, I went for my new favorite Amour Vert top, made of organic cotton and modal (a sustainable material made from beech trees). My shorts are secondhand from Plato's Closet and my shoes are from TOMS. I packed a reusable water bottle, cloth napkin and metal straw, and I've got my natural bug spray ready for the rest of the weekend.

After getting a white sangria from Pamplona in a reusable cup, I requested no straw, and used my own instead, and used my cloth napkin to wipe the cup dry in order to bring home and reuse.

And of course, a reminder to please recycle correctly while you're at Festival. There are almost 300 recycling bins throughout downtown Lafayette, and these blue ones loaned from Bayou Vermilion District clearly specify which items to put in them.

Although I snapped this photo to show the recycling bins, I later noticed that already, the bag is contaminated with items that cannot be recycled, like Styrofoam bowls from a food vendor. 

Please, please, please don't throw non-recyclable items into the recycling bin! I included it in my guide on Tuesday, but here's a quick refresher for you:


  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic drink cups
  • Plastic drink bottles
  • Dry paper
  • Straws

  • Styrofoam
  • Wet paper
  • Plastic utensils
  • Napkins
  • Anything with grease
  • Food
  • Any paper or cardboard contaminated with food remnants

I'm looking forward to getting back out there tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday (rain, please stay away!), eating some of the delicious food, checking out the artists and vendor booths, and of course, catching new and beloved Festival bands!

Happy Festival, y'all!


How to Geaux Green at Festival International

Lafayette is feeling a little more electric this week, because Festival International is just one short day away from kicking off! It's been a tough year for organizers, from trouble securing sponsors to having to cut one stage, so now it's time to come out in full force and show our support for Lafayette's keynote annual event (at least in my opinion!)

Make plans to come out, check out some bands, visit the vendor booths, eat a lot of food, and knock back a few drinks.

And when you do, be sure to do it all responsibly and sustainably. It's possible to reduce, reuse and recycle to leave a positive impact on Festival.

First, let's all thank the many workers and volunteers who clean up all of the Festival trash and recycling every year. It is not a fun or glamorous job, but it has a tremendous positive impact on our local environment, and keeps a lot of trash out of Bayou Vermilion.

Read my column in the Times of Acadiana on going green at Festival!

Packing the Essentials

If you plan on spending more than just a couple hours downtown, you're probably going to want to pack a backpack (unless you're one of those people who can spend an entire day needing only your cell phone and Chapstick, and if so, teach me your ways).

For the past few years, my husband and I have worked on perfecting our Festival backpacks, filled with anything we could need each of the days, especially during the weekend. If you plan to spend a good amount of time at Festival, the key is to pack reusable and strategic items.

  • Stay hydrated with a full reusable water bottle or Camelbak.
  • The usual weather essentials: sunscreen (and lots of it), sunglasses, hat, a portable fan (this year a new addition to our backpacks are cell phone-powered fans...I'm nerdily excited to use it!), and a rain jacket or poncho - leave the umbrellas at home and out of the crowds.
  • Pack a compact cloth shopping bag for your Festival finds.
  • Pack a to-go dining set with a fork, spoon, straw, and cloth napkin. If you can't avoid plastic utensils from food vendors, and you most likely won't be able to avoid them all weekend, just rinse and reuse them.
  • Official Festival app downloaded on your phone. (Of note, there are three LUS Fiber Wifi hotspots at JD Bank Pavillon de Cuisine, Scene LUS, and Scene TV5Monde.)
  • Portable backup cell phone charger.
  • A small towel can come in handy during extreme sun or rainy periods and work better than paper napkins.
  • Ziploc bag or waterproof case for your cell phone in case of rain.

Once you’ve got the perfect bag packed, you’ll need to figure out how to get downtown.


My personal favorite method is to skip the traffic and parking by riding your bicycle downtown. You get some exercise, fresh air, emissions-free traveling, and this year you get your own lane on Congress Street right on into Festival. Don’t forget your bike lock and a key. Make sure you lock your bike away from walkways or heavily trafficked area.

If bicycling isn't your thing, your group is too large, or you live too far, go for the free official Festival International shuttle to and from Cajun Field, which runs every 15 minutes. Shuttles drop off at Lee and Jefferson, and at Garfield and Buchanan. Check the Festival website or app for shuttle hours.

Carpool with family or friends instead of driving separately.

Sustainability at Festival

When you’re at Festival, try to reduce as much waste as you can.

Cut down on paper and use the Festival app to refer to band schedules and stage information instead of grabbing a handful of paper guides that will either end up at the bottom of your backpack, spilled on or left-behind.

While most drink vendors can't fill up the reusable bottle that you packed, those souvenir Festival cups are totally recyclable! Just save your cups to reuse at home or work. In 2015, I learned that New Orleans Daiquiris was selling a reusable daiquiri cup that would allow you to get refills for a small discount (if I remember correctly). I used it for that weekend, then brought it back in 2016 and reused it all weekend. You can bet that cup is getting packed again this year!

Don't forget to use your cloth napkin and utensils. Although many food vendors use styrofoam products, you can still reduce your trash by skipping plastic utensils and paper napkins. Don't be afraid to say you don't want a utensil when ordering your food.

The Scoop on Recycling

Here’s what’s accepted in recycling bins:
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic drink cups
  • Plastic drink bottles
  • Dry paper
  • Straws

Here’s what’s NOT accepted in Festival recycling bins:

  • Styrofoam
  • Wet paper
  • Plastic utensils
  • Napkins
  • Anything with grease
  • Food
  • Any paper or cardboard contaminated with food remnants

Leave the glass at home. It's super dangerous for all the sandal-clad feet!



When you’re shopping, carry your purchases in a cloth bag. Stop by the official merchandise tent to get a cloth bag if you don't have one, and use it for all of your shopping. For the second year, Project Front Yard and CGI will be providing cloth bags for you to use instead of plastic.

Bring back your Project Front Yard bag from last year, or pick one up this year and reuse it when you purchase Festival merch, and get 5% off your purchase.

Photo via Festival International

Support the Artists and Vendors

Many vendors sell green products, whether they use recycled or repurposed materials, source local materials or make their wares by hand. Support these vendors and show them you support sustainability! There are some truly great recycled things to find, and they are beautifully unique. I've found some of my all-time favorite jewelry at Festival International over the past few years, and I love meeting the artists who creatively repurpose and recycle.

This year, you can also purchase eco-friendly Festival aprons that are made from recycled material at the merchandise tents.


Help make Festival greener by volunteering for the recycling crew. Visit the Festival website to sign up for a shift.

Bayou Vermilion District's Greg Guidroz on recycling duty in 2016

Or, join the Project Front Yard trash mob on the Saturday afternoon and donate an hour of your afternoon to join others in cleaning up trash around Festival grounds. Keep up with Project Front Yard on Facebook for the most current updates on the event.

Festival International 2016 Project Front Yard Trash Mob participants, via Project Front Yard

If You Don't Do Anything Else I Suggest, Do This

No matter what, remember that the ground is not where your trash belongs! There will be approximately 300 dedicated recycling bins located all over downtown, so recycle everything that’s acceptable, and throw your other trash in one of the hundreds of trash cans.

There’s no excuse for littering.

Geaux Green and Happy Festival, y’all!

Visit Festival International:

Photo Friday | Earth Day

With tomorrow being Earth Day, I'm actually having a bit more trouble deciding on what to feature for today's Photo Friday. There are so many aspects of environmentalism and so many niches that I could easily share 30 photos to encompass the Earth Day spirit!

From litter cleanups to litter reduction and education, to zero-waste living, to sustainable and ethical style, to secondhand shopping, to energy efficiency and alternative power, to minimalism, to going off-grid, to nature preservation, to recycling, to repurposing, to upcycling...there are so many areas you can choose to focus on.

And as I always try to reiterate here on the blog, start with one and make some habit changes. Take small steps and get bigger as you go. I didn't get where I am today in a short amount of time. I'm still learning new habits and making changes at home.

But all of the greener habits make a difference. They matter. We're the Hustle Gang (HT to that littered clothing tag above for my new phrase!)

These two photos are from last Saturday's Earth Day Preamble, which you may have seen on my Instagram (and soon will see on Facebook!). Volunteers kicked off the event with a litter cleanup in Downtown Lafayette, which was expected to be fruitful the morning after a night out at bars.

My friends Simon, Skyra and I tackled a nearby parking lot that had a lot of litter strewn about, and we came across the above shrub. While it may look nice from this distance, it was actually chock full of liquor bottles, beer bottles, a plastic bag filled with unidentified objects, chip bags, Styrofoam cups and go cups. We sure had a hell of a time fishing items out from between the twisted branches, but we were determined! The three of us probably filled up almost two bags just from this one spot.

Earth Day is about celebrating Earth as the resource it is. Everything we have comes from this Earth, and everything on this Earth is not just for us, but for the generations that came before us and will come after us too. Let's respect and protect this one planet that we have! We don't get any do-overs.

How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day this weekend? I'm very much looking forward to a few local events - check out Eco Cajun on Facebook for a roundup everything happening around Louisiana. I'm especially looking forward to Bayou Vermilion District's Earth Day Festival on Sunday, where I can combine my treehugger and yogi sides with my friend Erin's first yoga class since becoming teacher certified in India!

And come back next week for my annual Guide to a Green Festival. Don't forget to visit yesterday's post on Sustainable Festival Style for your chance to win a bottle of Native Polish.

Sustainable Festival Style (+ a giveaway!)

Festival season is in full swing here in Louisiana, and we're one week out from Festival International in Lafayette and the first weekend of Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Festival style, especially around the country, has become synonymous with girls in flower crowns and boho everything. I personally like to go for cool, colorful and comfortable when putting together outfits for our weekend at Festival International, and this year will be no exception. And yes, I'm already mentally putting together outfits, and just may be eager enough to take pictures of the complete outfit plans.

This is a perfect opportunity to really focus on my 2017 sustainable fashion goals, and I plan to make eco-fashion the key to my looks for the weekend. Although I don't typically buy a lot of new clothing each year, the pieces I have bought this year are either made of sustainable materials or are secondhand.

Next week, I'll be sharing my annual Guide to a Green Festival to kick off Festival International week, but today, let's focus on sustainable festival looks!

Spoiler Alert

There's a giveaway at the bottom of this post, if you insist on skipping the rest of the post content. 😉Scroll down to get the details and to enter!


Backpacks are the key to comfort and efficiently carrying around everything you'll need to properly spend full days at festivals. (I'll talk about the best eco supplies next week!) A few years ago, I picked up this Baggu backpack, which is made of recycled cotton. It's extremely durable, comfortable and spacious, so it's perfect for cramming all of my goods. For the cost-conscious, check thrift stores or secondhand shops for a backpack.


Secondhand reigns supreme when it comes to festival time. You can find unique pieces and save money at the same time!

The blue maxi dress below was secondhand from Plato's Closet for an amazing price, the necklace was locally made and purchased at a local shop, the earrings are my grandmother's, and my TOMS sunglasses purchase helped someone in need receive care in the form of prescription glasses, medical treatment and/or sight-saving surgery.

One of the tops I'm most excited to wear for Festival International this year is this navy and white striped linen tank top from sustainable brand Amour Vert. The company uses responsible fabrics, nontoxic dyes, and American manufacturing.

The red top below is made of an organic cotton and modal blend, and the white and navy striped modal and spandex top is very possibly the softest piece of clothing I own. Modal is engineered from fast growing and renewable beech trees.


Sustainable sunglasses are becoming more popular, especially brands following the TOMS model of giving back with each purchase. Sustainably Chic featured the brand Pala recently, who gives back to help those in need, along with providing a recycled glasses case with each pair.

Blue Planet Eyewear uses recycled plastic, metal, wood and bamboo in their sunglasses and eyeglasses.

Eco Warrior Princess has a roundup of other eco-friendly eye wear companies.


Sustainable jewelry and accessories are pretty easy to come by these days, and if you don't have any pieces now, you may find something your style at Festival! Look for pieces made locally, with recycled metal, or that are vintage.

This necklace from Adorn & Conquer was made in New Orleans with recycled metal and is still one of my favorites.

I've worn my Pimelia earrings (a prize from a Sustainably Chic contest!) SO. MANY. TIMES since I got them in the mail. Her pieces are made with sustainably harvested birch wood and the lasercutting and design processes are waste-conscious.


Don't forget your footwear as well. Look for secondhand or vintage shoes and sandals, or browse for ones made with sustainable or vegan materials. Once again, check out Sustainably Chic's shoe roundup for a starting point on brands.


Another one of my favorite things about sustainable Festival style is the ability to let my hair run natural. My very thick hair is naturally curly/wavy, so when I'm going to be spending hours outside in the sun (and sometimes rain and always humidity), I don't bother with my flat iron. Instead, I save a lot of time and some electricity by air drying my hair and letting the natural waves do their thing.


Keep the makeup light, and use chemical-free brands, which is better for your skin and health in the long run! In my wedding post series from last year, I talk more about the brands I've switched to and why they're more natural.

Nails (+ a giveaway!)

Continue the eco-friendly flair on your nails by using a chemical-free, vegan-friendly nail polish. So many conventional nail polish formulas include dozens of chemicals, so alternative brands formulate their polish without formaldehyde, toulene, DBP, formaldehyde resin and camphor.

Your nails are a great canvas to show off your personality, so why not take care of your nails and your long-term health with that manicure?

Last year, I discovered the New Orleans-based brand Native Polish, who formulates their line of polish without formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor, DBP, xylenes and parabens. The colors are all vegan-friendly and have unique New Orleans culture names (I'm currently wearing Spicy or Mild on my toes, and I wore Ladies Who Lunch for our engagement party.)

Native Polish is available in retailers throughout New Orleans and online.

In honor of Festival season, I'm working with the awesome ladies behind Native Polish, Allison and Julie, to bring you a giveaway! Today through 5 p.m. (central time) on Tuesday, April 25, enter to win a free bottle of Blues Breakdown! I'll draw a winner Tuesday evening. This gorgeous shade of deep blue is sure to bring out your true Festival style.

Photo via Native Polish

Enter by leaving a comment on this blog post telling me what your must-have festival fashion element is. Then follow myself (@ecocajun) and Native Polish (@nativepolish) on Instagram. You must verify all of your entries in the box below in order to be qualified. We WILL be checking to see if you follow us on Instagram!

Photo via Native Polish

Photo via Native Polish

Native Polish giveaway

Good luck, and let's get ready for Festival season!

Giving Prom Dresses a Second Life


AmeriCorps is no longer running the Cinderella Project in Lafayette, but the program lives on. It's now known as the Butterfly Effect Project, organized by New Day Community Outreach. Visit them on Facebook, and donate your old prom and homecoming dresses!


I've been out of high school for 14 years now, and I'm kind of sorrynotsorry about something: I still have my prom dresses from junior and senior year. I've mentioned before how I aspire to live a minimalist life, but in reality, I'm far from that. I'm very much a sentimental collector...which is why I still have two prom dresses I've worn a total of three times. (The bonus to wearing your prom dress for your dance school graduation is that you get to wear it twice!)

So in all honesty, these dresses have lived at my parents' house since 2003, along with a variety of other dresses from homecoming dances, until about February of this year, when my mother unloaded them on me. They're now hanging in my own house, which is really inspiring me to do something with them.

Enter the entire point of this post: prom dress donations. Organizations around the country lead prom dress donation drives, collecting barely worn, gently used prom dresses for girls on limited incomes or no means to purchase a new prom dress. Your old dress gets a second life, and can truly make a difference to a girl who may not otherwise be able to attend her prom.

Here in Lafayette, UL Lafayette AmeriCorps members run the annual Cinderella Project, making prom dreams come true by providing beautiful dresses to local high school girls at no cost! The event, which just celebrated its tenth year, gives away hundreds of dresses, shoes, and accessories to juniors and seniors from all walks of life.

Each February, the Cinderella Project conducts a dress drive, by partnering with local businesses to collect dresses. Businesses have included Deano's, Bevo's, Cabelo Salon and Lafayette Lanes. While most dresses are gently worn, there is a selection of dresses with tags still on that are donated.

Via CP of Lafayette Facebook

Once the dresses are collected, a huge event is held in March at Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette. AmeriCorps members and volunteers take the time to steam the dresses, then set them up by size and color. White dresses are reserved for seniors. A large variety of shoes and accessories are also available.

Via CP of Lafayette Facebook

On the day of the event, high school juniors and seniors are let in with a valid school ID, and are greeted by a volunteer personal shopper to help navigate them toward their ideal style and color dress. Students can try on up to three dresses at a time and can choose one to take home at no cost.
Via CP of Lafayette Facebook

Cinderella Project organizers and volunteers don't just see girls come from around Acadiana, but even from Baton Rouge, Natchitoches and New Orleans to look for the right dress.

"Anyone can come to the event as long as they're a junior or senior with a valid school ID. We see girls from every walk of life come in to look for the right prom dress," says Brittany with UL Lafayette AmeriCorps.

One thing I especially loved learning about the Cinderella Project is that they gave out between 350 and 400 dresses at this year's prom event. Through this initiative, thousands of dresses have found a second life just in Louisiana alone - most dresses that are worn once, and some not at all. That means thousands of dresses that don't just take up space in the back of the closet, or worse, in a landfill.

If you've still got a prom dress or two in storage, consider donating it to the Cinderella Project next year! The initiative is nationwide and local events are run by local groups, for those of you who don't live in Louisiana. I'm already ready to drop off my two prom dresses for next year!

Learn more about UL Lafayette AmeriCorps and the Cinderella Project, and stay up to date for next year's dress drive and distribution event:


Photo Friday | Happy Easter Weekend

Don't you always appreciate a Friday off of work? Especially in springtime, it feels so nice to have a day away from the usual routines.

Keeping it short and sweet, I'll let my two little favorites wish you all a happy Easter weekend! They love getting treats in these secondhand plastic eggs, in baskets my parents and I have had for years.


Follow the Recycling Rules!

Although today's post focuses on the city of Lafayette's curbside recycling contract and current contamination issues, the general idea is one that any resident around the country should pay attention to. Recycling bin contamination is not an isolated problem, I'm sure, and it's important for everyone to follow the rules to help ensure that we can keep recycling for years to come.

Lafayette adopted a new recycling contract effective last May - read my blog post on the changes to the program here. Eligible residents got new, larger bins, a new pickup date, and new rules on what's accepted and what's not - the biggest being no more glass pickup, and only plastics 1 and 2 accepted.

Whether it's from residents still not knowing what belongs in the recycling bin and what doesn't, or from residents not wanting to accept the changes in the program, the recycling program is facing higher contamination rates - unacceptable items being placed in the recycling bin and sent to the facility for sorting.

Last week, Lafayette Consolidated Government issued a press release regarding recycling contamination rates, which included the very real reminder that if a load of recycling is deemed contaminated, THE WHOLE THING GOES TO THE LANDFILL.

“When a load is rejected, then everything, including acceptable recycling material will be diverted to a landfill, contradicting our program goals of reducing the amount of material brought to the landfill,” says LCG Environmental Quality Manager Bess Foret. “We are working to correct the issue and have created educational tags to remind and inform residents what is and isn’t acceptable in their recycling cart.”
Yes, it's frustrating to think that our recycling efforts can be all for naught, and it's frustrating that fewer items are accepted, but it's only our fault if recycling loads are too contaminated to continue in the sorting process.

I read an article a few months back that introduced the term wishcycling - placing items in the recycling bin that aren't accepted, with the wish that they WERE, or uncertainty whether something is accepted or not. I admit I've been guilty of this, especially when throwing plastic #5 in my recycling bin. But although I feel like that kind of plastic should be accepted, it doesn't change that in this contract, it is not. So I have to throw it away.

As Earth911 says in their wishcycling article, "So, while you think you’re helping out by tossing anything and everything that could possibly, maybe, sort of be recycled into your bin, you may actually be dooming literal tons of other, properly recycled, items to the trash."

You might be asking, what specific items does Republic Services consider to contaminate recycling bin?
  • Garbage (food and liquid waste, including containers with food residue such as pizza boxes)
  • Yard waste
  • Plastic bags (should be recycled through retail centers) 
  • Large items, such as wood, plastic totes, metal, etc.
  • Glass
  • #3-#7 plastics, including Styrofoam
  • Hoses, wires, chains, etc.
  • Textiles (clothing or linen)

Now, about plastic bags. Many people use trash can liners for their in-home or in-office recycling bins, or otherwise bag recyclable materials.

The press release notes that plastic bags alone in recycling carts would not deem a cart as contaminated, but plastic grocery and shopping bags are not recycled through the curbside program. Bring all clean, plastic bags to local retail centers and grocery stores that offer high volume collection and recycling. (Read my blog post on recycling plastic bags through retail programs from this past January.)

So when it comes to dumping your recyclables in your cart before curbside pickup, empty the bag's contents into the bin. Plastic bags make it labor-intensive for employees who must manually empty the bags, plus, the bags get caught in the screeners and slow down the sorting process.

LCG suggests that if you prefer having a liner for your in-home or in-office recycling bin and don't want to empty out a plastic liner, use a cardboard box or a paper bag, which are recyclable through the program and can be naturally sorted through the system.

As a refresher, this is the postcard sent to all eligible residents last year when the new recycling bins arrived. It clearly has the list of acceptable and unacceptable items - so save this image, print it out, and keep it handy.

If you keep a small dedicated recycling bin inside your home, tape this on it as a reminder.

Make yourself familiar with the rules of recycling, and follow them. Even if it's frustrating, it's the only way we can ensure we'll keep having recycling services. Throwing glass into the recycling bin is not going to bring glass recycling back magically (although I do wish for it to come back one day!), but it is going to cause a lot of materials that ARE recyclable to be sent to the landfill instead.

Get a comprehensive review of Lafayette’s recycling program here.

A Minimal Waste Easter

With Easter coming up this weekend, it's time to finalize the crawfish boil plans, egg hunts and Easter baskets for the children. In my home, we don't do much by way of decorations or gifts, so we're already pretty waste-free, but I still work to make the holiday eco-friendly.

I usually forget to put out an Easter basket for decoration until sometime around now, the beginning of Holy Week. But I do have a metal one in storage, complete with plastic eggs that are at least 10 years old, and a few tin eggs that used to hold candy. I don't bother with plastic or paper grass at all, which keeps the house much cleaner.

A few years ago, I got on a Pinterest kick and wanted to make wreaths for our front door, but in an eco-friendly way. I learned how to make those burlap wreaths, and I purchased fake fall flowers to intertwine in the burlap. When spring rolled around, I picked up some fake spring flowers and replaced them on the same burlap wreath. It's been two or three years now, and although my burlap is starting to look a little sad, the wreath itself still works and gives a little cheer to our front door.

I love being able to repurpose one wreath to last for nine months out of the year, especially when I'm on the third year of using the same wreath base. (The other three months, around the holidays, I have a red burlap wreath on the door.)

But maybe you do a bit more for Easter. Dyeing eggs is always fun, especially with children, and there are many natural alternatives for dye. In 2013 and 2015 I experimented with using spices and produce to dye batches of eggs, and although it took awhile, I loved the results.

Using food-based items combined with vinegar also means you're keeping synthetic ingredients and materials out of your eggs, which makes them healthier if you plan to actually eat the eggs (which you should!)

Get creative when dyeing your eggs and reuse materials that would otherwise be thrown away. I've used strips of recycled cardboard boxes as drying stands, and my friend Sloane uses water and soft drink bottle caps.

If you prefer not to get messy with dye, use decorative stickers or washi tape to get a unique look. 

When it comes to using plastic eggs filled with treats for hunts, look for secondhand plastic eggs (the ones I have at home are secondhand from my mother's former classroom), or choose some made of renewable plant-based plastic (these are from Eco Eggs.)

Photo via Eco Eggs

Skip the prepackaged Easter baskets at the store, because the baskets are meant for only one holiday, every item is wrapped, and the entire thing is wrapped in cellophane, which cannot be recycled.

Instead, make your own! Find baskets at a flea market or secondhand shop, or borrow some from friends or family. If you decide to purchase new baskets, choose ones that can be used for multiple purposes in your home throughout the year.

Customize your baskets for Easter with pastel ribbon or secondhand fabric as a liner, which can be removed once the holiday is over.

Make your own Easter basket grass with shredded paper or scrap fabric.

When it comes to filling baskets with treats, look for treats wrapped in foil or paper instead of plastic, or skip the candy altogether. Add a coloring book and nontoxic markers, outdoor toys like a jump rope or Frisbee, or even a child-size reusable water bottle.

You don't have to go overboard on material items for Easter, and you definitely don't have to go single-use. Minimize where you can and look for secondhand or reusable items for decorations and gifts.

Photo Friday | Waste-Free

As the Project Front Yard Festival of Service comes to a close tomorrow, and I keep thinking about waste-free lunches, I keep thinking about the 'why'. Why focus on waste-free?

Our parking lots, green spaces, front yards, and waterways don't need to look like this!

I'm all about realistic journeys, although I may push myself a little more than most people might when it comes to recycling and conservation. If you're a fan of convenience, you can still enjoy what you like without littering or being extra wasteful.

Pick up fast food, but refuse plastic utensils, straws and paper napkins. Skip the drink if you're so inclined, and bring your own reusable bottle. When you're finished with lunch, throw everything away in a trashcan instead of dumping it in the parking lot next to your vehicle.

Or minimize your single-use packaging by packing your own lunch in reusable containers a few days a week, to balance out the drive-thru trips.

Once you get into the habit of reducing your waste, and being more mindful about the waste you are putting out, it will become second-nature!

Reducing Waste When Preparing Lunch

Typically, when I grocery shop, I try to cover the entire week - lunch and dinner for two, plus occasional breakfast foods and regular snacks. I enjoy cooking, so I usually try to cook enough dinner a few times a week so that leftovers can be eaten for lunch, but sometimes, I'll pick up dedicated lunch items for my husband and me.

Since I don't work terribly far from my office, many times I just head home for lunch to break up the day, and then I don't worry about packing my lunch each morning. The difficult part is when I haven't planned well enough, or something comes up in the day, and I'm stuck having to find food at the last minute - and that's when things get a little wasteful.

But, I'm here to help you pack a waste-free lunch, especially since our Project Front Yard challenge is TOMORROW!

If you're in an office, it's probably the easiest transition to make, but no matter what your situation is, there are a few items you'll need to arm yourself with:

  • Reusable containers
    • These can be either purchased food storage containers, or repurposed things like mason jars.
  • A real plate and/or bowl
  • Reusable utensils 
  • Cloth napkins
  • Reusable water bottle or cup for drink
  • Reusable straw (if you need a straw at all)
  • Cloth lunch bag 

Things to avoid:

  • Plastic water bottles
  • Plastic soft drink bottles
  • Styrofoam trays and containers
  • Frozen food trays
  • Paper napkins
  • Plastic utensils

When I started at my current job, I invested in a clearance plate and bowl from Target to keep at my desk, and I moved a few coffee mugs over from home. Combined with a dish towel and a fork and spoon, I'm covered for when I need to eat at work.

I've also recently added my collection of stainless steel straws, and the added bonus is that they make perfect reusable coffee stirrers!

It also helps if you have a sink available to wash your dishes, but if not, just close everything up and bring it home to wash.

If you're on the go, or not near a kitchen during lunchtime, you can still easily have a waste-free lunch, but you may want to adjust to pack foods that don't need to be reheated, or that require utensils.

You might be wondering, "What exactly are my food options?"
  • If you like to cook, divide and package your leftovers into smaller containers that you can quickly grab on your way out of the house.
    • I'm a fan of quinoa-based dishes, since we've cut most pasta out lately.
  • Sandwiches and wraps are simple to make and pack well in reusable containers.
  • Salads are a simple and healthy lunch - just pack the dressing separately. Get Pinteresty with it and pack your salad in a mason jar. (When it's lunchtime, add your dressing, put the lid back on, and shake.)
  • Prepare your own chicken, tuna or egg salad.
  • Leftover or frozen soup or gumbo is perfect on rainy days.
  • Check out Zero Waste Chef for some more lunch ideas.

When my company had food service available, I would bring my trusty bowl for salads and bring it back to my desk, in order to save on the plastic tray.

And no matter what you do, I am telling you - do not reheat your food in plastic or styrofoam containers! It is so, so bad for you. Plastic and styrofoam are made with petroleum-based materials, so you don't want those leaching into your food.

If you don't have the luxury of keeping a plate or bowl on hand, invest in some glass or Pyrex containers (and microwave them without the lids).

So, that's how you can be waste-free for your own lunch, or your spouse's. What about your children's lunch?

Amanda of No Waste Louisiana, another group helping to plan tomorrow's Waste Free Lunch Challenge, shares the ways her two daughters bring waste-free lunches to school.

Photo courtesy Amanda with No Waste Louisiana

"We use reusable cloth lunch bags, which get washed in the washing machine weekly, stainless steel water bottles, stainless steel containers for fruits and veggies, and a cloth napkin," Amanda says.

The stainless steel containers and bottles are extra durable and can withstand being dropped on the ground, and the cloth snack bags are great for chips, crackers, biscuits or muffins.
Amanda includes her own dedicated zero-waste lunch routine: "I eat pretty much the same lunch daily and I love it: a big green salad and a peanut butter sandwich. I buy peanut butter from the peanut butter machine straight into a glass jar (a recycled jelly jar) and I make my own bread with two bags of flour (I compost the bags), olive oil (in glass I recycle), salt, honey (in glass I return to local folks), yeast (in glass) and oat bran I buy in bulk with a reusable cloth bag and store in glass jar that was a jelly jar at home.

"My salad is greens and carrots from my garden, or I buy unpackaged loose lettuce and carrots. I make my salad dressing using a glass honey jar, mixing olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
I will bring this lunch in reusable containers in a cloth bag with napkin and stainless steel water bottle," she explains.

In addition, Amanda stays stocked with a set of sporks and stainless steel pint cups, so she and her family are always prepared while on the go.

If you're still curious about aspects of a waste-free lunch, leave a comment below, and I look forward to seeing you all participate in tomorrow's Waste Free Lunch Challenge! Take a photo of your waste-free lunch and post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #ProjectFrontYard, #FestivalofService, and #WasteFreeDay!

Even if you're not in the Acadiana area, join in - let's see how widespread this challenge can go!
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