Earth Month Spotlight | Dane Thibodeaux

Although Earth Day has passed, we've still got almost a week left to the month, and that means one more spotlight on an awesome green person in Acadiana. This week, it's none other than Dane Thibodeaux, who puts much of his passion into the TECHE Project! Dane can be found representing the organization and Bayou Teche at many community events, including the Vermilionville Earth Day Festival this past weekend.

Dane's been a big supporter of Eco Cajun for a few years now, and I believe we met in person back in 2015 at Festival International.

He's been involved with TECHE Project since 2013, when he and some friends got together for a night boat ride on the bayou. "As we were traveling, you could see the immense amount of trash reflecting back at you with the spotlight. That night, I pledged to myself that I was going to do something about the trash in our waterway," Dane says.

The next day he started planning the first Trash Bash and Boogie in Breaux Bridge, and got in touch with TECHE Project founding members Kristen Kordecki, Blake Couvillion, Patti Holland and Anya Burgess, who supported his endeavor 100%.

Photo courtesy TECHE Project

"After a very successful cleanup, I was asked to be on the council, and of course, I gladly accepted. It has been a wonderful five years. Since then, our organization has grown so much. We have installed five floating docks, hold a festival every October and host educational workshops for people to learn ways to embrace the Bayou Teche Watershed," Dane adds. (Read about the 2017 Trash Bash and Boogie in this blog post!)

Photo courtesy TECHE Project

In a small history lesson for you, Bayou Teche is a 135-mile long waterway that begins in Port Barre, Louisiana, where it draws water from Bayou Courtableau, then flows southward to meet the Lower Atchafalaya River in Patterson. During the time of the Acadian migration to what was then known as the Attakapas region, Bayou Teche was the primary means of transportation.

It runs through St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary parishes and is easily accessed from several state highways and Interstate 10. The trail has a total of 13 established access points which provide access to paddle trips as short as 7 miles or as long as its 135 miles.

Bayou Teche is also designated as Louisiana's only National Water Trail and National Paddle Trail

Dane has a long history with Bayou Teche. "I was lucky enough to grow up on the Teche in Breaux Bridge with my cousin - the golden trashcan-winning, earth-friendly role model Greg Guidroz of Bayou Vermillion District. While earning my Eagle Scout rank, I learned to be an avid outdoor lover and steward of the planet, but it wasn't until I returned to Louisiana from my service in the Marine Corps that I developed a passion for advocating for the environment," he tells me.

He continues, "As a teacher, I tell my students that there is 'No Planet B' and it is our duty to protect the only one that we have. When people hear that I volunteer my time to clean the Bayou Teche, often, they will ask me why I do it. I believe it is my job to make sure that my two children can grow up in a world that is free of litter and pollution. I just think it is important to start at home." 

Dane absolutely promotes eco-friendly habits at home with his wife and young son and daughter, and promotes the recent implementation of curbside recycling in the town of Breaux Bridge.

The TECHE Project partnered with Nature’s Link Wellness Center in Breaux Bridge and Project Front Yard-St. Martin Parish to install permanent trash receptacles along the Bayou Teche Watershed. Photo courtesy TECHE Project.

When Dane isn't teaching, out on Bayou Teche, attending a community event or at home, he still finds time to participate with other local organizations. He recently participated in Keep Louisiana Beautiful's Leaders Against Litter event in Breaux Bridge, proving he's just as handy at picking up trash on the ground as he is on the water.

Photo courtesy Dane Thibodeaux

Photo courtesy Dane Thibodeaux

But it's obvious that his true passion is the conservation, protection and appreciation of Bayou Teche. "My favorite thing is being in a boat at sunset, watching the arrangement of colors shining through the massive live oaks on the slow brown current listening to the sounds of the little critters is absolutely amazing," he says.

"With 135 miles to explore, each section of the bayou has its own significant qualities. Paddling near huge moss-covered oaks, towering cypress trees and miles of sugar cane fields all while watching the bayou gradually get wider and wider as you travel south is a mesmerizing experience and there truly is no place like it. Even if you get the family together for a nice picnic on the banks and absorb the beauty that the Teche has to offer, you won't regret it," he continues.

What's next for the TECHE Project?
  • Spring Clean 2018 is scheduled for May 26 in St. Martinville from 8-11am, in partnership with Project Front Yard-St. Martin Parish and Keep Louisiana Beautiful for the Great American Cleanup. There will be opportunities to remove litter from the water and around the park. The organizers will provide everything you need and they encourage everyone to come out to help keep the Bayou Teche Watershed clean. 
  • TECHE Project is also partnering with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for the "Bayou Teche Hot Spot" return visit in October that will culminate at the annual Shake Your Trail Feather festival. Follow Bayou Teche on Facebook for more updates as the event gets closer.

Photo courtesy TECHE Project

I'll close with Dane's favorite environmental quote, which he prefaces with a little background inspiration.

"I took the renewable resources course at UL Lafayette with the late well-known environmental activist and professor Dr. Griff Blakewood, where he introduced me to Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. This book changed my view of my personal role on this Earth and I highly recommend reading it. The book starts off with a very straightforward newspaper ad: 'Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.' I wholeheartedly believe that protecting our earth starts with teachers like Griff, Greg and the Eco Cajun herself to inspire and teach us how to be good stewards of the earth in our own backyards. If not for you guys, our work at the TECHE Project would be for nothing."

Oh, and Dane, I promise I will get out for a boat ride along Bayou Teche before Baby Eco Cajun makes his or her debut!



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