Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eco-Friendly Disney - Part 3

I've talked a lot about the negative things, environmentally-speaking, about our trip to Disney.  The lack of recycling.  The lack of availability of recycled products for purchase.  The need to purchase consumable items (napkins, condiments, cereal) that end up in the waste stream when half-used.

But there were a lot of things that were really great, environmentally, about our trip.  You can read the details in Disney's 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report (  It provides a fascinating look at a large corporation and its efforts to reduce its negative impact on the environment and increase its positive impact on the community.

One of the things that struck me most was the use of real cutlery, glasses and plates in almost all of the eating areas we visited.  I'm used to seeing my food served disposable plates and cutlery - I was pleasantly surprised to have my food served on plates with stainless steel forks and knives. 

Another interesting point was the number of recycling and garbage bins.  The park was spotless.  Staff were constantly picking up garbage left behind, and placing it in the appropriate receptacle.  Garbage cans and recycling bins were constantly emptied, so visitors to the park never had the excuse of "the bin was too full".

Greenhouses on Disney property are using innovate techniques to grow food - vertical agriculture, aquaponics, and xeriscaping are a few examples.  Disney also grows a lot of the food served at resort hotels.

Public transportation is the only choice for getting around the resort.  You can take the monorail, the steam train or the ferry, to and from various locations in the park.  Of course, you can also walk.

But what impressed me the most is Disney's commitment to nature conservation and consumer education.  I'll expand on this in another post.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Change lightbulbs to CFLs (Change 135)

According to the ENERGY STAR (a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy)  "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that's earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars."

I admit, that is a lot of energy to be saved.  The savings comes from replacing one incandescent bulb with one CFL bulb (compact fluorescent light bulb). It works about to be about 75% less energy than a regular incandescent bulb.

I had questions, though, about the other environmental implications of CFLs.  My main concern was the mercury content in the bulbs.  As long as you don't break a light bulb, you should be OK.  Break it though, and you'd better hope to have a window available to open ASAP.  You do NOT want to breathe that stuff in!  It also means that CFLs are considered hazardous waste, and cannot be disposed of in your regular garbage, but taken to a special waste depot for disposal.  How many people actually clean up broken bulbs properly and dispose of used bulbs properly?  The potential long-term health concerns worry me a little.

Great debate rages, and no one has a real answer.  Your opinion on CFLs mainly depends on which side of the fence you sit on - more concern for the environment or more concern for the perceived impacts on your health and/or wallet.  Natural Resources Canada has a great FAQ on CFLs, for those needing help deciding where to sit (

I've done my research, and I sit on the side of the environment.  To me, the potential benefits far outweigh the small risk incurred.  The Government of Canada feels the same (  By 2014, most lights will use CFL bulbs.

We've decided to start earlier.  Every time we need to replace a bulb, we will be replacing it with a CFL, rather than an incandescent one.  This will be easier on our pocketbook, and won't result in the premature tossing of perfectly good light bulbs into the garbage.

It will also make our environment a little brighter, and the air a little easier to breathe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm short-listed!

Wow!  Thanks to Eco-Yogini (who is also short listed!), who brought to my attention that I have been short-listed for the 2011 CWA's Best Weblog About Ecology & Social Justice.  You can take a look at the link here:

To whomever nominated me - thank you! 

To my fellow nominees, I congratulate you all, and I am honoured to share this with you.  Good luck to everyone!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eco-Friendly Disney - Part 2

Renting a home while we were in Orlando was the most logical thing to do, from a convenience, monetary and personal standpoint.  To try and get hotel rooms for 9 people, plus meals, plus transportation (even if those were included in a package) was far more expensive than the house option.  As well, with DD1's food allergy and my current food challenges, it also made eating more enjoyable for everyone.

The drawback of renting a house is that it doesn't come with a lot of the of built-in environmentally-friendly things we're used to at home in Canada.  For instance - recycling.  Yes, Orlando does recycle.  You can find garbage/recycling bins at all major malls, fast food restaurants, etc.

However, we were renting in a gated community.  The gated community does not provide recycling services to its residents.  If we wanted to recycle, we had to package up our goods, and search the city for someone who already had their bins out for pick-up.   We were on vacation, so traipsing around the city to look for someone's garbage day was not going to happen.  We did not recycle for the ENTIRE week.

It was so weird.  I felt horribly guilty about throwing out perfectly good and recyclable glass bottles, plastic bottles, paper, cardboard and cans.  At the end of the week, we had two large garbage bins FULL to the brim with garbage, of which, at least half was recyclables.

Then there was the type of garbage we threw out.  I'll detail that in my next post.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eco-Friendly Disney Style - Part 1

Well, the trip is long over, but the memories are still good ones.  We spent a week at Disney World in Florida, with my parents, my brother and his fiancee.  It was certainly a lesson in togetherness, understanding, and patience.  It was also a lesson in how well-entrenched my family really is in the whole "eco-thing".

The realization starts almost as soon as we start planning our trip.  There was paper.  Lots and lots of paper.  Brochures, calendars, emails, tickets.  It is unbelievable in this age of technology, how much paper a trip actually uses in its planning stages.

Sure, we communicated back and forth by email.  Yes, we had electronic tickets.  But, DD1 and DD2 both needed their passports renewed before our trip.  Check off TWO three page print outs that were mailed, plus photocopies of relevant documents (in case they got lost in the mail), and you have quite a bit of paper.  Not to mention an envelope, courier bag and paper receipt.

Then there were the trip planners my mom created for the kids.  Their very own calendars to write down what they wanted to do.  Of course, they couldn't share the computer.  So, I printed three copies of everything for them to look at.

Print off our ticket reservations, address of our rental house, and copies of a map to get to it, and you have more paper.   Not very eco-friendly.  Lots of dead trees, and not much to show for it.  Even the kids were commenting on the amount of printer paper we were going through.  Sure we had a Garmin and our Blackberry devices.  But being uncertain about how all this technology would translate south of the border, I erred on the side of caution and obtain hard copies.

At least, I thought, I'll be able to recycle all of  the paper in Florida.   How wrong I was......