If you asked me a couple months ago if I thought about Disney as a green vacation destination I would have said no, not really. I mean I would have said that I am sure they do some green things but in general I would not have thought it was a primary consideration for them. That was my thinking until I spent a few days at various Disney World Properties in Orlando last month. I came away with a vastly greater respect for Disney, especially in regards to all the work they do in nature conservation and to be better environmental stewards as a company.
If you think about all that goes on inside the operations of any amusement park you think about all the garbage they generate, all the junk food they serve, and all the useless souvenirs they try to pawn off on you. Disney is not without fault of course but I never fully realized all that they do be greener and more sustainable.
“The land itself—should be as dear to us all as our political heritage and our treasured way of life. Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.” – Walt Disney
For instance, in January of this year Disney received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. This award is California’s highest environmental honor, for waste-reduction efforts and boy have they achieved something impressive! Over the last 10 years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills, and is working toward the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste—a distinction already awarded to Circle D Corral at Disneyland park. In addition to recycling paper, cardboard, plastics and metal, Circle D Corral composts all animal waste, hand towels, laundry lint and coffee grounds from Disneyland Resort restaurants.
This is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. When collecting research for this post I ended up with so much information about their environmental stewardship and practices that I could not possible share it all but here are some highlights:
At Walt Disney World Resort, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show (which I was lucky enough to see last month) dazzles Epcot guests with new environmentally friendly lasers. The show’s solid-state lasers use the energy equivalent of a hair dryer, saving approximately 64,000 watts of power with each show.
To date, Disney Cruise Line programs have eliminated more than 6,400 tons of metal, glass, plastic and paper from traditional waste streams through recycling, and removed 31,000 pounds of trash and debris from beaches and waterways.
Disney has a Climate Solutions Fund and it is one of the tools the company uses to address climate change. They charge their businesses for the greenhouse gas emissions they generate, and the money goes to the Climate Solutions Fund. With the fund, Disney can use this money to invest in forestry projects and improved forest management techniques. They have projects around the world from California to Inner Mongolia. Since 2009, they have invested in more than 147,000 acres of forested land—the equivalent of four Walt Disney World parks.
The animal waste at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is composted.
The Disney Conservation Fund has awarded more than $27 million to projects in 114 countries. The aim of funded projects is the study of wildlife, protection of habitats and the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems around the world, and to help connect kids and nature through exploration and discovery.
Disney makes continuous technology improvements to reduce their footprint including the installation of a 1 MW fuel cell on their Pixar campus and LEED certification on their ESPN campus.
In 2014, 30 electric vehicle charging ports were installed at the Disneyland Resort—20 for guest use and 10 for Cast Member use. They have plans to add many more across their properties.
Disney has committed to the following long-term environmental stewardship goals: Zero net greenhouse gas emissions, zero waste, conserve water resources.
Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has supported the study of threatened species, the protection of critical ecosystems, and the development of community conservation and education programs in over 100 countries worldwide. In 2014, the DWCF funded more than 150 projects, surpassing a milestone of more than $25 million in cumulative giving.
So what does all of this look like when you visit the actual Disney parks? Well, here are some of my personal observations:
Upon check-in at the Disney’s Yacht Club Resort I received a stylish arm band that I can then use to enter my room, make purchases, enter the parks, use fastpasses to get on rides, etc. This reduces a lot garbage in the parks and resorts..no need for tickets, no need for paper receipts, no plastic room keys and so on. Plus you can reuse the same arm bands year after year.
A huge percentage of the land at the Disney resorts is left wild and virtually untouched. I was amazed by how big a part nature plays in the overall theme at each and every property I visited…which was several. In fact, nearly a third of the properties are dedicated wildlife conservation areas.
Disney parks provide a vast amount of nature related activities such as boating and fishing. Who knew??? I sure didn’t. In partnership with Take Me Fishing Disney offers onsite opportunities to go boating and fishing. I experienced two of them…cane pole fishing at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside and Guided Bass Fishing Excursions on a 21-foot Tracker pontoon at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
There are hundreds of nature experiences provided to kids across Disney properties. It doesn’t have to be ONLY about a riding rides and seeing a mouse.
By offering so many adventures and opportunities onsite and providing group transportation you never have to go far to find the entertainment you want. This is prudent for them as a business of course but it also makes the most sense environmentally as well.
The Magical Express transportation system is genius. Get off your plane and board a bus with dozens of other guests. It provides a high occupancy transportation option and there is no need for everyone to get a rental car. You can use the same system to travel between resorts and parks as well.
Wildlife abounds on Disney properties. I love to see critters and birds happily living and playing on resort properties because I know that the impact is minimal…or the eco system surrounding it would not be thriving.
Healthy foods abound at Disney. There is no reason to eat junky food on vacation. I had some of the best food (tasty and healthy) I have ever eaten in my life while visiting there. They are also very happy to make sure you have gluten free everything if you need it.
Every Disney World theme park has organic and fair-trade products for sale. Yay!
I was very impressed by everything I saw at Disney World, Epcot, and the handful of park resorts I went to. While I have always been a Disney fan (heck I spent either Halloween or Christmas there every year!) I did have some outdated ideas about them. I am happy to find that Disney is leading the way for corporations on environmental issues AND providing a cleaner, greener vacation destination.
I leave you with a photo I took while fishing right next to the Disney World theme park. Recognize anything?
In midsummer we were deep in the midst of buying our first home. It was a hectic and stressful time for us…making a huge purchase, packing up our belongings, hoping we were able to get into the new place before we had to be out of the current one, ect. It seemed liked the wrong time to take a family vacation but it was actually the perfect time. We put real life on hold for a long weekend and enjoyed some time away together as a family.
So did we want to enjoy nature or go to a posh resort? Both actually. We ended up going to Maumee Bay State Park Lodge which is right off of Lake Erie. it is the perfect combination of an outdoorsy, nature rich experience and resort living at the same time. The resort actually resides within a state park and much of the area around it is wild and untouched. They have numerous activities available and most encourage you to be out in nature. The inside though is posh and beautiful as you would expect a resort to be. It is the best of both worlds.
We had a beautiful family suite that boasted an upstairs loft for the kids and it had a balcony overlooking the lake…which is stunning. The quickie video below is one I shot from our balcony after waking. Hear the birds??
A video posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on
We spent our days swimming (inside and out), playing shuffleboard, throwing horseshoes, walking the nature trails, golfing, visiting the nature center, and taking golf carts around the lake.
The photo directly above is of my son looking for snakes. He and some other kids found some slithering around freely. It is testimony to the fact that things are wild around the resort and private bungalows. The nature thrives so you know they are doing their part to do no harm. I also spotted all electric maintenance vehicles making the rounds. The resort gets an A for green efforts in my book and after speaking with staff members they hope to do more soon. After all nature plays a huge part in their biggest business of the year, which comes from The Biggest Week in American Birding. They sell out all accommodations and people come from literally all over the globe to check out the birds in the area during the month of May. What greater incentive is there to keep things sustainable than when your nature lovers pay the bills?
We also made some time to visit nearby destinations with transportation provided by the resort. We went to the Toledo Zoo, which is every bit as amazing as our zoo in Columbus and that is saying a lot, we have an award winning zoo. The highlight was seeing the hippos. I don’t think I have ever seen hippos before….except for Disney’s Jungle Cruise and I don’t think that counts. We also checked out the Toledo Museum of Art, which was spectacular. Their collection is amazing and the play time exhibit (below) was super fun for the whole family.
A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on
We also made time to visit the Imagination Station, which is a local science and learning center. It used to be a COSI (which we have in Columbus) but I must say that it now kicks COSI butt. We had an incredibly fun time and would consider going back to the area JUST for this experience. Another wonderful place we went was the Great Lakes historical society museum where we boarded the ship Col. James M. Schoonmaker.
All aboard! A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on
A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on
It was a memorable trip and the kids mention going back often. I love that we are supporting a local state park if we do. If you live in Ohio, northern Indiana, or southern Michigan then you don’t have far to go for a great family vacation.
Even though it isn’t the greenest pursuit, I love travel. It is just one of the ways in which we can connect to our planet and come to love it in all its wondrous variety…by exploration! So even though travel might increase our carbon footprint it is one of those things that I happily forgive because I really do believe that you protect what you care about and exploring your city, county, state, country, and world can be part of that. As long as you do so mindfully, with some planning, and with a careful eye to wastefulness I heartily endorse hitting the road (or the skies) with your kids. They won’t care to protect what they don’t know intimately.
One of my favorite methods of travel or maybe my absolute favorite (because I hate flying) is travel by recreational vehicle (RV). I started traveling by RV when I was just a toddler because my mother, Aunt, Uncle, and grandfather all used to travel around the midwest participating in horse shows and competitions. The easiest and most comfortable way to bring the family along was by RV, or motorhome specifically. It was very much like bringing home along with you. For holidays such as Memorial Day or the 4th of July we would also hit the road and park at various camp sites where we would camp, explore, and swim in local watering holes.
Here is the interior of the motorhome I spent 100s of hours in as a child (same as above photo), I still get a warm fuzzy feeling of pure happiness when I look at it! I would sleep on that couch (it pulled out) with my little brother. I would sit in the passenger seat and play with the CB radio while my grandfather drove us around the countryside. I would play cards with my grandmother and my cousins at that dining table (bottom left) and eat her homemade tuna egg salad sandwiches. It made for many perfect summer adventures and memories.
Taking an RV for long weekends and holiday weekends is actually a quite perfect way to go.
Stress free. You are taking “home” with you.
Affordable. No $ spent on hotels or airfare.
No sleeping on the ground in a tent, you have a nice comfy bed and a place free from critters.
Kids sleep better in a familiar place with their own pillows and blankets.
It is easy to plan a getaway on the spur of the moment.
No fast food or eating out because you have a pantry and kitchen.
Power supply for gadgets such as computers, blenders, and food processors.
A comfy place to retreat when you want to rest.
Toys and other personal items are easy to take along with you.
On board bathrooms, no pulling over to stop every 5 minutes!
You can take pets with you.
Can get one you drive or one you tow behind the family truck or SUV.
We took many planned, longer trips in the RV but we also took spur of the moment trips. One summer we drove the RV a few hours north to Chillicothe, Ohio to see an outdoor play called Tecumseh. You sit in a outdoor amphitheater and watch the story of the legendary Shawnee leader as he struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio country during the late 1700’s. There are cannons firing, guns shooting, horses riding past you and it really feels as though you are there, living it. The show is several hours long so rather than driving home late at night we just parked at a nearby camp ground with RV hookups and we made a mini vacation of it. My childhood was filled with trips like this, big and small. It made me relish the coming of summer and our upcoming adventures.
Here is a photo of me with my mother, grandmother and younger brother on one of our many RV adventures. He was just a baby so I would have been about 5 years old.
Eight or so years later, nothing much has changed (below), except the RV is bigger… me, my grandmother, and brother.
I will always treasure those memories and these pictures. They were some of the happiest times of my life. I am regretful now that my own kids haven’t done as much RVing as I did. We are going to have to change that…
Green travel is no longer just a trend it is a way of life for many and becoming more and more important in a world which is being harmed in so many ways by human activity. So to make your travel more planet friendly here are a few green travel tips.
Choosing a green destination
Some destinations are more environmentally conscious than others. Not only the individual hotels but entire cities or resorts as a whole. A bed and breakfast might be a more sustainable choice than a hotel chain and Portland, Oregon would be considered a greener destination than Atlanta, GA. We can also consider exploring locations closer to home, thus reducing our travel footprint.
Choosing green accommodation
Hotels which use 40% less electricity and produce 35% less carbon emissions than the average hotel are Energy Star approved hotels. When booking a hotel online use the search filters to find smoke-free hotels and hotels listed as “green”. Consider camping as an alternative to conventional travel and also look into bed and breakfasts or inns which tend to use fewer environmentally harmful resources.
Sharing transport by using public buses emits less harmful gases than renting a car, and if you have to rent a car then make sure it is an eco-friendly car. Hiring a scooter uses even less energy and there are also transport alternatives which use only natural energy. Try taking a cycling vacation or sail instead of taking a motorized boat. Hiking and walking vacations are of course the best way of conserving energy! If you must fly then choose an airline known for its eco-friendly policies like Virgin America, Alaska Airlines or Air France which offers passengers carbon offsets.
Often when you’re traveling you’ll be eating on-the-go which means plastic plates, cups and utensils. Take along a reusable bottle/mug and when you dine choose restaurants which use “real” plates and cutlery. Pack reusable cloths to use instead of paper towels and paper napkins, such as Skoy Cloths or PeopleTowels which are reusable and biodegradable. If you want to try the local food truck scene, and who can blame you, bring your own utensils. These nifty bamboo ones come in their own carrying case AND don’t forget to bring your own healthy easy snacks in a to-go box.
To recharge the inevitable electric gadgets that will accompany you on your trip purchase a solar recharger. Using solar energy you can recharge your camera, laptop, mp3 player, and cell phone. If a solar recharger is not a practical option for your trip then use rechargeable camera batteries which can be recharged over night.
Traveling green begins before you’re even out the front door – Cancel your newspaper delivery, turn off all lights and power bars, unplug appliances or even cut off all electricity via the breaker if you can.
Stay Green in the Hotel
Hang up your used towels to indicate that there is no need to wash them every day. This saves on energy used in hotel laundry. Use the hotel toiletries modestly or even bring along your own. When you leave the hotel room for the day turn off the lights, A/C and TV. If there are no recycle bins in your hotel then collect plastic bottles, paper and organic waste separately and ask the hotel manager where you can find the relevant receptacles in town. Even though you’re not paying for the water, limit your bathing to a reasonable length of time. A vacation is no excuse to get lax with your eco habits.
Seek out local farmers markets and organic stores where the food hasn’t traveled far or dine in restaurants which are known to be eco-friendly and local. Half the fun of visiting a new place is trying the food unique to that area so don’t go to chain eateries. You can do that anywhere so support small, local businesses instead.
Hopefully with a little planning your next travel experience will be a little greener…enjoy!
Last week I attended the BlogHer 12 conference in New York City and was gone from Tuesday night until early Monday morning. At this point I am just kind of laying around the house watching DVR’d shows and taking cat naps, recovering from a whirlwind trip. I had lots fun, met with lots of friends (old and new), explored the city, and came home with really sore feet.
I tried to go into this conference well prepared and that meant reading posts from other bloggers who have been and had advice to share. I didn’t really explore transportation options though, because I think most people fly. I decided it would be greener to take a bus and that was my biggest mistake on this trip. Taking a bus from Ohio to New York and back again was like a signing myself up for a sleep deprivation torture experiment. It’s hard enough to sleep on a bus (tight quarters) surrounded by strangers and hang out in seedy bus stations but having to get off the bus 2-3 times per trip and sit for an hour or more in a terminal only to get back on the same freakin bus was just too much. I also “forget” that I have edema issues due to many of my lower lymph nodes being removed (cancer). Sitting for that long meant that by the time we landed in NYC I had cankles and really swollen feet.
Anyway bus ride aside I still hit the ground running when I got there and made mistake #2 which was too walk from the Port Authority to the hotel. It was less than a mile but good golly it was crowded and hot, and walking with luggage was not fun. Okay so the trip didn’t start out very well but it did get better. After checking in to my hotel (The Hilton at 53rd and 6th) we (my brother and I – he went with me) hoofed it to Times Square and bought show tickets. Then we killed time going in shops until the 8:00 showing of Chicago at The Ambassador. It wasn’t the show that either of us wanted to see but it was discounted and available and we ended up LOVING it. On the way home we stopped at Lindy’s and got some cheesecake to go. Yum!
Day two began with a Go Army Bootcamp at the hotel for me. They apparently changed up their workouts two years ago and ahem… seemed to adopt a lot of CrossFit moves. I was totally familiar with everything we did and it was a nice way to get my blood pumping for the day. Afterwards my brother and I got Metro passes for the subway and generally just explored for the greater part of the day.
We got cream cheese bagels with sturgeon at Russ & Daughters. Amazing and totally not paleo but who cares??!??! So delicious….
I had one of these babies on Saturday too but with smoked salmon…equally yum.
After eating we wandered around Chinatown and Little Italy. I love all the fruit stands, gardens, and outdoor eateries.
Also love the subways. Travelling this way is so convenient and it would be awesome to not have a car. I am trying to convince hubby that NYC is the place for us after our kids are grown.
Next stop…the Staten Island Ferry and Lady Liberty.
All the walking made us super hungry so after trekking around the Chelsea Market for a bit we ended up going to Morimoto (of Iron Chef fame). As expected it was crazy expensive (about $180 for lunch) but really, really delicious. We had sea bass with these scrumptious bits of avocado fried in Tempura and a large plate of sushi and rolls. I loved everything…even the salmon roe, which I usually don’t care for.
After stuffing ourselves it seemed appropriate to walk and lucky for us The Highline was right next door. If you don’t know this is a section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. It was abandoned and slated for demolition but a community group decided to recycle it into an urban park /aerial greenway and it is absolutely gorgeous now. It was a big highlight of my trip because I have wanted to see it for years.
After The High Line we went back uptown to The Frick and we took a walk in central park. At that point it was time for the conference stuff and the conference related parties to begin…but that is for another post.
The major take away from this first part of the trip though that is that I forgot how amazing New York is and how much I love it there. Someday, hopefully I will get to spend lots more time there. AND because we took the awful torture bus and rode the subways the whole time, it was also a pretty green travel adventure.