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How to eco hack your Walt Disney World vacation

You may not know this dear reader, but Shades of Green shares its name (quite by accident) with a Walt Disney World golf resort. In fact, every time I (Emma) Google our blog that is what comes up. Why am I telling you that? Because WDW is the subject of today’s blog.
There’s no getting around it, taking a holiday in a place that is several thousand miles away and is a major tourist trap is hardly the greenest thing that I could do, but what can I say? I love Disney – I even worked there for a time – and I’m not going to stop going. So, last month I went.
However, I did want to make my trip as green as possible and this is what I did to make that happen.

Getting there

Plane flying

The only practical way to get to the USA is via plane, so I offset my flight’s carbon footprint. As it turns out, flying direct and in the economy cabin is better for the world than having a change or flying in premium/business/first class, which is good because I flew there direct and economy class. (Although, I did have a change on the flight back, which I didn’t think about until I’d booked it.)

Packing List

Suitcase with period pants, reusable pads, cloth napkin, lunchbox, spork, and kayak bag
Missing: One water bottle

I was never going to be able to take just hand luggage with me to the USA for three weeks, so I took a suitcase. Although I’ll admit it could have been a bit lighter because I over packed on cardigans for the evenings – two would have been enough – and I could have washed some clothes (underwear, socks) in the shower. (I am considering just taking a carry on next time because of this.) However, these are the things that I packed to make my trip greener

  • Reusable water bottle: WDW is filled with water fountains, meaning that you never have to buy a plastic water bottle or ask for a cup of ice water. Plus the Chillys bottle (recommended by Tamara) kept my water cold even in the Florida sun.
  • Fabric tote bag: While I didn’t buy a lot on my trip (two t-shirts and a postcard, I think), I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to take a plastic bag at the store. (No one batted an eye in WDW, but outside of Disney, cashiers were really shocked when I kept refusing a bag for things like food and one even tried to force me to take one because he’s already put my crisps in the bag.)
  • Period pants/ reusable menstrual pads: While this didn’t entirely cut my need for tampons – I couldn’t wear these at water parks and I didn’t have the luxury of changing my pants/pads during the day, as I do at home – it really helped me cut down on the disposable pads that I would have worn in the parks to avoid an accident while in a two-hour line.
  • Lunch box: I took this to carry in snacks to avoid buying something with packaging in the parks, but also to take back food that would be wasted at the end of a meal.
  • Bamboo straw: Given that I was generally drinking water, I didn’t have much of a chance to use this. However, it did save me from taking a straw when we sat down at a table service restaurant and I ordered a soda.
  • Spork with knife edge: I used this so that I wouldn’t have to take disposable cutlery. Then, I washed it every night at our hotel. (My parents didn’t bring one, but they did reuse the cutlery that they got on our first day for the rest of our trip.)
  • Cloth napkin: I took a few of these so that I wouldn’t have to use paper napkins. Each one lasted about three days, before being put in the washing pile.

Transport

The monorail driving

While in Orlando, I travelled on the hotel shuttle and WDW transportation (buses, monorails, boats) with dozens of other people, so it was just like using public transportation back here.

We took a taxi to and from the airport, but I did try to get a shuttle. It was just too full by the time we got there and couldn’t accommodate my mum’s wheelchair and the next one wasn’t for like an hour. Not great when you’ve been up for 16 hours already.

Hotel

The Hollywood Tower Hotel
This wasn’t my hotel, I just wish it was.

I will admit that this was probably my greatest green failure. (It kind of wasn’t even my fault, but it was really annoying.) I didn’t choose the hotel for its eco standards, but rather price and proximity to WDW, but I figured all hotels must have the same basic guidelines of not changing your bed linen every night, having recycle bins, and not changing towels that were hung up on the rack.

When we got there I realised there were no recycling bins but figured that it was okay because we could recycle stuff like the milk bottles in WDW. (We just had cereal in our room each morning, which was more eco than eating in the park or at the buffet.) However, their coffee cups were the disposable kind, which is annoying because I was expecting a china cup.

Still, I left a note for the housekeeper (with a tip!) asking them to leave the cups, as we would rinse and reuse, and to not empty the bins unless they were full. If all, I’ve put in the bin is the flight tag from my suitcase, it doesn’t need changing. When we got back, the housekeeper had taken the note (and the tip!), but completely ignored my request by replacing the cups and emptying the bins. They also, despite the eco-guidelines that were in the hotel welcome folder, changed towels that I’d hung on the rack. I had a little bit of a freakout that my mum found funny.

We worked around it by hiding the cups in the microwave and putting all our rubbish in one bin, as opposed to using the kitchen and bathroom one, but I couldn’t do anything about the towels. It still annoys me.

Food

https://www.instagram.com/p/BypbeVjgU0b/

As we all know, one of the best ways to lower your eco-impact is through being careful with what you eat. Eating locally, choosing the option with low or no packaging, and eating fewer animal products all help to lower our carbon footprint.

Now, I ate vegan about half the time and vegetarian for the rest of the time. There are a lot more options than you might initially suspect, especially if you seek out the sites I’ve linked for help.

 As for packaging free, that’s difficult in Disney. Cast members aren’t allowed to take things like bottles or boxes from guests so they can’t place your vegan burger into your lunch box or fill up your bottle with soda. There are ways to limit your packaging though, including:

  • taking your own non-packaged snacks in
  • taking reusable cutlery, straws, bottles, napkins, and boxes (for leftovers)
  • opting for your ice cream in a cone rather than a cup
  • dining at table service restaurants (be warned, this does take longer and will eat into your park day, which is why we only did it once)

You might think it’s hard to eat local in WDW, but it’s easier than you think. See WDW grows a lot of its produce on property and the Living with the Land ride at Epcot shows you how they’re always looking for new ways to grow food using less water, less soil, and utilising permaculture.

Shopping

As mentioned above, I didn’t really buy anything when I was in WDW. A couple of tops for me, but nothing for anyone else. Not even my nephews and niece. (Sorry kids!)  Also, on a related note, I will sound like the sourest person in the world, but I’ve never understood why adults buy other adults gifts from their holiday.

By limiting what I bought, I reduced the amount of packaging to just a couple of price tags and limited the amount (in a very small way) that Disney would have to replenish with brand new items largely made from virgin materials.

Well, that’s it from me on how to eco-hack your WDW holiday, but there will be a follow-up piece on how Disney is working to reduce its eco-impact. Now, I’d like to hear about any tips you have for making your WDW vacation greener. Let me know in the comments.

Emma’s attempts to reduce food packaging waste

One day last year, Tamara asked if I (Emma, obvs) wanted to come on an eco-expedition with her to [I’ve completely forgotten what we did, but it was definitely something green] and on the way we had a discussion about zero waste and how we could reduce the packaging on food.

I’m a keen recycler, but I still end up with an awful lot of food packaging in my bin every week and I really wanted to cut that down. (Although, I should note for clarity that my house still only produces roughly one bin liner full of rubbish per month.) I made it my goal in 2019 to cut the amount of food packaging that I’m sending to rubbish and here’s how I’ve been doing it so far.

Buying loose fruit

Red apple

We all know that we should eat more fruit and veg, but I’ve not been great at it in the past and I’m still not great at it now. I’ve been trying to eat more fruit and less chocolate for about six months now, but the problem is that most fruit comes wrapped in unrecyclable plastic.

Now, I know that the underlying principle is that the packaging keeps food fresher for longer and reduces food waste. However, I still wanted to cut the amount of packaging coming into my house. So, I’ve been buying fruit loose during my online shop, even though it annoyingly works out as more expensive.

 Obviously, there are some fruits that aren’t available loose at the supermarket (i.e. berries), so I’ve had to cut them out of my diet. (They’re probably available loose at farmer’s markets, but I don’t have the time to get there.)

Overall, I’m happy with my choice and I will stick with it, but I have had some slip-ups, like where I just really wanted some strawberries.

Baking bread

Loaf of bread

Carbs are pretty much my staple food and I freaking adore bread, so, over the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to bake my own bread. Now, I’m no chef and the GBBO is certainly never going to accept me as a contestant, but the results have been fairly promising. Although, I have caved in to buy baguettes at the supermarket still.

Side note:  I used my mum’s breadmaker, but I know that can be a huge expense for some people so I recommended doing your research (and perhaps even borrowing a friend’s) before purchasing.

Getting a reusable water bottle

Reusable water bottle

Ever since Tamara wrote her green backpack post, I’ve been keen to replicate my own. I’ve mostly acquired all of the necessary items now, but the true turning point came with my very own water bottle.

It’s not like I never had one before, but they’ve always leaked or they weren’t dishwasher proof and it drove me crazy. Now, I have two dishwasher safe ones that I use on a daily basis and I genuinely don’t think I’ve bought bottled water since.

Okay, well that’s all from me at the moment, but I hope to check in later in the year with an update on how I’ve reduced the amount of food packaging that I bring in, whether recyclable or not. Now, I’d like to hear any tips you have about reducing your food packaging.

Crispy McCrisp Face

A not-so-secret secret is my love for the humble potato crisp and my hate of the unrecyclable packaging they come in. While my health and the environment beg ‘Please, no more’, my treacherous tastebuds say ‘Hell, yeah!’.

I (Tamara) have been fearlessly investigating crisp snack substitutes and am pleased to report back to you, my fellow crisp-lover.

Popcorn with salt and butter

Popcorn

Thanks to Wild Thyme offering both packaging-free popcorn and nutritional yeast, I have discovered a love of cheesy vegan(ish) popcorn. When I have a snack attack, my popcorn can be ready in 3 minutes flat! I can’t claim vegan status as I have a bad habit of smothering the popcorn in buttery deliciousness. The Dutchman has expressed a love for sweeter popcorn flavours – cinnamon and maple syrup have been a hit. The only downside is my microwave seems to not approve of my popcorn discovery and keeps shutting down mid-pop. It’s a-poppin’ mystery!

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Though a bit more effort than homemade popcorn, roasting chickpeas in the oven is equally delicious and healthy – especially as, unlike my popcorn, I don’t smother them in butter! Because I am a lazy gal, I use canned chickpeas however I do have grand plans to eventually cook up some dried packaging-free chickpeas in my slow cooker. Click here for my g0-to oven-roasted chickpea recipe.

 

Crisps in Compostable Packaging

I have Emma to thank for this momentous discovery – crisps in compostable packaging. I thought it was but a distant dream but no, my dream is a reality! Hertfordshire based company, Two Farmers offer crisps in…wait for it….100% home compostable bags. I AM SO FRICKIN’ EXCITED!!!!!! (Yes, I am afraid both capitals and exclamation marks are necessary to convey my delight.) I am awaiting my first order and shall report back shortly!

 

Till then, dear reader, what do you snack on? Do you have any recipes to recommend? Let us know in the Comments section below.

 

How to make your dog more eco-friendly

Did you know that your dog is ruining the planet? It’s true, sneak up on your dog at any given moment and you’ll find them throwing plastic bottles into the bin or forgetting to turn off the lights when they leave the house… Okay, that’s not quite true. But our four-legged children do contribute to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere thanks to the meat raised to feed them and the “presents” they leave.

According to a study by UCLA, dogs (and tbf cats) are responsible for 30% of the environmental impact of meat eating in the US, which has the environmental impact of an extra  13.6 million cars on the road, and produce 5.1 million tons of faeces annually, which produces methane and increases the amount of rubbish that we produce. And the bigger the animal, the bigger the problem.

puppy in plant pot

But look how cute!

So, should you give up your beloved puppy? No. That would also have a less-than-green impact on the environment. Instead, you should find ways to lessen your dog’s carbon paw print and I (Emma) am going to outline some steps for you below.

Disclaimer: The links in this piece are not affiliate links, but things that have been tried and tested by my friends/family with dogs. As always, feel free to do your own research on top of this article to find out what is best for your furry friend.

Food

piece of meat

While dogs love their meat, some dogs can actually live on a vegan diet. Just ask your vet for advice before you make any massive changes to your dog’s diet.

If your dog can’t go vegan, then you can still reduce their meat intake by putting more (home-grown) vegetables onto their plate. My aunt’s dog goes crazy for a carrot, eating them whole and raw. You can also opt for organic dog food, which will be made from animals/plants that were raised/grown without added chemicals.

You can also do your bit to reduce packaging waste for their food by:

  • Cooking their meat yourself
  • Seeking out recyclable packaging (and rinsing it before popping it in your green bin)

Accessories

dog playing with ball

All good dog parents like to spoil their babies, so my first advice is to think about what you have before buying more. Does Fido really need a third ball to play catch with?

If you are buying something that your dog does need, look for a retailer that has long-lasting, good quality products that can stand up to your puppy’s standards. After all, there’s no point in buying a lead that will break the first time your dog pulls on it or a toy that will fall apart after mere days. Always remember to compare the products and read reviews to find out which is the best for your pup.

And finally, when your dog doesn’t need an item anymore, be sure not to bin it. Instead, donate the toy/cage/raincoat to your local animal shelter, where they can either sell the item or use it to help their dogs.

Waste

A dog pooping

Who took this photo? Why is it on a stock image site? So many questions.

Pick up your dog waste! I had some friends in school, who I assume have since learnt the error of their ways, who wouldn’t pick up their dog’s waste and when I questioned them about it, they told me that the waste would naturally decompose/wash away. Turns out that your dog carries toxoplasmosis, which is harmful to people with compromised immune systems, and when you don’t pick their waste up, it can pollute waterways, coastal areas, and even the parks where children play.

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of put dog waste into a plastic bag and then into a bin, then you could:

  • use biodegradable bags
  • use flushable bags and put the waste down the loo
  • use a pooper scooper
  • reuse bags that would have gone in the bin anyway, like the bag that your frozen chips came in

Some top tips

dog on lead

When I polled my friends and family for their top tips on raising an eco-dog, some didn’t fit neatly into the sections above, so I created a new section for them.

  • “Upcycle products for your dog. You can easily make an old t-shirt into a rope toy.” – Andy
  • “Buy a dog brush that you can easily remove the fur from and use the fur to line birds’ nests or for your compost.” AND “Don’t choose plastic when buying their toys/bowls/etc. Use metal or glass or china” – Yasmin
  • “Incorporate your existing eco-hacks into your pet’s life, i.e. not using single-use bags to buy their food/toys.” – Meg
  • “You can buy/make eco-friendly flea and tick treatments.” – Sarah
  • “Ditch the gym and use the twice-daily walks as your exercise.” – Debby
  • “Buy microfibre cloths to clean up after or dry your dog.” – Steve
  • “Adopt, don’t buy.” – Hayley

Well, that’s it from me (and my friends) about raising an eco dog, but now we want to hear for you. What tips do you have for raising a green dog? Let us know in the comments.