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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.

How to Eco-Hack your Festival Experience

It’s summertime and for some of us, that means seeing our favourite bands perform live at our local and not-so-local festivals. If you live in Portsmouth, you could well be heading to Victorious or the IOW Festival in the coming weeks and we at Shades of Green hope you have an amazing time. However, we do also recognise that sometimes festivals are less green than we’d hoped.

That’s why I (Emma) want to show you how to make your festival experience as green as it can be.

Getting there

When travelling to the festival, try to use public transport where possible. Often the roads will be crowded anyway and car parks will really jack up the price around major events. Plus, all rock stars travel on tour buses!

Most festival websites will tell you how to get to the venue from the local train station or (in the case of the IOW) ferry port. If friends are heading to Victorious from outside of the city and they live nowhere near a train or bus route, then direct them to our Park and Ride, which has a stop about 15-minutes away from the Common.

Eco-Festival outfit

Biodegradable Glitter

We all know the dangers that microplastics can cause to our ecosystem and what is glitter but thousands of pieces of plastic that we stick to our skin at festivals? Never fear, my sparkly friends, because biodegradable glitter is now a thing.

Sustainable Swimwear

Even if you’re not planning on going for a dip, many people will choose to wear bikini tops/ board shorts to festivals. If this describes you, then you might be interested to know that you can actually buy swimwear made from reclaimed fabrics. This reduces the amount of fabric going to landfill and the energy costs of creating something from new.

Green Festival Packing List

When packing for your festival, my best advice is to bring only what you need. Not only will you not be weighed down, but you’ll be less likely to forget/abandon an item on your return. Still, there are a few green things that I recommend bringing with you.

Reusable Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated during hot weather, but we all know that single-use plastic bottles are an ecological nightmare! Opt for a reusable bottle, which is durable and lightweight. It’ll keep your drink cool and it could save tons of £££ from vendors. Also, best to get some reusable cutlery if you’re going to eat there and a reusable straw if you need a straw for your drink.

Important: Check what you are allowed to bring before you set off. For safety reasons, many festivals will stop you from bringing in knives or glass. You may also be asked to empty a water bottle before entering (in case you were trying to smuggle in booze!), so be prepared to refill once inside.

Biodegradable Reef-Safe Sunscreen

I’m a massive fan of summer sunshine, but I’m not crazy about sunburn or any of the other scary side effects, so I use SPF 30 (Yeah, I’m very white!). The problem is the common chemical ingredients used in sunscreen products worldwide (i.e. oxybenzone) can cause fatal damage to coral and other marine plant life. Yikes! Luckily, there are all-natural alternatives available, which can protect your skin without harming the planet.

Solar-powered Mobile Charger

Whether you’re filming your favourite band’s set or trying to find your friend in the crowd, you’ll need your phone to work, but trying to find a free charging point will be challenging. Skip the queue and save on electricity by using the sun to charge your phone while you enjoy the music.

 

That’s it from me and now I want to hear from you. Are you headed to a festival this summer? Do you have any eco tips to share? Let me know in the comments section.

How to Eco-Hack your Travels

I (Emma) love travelling but I also recognise that my (occasional) jet-setting lifestyle can be harmful to the world around me. I’m certainly not advocating that everyone stop travelling as that’d be really hypocritical but I, as a card-carrying member of the Green Party, have some really cool susty hacks for eco-travelling so I’ll be sharing my tips on how you can make your travels more earth-kind.

Take it Slow

SOURCE: PIXABAY

One of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint is the actual method of transport. It shouldn’t be surprising that the plane is often a very un-eco form of transport; especially if you’re only travelling short distances. So if you’re not going very far- like around Western Europe – consider using slower methods of transport like the train, bus, or boat. To check the best method for a specific journey, head to the WWF’s Travel Helper.

Choose Alternative Holiday Spots

SOURCE: PIXABAY

Travelling is about exploring the unknown but there’s no reason that why that has to be halfway across the world. There will be places in your own country, state, and even hometown, that you have yet to explore and they can still be as exciting as a place much further afield. You may even find yourself somewhere that tourists never see. Plus it’s a lot easier to use slow travel methods to get to those places.

Pack it Right

SOURCE: PIXABAY

Transport, or lack thereof, is the biggest environmental hurdle for all eco-travellers but there are tons of other ways to cut your damaging impact on the globe. A lot of travelling can involve other unsustainable practices, like eating take-out food, drinking bottled water, and even abandoning your usual recycling efforts. That’s why I have a susty travel kit in my suitcase to help me stay green while getting a tan.

  • Reusable water bottle

    If you’re going somewhere hot, it’s worth investing in a reusable bottle which will keep your tap water cool all day without producing condensation on the outside of the bottle. If you’re travelling to somewhere where the tap water is questionable at best, consider using a Steripen which sanitises water using LED light and can be charged via USB or the LifeStraw water bottle, which filters water through its straw.

  • Lunch Box (or cooler bag) with picnic cutlery and crockery

    The benefits of this are two-fold; not only will you be more eco-friendly but it will save you money on food. Even if you are grabbing something while out and about, using reusable cutlery, straws etc will cut your waste.

  • Washcloth

    This cuts down on your paper napkin usage by allowing you to wipe your face after meals or mop up after a drink spill.

  • Reusable bags

    These are the easiest way to make a green difference while travelling, load them up with souvenirs (ec0 choices are discussed below) or lunch.

  • Period Panties/ Menstrual Cup/ Reusable Pads

    For those of us with a uterus, one of the biggest ways we can be greener is by cutting out the pads and tampons. Even if you don’t think that you’ll be ‘on’ while you’re away, make sure you’ve packed them.

  • Eco Cosmetics

    Those miniature bottles of toiletries- which some people think are cute?- are actually terrible for the environment. Some companies, like Lush, are embracing reduced packaging and offering packaging-free body lotion, facial moisturiser, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Even their toothpaste comes in recyclable packaging.

Buy Fewer Souvenirs

While we’re on the subject of what to take, let’s discuss what not to bring home.

Cheap trinkets from touristy shops are often poorly made and will break within months (or even weeks) of purchase, meaning they’ll end up in a landfill.

Try to find locally made products or edible gifts, rather than the Made in China products. Not only is it better for the environment, it also reduces the chances that your souvenir was produced in a sweatshop.

 

So, those are my main eco-hacks for your travels but what are some of yours? Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? Share in the comments below.

18 Green Resolutions for 2018

Every January, social media feeds are full of people pledging to run more often, learn a new language, or how to sculpt their eyebrows perfectly. I (Emma) can help you with none of those resolutions but if you want to learn how to be more green in 2018, then I have a few ideas of where to start.

Beauty

1. Bypass toiletries with microbeads: The UK Government has recently banned the use of microbeads (tiny plastics) in cosmetics/toiletries because they’re a big contributor to plastic pollution in our oceans. However, the ones that were already produced are still on the market. Don’t buy them! Need a good scrub? Look for products with salt or sand instead.

2. Save your bathwater: If you have a bathtub- even if you use the shower all the time- try leaving the bath plug in and save the water. You can use it to water the plants, clean your sports equipment, or even flush your toilet.

3. Turn off the tap: You’ve heard it before, but don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth, shaving your face, or removing your makeup.

FOOD AND DRINK

4. Meat-Free Mondays: If you’re not already vegetarian/vegan, consider cutting out the meat for just one day a week. Not only is it kinder to the animals but it’s also better for the environment because producing meat uses more energy and creates more greenhouse gases than a plant-based life.

5. Avoid clingfilm: Instead of keeping your food fresh with clingfilm, use reusable sandwich boxes or even put one plate on top of another.

6. Refuse straws: Many people don’t use straws at home but it’s a little hard to escape them when you’re out and about. Ask your server not to use a straw when you order a drink- you could even put a note in your purse to remind you.

7. Make it reusable: Not all plastics are created equally. A reusable bottle to fill up with tap water is going to be 100% better than disposable bottles. The same is true of reusable coffee cups because takeaway cups are hard to recycle and most end up in landfill.

Shopping

8. Refuse plastic bags: I know, I know. They already have the 5p charge on plastic bags so you’ve definitely got your reusable one on you at all times. The thing is that the plastic bag charge doesn’t go far enough. Smaller shops and takeaways are exempt from the charge, which means that the cashiers there often bag your purchases without asking. Produce your reusable bag before they start packing and let them know that you have it.

9. Cut down on packaging: When you’re shopping, look around for items with less packaging or packaging that is easily recyclable like buying loose fruit or snacks sold in cardboard boxes rather than plastic/foil wrappers.

House and Home

10. Print double sided: Many printers are still not set up to print double-sided automatically but very few documents will need to be printed on just one side.

11. Switch energy suppliers: If you want your energy supplier to use renewable energy and oppose fracking, then make the change to Ecotricity or Good Energy. Bonus: You can even get them to donate to the Green Party on your behalf at no added expense.

12. Use less energy: Whether its remembering to turn off lights when you leave a room, drying clothes on the line rather than in the dryer, or putting on a jumper rather than turning on the heating, everyone can do something to cut down on their energy usage. Find out what your energy Achilles’ heel is.

13. Go paperless: Sign up for online banking and get your statements delivered via the internet (remember to check them) and use your mobile devices to store your tickets (you can’t lose them if they’re in your email account).

14. Recycle more: There’s no doubt that Tamara and I love recycling and that we dream of living a zero waste lifestyle, which is why we’ll continue to show you how to recycle more on both the PGP blog and Instagram. If there’s anything that you don’t know how to recycle, ask us and we’ll let you know.

15. Use your dishwasher: If you have an energy-efficient dishwasher, then running a full load is actually less wasteful than washing by hand in terms of both water usage and heating.

Community

16. Cut down on car usage: A lot of public transport is overpriced (#RenationaliseTheRailways), but getting the train or the bus may actually work out cheaper than the parking prices in some parts and it’s much kinder to the planet. Try buying season/annual passes if travelling for work (ask your company if they offer loans to cover the initial cost) or buying in advance, using discount sites for one-off trips, and walking/cycling wherever possible.

17. Do a beach clean: When rubbish gets into the ocean, it gets into the sea life and into the human food chain. If you live near a beach, volunteer a few hours a month to help remove trash from the area. Pro tip: Take separate rubbish and recycling bags.

18. Join the Green Party: One thing that we can all agree on is that while individual green acts are important, the real change needs to come from government. By joining the Green Party, you can help fund the election campaigns for the next round of Green councillors and MPs to pressure the government into making Green choices that will make your eco-friendly life a little easier.

Now I want to hear from you. Are you going to adopt any of these resolutions? Do you have more to add? Let me know in the comments.

What’s in Tamara’s Magic Green Backpack?

This is a short one from me (Tamara) this week. With the autumn drawing in and my depression coming out to play, I’m focusing on the small wins. So let’s play, what’s in my backpack?

Inspired by my zero-waste experiment earlier this year, I made myself a zero-waste pack that lives in my backpack. The aim is to actively reduce my use of single-use plastic and as I mentioned in a previous post, it started with a straw!

 

 

 

Reusable Bamboo Straw

Luckily the lovely people in my life are used to my green ways and do not bat an eyelid when I decline a straw and triumphantly pull out my huge bamboo straw from my backpack. I am slowly getting used to the texture of it and have found that chocolate milkshakes are the way to go!

 

Bag in a Bag

I first discovered these on a visit to my in-laws in Holland for 1 euro! Needless to say, I bought way more than I could use in a lifetime and felt very smug when they started making an appearance in the UK following the 5p charge on plastic bags. I keep one in my backpack, my car, and my husband’s motorbike and I heart them! Zero waste win!

 

Spork

This had been languishing in the back of my kitchen drawer for millennia and has found a new lease of life simply by being rehomed to my backpack. Is it a fork? Is it a spoon? No, it a super spork! I also had a disposable plastic knife but they kept breaking as they are so flimsy and also didn’t fit my lovely little dedicated purse – so when I saw a plastic take-apart-able knife, fork and spoon set in the sales I added the knife my pack. The fork and spoon live in my car and are great for unplanned chip shop visits!

 

Reusable Water Bottle

Finding this bottle was a labour of love and I will tell you all about it in a future post. But its key points are it’s a stainless steel, BPA-free bottle that keeps my water chilled to perfection without condensation! I never leave home without it!

 

Collapsible Coffee Cup

This is my pièce de résistance! A reusable, collapsible silicone coffee cup, I use it whenever I am tempted by the free coffee at Waitrose. This together with the fact that Costa Coffee offer in-store recycling of ANY brand of paper cup means that my coffee cup waste is practically zero! Huzzah!

 

Hankybook

This is probably the most controversial item in my backpack! Those lovely people I mentioned earlier who are so accepting of my plastic straw war baulk at my hankybook. Beats me why! It is a reusable and washable cotton cloth ‘book’ that I use instead of… ok, honestly – as well as- disposable paper tissues. It has a protective cover but to be doubly sure I store it in a cute little pineapple purse a friend gave me for my birthday.

 

Disclaimer: The links to the particular items that live in my backpack are not sponsored or affiliated or anything like that – just my personal choices purchased either after lots of research or after no research whatsoever! They all have their pros and cons and some are quite pricey, so please do your research! Or don’t – it’s up to you! 🙂