Staying Eco-Friendly at Orlando

This week I’m going to be headed to Orlando, FL to hang out at the Universal theme parks (possibly Epcot at Disney). I can’t to release some endorphins and be pumped full of adrenaline. Something I love doing and going is Universal Orlando…there’s nothing like being able to ride roller coasters one minute and then enjoying Harry Potter World the next minute.

Image result for universal orlando gif

Something that I always forget about at these parks is staying true to the zero waste lifestyle because of what’s easiest. I know that’s another sad excuse, but it’s the truth. I just want to get on the next ride or not miss the next show so I eat whatever is easiest.

Lately, I’ve been pretty good about not creating so much waste at these theme parks. It’s so easy to just be comfortable and grab a cup of water at whatever restaurant or use their plastic utensils and throw them out. The coolest thing is getting the reaction from people waiting in line when they see my giant 64-ounce water bottle in my hand. Everyone always asks me the same thing, “you carry that around all day?? Don’t you get tired??”

My answer is simple: not really, I don’t want to use the plastic cups.

And I always get the same look and the same answer, “wow, you’re right. That’s awesome.”

Then I go and have a conversation with them about how easy it is to just add a reusable water bottle to the backpack that they already have to lug around. They don’t have to carry a giant one like I do. What most people don’t know, because they might not frequent the parks like I do, is that the vendors that have soda fountains can refill your water bottle and add ice if you ask. Free of charge. How cool? For the longest time, Universal/Island of Adventures used to give 8 water bottle vouchers for annual passholders to use in that year. Instead of that, they decided to give water for free, which they definitely should have been doing from the beginning. Anyone, annual passholder or not, can ask for free water. They obviously will give it to you in a plastic cup, hence the reusable water bottle.

Image result for universal orlando city walkThe only thing about bringing your water bottle is you have to make sure that it is empty before coming into the park, but that’s not a problem since you can have it filled up right away once you go onto City Walk. If you’ve ever been to these theme parks, you know that there is that area where the road splits between Islands of Adventure and Universal (on the GIF it’s where the screen is), where the fountains are. There’s a circular vendor station that sells snacks and drinks, I always get my water bottle filled up there, free of charge, of course.

If you want a soda, they sell “souvenir cups” that you can refill the entire day and even bring back any other day. All you have to do if you bring it on other days is pay the fee to activate it. Beats using new plastic cups and new plastic straws the entire day and any other time you go to the parks.

This time around, I want to bring my own food and my own utensils. If I bring my own reusable water bottle I won’t need to use a straw or anything, so I typically leave my straws at the hotel.

Image result for steel bento boxI want to pack my own lunch in my steel containers and take it to the park. They are okay with things like sandwiches in bags so I’m going to try and get my salad in my steel container through. I’ll definitely update on that in either another blog or the updated podcast. I really love going to these parks and I want to find new ways in which I can reduce my waste on my trips.

Here is what’s on the Universal Theme Parks website:

Outside Food And Drinks

We offer a variety of food options at restaurants and concession stands throughout our resort. However, we understand that guests may need to bring outside food and drinks. Please note the following guidelines:

Acceptable Items

Bottled Water (maximum 2 liters)

Small snacks that do not require heating

Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements

Any food required for special dietary needs

Baby food/baby formula

Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Prohibited Items

Glass containers

Open containers

Hard-sided coolers

Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Picnic lunches

Food that requires heating or refrigeration

Folding chairs

So…I take my salad as being a part of my special diet since I have PCOS and am also a vegetarian? It’s a risky move, but I am willing to risk it if it means I get to save some money while also reducing my waste! It’s also more sustainable since I am the one purchasing my produce and I know where it has come from. I’m not throwing shade or anything at Universal, but I don’t know where they get their food from…

I don’t know of any other ways that I can reduce waste. I was thinking of bringing my own small cloth for bathrooms instead of paper towels? I just thought about that one right as I was writing this blog post.

I think for now those are the things that stand out the most to me when I think about wasteful things at theme parks. I will definitely make a podcast at the part (possibly?) if I am appalled by the amount of waste that I see.

If you have any questions specific to the park, I might have the answer so feel free to comment or message me! Make sure you catch the latest blog post here and my latest podcast episode here.

Until next time!

Dani

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.

This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.

I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.

IMG_0098

We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.

The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.

Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.

We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.

The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.

This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!

The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!

Until next time,

Dani

Latino Conservation Week 2018 – Everglades National Park

Today I had the chance, alongside Cesar, the other LHIP intern, to take out 20 latinos out into the swamp.

As an intern with the Latino Heritage Internship Program, we were tasked with creating some sort of event or program to help bring out Latinos into National Parks, ours being the Everglades. We decided that hosting an event would be the best idea.

I started with maybe hosting a night bike right through Shark Valley’s tram trail during the sunset…but that was kind of boring and something everyone does anyway.

My second idea was a slough slog! Earlier in the summer, I was able to go on a slough slog with my boss and the rest of the interns as part of our orientation of the park. Some of you might be thinking “What in the world is a slough slog?” Well…it’s the best way to experience the Everglades, in my opinion. It’s essentially a wet hike, but it’s not just a wet hike out into the sawgrass prairie. It’s a wet hike in waist deep water (my waist deep…I’m 5′ 2″) through a cypress dome. Cypress domes are the coolest things ever. They are composed of cypress trees.

These guys:

IMG_3678

They’re super skinny trees with giant bottom trunks. They like to grow in disturbed areas with a lower elevation than hardwood hammocks. Usually, in a cypress dome, there is an alligator hole where it all started. The trees in the center, closest to the alligator hole, tend to be the taller ones and as you move away from them, you start seeing shorter ones, thus, a cypress dome is created.

In our slough slog, we started out in the sawgrass prairie outside of the dome where you can find periphyton. When you first look at periphyton it looks like poop or something close to that, but really it’s all algae, bacteria, and little tiny organisms. Three kingdom groups in tiny, sponge-like material. They help filter the water as well and retain it when it is the dry season so the things inside of it can continue to grow.

Here we are popping our visitors’ slough slog cherry!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Everyone seemed pretty excited after a couple of minutes because it was the hottest day and the water was actually really refreshing. We stopped for a while and Ranger Dylann gave a talk about periphyton and how the domes form. We gave everyone some time to adjust and become accustomed to the floor and being in the water.

Once out of the sawgrass prairie, we moved into the cypress dome. We walked around and talked about the bromeliads (air plants), we found a butterfly orchid in bloom and a cigar orchid that seemed to be coming back to life after Hurricane Irma.

When we got deeper into the dome, one of our visitors, who apparently has an incredible eye for wildlife, found a barred owl on one of the cypress trees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We continued and stopped every once in a while to admire the silence inside the dome. It was incredible to see other people, who love our National Parks and nature, enjoy something that to me has changed the way I see the Everglades. Since I have started my internship, I have now gone out to slough slog three times. Trust me, there will plenty of other times. If anyone out there lives near the Everglades and is tired of the same trails, go past the Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail and go into a cypress dome. Of course, if you are going to do this, don’t forget to let someone at the visitor center know.

It was so awesome to see so many young Latinos come out and want to try something new. Everyone was so trusting of us and just went right into the prairie, no questions asked. Sure it was the hottest day to this day, but everyone forgot about that the second we stepped foot in the dome.

We also had a super special guest at our event: John Morales. For those of you who are not aware of who John Morales is, he is the person who we, South Floridians, watch for out weather. He is the one we watch during hurricane season. He is the senior meteorologist at NBC 6/Telemundo. He is honestly one of my greatest inspirations. Like everyone else, he seemed to enjoy the experience, even dropping pins whenever we would stop so he could bring some friends on another day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I really hope this event won’t be a one-time thing and that our local national park won’t forget that the majority of the population around it is made up of Latinos. Even though I won’t be with the park after my internship, until I graduate maybe, I want to leave an impact. I want the park to create a program where they do outreach for students my age who are mainly Latinos and have never been anywhere near the Everglades. I want everyone to come out and do something they would never do on their own. I want everyone to experience the Everglades the way that I have been able to this summer.

Visit your closest National Park. Be one with nature.

Until next time,
Dani

(Photo credits to Cesar Zamora and myself)

 

Verde Market – Wynwood, Miami, FL

Since working at the Everglades, I have made some new friends who, like me, are very aware of their waste. We talk a lot about how we always get side-eyed when we tell the Publix cashier that we don’t need plastic bags.

It looks something like this:

side eye

We talk about starting our own composts and how difficult that could be depending on your living situation.

We also talk a great deal about zero-waste supermarkets because if there is one thing we really hate is pasta inside a plastic bag. Or cherries inside a plastic bag. Or grapes or anything that has a natural shell, inside a plastic bag.

Yes, Whole Foods has things in bulk where you bring your own container and fill it up, but I live in Kendall and the only Whole Foods in Miami is in Coral Gables (approximately 45 minutes away with traffic). Sure, Wynwood is not any closer, but a new store of this kind opening up gives me hope for the future of zero-waste stores in Miami.

Verde is owned by two Latina women, one from Mexico and one from Colombia (like me!). They were tired of having to make such an effort to live waste-free and so they dwelled on starting their own business for two years until they finally decided to go for it! The store is not the biggest, but they do have some things that Whole Foods don’t.

IMG-4316

They have SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER IN PUMPS!!! Let me explain why this is exciting. I have thick Latina hair and those Lush shampoo bars are not cutting it. Their shampoos and conditioners are all organic and made of just the right stuff. They also have bulk dish soap, all kinds, too.IMG-4318

 

They have metal straws, every type of wooden brush you would ever need, their own plant spices growing right there. OH! and they have a nut butter-making machine! They have all of the nuts you would want to but in your nut butter and then you just make it (One of their employees gave me a great tip on making nature Nutella…)!

Since today was my first visit, I only purchased the things I was looking for originally. I still have some shampoo left, but I needed some conditioner. Their conditioner is $1.12 per oz. I purchased some Castille soap, which works for everything, but mainly as a body soap. This was $0.45 per oz. The last thing I purchased and created was my very own trail mix. I think this must have been the most expensive item that I bought, but it was still relatively cheap. The only price I can remember were the peanuts, which were $4.99. I obviously did not buy a pound of just peanuts, but my trail mix did fit in my 1/2 gallon mason jar. My total for everything ended up being $22.56.

IMG-4319
Left: Conditioner, Right: Castile Soap

 Thinking about my regular conditioner, body soap, and trail mix (that all come in plastic containers), I would have spent around the same, if not more, but this is guilt free.

Typically:

OGX Coconut Milk 25 oz. bottle = $11.99

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap – Unscented 32 oz. = $15.49

Planters Nut Trail Mix (for only 6 oz.) = $5.99

Total = $33.47

Tell me you see the difference…

In conclusion, stop making excuses. If you live in Miami, FL and want to start removing plastic from your life, this is a great way to start. If this is too far, then find your nearest farmer’s market, grab your reusable grocery bag, and get to reducing your plastic waste.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Until next time,

Dani