Family Travels: Clearwater, Florida

If you didn’t catch last week’s post, earlier this month our family of three traveled to Florida for several days of fun in the sun! After some research we decided to go the route of flying into Orlando, staying a day then driving down to Clearwater Beach which is on the gulf side of Florida. Though our plan was to spend the day in Orlando using up some travel points we had at a Disney park, that didn’t exactly go as planned because daaaang those tickets are expensive. While this wasn’t my first rodeo and knew tickets weren’t cheap, I think I always forget just HOW much they are. So, instead of wasting points when we had a potentially short lived toddler on our hands, we decided to visit a dino-themed restaurant!

On day two we headed to Clearwater which was beautiful, relaxing and I loved every minute of it. You know when you stumble on things that are so you without even trying? That was Clearwater.

FUN FUN FUN

My favorite part was visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a rescue and rehabilitation center. Majority of their residents are animals that couldn’t be released back into the wild. Two of these were dolphins who inspired and starred in the Dolphin Tale series.

Winter (right) lost her tail when she was young after getting her tail caught in a crab-pot line. CMA treated, rehabilitated and even got get fitted into a prosthetic which she wears for physical therapy. Otherwise, she adapted to swimming without her tail and gets around just fine without it! The other dolphin, Hope, was found orphaned and dehydrated as a calf and CMA nursed her back to health. Since by that age she hadn’t yet learned the necessary skills to survive in the wild, she was not able to be released. The best moment was when adorable and friendly Hope came by to say hello while we were there observing them swimming around. 🙂

I just love all they are doing to rescue injured marine life, care for those who would not be able to survive otherwise and educate guests about the impact we have on them.

What I also love about this aquarium is they give you a backstage look at their marine animal rescue center, which included a procedure room and sea turtle ICU with interesting education about why they are there and their care plan.

*Interesting (but not so fun) fact: Many of the turtles there had Fibropapilloma Virus, an extremely contagious virus that causes cauliflower-like tumors to grow on soft tissues and have to be surgically removed. Current research shows that it may be connected to agriculture and waste-water run off caused by humans. Another reason why our food choices matter!

RESORT

We stayed at the Sandpearl Resort because we wanted something that felt as close to staying at a tropical resort as possible. I didn’t have a lot of time to do research so I left it to the hubs, who stumbled on this one. He felt that it was everything we were looking for and with that, we booked it. Later on I started second guessing myself, should I have tried to find a smaller, more sustainable hotel?  We obviously decided to stick with it since it was already booked with the plan to just do our best to keep waste down while there. Funny how things work out because if I had just spent a few minutes digging around their website or even the broader internet, I would have seen that they are LEED certified with a lot of sustainable features!

– Recycling bin attached to every trashcan and recycling offered from the room
– Reusable cups for drinks by the pool
– Compostable to-go containers
– The pool has a series of deep pipes that draw upon the earth’s natural heat and uses a naturally-occurring oxygen product for sanitizing the water instead of chlorine.
– They compost! Supposedly according to one of the guys who works there, there is a guy who works there whose sole job is to sort garbage in a room between compost, recycling and trash.
– One of their restaurants serves food with all-natural, organic ingredients and teaches cooking classes teaching guests about organic cuisine.
– Preferred parking and charging stations for hybrid vehicles.
– Guest’s leftover toiletries are at least donated to those in need within impoverished countries through Clean The World (ironically, or not so, there is a collection center in Orlando)

Fun fact: The Sandpearl was involved with Dolphin Tales – Apparently Morgan Freeman stayed there during filming and a couples scenes were shot on their beach!

PICK IT UP

Of course while we were there we couldn’t help but run into trash on the beach. The biggest culprit…straws! Did you know that over 500 MILLION straws are used in the United States every day? And who is surprised? Restaurants provide them willy nilly, often bringing a new one with each drink unless you request for them not to (and then sometimes do it anyway out of habit). Its one thing to see straws everywhere inland at restaurants, but to see them all over the beach just inches away from the sea is disheartening.

One thing I noticed (and actually surprised me quite at bit) is restaurants and hotels within spitting distance of the beach and ocean using plastic straws even when its obvious they aren’t being disposed of properly (or if they are still wind up on the beach).  For those that do make it into these trashcans, with so many large holes its easy for small things like straws to fall out.

One morning I came out to find several surrounding a single can that looked like it had been recently emptied. While I didn’t get a picture of it, you can see how its possible. I assume they are this way in order to keep from filling up with water and potentially causing garbage to overflow that way, but there has to be a better solution. Really the best one would be for beachfront establishments to take the lead, change the system, educate their patrons as to why they are not offering unnecessary disposable straws OR use an alternative for those who just can’t go without, like paper.

Traveling to the beach gives me the best feeling. There’s nothing quite like being right at the source, the place I’m trying to protect, and being able to do something that without a doubt will help it. Next time you’re at the beach pick up the trash you see and play a part in keeping trash out of our oceans. Don’t assume someone else is going to do it. 😉

Hope you enjoyed this look in our recent travels!

xo, Erica

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