Orlando’s Move to Go Green

We talked with Mayor Buddy Dyer about his plan for a greener Orlando.



Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan compost for Green Works Orlando.

Ed Richter, City of Orlando

Mayor Buddy Dyer’s enthusiasm for his Green Works Orlando initiative, launched in 2007, remains as fervent as his ultimate goal:  “We want to become a zero waste city,” he says.

To that end, the city has switched to single-stream recycling, meaning just one bin per household for all recyclables (“We’ve had a 10 percent increase in resident participation and a 50 percent increase in total tonnage of recycled materials recovered every year”); purchased hydraulic hybrid garbage collection trucks; and is converting from diesel to compressed natural gas as trucks are rotated out of the fleet (“The emissions are reduced by about 80 percent”). Other initiatives include community gardens, tree planting, urban farming and the Solar and Energy Loan Fund, which provides financing for energy-efficient home improvements.

The mayor’s latest passion is composting. When the city launched a program to provide free composters to Orlando residents in February, Dyer was one of the first to get one. “The president has Air Force One; I have Composter One,” he jokes.

“The typical household throws away approximately 475 pounds of food waste every year,” Dyer says. That figure translates to almost 40 percent of the food supply, according to the United Nations Environment Program.  Most of that waste ends up in landfills, the largest source of the greenhouse gas methane.

“We have a list of about 2,000 people who’ve requested composters,” Dyer says, “so there’s been a fantastic response.”

The city plans to expand composting, the mayor says, “with a pilot program for commercial food waste collection that we’ll offer to restaurants, hotels and businesses.”

Is Orlando seeking to emulate green cities such as Portland, Ore., and Seattle?

Au contraire, Dyer says. His intention is to have Seattle and Portland “aspire to be as sustainable as the City of Orlando—to learn best practices from us.”