The city allocated $17.5 million, raised through a bond, toward making the 550 buildings it owns and operates more energy efficient. Chris wanted the biggest bang for those bucks.
Change the light bulbs—no, really. The city dedicated a portion of the money to swapping out power-sucking lighting with efficient substitutes in several city-owned buildings. For example, the it’s retrofitting every last light in the Amway Center basketball and hockey arena, home to the Orlando Magic and the Orlando Solar Bears.
In place of the old high-intensity metal-halide lamps, whose bulbs were 1,500 watts each, took a long time to turn off (they need to cool down for a while before going dark), and couldn’t be dimmed, the city installed LED lighting that can be dimmed when full illumination isn’t necessary and turn on and off quickly. Next up is the lighting in the arena’s bathrooms, offices and hallways. “It’s a no-brainer,” Chris says. “If we didn’t do it, we’d literally be throwing money out the door.”
The improvements in just the Amway Center will cut the city’s annual energy bill by $300,000. That’s just one small part of the entire program, which, when completed, Chris says, will save the city $2.5 million a year, half of which will be used to pay the bond debt and half of which will be reinvested into the program.
“Doing more with less is the definition of efficiency. Cities could save an unbelievable amount of money by making low- to no-cost improvements.”
Oversees Green Works Orlando, a comprehensive environmental plan established in 2007 by Mayor Buddy Dyer that encompasses everything from improving recycling participation to constructing greener buildings. The idea, Chris says, is to make Orlando “one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country.”
On May 26, 2016, Chris, an experienced surfer, was at Playalinda Beach when he saw a woman drowning in a riptide. Without thinking to grab his board for flotation, Chris swam from shore to rescue her, only to be swept out to sea by the same riptide. After about ten harrowing minutes, he was able to get the barely conscious woman back on dry land, where paramedics saved her. In recognition of his bravery, the mayor declared June 13 Chris Castro Day—which Chris asked to have renamed to Local Heroes Day “instead of it being about me.” The life-threatening experience left him shaken. “For the first few months afterward,” he says, “I was kind of speechless.”