They may be the most magical places on Earth, 'tis true, but are Disney parks environmentally friendly? In a world where we need to get exceedingly conscious about reducing waste, embracing renewable resources, eliminating pollution, and lightening our carbon footprint, we have a responsibility to keep this stuff in mind at all times — not just when it's convenient!
So, not to be a buzzkill or anything, but let's get real: Vacationing takes an environmental toll. Driving long distances, taking airplanes, grabbing fast food on the go, shopping for souvenirs we'll probably end up KonMari'ing within a year — all of these things add up as far as environmental impacts go, so it's super important to think about ways to travel in a more eco-friendly way. And if the Magic Kingdom is on your forever radar as far as trips go, it's worth it to look into ways to make your Disney trip as sustainable as possible.
Thankfully, it's easier than you'd think! By keeping a few tips in mind and being willing to put in a little extra effort for Mama Earth, you can make your magical Disney adventure a little sweeter on the planet.
1. Firstly, YAY: Disney Is Already Making Eco-Friendly Efforts
Let's take note: Disney is actually making some valiant efforts to go green as far as its theme parks go, so visiting their parks is becoming a more sustainable choice to begin with. In February 2019, a 270-acre solar farm (in the shape of — you guessed it — Mickey Mouse's famous ears) officially started generating power. This massive collection of solar panels is located right next to Epcot, and will reportedly be able to generate enough power to run two of Disney's parks. "We are striving towards three main environmental goals," explained Angie Renner, the environmental integration director at Walt Disney World Resort in an interview with Clean Technica. "[D]ivert 60 percent of our waste from landfills by 2020, reduce net emissions 50 percent (from 2012 levels) by 2020, and reduce water consumption across the board."
And the environmentally-friendly efforts span beyond Florida's Disneyworld. "In Tokyo, Disneyland’s electrical parade light show is fueled by solar panels from eight building rooftops, which generate more than 600 kilowatts of power," reported the New York Times. "In Europe, Disneyland Paris uses geothermal energy to power two of its theme parks and a hotel." Disney also announced in July 2018 that it would phase plastic straws, which aren't recyclable, out of all its parks by mid-2019. These are definitely a smart moves on Disney's part, considering the large-scale impact the park has and the increasing concern of the public over environmental issues. Kudos for that!
2. Go Paperless & Get Tickets Through An App
Little things add up! By buying your tickets (or a FASTPASS) through the Disneyland app, for example, you can avoid having to get paper tickets at the gate or print them out at home — all it takes is scanning a bar code on your phone, and voila. Plus, the app shows you full-time GPS so you know where you are, gives you estimated line wait times for attractions, allows you to browse menus and even order food at in-park restaurants, and locate your favorite characters for photo opps.
3. Choose Eco-Friendly Lodging
When booking hotels, make sure you look into the green rating before finalizing your decision. If you're visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., check out California's green lodging directory from the state's Department of General Services to help you choose eco-friendly accommodations. If you're visiting Disney World in Florida, check out the state's complete list of green lodging options in the Orlando area (and note that all of Disney World's hotels are on the list).
4. Keep Green Transportation In Mind
This applies no matter where you travel. Taking public transportation (or even better, renting bikes so you can add some exercise to your time off and take in the local scenery!) is always going to be a better option next to driving. Thankfully, Disney makes this a little easier through its own provided transport systems. "The entire Disney bus fleet of about 330 buses runs on R50, a cleaner renewable diesel (RD) made from used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste," explained The Mouse Experts on its site.
5. Come Prepared With Reusable Items
With tens of thousands of visitors to its parks each and every day, you can imagine that the amount of waste that accumulates. You can do your part to reduce by investing in a set of portable, reusable utensils (this eco-friendly and affordable bamboo set is a good option) and if you want to take the extra step, bring a small bamboo bowl or plate in your bag, too, as many of Disney's food options are served in single-use plastics.
And don't forget to bring a reusable water bottle to fill up yourself at the filtered drinking fountains that are littered throughout the parks. Not only will the water bottle sitch save you some major cash when it comes to Disney park water bottles, it'll also help keep you hydrated and eliminate the need for more plastic waste.
Lastly, if you plan to shop for souvenirs or stock up on snacks, bring along a reusable, easy-to-fold-up tote bag so you won't need to accept any plastic or paper bags in the park.