But at least they came home with presents, and in appropriate fashion, they were eco-friendly presents.
Disney can get a lot of flack for the resources they use (especially regarding the distances people travel to visit the parks), but the company and all the theme parks are working toward reducing their environmental impact, through diverting trash to recycling, conserving water and electricity, using biodiesel for their vehicles (hello, Disney World buses!), and carrying fair-trade, handmade merchandise throughout the parks.
In addition to being an environmentally friendly tourist, where can you find green in action at Disney World?
I don't think World Showcase's Bead Outpost was around when I last visited Disney World, coming up on five years ago. Nestled between Mexico and Germany, the African outpost has unique souvenirs, including my favorite of them all. I mean, what does Disney World have more of than park guidemaps? Bazillions of maps printed in about 15 languages equates to a LOT of trash. But, Disney has started to save the maps from the landfill, and sends them to artisans in Africa, who repurpose the maps into jewelry beads. That's right - MADE OF PAPER. You can get necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets or chokers, in a huge variety of colors. My parents picked out two necklaces for me, and my favorite part may almost be how the necklaces were packaged. In a guidemap envelope. So smart, so useful, and so easy. If you want a gift that's unique and green, visit the Bead Outpost.
In 2011, Innoventions had a VISION house on display, sponsored by Green Builder Media. I believe it has since been replaced with newer exhibits. Unfortunately, I think the company has since gone out of business, since their website doesn't exist anymore. I snapped a shot of these reminders in Innoventions on a previous vacation.
ANIMAL KINGDOMAnimal Kingdom is probably the most environmental spot overall in Disney World. The Conservation Fund raises money for "the study of wildlife; the protection of habitats; the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems; and experiences that connect kids to nature through exploration and discovery." You can purchase pins and other merchandise in the park, with the proceeds going toward the fund.
In terms of fair-trade merch, Animal Kingdom offers Eco-Mochilas, traditional Colombian bags made with recycled plastic bags. And if you want really unique, pick up a notebook made of elephant poop paper!
Check out the detail in this weaving!
You can also find park t-shirts made with organic cotton and cute treehugger sayings.
RESORTSMany hotels these days offer signs about reusing towels instead of replacing them daily, in order to conserve water. Disney resorts are no different.
Recycling bins can be found in resort rooms, along with energy efficient lighting and low-flow toilets. In fact, all Disney-owned and -operated resorts in Florida are designated as Green Lodging.
If you are staying at a resort for your visit, use as much alternative transportation as you can. Many places are within walking distance.
EVERYWHEREDisney provides branded cloth bags for your shopping pleasure, and I still have a Christmas Mickey one from my last trip. Instead of playing a game of "how many identical plastic bags can you rack up on your trip", pick up a few cloth bags to reuse every day. Or bring your own instead of purchasing some there.
Conserve your use of the guide maps. Share one for each park with your group, and keep the ones you use in case you revisit a park. Since I last visited, I believe Disney World installed WiFi in all their parks, so you can make use of their official mobile app. This will help you cut down on paper, but don't forget to bring a portable charger for your phone!
You can also find some recycled goods for souvenirs in shops throughout the parks. These notebooks are made with recycled paper.
Extra food from parks and resorts is donated to a local Second Harvest Food Bank.
The Walt Disney Company has an environmental policy in place, which can be read in full on their website. My favorite snippet from it says:
Dispose of waste conscientiously and creatively by making "reduce/reuse/recycle" the standard operating procedure.
This should definitely be the standard operating procedure everywhere!
More green Disney resources:
- The Walt Disney Company: Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Takes Steps Towards an Eco-Friendly Future (January 2015)
- Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Environmental Stewardship
- Only WDWorld: Disney World is Becoming Greener (October 2009)
- Zannaland: Just How Green is Disney World? (April 2010)
- Hollywood Reporter: How Disney is Committed to Being an Environmental Leader (September 2011)
- Disney Parks: Go Green In Disney Style
- Touring Plans: Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs at Wa
- Ecorazzi: Four Ways Walt Disney World Gives Back to the Planet (July 2012)
- Disney Parks Blog posts on conservation
- Touring Plans: Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs in Disney World (August 2014)