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Your theme park ecological footprint

Friday, December 14, 2007

One of my favorite Disney blogs, Grumpy’s Hollow, recently ran a post discussing your “theme park footprint” – how much physical space you take up when touring the parks, and how to both move around quickly and be aware of your impact on those around you.

Grumpwurst  also referenced a concept many of us have started to hear more often these days: Our ecological footprints. How heavily are we treading upon the earth? What impact do our choices have on the global environment? And while he doesn’t address it in his article, it did give me pause to consider mine, and what actions I can take to be mindful of my use of natural resources, even while touring the parks.

Now, for the moment at least I’m not interested in the question of what Disney can and should do . . . certainly more capable minds than mine are discussing that important topic, as a quick Google will surely show you. But rather, what actions can I take as an individual consumer? And, as is often the case in these matters, the eco-friendly choices are budget-friendly as well. Remember, the watchwords are Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle.

  • Water bottles: Since I first picked up a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World in 2003 (ding!), I’ve carried a lumbar pack and water bottles (much to the distress of my fashion-oriented BFF Lisa). I was always purely motivated by saving money . . . bottled water in the parks can be a big expense. On further thought, refilling a water bottle not only saves a couple twenties over the course of a vacation, but also reduces my use of plastic bottles or paper cups, giving the environment a little break.

    A little problem though: I’ve also started carrying those little packets of single-serve ice tea mix, which make the Florida water more palatable. But those things are an eco-nightmare, given the proportion of packaging to product. Can’t some company come up with a multi-serving refillable dispenser?

  • Public transit: Air travel is notoriously bad for the environment, and I’m one of those who lives far enough from any Disney Park as to make driving quite impractical. And I’ll confess, more often than not I’ll stay offsite and rent a car.

    But when I do stay on site, I have plenty of options to use Disney Transit, cutting both my expenses and my contribution to carbon emissions. I can take Magical Express to my resort, and use Disney Transit as much as possible. Now, this commitment was sorely tested by my not-too-stellar experience with Disney Transit at Saratoga Springs last August. . . but I’d do it again, just not at that resort.

  • Souvenirs: What’s a trip to Disney without a few trinkets to take home? Far be it from me to dissuade anybody from shopping . . . but my income and budget suggest that I should shop wisely. Will I still enjoy this item three months from now, such as a precious plush toy I bought at Disney/MGM Studios a few trips back? Is this item something I will use in my day-to-day life, such as a watch or kitchenware? Is it clothing I’d actually wear once I get back home? With souvenirs, the eco-friendly approach is often to simply reduce consumption.

    The Boston-area thrift shops I frequent always have plenty of Disney souvenirs among their stock, generally in great condition. This should tell you something. So, before you buy, ask yourself whether those Eeyore sweatpants are going to be just as appealing when you get home, or whether you’ve had one Mickey Bar too many. (And hey, if you’re jonesing for a pair of Eeyore sweatpants, you might just wanna stop by that local thrift shop anyway. Thrift shop clothing is by definition being re-used, so it’s relatively guilt free, and easy on the wallet.)

  • Towels and Linens: Most hotels nowadays, including Disney’s, give you the option to re-use your linens and towels from day to day, rather than having them replaced every single morning. For most of us, this mirrors our choices at home – few people change their sheets daily at home, and lots of us use the same towel a couple times before throwing it in the wash.  So, why not save a few gallons of water during your stay, and spare the environment from the impact of just a bit more detergent? Just think of all those happy, frolicking towel animals.

Do these small choices make much of a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But when faced with the choice of doing nothing, and doing something that might help, I hope I usually choose the latter.