Disney really is one of the happiest places on earth! I just got back from visiting my college best friend who works and lives thirty minutes from Orlando and the parks. Of course, we enjoyed a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a kid and I barely remember anything from our family trip. So to enjoy the parks as an adult was a real treat. Plus my friend is an annual pass holder so she is an expert at navigating the parks!
Remaining zero waste while at the parks is not as easy. But it can be done! With some small preparation, managing to produce little waste is possible. It seems like a lot of zero waste bloggers live on the west coast. There are a couple of guides to being zero waste at Disneyland but here is your guide for Disney World. Your east coast, zero waste gal has your Florida guide to being eco-friendly in amusement parks that are not so eco-friendly. (Not yet anyway, there is hope that they will become more sustainable in the future!)
Before You Go
Every zero wasters mantra is to be prepared! By doing a little planning before going to Florida and before arriving at the parks, I was able to avoid a great deal of waste.
1. Pack all the essentials
I have a collapsible small backpack that I brought to Florida with me. I’ll be doing a comprehensive packing guide soon, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, here is what I packed the night before going to the park:
- Water bottle
- Utensil kit
- A straw (bamboo, glass, or metal)
- Metal tiffin container
- For leftover food or compost. I ate all my food while at the park so I didn’t really need to bring this but you never know.
- A cloth napkin
- For eating food on the go and to dry your hand after washing them.
- External phone charger
- Rain jacket
- Florida always has rain! So come prepared with a rain jacket so you don’t have to buy a plastic poncho. It rained both days we were at the parks. It only rained for an hour each time but when it does rain, it’s a torrential downpour.
2. Download the Disney World App
Disney really has all the bells and whistles to make your life easier and to enjoy your time at the park. And their app is one of them! The app has a lot of features: you can view your tickets, reserve fast passes, make restaurant reservations, order food, and, my favorite feature, view the map! No need for paper maps anymore! The digital map has filters so you can view ride wait times, shops, attractions, characters, and much more. I created a Disney account to buy my park tickets so it was easy to download the free app and log in.
3. What to Wear
Make sure to look up the weather before packing! Go for lightweight fabrics and second-hand clothes. I wore a t-shirt (instead of a tank top) to cover my shoulders and prevent sunburn. I also recommend sneakers because of all the walking! But wearing a supportive sandal would work too because of the water rides and to keep yourself cool.
I was unsuccessful at finding any second hand Disney t-shirts at my local thrift store but I really want to rock a Tangled shirt. So before I left, I bought this cute cotton T from Etsy. It’s definitely not zero waste but I did support a small business and made sure the material was low impact. It’s made of cotton and the design is printed with sublimation printing technique, which is the best of the printing techniques in terms of sustainability.
But the rest of my outfit was indeed zero waste and perfect for the fickle Florida weather. I borrowed the Mickey ears from my friend who has a small collection of them. And both my jeans and sneakers were second-hand finds.
While at the Park
The biggest producer of waste while at the parks is food and drink. Most of the fast food comes served with disposable plates and most of the drinks come served in plastic cups. But Disney has now banned plastic straws! They are slowly but surely moving in the right direction. They provide paper straws at the parks which can be easily composted. Yet, there are not compost bins at Disney World, so you’d have to take it home to compost. But better still, if you bring your own straw you can avoid it altogether.
1. Eating meals at the park
My friend and I ate all three meals at Magic Kingdom on Sunday. We wanted to make the most of our one day at the park (arriving early and leaving late). Plus, there wasn’t a lot of options for dining between our Air BnB and the park.
My main advice is to eat at a sit-down restaurant with real plates. You might be worried that the price would be more but it can be reasonable. I’d rather sit down and enjoy a nice filling meal. And personally, some of the faster, cheaper meals are not as filling.
For breakfast, I had a muffin from one of their pastry stands. The muffin comes wrapped in paper which is easily compostable.
For lunch, we had reservations at the Be Our Guest restaurant! Besides the food being served on real plates, the atmosphere and decoration of the castle made it fun to eat there! But be aware, the drinks are self-serve in plastic cups so either bring your own or opt for simply drinking water. But just look at how fun the interior ballroom is:
For dinner, we ate at the Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen. I had the best curried vegetable crew stew! Opting for meatless dishes is another way to reduce your impact on the environment.
2. Snacks and concessions
There are some good snack options at the concession stands around the parks. Many of them come in simple paper or wax paper which can be composted. You just have to make sure to take it with you since they do not have compost bins at the park. They do have recycling though. So make sure to utilize the bins if you get something in plastic. I had a churro at Hollywood Studios and a Mickey pretzel at Magic Kingdom.
3. Water and drinks
I brought my own water bottle that was easily refilled throughout the day. The parks have plenty of water fountains (usually near bathrooms) where you can get a drink and/or fill up your bottle. The water in Florida tasted fine to me! Maybe a little bit like chlorine but if you are concerned about the taste, consider bringing a water bottle with a built in filter.
At dinner that night, I decided to get a drink. When at the sit-down restaurants the drinks come in glass. Alcoholic beverages like wine or beer never come with straws. I had myself a cheeky glass of white wine to go with my curry dish.
4. Consider buying a magic band
If you go to Disney World often, I would consider buying a magic band. It links for life to your Disney account and can be scanned for tickets and fast passes. My friend has a magic band! And for her, it’s both convenient and sustainable because she can/will use it her whole life. She goes to parks often so she doesn’t have to get a card every time she goes to the park.
I decided not to buy a magic band this time around because my budget didn’t allow it. And I’m not sure when I’ll be returning to Disney. I’m sure I will go to Disney again in my lifetime and maybe next time I will invest in a magic band. But because I didn’t have a magic band, I was issued a plastic card. The card had my tickets and my fast passes. Being issued a card is not zero waste but I plan on keeping mine as a souvenir. I used the same card for the entire trip though. And I’m not sure if it can be reused… If it can, then I can produce a little less waste by refusing a new plastic card the next time I go.
But the main thing is to have fun! I tried not to beat myself up for not being completely zero waste. I went to Florida to see my friend and have a good time. Obviously, I could have not purchased a t-shirt. And I even accidentally used a paper towel to dry my hands in the bathroom. But these things happen. It’s all about being conscious of our choices in the first place.
I hope you found this helpful! How do you remain zero waste while traveling? And have you even been to Disney World before? I’d love to hear your experience below.