My boss took some of us to Disneyland this weekend. She’s a nice boss!
I know some of you are just appalled at the idea of Disneyland, while others find it as fun as I do. My question is: How can I reconcile the utter joy I feel at Disneyland with not only the environmental impact but also the homogenization of culture and the promotion of consumerism? It’s tacky for sure. But also utterly beautiful.
I can’t even imagine how much electricity must go into powering this fantastic spectacle.
Still, I can’t escape noticing waste and plastic. There seemed to be only one type of inexpensive restaurant in the park with durable plates and utensils. Those were the Mexican restaurants. And I was glad to find them.
All other affordable eating places served food, even hot foods like pasta, in disposable plastic plates and bowls or paper/carboard boxes. Yes, there were recycle bins throughout the park:
And Disney apparently does backend recycling, separating out recyclables that are tossed in the trash. But why use so much throw-away stuff in the first place? And why oh why so much plastic for our food?
I brought my Klean Kanteen and filled it with water from the drinking fountains. And I was happy to know that the water from the fountains is recycled, filtered water. But my co-worker Jo (who sometimes comments on this blog) bought a drink in a reusable souvenir bottle, thinking she’d be able to refill it, only to find that the concessionaires would not refill the bottle for “hygienic” purposes.
Hey Disney, what’s the point of selling a reusable bottle… and plastic at that… and then not refilling them?
I had planned on bringing in my new reusable travel mug for hot drinks. Unfortunately, I forgot that glass is not allowed in parks and was forced to toss out my jar before entering. Turns out, I probably wouldn’t have been able to use it after all.
I did end up taking home one plastic container to add to my tally… some unexpected cole slaw served in a plastic cup. When I tried to hand it back with my usual explanation about plastic, the server refused to take it. “Throw it away if you don’t want it,” he insisted. Other unexpected plastic: a spoon that was inserted into my ice cream before I could say I didn’t need one. I asked her to use it for someone else, but I saw her toss it in the trash instead. *Sigh*
Still, Disney recently won the 2009 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) from the State of California for various initiatives like replenishing ground water when it drained its Paradise Bay in preparation for a new attraction, using biodiesel from its own processed cooking oil in its steam trains, and building a new energy-efficient bakery.
But do these measures make up for the huge impact this company has worldwide? Jennifer Lance from Eco Child’s Play is skeptical. In her well researched article, “Disney’s Environmental Goals: Greenwashing or Corporate Responsibility?,” she takes issue with Disney’s first Corporate Responsibility report and urges the company to:
Stop selling junk, stop using chemicals, only use recyclables, put a solar bank in the parking lot of all theme parks that could provide shelter for cars, create more green spaces in the parks, serve organic food, offer free park admission to people that ride mass transit, stop violating human rights in factories that produce your goods, etc. Disney, you have a long way to go before being green!
All that bad stuff being fully acknowledged, I still love the place. Besides the magical beauty of lights and colors and sound, I love the rides: the scarier the better. I love the rides with the biggest drops, the sharpest curves. You know, the ones that make my body sore and my brain turn to Jello. And do I hold on for dear life or throw my arms up in the air even though all the signs tell you to keep them in the car? Throw them up, of course, and just let go.
And when they’re scary and tacky and beautiful? Perfect.
So, how we reconcile our love for beautiful things with high environmental impacts? And how can we live a balanced life without deprivation but still living as lightly on the earth as possible? I’d love to hear your opinions.