How to Make your Disney World Vacation Eco-Friendly

by - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

eco-friendly disney world vacation zero-waste

You are planning a trip to Disney! So fun! We just went, and honestly, I had a better time than I expected. I hadn't expected to go, but our family was going and we had the best time going as a big group. Even though our kids are still pretty little (3 and almost 2), I think that we really did make memories with them, and they are still talking about it. Specifically, about Donald Duck, but whatever. Kids are weird. I am sure you will have a memorable trip too.

That said, if you care a lot about the environment, expect to spend a good amount of time wincing. Or at least realizing just how much plastic waste this giant resort complex could be saving! Every so often you see a bright spot (some of the booths at Animal Kingdom use paper straws, for example), but you can't deny there is a lot of thoughtless consumption going on. But that doesn't have to be you and your family. You can do so much good just by shifting some little parts of your vacation!

 So much of it has to do with preparation, so let's talk about the ways being prepared and making some switches can do all sorts of good!

eco-friendly disney world vacation zero-waste

1. Turn Down Straws... A LOT

When someone takes your order, just be sure to say "No straws, please."

Disney is all about going that extra inch, so many of your drinks will come with a straw already in it if you don't speak up. I kept assuming they would bring straws to the table still wrapped, but instead they came already strawed (let's all take a minute and think of the person whose hand germs are in our drink). So I messed up a bunch of times.

Learn from my mistakes. You have to be on your game to ask for no straw, especially at the sit down restaurants.
eco-friendly disney world vacation zero-waste

2. Bring Along Reusable Water Bottles

So easy and it will save you so much money! Single use water bottles are 2.50ish at Disney World. If you buy 4 a day, that is 10 bucks. Over a week, that is 70 dollars. But the parks have plenty of water fountains. Bring a water bottle (we brought our Klean Kanteen) and save yourself money (and keep plastic bottles out of the landfill).

3. Take Advantage of the Transit

I actually really liked staying at one of the resorts in Disney World, and one of the biggest perks was that we skipped the rental car and just took buses (or boats!) everywhere we went. That shared transit keeps tons of cars off the road. Even if you don't stay at a Disney World hotel, call your hotel and check what they do for transit (I mean, its Orlando, so most probably work around Disney World). It will save you tons of money and any shared transit is great for the environment.

4. Stuff your Stuff in your Own Bag

Disney World uses plastic bags! Blech! When I asked about it, they said that the bags are recyclable. Well, ok, but we know that only about 9% of what can be recycled actually is. So just turn down the bag, wear a backpack, and stuff whatever you do buy into the bag you are carrying already. So simple, but it adds up!

amphicar eco-friendly disney world vacation zero-waste

5. Pass on Souvenirs. More Memories, Less Stuff

Disney World has so many cute things to buy. If you love Disney characters, you will certainly find something that you might like to have at home.

Cut it down as much as possible. Everything we buy new costs fossil fuels and causes waste. I did not find ONE non-food item at Disney World that was made in the United States, so those Made in Poverty items have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles, wrapped in plastic, for you to buy. So anywhere you can just buy less

 Resolve to only buy one souvenir per family member. Pick one item (we get a Christmas ornament as our one souvenir). Or buy nothing at all. This goes against so much of the momentum of Disney (I know I felt tempted all the time!), but it's one of the best things we can do for the environment. Plus it models to our kids that what we care about is our time together, not the things we buy.

If you want that "special" moment for your kids, plan ahead and focus on experiences instead! Look up where they can meet favorite characters, do a special surprise meal connected to a movie they love, or go to a show that's a surprise for them. Think about what they love to DO, get out your camera, and gift them a special moment that is just about them.

Keep it simple.
buy secondhand eco-friendly disney world vacation zero-waste

6. Brand New Isn't Always Best

Disney is genius at so many things. One of those is marketing, so they always have new products you just need to have. But, if you are trying to minimize your shopping (and therefore needless fossil fuel use and waste), look to what is old, instead of what is new.

Have amazing memories of Disney from when you were kids or life before kids? Bring it with you! Instead of buying a bunch of new stuff, use what you already have. The Boy and I went to Disneyland before we had kids, so this time we brought the same ears, six years later, to wear. We bought our son his first ears, and we were careful to buy something he could keep wearing. I gave my sons a Simba and Nala from my childhood, and they have plenty of Disney toys, but hardly anything is new.

Want to deck out your kids (or you)? Buy Disney clothing secondhand before you go. Disney stuff is so ubiquitous you can find something used. Thred Up always has a good selection of Disney clothing items, so you can deck out your kiddo on theme. I got a Buzz Lightyear shirt and a Nemo shirt secondhand for the trip. Both of my kids were excited, and we got a shocking number of compliments on the Nemo shirt. Thred Up. 6 bucks.

Your kids don't care about that stuff, so save your money and get it secondhand.

7. Skip the Dining Plan

We thought maybe the Dining Plan would save us money, but I don't think it did in the end, and it definitely caused a lot of waste. We didn't eat enough to really justify it, and at the end we were just trying to use up our snacks and fast meals, so we bought a LOT of snacks. All wrapped in plastic.

Maybe the plan saves some people money? But I think in the end being a little more mindful about what we were eating and snacking on wouldn't have hurt us a bit. Learn from our mistakes and just pay for your meals. You can skip when you aren't that hungry, or you could just go simple and have some meals back at your room.

8. Mickey Balloons ARE Cute, But You Don't Need One

Yep, those Mickey heads inside balloons are pretty genius and they do look cute. Honestly, I love the Mickey heads so much too! So get some ice cream with ears or a Mickey waffle or just watch the parade on Main Street. Balloons are terrible for the environment and sea life, so you should avoid them wherever possible.

Yes, the balloon is cute, but you can't bring it home with you, so why waste money on it?

9. Just Get Wet- Don't Fall for Ponchos

Ooooh the poncho. It's like a garbage bag you wear. My husband was so proud of himself for finding reusable ones, but we never even opened the packaging. And it rained everyday. What I noticed in Florida was that when it's raining, it gets to pouring/ thunderstorms really fast, and then they just shut everything outdoors down.

If it's raining that hard, you are going to get inside. If it isn't raining that hard, you are enjoying a nice sprinkle in the midst of heat and humidity. That rain is nice.

So, short version, you won't need the ponchos. It is just water. The sun will dry you right off. Save the money and prevent the waste by just skipping them.

10. Bring Silverware to Rinse and Reuse

If you are going to eat a lot of quick dining while you are there, just pack a set of silverware or two in your bag and pull them out when you need them. It is weird to start at first, but if you start skipping plasticware as a habit, you can keep a lot out of landfills.

I hope you have an amazing trip and that you can enjoy all the good parts of Disney (without buying too much nonsense). What is your favorite green tip for vacation?

eco-friendly and zero-waste disney vacation

Want more eco-friendly advice for living life with kids? There are so many amazing ways to have a positive impact! Check out the Green Family Page for all sorts of simple switches and (dare I say it) fun.

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  1. Loved this! Such helpful tips. Question: for the reusable silverware, do you just run to the bathroom and rinse off or clean with napkins, how does that work?



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