Disney World Florida is like its own city with over 15000 acres of property including six parks, a massive shopping area, highways, bus service, currency through a wristband (paid later by credit card), and a full medical support team including firefighters. What’s really impressive is how well everything is organized and runs. According to the biography of a former executive president of Disney World, Disney leadership always open to trying new ideas in order to find better ways of doing things while at the same time being ready to return to previous methods that worked better. Being willing to admit mistakes? Wow, there’s something a politician isn’t going to do. Disney managers are also encouraged to send appreciation notes to employees who stand out, spend more time in the park than at their desk in order to see firsthand how things are going, and even people like the former president are supposed to pick up any trash left on the ground (litter is rare at Disney because they have a garbage can every 20ft because of a study they did). Helping others without it being for votes? Again, wow. Politicians should all have to go through Disney training, so maybe then we’d have better organized cities and countries with leadership we can respect.
All that being said, what kept bothering me during my week stay last month was there were only a handful of recycling bins around the different food areas and they only recycled plastic bottles. It was great seeing that Disney parks are using paper straws and not plastic, which are terrible for the environment, and instead of black plastic, which isn’t recyclable, they used paper trays for things like salads. The problem that remained, however, was that there wasn’t paper recycling, so was the switch to paper that helpful? Add to this, if you buy something like a mug or Christmas ornament (I bought my fair share), they go overboard wrapping it in tissue paper. By the end of the trip my hotel room had a mountain of paper to throw out between the unnecessary wrapping and empty boxes. During checkout I mentioned how great the trip was, but I was bothered by the lack of recycling and the attendant said they recycle pretty much everything from paper to food waste to the bands they give to all those who stay at the hotels. It turns out all of the “garbage” and even the plastic bottles in the recycling containers are all taken to a site and completely sorted. That’s right; it’s someone’s job to go through all the garbage and recycling that is thrown out on Disney property in order to organize it. This allows them to find any accidentally thrown out items for guests while separating everything into their proper areas: recyclables, (plastics, glass, and paper), food waste, and actual garbage. Isn’t that amazing! Plus, my assumption is there has to be a cost benefit to doing it this way, which means more groups will hopefully consider following Disney’s lead.
What made me the most excited is the food waste is used to help fuel their buses. In 2015 Disney World parks converted all of their buses to run on R50, which is “a renewable diesel (RD) that is made from used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste.” Not only is this fuel using up waste, the emissions were a fraction of what a normal bus produces. As someone who chokes from the exhaust whenever I’m too close to a bus in my city, even standing by the back of the Disney bus I was okay. It was better than being behind a car. Isn’t that amazing! Why aren’t all cities using buses like this? Why aren’t all cities thoroughly going through their garbage and organizing things as well as possible?
What also gave me hope is at Epcot there is a ride called “Living with the Land.” Participants sit in a small boat that goes through a tour of various areas including greenhouses where Disney is working on innovative ways of growing crops. When I was a kid, this was the most disappointing ride possible whereas as an adult, it was fascinating and gave me hope. Having been on the ride five years ago and seeing it again this year I noticed there have been additions to the ways they grow plants. This gave me even more hope because of how they are finding ways to grow more crops in less space and without as much water. As someone who is concerned about the environment and where it’ll be in ten years, this ride gives me hope that things can improve and we won’t have to face the apocalyptic lifestyles often shown in movies of the future where they show overcrowding, no natural space, mountains of garbage, and wasteland. While I feel so helpless for what I can do to help the environment, seeing major corporations like Disney caring about the world who have much greater influence and resources gives me hope, which is the greatest gift someone/corporation can give.
This week may you consider ways to help the environment (tip: not showering isn’t a good answer).
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people