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How to Plan a Zero Waste Disney Vacation

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A trip to a Disney theme park is a truly magical experience. But it can also be a wasteful one. Whether you’re interested in going to Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, or any other Disney park around the world, you can plan a zero waste Disney trip with these simple tips.

Our Zero Waste Disney Trip

Since we live in Florida, we often make a trip to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World. Before I started my journey toward a more eco-friendly life, I didn’t think twice about how much waste I was making during a typical day at the park.

However, once I became more aware of my carbon footprint, I realized just how much waste a typical day at Disney could create.

When our son was old enough to enjoy a day at Disney, we decided to plan another trip. But this time my goal was to reduce my waste as much as possible.

The great thing is, not only did I realize it was incredibly easy to plan a zero waste Disney trip, but it also helped us save money during our trip!

Steps Disney Is Taking to Become More Sustainable

Walt Disney Company has been committed to environmental stewardship since its founding. After all, Walt Disney himself once said that “conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.”

To help with sustainability, the Walt Disney Company reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by 41% and diverted almost 50% of waste from going to the incinerator or landfill in 2017.

In 2019, the company eliminated single-use plastic straws and plastic stirrers at all locations around the world. It’s also working to transition to refillable in-room amenities in its hotels and cruise ships, which will reduce plastics in guest rooms by 80%.

Finally, the company has a long-term goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero waste.

In addition to these steps, you can also follow these zero waste tips to make your trip to Disney more eco-friendly.

1. Use the My Disney Experience App

When you’re planning your zero waste Disney trip, the first thing you should do is download the My Disney Experience app.

The app has an interactive and GPS-enabled map, which means you don’t have to grab one of the paper maps at the park.

Plus, the app isn’t just good for helping you reduce waste. You can also use it to find Character Greeting times and locations, see attraction wait times, make dinner reservations, buy tickets, and more.

Related: The Best Apps to Help You Live Sustainably

2. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle

Whether you’re visiting Disney World or Disneyland, there are two incredibly important things you need to remember: stay hydrated and protect your skin from the sun.

To help your skin, you can choose one of these top natural sunscreen options.

To stay hydrated, pack your own water bottle. You’ll find plenty of water fountains and water bottle filling stations throughout the park, so you’ll have no problem keeping your bottles filled.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that Disney doesn’t allow any glass in its parks. Therefore, you’ll want to choose a plastic or metal water bottle.

Since I’m trying to reduce how much plastic my family uses, I opted to take these stainless steel water bottles with us.

Related: How to Naturally Remove Rust From Metal

3. Grab Your Reusable Utensils

If you’ll be doing any type of dining or snacking in Disney, you’ll want to have your reusable utensils on hand so you don’t have to use the plastic ones.

These bamboo utensils are the ones we brought on our zero waste Disney trip. The set comes with everything you need to eat on the go, including a convenient travel case to hold your utensils.

It’s important to note that Disney doesn’t allow knives inside its parks. So you’ll want to remember to remove the knife that comes in the set before you go to the park.

Related: 50+ Creative Alternatives to Plastic

4. Don’t Forget Your Reusable Straw

As I mentioned above, Disney is working toward more sustainability and better environmental practices by removing plastic straws from its parks. However, you’ll still be able to get paper straws in the park.

If you’re trying to plan a zero waste Disney trip or you simply don’t like to use paper straws, don’t forget to pack your reusable straw.

Since you’ll be traveling, you might want to use this collapsible reusable straw. It comes with a convenient carrying case that will keep your straw safe and clean when you’re not using it.

If you’re not sure which straw you want, this post about the best types of reusable straws has plenty of options that will definitely meet your needs.

Also, make sure you remember to ask for no straw with your drink order so you don’t accidentally get it served with a paper straw.

Related: How to Plan a Zero Waste Cookout

5. Pack Some Cloth Napkins

During my years of traveling, I’ve found that packing some cloth napkins is absolutely essential for zero waste travel. Fortunately, you don’t have to get anything special.

I simply pack the same cloth napkins we use at home that help us reduce our paper towel use.

You can use these napkins to clean up sticky faces and wipe your hands when you’re eating. If you ask really nicely, some snack carts and bakery stores will also serve you a churro, cookie, or pretzel right into your cloth napkin so you can avoid the parchment or wax paper.

Related: Microfiber vs. Cotton: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

6. Bring Your Own Snacks

If I’m being honest, zero waste snacking and dining in Disney isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The ice cream cones are usually the best bet for zero waste snacking. Even though they’re good, there’s only so much ice cream you can eat.

Plus, if I’m being COMPLETELY honest, eating in Disney can get rather expensive.

That’s why I recommend packing your own snacks. Disney lets you bring snacks or food items that don’t require heating into the park. You simply need to inform a Security Cast Member of these items when you’re getting your bag checked.

Before you leave for your trip, stop by the bulk food store and load up on your favorite nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and any other snack items you can easily pack.

Once again, remember, Disney doesn’t allow glass inside its park. If you already follow these easy tips for packing a zero waste lunch, you can simply use the same plastic food storage containers or stainless steel food storage containers to pack your snacks for Disney.

Related: How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic

7. Dine at Table Service Restaurants

Dining at the table service restaurants in the park is another option to consider if you’re trying to plan a zero waste Disney trip.

Admittedly, table service restaurants are more expensive than the snack carts. However, they use real utensils, plates, and cloth napkins, so you won’t have to deal with any plastic or paper.

Since we brought our own snack food to have for lunch, we decided it was OK to splurge a little and eat at one of the table service restaurants for dinner.

8. Bring Reusable Shopping Bags

You’ll probably want to pick up some souvenirs during your trip to Disney, so you’ll definitely want to pack reusable shopping bags so you don’t have to get what you purchase in plastic bags.

When you’re traveling, I recommend using these heavy-duty foldable bags. They can hold up to 35 pounds and they fold up into a small square that makes them easy to store when you’re not using them. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they come in some adorable designs!

Some Disney stores also have reusable shopping bags you can purchase while you’re there.

Since you’re trying to make your trip to Disney more eco-friendly, you should consider avoiding the plastic trinkets that will probably break shortly after your trip.

Instead, think about purchasing T-shirts you can wear and then donate. Pins and magnets are other good souvenir options that you can use for years and years.

9. Pack Everything in a Backpack

The final item you’ll need for your zero waste Disney trip is a backpack you can use to carry everything you want to take into the park. Since I do a lot of hiking, I simply used my favorite day hiking backpack.

Disney allows backpacks in the park as long as they’re no larger than 24 inches (61 cm) long by 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 18 inches (46 cm) high.

The thing I like about my day hiking backpack is that it has a hydration pack, which gives me one more option for storing water.

I simply packed all of my zero waste essentials in my backpack, and I was able to have everything we needed while we were in the park. Disney also has lockers you can rent and store your backpack if you don’t feel like carrying it with you all the time.

Planning a Zero Waste Disney Trip

Your next trip to Disney doesn’t have to be wasteful. Thanks to these simple zero waste Disney tips, you can still have an amazing and memorable trip while cutting back on your waste.

More Zero Waste Tips

Now that you see how easy it is to plan a zero waste Disney trip, are you ready to make even more easy swaps to zero waste living? Then be sure to check out these other popular posts:

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Disney castle with text overlay 9 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Disney Trip