By Sue Carr
My new commitment to greener living has me looking at things in a whole new light—both day-to-day things and larger, more momentous things. Things like family vacations to our favorite place on earth—Walt Disney World.
I want to preface what follows with the wholehearted declaration that I love Disney. My husband and I have been vacationing there since my very first trip on our honeymoon seventeen years ago (he had already been there at least a dozen times at that point). We’ve visited a total of sixteen times since then. Some people say we have a Disney problem. We don’t consider it a problem.
And so you can imagine my distress—considering both my love for Disney and my new, greener-living attitude—in experiencing firsthand their new ticketing system which seems to be the complete antithesis of green.
This new system employs what they call Magic Bands, rubbery, wristwatch-sized wristbands that hold all of your pertinent trip information. Visitors use them to gain admission to the parks, charge purchases to their hotel room accounts, unlock their resort room doors, and take advantage of the FastPass system, all by simply waving the band in front of the appropriate sensors. Sounds ingenious, right? And it is, to a point. However, the ingenuity stops when it comes to consumer waste.
You see, Disney used to do all of these same things with a credit-card-style ticket—or even paper tickets with magnetized strips on the back, in some cases. With our old “Key to the World” cards we could do all of these same things—secure fast passes, enter our hotel room, charge purchases, enter the parks—all of it using something that would fit into a wallet.
Disney may argue that the bands are keepsakes, and I imagine some folks will use them that way, but I can tell you I already have about a dozen too many rubber bracelets at my house thanks to Rainbow Loom and Lance Armstrong, so I need more rubber bracelets about as much as the Kardashians need more publicity. So, being the re-purposing mom I am, I inquired at the front desk of our hotel as to whether the bands could be reused on future trips. (I know, I know—as if we all need to hang on to rubber bracelets for years at a time, but hey, I’m trying.) In fact you can reload old bracelets with new trip information—hooray!—but only if they are reused within two years. Oh, and by the way, Disney will ship you new ones regardless. So much for saving the earth that way.
The bracelets themselves might not be horribly worse for the environment than the credit cards (I certainly can’t speak to the materials used and their impact on landfills). But then there’s the packaging. I was shocked when the desk clerk at check-in handed me two shoe box-sized boxes that housed our six Magic Bands. Yes, you read that correctly—two shoe box-sized boxes to hold a grand total of six rubber bracelets. Nothing else. And this desk clerk pulled these boxes from a cabinet that ran the length of a (I’m guesstimating) 30-yard-long registration area, and that cabinet was packed with hundreds of these boxes. And this was only one Disney resort, stocked for (I presume) one day of arrivals.
I’m going to let that all sink in for a moment.
Now I reiterate, I love Disney. I have no intention of boycotting Disney or stopping my trips to the happiest place on earth in protest (in fact, we’re already planning our next visit). But it’s up to each and every one of us to start holding major, multinational companies accountable for their actions regarding our planet. I know that Disney has done, and continues to do, many, many things to help improve the environment, both behind the scenes and through various efforts in their parks. But they can do more. And in my opinion, they should have done better here. With the quantity of elite imagineers they have on staff, surely they can devise a way to improve their processes for the sake of our environment. It is incumbent upon companies like Disney to set the standard for environmental responsibility, if for no other reason than because of their massive impact on our society. It’s time for us to hold them to that higher standard.
Disney, I love you, but I beg you to do better.
Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.