5 Ways to Live a Greener Life at Home, According to a Disney Conservation Expert

published Apr 16, 2021
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Anyone looking to go more green may find it daunting to figure out where to start. But small changes over time can make a big impact on energy, water conservation, and the overall health of our planet — and a massive theme park resort like Walt Disney World is a great example of how little habitual tweaks go a long way.

In 2020, Walt Disney World was named the most eco-friendly attraction in the world by Uswitch, a UK-based product comparison and switching service. And Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts says that the resort is continuously looking for ways to minimize their overall impact on the environment.

“Every day, we are mindful of how we can reduce our waste, as well as our consumption of energy and water,” Dr. Penning said. The company encourages Cast members to practice eco-friendly habits at their job as well as in the comfort of home, from turning off lights and electronics when they aren’t being used to swapping out regular light bulbs for LED.

To get further insight on how Disney Parks and Resorts practice being green, we sat down with Dr. Penning to get the scoop on some doable tips that can be applied to your own home.

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Buy sustainably grown groceries.

Disney reduces food waste in various ways, like turning food scraps into bio-gases and natural fertilizers, or donating excess foods to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. But when it comes to knowing where to buy sustainably grown food, Penning says it starts with doing a bit of research on where your food comes from.

If you’re eating seafood out at a restaurant or at home, for example, use the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app for sustainable seafood recommendations. “You can also ask the employee at the seafood counter if the product has a sustainability rating from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch or another certification associated with Seafood Watch, such as Marine Stewardship Council,” Penning said. “Packaged items, such as canned tuna or frozen fish sticks should have sustainable ratings on labels, too.”

Additional ideas include starting a garden in your own background, or supporting your local community by purchasing locally grown produce from the farmer’s market.

Consider getting a rain barrel.

In the past, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival had an exhibit where people could learn about rain barrels, which are easy to assemble and fun for the entire family to decorate for the garden. “Plants and lawns love rainwater. Instead of using water from a faucet or hose, consider using a rain barrel to water your plants and lawn — your garden will appreciate it,” Penning said.

You can find rain barrel kits online or at your local hardware store, and they are often relatively inexpensive. 

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Recycle the right way.

One major practice used by Disney is recycling the correct way, which means thinking before you toss. “Look at the items you are throwing away each week — are there items that could be recycled or donated instead? Get familiar with your local recycling guidelines to maximize your recycling efforts at home, and get your family involved too,” Penning explained.

Reduce plastic usage.

Disney has eliminated over 200 million single-use plastic straws and stirrers over the past few years. You can also use paper or reusable bags when grocery shopping, and when possible, purchase products in bulk to minimize plastic packaging. However, if you must use plastic, Penning says “make sure you dispose of/recycle them properly.”

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Explore alternative energy options.

One of the biggest ways to make an impact on the environment is to look at our electricity usage. You can start saving more energy today by turning off lights when you’re not using them. But if you’re looking to make an even bigger impact, Penning says to look into alternative energy options like solar panels or electric and hybrid vehicles.

Disney recently unveiled a 270-acre solar farm, which has half a million solar panels. According to Good Morning America, the facility could generate enough energy to power two of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Imagine what just a few solar panels at your house could do.