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riding roller coasters_sm.jpg
Kirsten & her very enthusiastic husband getting ready to ride another roller coaster

My husband is what you would call a roller coaster enthusiast. By the end of this roller coaster riding season, he will have ridden 218 different roller coasters and visited 53 amusement parks since his obsession began at the age of nine when he rode his first roller coaster. Just from being his girlfriend, and now wife, I have ridden 93 roller coasters since 2006 (he keeps track of this number, not me).

While these numbers are not as high as other enthusiasts out there, we certainly have spent a significant amount of time in amusement parks. And in that time, one of the big things that bothers me is all the trash that I see being produced at the parks, particularly the large quantities of plastic bottles, plasticware, and Styrofoam cups and plates. There is rarely a recycle bin in sight. In 2008, 122.7 million people visited amusement parks in North America alone (186 million worldwide). That is a lot people creating a lot of trash.


Now I can often control how much trash I produce in my daily life, but
I get frustrated in my attempts to continue those habits when my
husband and I visit amusement parks. Because it is a priority for us,
we can find ways around some of the barriers. For example, we can bring
our own lunch in a cooler and go out to the car to eat. And we try to
use the available water fountains in the parks instead of buying
bottled water (not only because of the environment, but also because of
the cost). But often all of these tactics are inconvenient, require
planning ahead, and can reduce the amount of fun that we have at the
park (I enjoy eating fried dough sprinkled with lots of powdered
sugar). And given the overflowing amount of trash bins I have seen at
the many parks I have gone to, I don’t think many other individuals
have taken the time to reduce how much they throw away.

Which is why I was so excited to hear from my husband that Busch Gardens
amusement park in Williamsburg Virginia has gone green. He made an
“emergency” trip down there this past weekend because they are tearing
down one of his top ten favorite roller coasters, the Big Bad Wolf,
at the end of the season and he wanted to ride it one (or 10) last
time(s). When he went to eat lunch, he happily discovered that they
were using straws made out of paper,
instead of plastic, and the drinks do not come with plastic lids. He
also learned that the park had put catch basins in place to collect
condensation from the air conditioning (of indoor rides) and are using
that to irrigate the park’s landscaping. Curious to find out more, I
discovered these are only a couple of the many changes that Busch Gardens has
made. They state in one of their press releases from 2008 that:

“Park
officials incorporated a single-stream recycling process into its waste
management program after recognizing that most of the park’s trash cans
contained recyclable materials like plastic bottles and paper napkins.
Now most of Busch Gardens’ “trash” actually goes to a recycling center
where every scrap of recyclable material is removed by hand. The
program eliminates more than 1,340 tons of trash from the landfill –
nearly the weight of Griffon’s steel track. Only 10 percent of the
trash collected in the park end up in a landfill.”

In
addition, they have reduced the amount of pesticides that they use by
having a “beneficial bug” program in place since 1990. These changes
are also a part of the State of Virginia’s campaign, “Virginia Green“, to promote environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of Virginia’s tourism industry.

I
find these changes to be very exciting and encouraging. The more I try
to reduce my own impact and use of earth’s natural resources, the more
I find that the remaining barriers to change are coming from larger
structural issue that are in place external to me. This is one of
reasons I became attracted to IDP’s integral activism
and making my voice heard on a larger scale. I hope that the kind of
improvements that Busch Gardens has made will spread to others parks
and entertainment industries (such as movie theaters). Seeing that it
can be done motivates me to get in touch with other amusement parks to
encourage them to also modify their practices.

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