My Zero Waste Guide To Disneyland
Zero waste at the Happiest Place on Earth? While a completely zero waste trip to Disneyland may be near impossible, there are a variety of options to significantly reduce your waste while enjoying every bit of the park! The biggest key is to be prepared. (Well, isn't that always the case for most things in life?) Below is a comprehensive list of all the ZW friendly options throughout Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure (DCA), but there are plenty of tips that will help with many amusement parks.
Note: Every place, including the parking garage, will give you a non recyclable, non compostable receipt printed on thermal paper. Thermal paper has plastic in it, often BPA, so it should go in a landfill.
Before The Park
What To Bring:
- reusable water bottle - save money (bottled water is $4) and refill at multiple stations listed below.
- cloth napkin (or two) - for eating and drying your hands.
- straw (optional) - if you want to get a nice drink at Carthay Circle (DCA), you can bring your own straw to enjoy it!
- your favorite snacks - because you never know when you'll get hangry while waiting in line for Space Mountain. I like to bring a batch of my trail mix cookies.
- a thermos for hot tea or coffee (optional) - they only sell really terrible coffee here (unless Starbucks is your favorite then I'm sorry!) and they all are required to use disposable cups. They will not fill your own cup!
What Not To Bring:
- glass containers - for safety reasons, Disneyland does not allow glass. Make sure you leave mason jars and glass straws at home and use sturdy, reusable plastic or stainless steel instead.
- knives - this is obvious, but please don't bring a knife for eating. Metal forks and spoons are totally fine though.
What To Know Before You Go:
- If possible, I strongly recommend downloading the Disneyland app on your smartphone. This is how you can get fast passes for rides (using MaxPass), look at restaurant menus, find the nearest restroom, etc.
- Coffee drinkers, there is no place at the parks that will fill your reusable cup for you. If you need your coffee fix, you can order a coffee at one of the sit down restaurants listed below, and pour it into your thermos. All restaurants offer free refills. You can also have a cup of coffee at Starbucks in Downtown Disney, just make sure you ask them to put it in a ceramic cup "for here".
- Disneyland only has recycling bins for bottles and cans, so if you'd like to recycle paper or other forms of plastic, it's best to take it back with you.
At The Park
What To Eat:
When it comes to meals at Disneyland and DCA, the best option, both health, zero waste, and flavor-wise, are at sit down restaurants. The restaurants listed below offer real plates and utensils. Some use real cups and some use disposable. Many also give condiments (like salsa) in small disposable plastic containers. You can always either take it home to recycle or refuse it.
Zero Waste Friendly Restaurants at Disneyland:
- Blue Bayou
- Cafe Orleans
- Carnation Cafe
- French Market Restaurant
- Plaza Inn
- Rancho Del Zocalo
- River Belle Terrace
Zero Waste Friendly Restaurants at Disney's California Adventure:
- Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta - only the pasta, the pizza comes on a paper plate.
- Carthay Circle - my favorite! reservations recommended
- Flo's V8 Cafe - note: drinks come in disposables
- Paradise Garden Grill - menu changes often so observe from other customers which meals are in plastic. For example, as of February 3, 2018 for their Lunar New Year menu, they have a noodle soup dish (pho) that comes in a single use plastic bowl.
Snacks and Concessions:
Churros - multiple locations throughout Disneyland and DCA.
Disneyland's popular snack only comes wrapped in a small square of compostable parchment paper. Dipping sauces come in single use plastic, so try to avoid those.
Pretzel - multiple locations throughout
Just like the churro, a pretzel comes with compostable parchment paper that the cast member uses to hand it to you. Dipping sauces come in disposable plastic containers.
Soft Serve Ice Cream - Cozy Cone #2 (DCA)
Order it in a cone and it only comes with a small, recyclable paper wrapper.
Ice Cream - Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor (Disneyland)
Order in a waffle cone and it comes wrapped in paper. The waffle cup is placed in another disposable cup, so avoid that option!
Cookie - If you get a small cookie and not the giant chocolate dipped mickey shaped cookie, they will come in a parchment bag. Larger items are placed in a clear plastic bag.
Where to Refill Water
You can refill at water fountains, and there will be one near every restroom, but to be honest the water is pretty terrible. My favorite place to refill water at Disneyland is at Plaza Inn. Sometimes there's a line to order food, but if you're just getting water you can walk in through the side door. The water comes out of the soda fountain, just look for the little water tab (it can be a bit hidden).
There is also a water refill stand at Tomorrowland, by French Market near the mint julep stand, and in the dining area of Rancho Del Zocalo. I personally think this water tastes terrible as well, so stop by Plaza Inn if you can!
The best option for refilling your water bottle is at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. They are self serve along with the soda fountain.
You can fill your water bottle up at La Brea Bakery just before entering the park. Just walk right in and fill it from the soda fountain.
I hope you find this post helpful to reduce waste at your next Disneyland visit! Leave a comment if you have any questions or comments!