Elizabeth Royte of OnEarth Magazine recently took a trip to Walt Disney World’s Epcot, where Waste Management launched an exhibit called “Don’t Waste It,” earlier this year. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to virtually experience the operations of a single-stream recycling line, feed the boiler at a waste-to-energy facility and run the bulldozer at a landfill in a hands-on, interactive exhibit.
However, Royte writes that the idea of waste prevention seems antipodal to the company’s goals and that the company doesn’t so much inform visitors as it does “leave them feeling that everything is A-Ok, trashwise.”
Royte points out that in the upbeat “Don’t Waste It” world, there are no problems with landfill gases and liners that leak, or sick neighbors affected by toxic incinerator ash, mercury-contamination, or dioxin-laced soil. She says the message from Waste Management, and by association from Disney, is that consumers don’t need to radically change their lifestyles or consumption habits.
Royte acknowledges that reminding consumers to leave a lighter carbon footprint may be tricky for Disney, especially when it profits from selling souvenirs. Still, Royte says it is a pity that Disney World and its sister parks, which are at the center of consumer culture, don’t take the chance to become a “shining example of how we might still have our cake and eat it too.”
Epcot is becoming a destination for companies that want to market their green initiatives. Last January, GM launched experiential campaigns to put potential buyers behind the wheels of their hybrid vehicles by raising the curtain on a new exhibit at Disney’s Epcot center.