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Future of theme parks from a sustainability stance.

Something thats just been buzzing round my mind for a while - Is how Theme-parks will adapt to the future like everything else in these times of increased ecological awareness.





I know the future of ‘roller coasters and theme parks has been discussed before, but what are your thoughts or predictions on how theme parks will develop in the shadow of the growing climate crisis/ need for sustainability etc or what theme parks roles will be?

What might be the repercussions of future laws, policies or taxes? i.e. if plastic was outlawed?

Will theme parks be frowned upon as energy wasting consumerist products? or will they be an important distraction - and meet a social function?


how will the way theme parks manage themselves and change?


Here are some of my thoughts:-



How will people view wooden coasters - wasteful use of wood/deforestation, or actually viewed more positively- as in the use of sustainable natural material? I suspect steel coasters and their production is actually much more impactful r.e. energy use/CO2 emissions.

A move away from polystyrene, fibre-glass and ‘plasticky’ use of theming to more ‘authentic’ processes and materials - i.e. buildings and sculptures made from wood and timber and glass

as theme parks relies on fast food and catering - hence createing a lot of waste - a move to dump plastic, which has already marginally started.

Theme parks trying to generate some of their own power via Solar panels/ wind turbines etc

Theme parks could serve as another function if air-travel and fossil fuel transport and touristic overdevelopment becomes frowned upon and/or prices go up and travel becomes more expensive - domestic tourism could rise, and the need and demand for better quality domestic diversions might see domestic theme park resorts meet an important social function.

in our lifetime Im sure the use of fireworks will be curtailed - unless technology can create noiseless/ smokeless fireworks - can you image the impact on Disneys entertainment department if fireworks are ever outlawed? - you may say that will never happen, but considering animals in circuses have just been banned - something people 100 years ago probably didn't think would happen!

also the use of balloons - and then the sale of plastic trinkets.


Im not an expert in anything, so its just something interesting to ruminate on!
 

cocoa

New Member
as far as industries go, I can't imagine theme parks are high up on the list of unethical/un-ecological entities. Probably the worst thing they do is energy consumption if its not sustainable in that area, and then maybe use of concrete. probably more unethically sourced animal industry things too. plastic waste sucks but I don't think its different in theme parks than most other parts of the country.

by the time we're cutting down things so much that theme parks are in trouble, we're already deep into the climate crisis and they're probably already being used to shelter the hundreds of millions of climate change refugees 🤷‍♀️
 

Kw6sTheater

Member
Theme parks trying to generate some of their own power via Solar panels/ wind turbines etc
Actually, solar power has already been happening at a few Six Flags parks (Six Flags Great Adventure & Six Flags Discovery Kingdom).
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emoo

Member
Disney also has solar panels, Mickey shaped of course



A common trend is to focus on straws and little else, so parks could easily do that. Others wont bat an eye at using polystyrene boxes for burgers but other viable options are out there.

I expect many parents would be glad not to have pressure to pay for balloons and carrying it around more so than the other benefits.

What I would like to see is more dedicated transport options that are not just busses, for environmental, practical and efficiency reasons. Hello Skyliner, more things like you please.

If a park is struggling then they would likely fall back to the basics, which could either get them through a rough patch for help accelerate the decline/keep them crap forever. I'd like to think that where guest experience is focused on more than penny pinching, a business would have a better chance but reality isn't always sensible.
 

rob666

Member
There is a green, human powered coaster in Wales somewhere I think...Green Dragon.
People walk up steps to a booth, the booth is a counterbalance to the coaster train, the booth falls as the train gets pulled up the hill.
The riders then exit the booth and walk another set of steps to the train.
90% efficiency with 10 riders.
Over 100%, feeding power back to the grid, with a full train.

In all honesty, theme parks are an environmental disaster.
All that energy tied up in construction, concrete and steel, completely needless consumption of energy in operation, and all that fossil fuel tied up in mass commuting too and from the parks.
Add in the many flights of the cred collectors, and you are heading towards one of the least environmentally friendly hobbies of them all.
 

Hyde

I Lied About My Age!
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Yay! The moment my professional work (Sustainability and Electric Vehicles) intersects with my other passions!

In all honesty, theme parks are an environmental disaster.
All that energy tied up in construction, concrete and steel, completely needless consumption of energy in operation, and all that fossil fuel tied up in mass commuting too and from the parks.
Add in the many flights of the cred collectors, and you are heading towards one of the least environmentally friendly hobbies of them all.
I'd actually argue the opposite - amusement parks have a few things going for them on the environmental and sustainability front.

Energy
First, much of their operations are powered by electricity (versus gasoline, diesel, or other fossil fuels). Roller coaster lift motors, air conditioning, lighting all pull from electricity. While cooking is still typically using natural gas for heating, electrical and inductive cooking are making great in-roads as options for commercial cooking. This is advantageous as it makes it much easier to deploy renewable energy and reduce each park's respective carbon footprint. To that end, amusement parks have MASSIVE acreage, making deployment of solar (and even wind if the profile is right) extremely easy. Especially if you take advantage of that massive plot of land that typically sits towards the front of the park...


(This is a solar array at the Cincinnati Zoo, and one of the earliest projects I got to work on after graduate school - offsets 30% of the park's energy use)

To think more broadly as well about amusement parks as a tourist destination - visitors could be taking cruises, visiting indoor spaces (museums, concerts, etc.), or planning other visits that carry a higher energy usage. When visiting an amusement park, the typical visitor has a relatively low energy burden throughout the day, especially as there's no need for air conditioning/heating (typically the largest amount of energy used in the commercial space to keep visitors/shoppers comfortable).

The potential for on-site renewable energy generation cannot be stressed enough. This would not only help shed electrical load during peak demand mid-day (amusement park operations actually pair very well with solar output in that way), but would also provide greater energy resiliency in the event of brown outs/black outs that can grind operation to a complete halt. As the economics of solar are now eclipsing that of coal and natural gas, it wouldn't surprise me to see more utilities partnering with their respective amusement parks for building solar arrays as part of future deployment.

Transportation
As I mentioned before, roller coasters (counting as travel) are already 100% electric. And while magnetic launches and other advances in propulsion over the years certainly create massive spikes on the electrical grid; the overall environmental emissions footprint is certainly much less than a cruise ship or other "traveling" attractions (such as just doing a road trip). This all being said, transportation to amusement parks remains the greatest source of emissions, especially for many amusement/theme parks that require driving a vehicle for access, far away from easy public transit options. A number of amusement parks have been making some moves around offering EV charging for visiting park guests, but this remains a massively undertapped opportunity.

Single-Use Plastics/Food Waste
This area is most ripe for disruption from how business is currently operated - lots of plastic cups, cutlery, bottles, plates, and loads of food waste throughout the process. Ultimately eliminating/minimizing single-use plastics is a money saver for food operations for having to provide fewer materials, and puts a reduced load on trash collection/processing for the park. Sysco Foods, Coca Cola, and a number of other large players in the food-provider industry have been making pledges on cutting down offerings of non-recyclable/single-use options, which could ultimately put a crunch on amusement parks they are fulfilling supplies for. It would be phenomenal to see parks build out viable recycling programs and venture more through stages of compost operations (such as diverting food scrapes from in kitchen food prep to cattle feed in local farms - a very common practice nowadays); but plastic waste is very simple enough to focus on first.

On the whole everything I have described would lead to a more reliable operation of parks and rides, cheaper operation due to reduced supply need, all while reducing environmental and emission footprint. And it's a certain double-edge sword - amusement and theme parks rely on weather 100%, and will be most susceptible to extreme heat, rampant weather, hurricanes, or flooding (depending on your locale). One day lost in operation, especially for seasonal parks, equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

[Edit] I almost forgot about building material!

For Steel: The Good News - steel is highly recyclable, and nearly all retired steel coasters are scrapped as new, recycled steel. What's better? New steel recycling plants are currently opening that are powered by 100% renewable energy. And unless your Incredible Hulk or an Arrow multi-looper, steel structures have extremely long shelf life, and can stand for decades. The Bad News - roller coasters are often made of virgin steel, which is very energy and fossil fuel intensive.

For Wood: The Good News - Nearly all new-build American coasters (and possibly other nationalities? Unaware of material flow for international builds) use Minnesota-sourced cedar which is one of the highest certified forestry wood sources. Cedar is great for being rot resistant and having a long shelf life (aka doesn't need to be painted for preservation). The (Kinda) Bad News - This type of wood is often pressure treated, which is very common practice, but means wood is sent to landfill after use due to chemicals used in the process of pressure treating. Carbon footprint is still minimal, especially vs. a young steel coaster, but worth a flag.
 

Matt N

Well-Known Member
With regards to the comment about wooden coasters, don't the forests where the wood comes from often have trees replanted periodically? Or did I imagine that?
 

Hyde

I Lied About My Age!
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With regards to the comment about wooden coasters, don't the forests where the wood comes from often have trees replanted periodically? Or did I imagine that?
For the most part, yes. The forestry industry has been great about standardizing around the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which lays out guidelines for how to plan and harvest trees in a way that minimizes depletion - essentially harvesting trees in a cycle that allows for continual replacement. The caveat to this is the emerging Chinese wooden coaster market, which has been off the races of late - I do not know if China follows same timber sourcing standards.

To that end, also spotted this article in the news rundown today, which totally links in: https://www.fastcompany.com/9045632...illions-of-tons-of-carbon-from-the-atmosphere
 

Matt N

Well-Known Member
For the most part, yes. The forestry industry has been great about standardizing around the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which lays out guidelines for how to plan and harvest trees in a way that minimizes depletion - essentially harvesting trees in a cycle that allows for continual replacement. The caveat to this is the emerging Chinese wooden coaster market, which has been off the races of late - I do not know if China follows same timber sourcing standards.

To that end, also spotted this article in the news rundown today, which totally links in: https://www.fastcompany.com/9045632...illions-of-tons-of-carbon-from-the-atmosphere
Ooh, that's very good! I think theme parks are actually very good environmentally on the whole, although they could maybe cut down on single-use plastics in places!
 

JammyH

Member
It's something small, but I've heard that Europa Park are currently in the process of converting their railway line which runs around the park from steam-powered trains into electrically powered trains, to reduce overall emissions.
 

cocoa

New Member
I have mixed feelings on sustainable foresting stuff. On the one hand, they're a good way to fix carbon and its better than clear-cutting and leaving barren fields, and probably (surely) better than concrete and steel production. On the other hand, there's immeasurable value in mature and old-growth forests- from being vastly better carbon sinks to being a real thriving and dynamic ecosystem across the entire animal and plant kingdom. You fix orders of magnitude more carbon from a thriving forest than from continual clear cutting of younger trees. Vast monoculture plantations which are cleared every decade are no replacement for real forests, of which there are only tiny fractions remaining in the world, and shrinking every day... the sustainable forestry is alright but built on the backs of a logging industry which used its economic pull to almost entirely clear americas mature forests psuedo-legally, knowing full well it was unsustainable to do so in the long run and the environmental devastation it would cause. yeah i'm a sappy eco whatever but if this isn't the thread for it then 🤷‍♀️
 

emoo

Member
I feel much better now @Hyde has un-besmirched my passion from the reality bomb of @rob666 .

Parks can do great things, we need more to think that way. How Disney revamped the Tomorrow land speed way while keeping the motor engines when right next to Tron is questionable.
 

Hyde

I Lied About My Age!
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I have mixed feelings on sustainable foresting stuff. On the one hand, they're a good way to fix carbon and its better than clear-cutting and leaving barren fields, and probably (surely) better than concrete and steel production. On the other hand, there's immeasurable value in mature and old-growth forests- from being vastly better carbon sinks to being a real thriving and dynamic ecosystem across the entire animal and plant kingdom. You fix orders of magnitude more carbon from a thriving forest than from continual clear cutting of younger trees. Vast monoculture plantations which are cleared every decade are no replacement for real forests, of which there are only tiny fractions remaining in the world, and shrinking every day... the sustainable forestry is alright but built on the backs of a logging industry which used its economic pull to almost entirely clear americas mature forests psuedo-legally, knowing full well it was unsustainable to do so in the long run and the environmental devastation it would cause. yeah i'm a sappy eco whatever but if this isn't the thread for it then 🤷‍♀️
All true. It's also a balance, as we know due to general population growth, we will need new building material. From that angle, wood can be leveraged as a carbon sink to a certain extent. That Fast Company article I posted has a major caveat however - the wood must also be repurposed/recycled at end of life. Can guarantee at this point that virtually never happens.
I feel much better now @Hyde has un-besmirched my passion from the reality bomb of @rob666 .
Haha, I pose it rather as "if you're not at an amusement park, what else would you be doing for entertainment?" I still posit that on the whole, a visit to an amusement park for the day is a lower carbon footprint vs. visiting an indoor location or other entertainment (assuming you're not driving an enormous length). Ironically however, haven't really found a good way to roughly calculate energy used throughout the day. I've even gone as far as to ask Irvine Ondrey, RMC, and GCI if they know a rough estimation for amount of energy to lift a train up a lift hill - and I haven't really found someone confident to share an equation. (To that end, anyone willing to take a crack at calculating energy draw to lift a train? lol)

Overall it can't be emphasized enough how shifting climate will impact daily park operation. Here in Ohio, our typical summer will be on par with a 2003 North Carolina by 2040 as climate continues to warm and the midwest grows moderate in temperature. Anyone who has braved the summer blaze of Carowinds can appreciate how undesirable that will be for visiting Kings Island or Cedar Point (and extrapolate that to warmer parks that will be ever-more cognizant of heat fatigue in visitors). Whether you like it or not, our hobby is extremely weather dependent, and will track 1:1 with climate change.
 

Pokemaniac

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(To that end, anyone willing to take a crack at calculating energy draw to lift a train? lol)
If you are fine with extremely basic, back-of-the-envelope level of calculations, here goes:

Weight of train = ca. 10,000 kg
Earth gravity = ca. 10 m/s2

Force required to lift train = Weight*gravity = 100,000 kgm/s2 = 100 kN

Energy required to lift train = Force * distance = 100 kNm/m = 100 kJ/m

So a 30 m tall coaster with a ten-ton train would require around 3000 kJ to lift haul the train up. With a dispatch every two minutes over an eight-hour day, that's 240 trips up the lift hill - say 250 to allow for testing and so forth. That adds up to 750 MJ of required energy, which is equivalent to around 210 kilowatt-hours, per day.

Of course, this is an awfully rough estimate, likely to be off by an order of magnitude if you take motor efficiency, friction, etc. into account and add all the other energy requirements that go into a coaster. More useful numbers might be obtained if you can find the power of the lift hill motors, and calculate its operating hours. I think the energy requirements for hydraulics, station gates, sensors, lighting and stuff is also just so high that it shouldn't be neglected in the calculations either. Let's assume that in the worst case scenario, we're off by an order of magnitude, and the coaster requires 2000 kWh per day.

But to give a small comparison, consider a swimming pool. According to the first source I found by Googling, a home-sized swimming pool can use 15,000 kWh per year. That's a little over 40 kWh per day, for a 50,000 liter pool (5 by 5 meters, two meters deep), in sunny Australia. A large pool in a water park would easily consume a hundred times that, which would make it twice as energy-intensive as our rather large roller coaster.

Or take the energy required to cool a large building in a hot climate. This research paper on malls in Hong Kong suggest they use around 430 kWh annually - per square meter of floor space. Say a mall is 10,000 square meters and open 365 days a year, that's 11,780 kWh per day. Enough to run three of our worst-case coasters, or closer to thirty if the original estimate is in the ballpark.

Or take a large sports stadium, which pulls around a megawatt of power for lighting alone. Say the lights are on for four hours every week, 50 weeks per year. That's 200,000 kWh in total per year, enough to run several coasters all season.

So overall, I don't see coasters as being particularly energy-intensive. At a guess, I'd say large water rides draw way more power from the grid. A rapids ride is basically a hydroelectric power plant running in reverse. Keeping an open-air pool heated outside the tropics would also require an awful lot of power.

Overall, though, I don't see amusement parks as being that heavy on the energy use. Compared to industrial plants, they're a drop in the ocean. A very large launch coaster like TTD or Kingda Ka might have sizable energy footprints, but any facility that smelts metal would easily dwarf its energy use. A single aluminium plant in Norway consumes around 6.5 TWh of electricity per year, that's 17.8 million kWh per day. Nothing you could build at an amusement park would even remotely approach that level of energy draw.

EDIT: I found an old forum page with a reasonable-looking estimate for energy costs for Top Thrill Dragster. It ends up at around 13,500 kWh per day. It's a lot, more than the example with the mall in Hong Kong, but still less than a thousandth of what the aluminium plant uses. Incidentally, the energy required per launch (12.4 kWh) is around the same as it takes the plant to smelt 1 kg of aluminium.
 
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