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Legoland or Bust(ed): A Green Road Trip to the Theme Park

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With Halloween at the end of the month, theme parks are ramping up their scary offerings. Legoland outside San Diego is no exception with its month-long Brick or Treat events. Virtuous Traveler Leslie Garrett and family set out for the park with the challenge of creating a green family road trip to a theme park based on a plastic toy.

When I refused to buy my son a toy gun, he fashioned one out of Lego. When my daughter’s “farm” needed toy sheep, she created them out of Lego. Lego is as much a childhood staple around our house as swing sets and wooden trains. And, in a sea of plastic toys made of the dreaded and toxic PVC, Lego has always been a standout as PVC-free. I’ve also been a longtime fan of its longevity (have YOU ever seen a broken piece of Lego?) and play value (see aforementioned sheep and…ahem…guns).

So when my kids started lobbying for a trip to Legoland…just a few hours south of the environmental conference I was attending, I did some digging.I learned that Lego takes its eco-goals seriously. For a start, the theme park composts all organic matter, sell snacks in compostable packaging, and cleans the on-site Lego structures with environmentally friendly walnut shells. It has firm commitments to recycling, is dedicated to minimizing its water use, and partners with local charities.

What’s more, the park was designed to mirror the Lego company’s mission of imaginative, child-centered fun. “Wherever you go,” explained Legoland spokesperson Beth Downing Chee, “there’s something for the kids to do. Push, pull, pedal… It’s about having fun together.”

Sounded good even to a theme-park crank like me. And so I set myself a challenge: Fashion a green family road trip to a theme park based on a plastic toy. To get it started, I set up a few rules:

Rules of the Green Family Road Trip

  1. No fast food. No chain restaurants. Seek out local, organic, sustainable cuisine whenever possible. Buy snacks that are not over-packaged (or packaged at all. Think fruit, which is easy in California!).
  2. Drive the speed limit and practice the rules of fuel-efficient driving. The vehicle we had requested (which got great mileage) was unavailable so we were stuck with a minivan. But it’s certainly possible to maximize fuel economy by using cruise control, accelerating slowly and sticking to the speed limit. If you’re driving your own vehicle, ensure that oil is clean, filters are clean and tires are inflated to correct levels – all of which has a significant impact on fuel economy.
  3. Seek out green accommodations. Look for LEED certification or hotels that promote their sustainability initiatives – offering local, organic food in its restaurant, LED lighting, recycled paper products, renewable energy… Sometimes the greenest accommodation is the one closest to the attractions, letting you walk instead of drive.
  4. Focus on attractions that immerse kids in the natural world…and encourage stewardship.