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Ready or not, how parks can take action on sustainability now

WhiteWater’s Una de Boer provides some top tips and actionable insights for attractions operators

Opinion
water droplet with WhiteWater ride reflected inside

Flood of the century, storm of the century, heatwave of the century—these seem to be recurring headlines every year. If your water park or theme park has been thinking about sustainability but you’re not quite sure where to get started, we suggest, just get started!  

Here are some pointers on how you can start, and what you should look at in the long run.

Don’t wait – public perception is changing fast and so is legislation

As public perception on sustainability continues to evolve, more and more municipalities implement measures to protect the environment, such as bylaws to eliminate single-use plastic.   Similarly, increasing regulation in many parts of the world is requiring LEED certification for new construction and renovation projects.

WhiteWater Sustainability Team visiting Swim Drink Fish
WhiteWater team partnering with Swim Drink Fish for World Water Day

These changes respond not just to the science but to public concerns. And it is not just your guests who care but your valuable workforce, especially the younger generations who worry about the environment and seek employers who share this purpose.  

In other words, the tide is turning in both legislation and public opinion. There is an opportunity for your park to be a leader and embrace the inevitable change; it makes both moral and business sense. To misquote Gandhi, we can ‘be the change we want to see’.

Yes, get started, but with a plan

The topic of sustainability in theme parks and water parks might seem daunting, but it becomes more manageable when you put a plan in place. We at WhiteWater would like to share how we got started, and what we’ve learned so far on our journey.

WhiteWater began by assessing where we were in terms of waste, carbon footprint, and ways of doing things. Through this audit, we determined our baseline against which we’ll measure progress. It also showed where we needed to focus our efforts, and where we could make the biggest difference.

WhiteWater Sustainability Scorecard

From there, we set measurable long-term and short-term goals and formed sustainability teams looking at different areas of the business—internally, externally, and up and down the value chain.

Since we embarked on this journey over 18 months ago, we have had to make some adjustments, and you probably will too, when you start yours. We have adapted how to best approach the challenges. We have changed the composition of the teams and improved clarity on what is expected of them. Plus, we have dedicated more resources to achieve the goals we have set.

We have learned to identify and deliver quick wins and celebrate success. Each small step is a move in the right direction, keeping people motivated to stay the course on the most difficult aspects.

Here are a couple of other tips:

  1. Consider your business context: you have an influence in how you buy and what you sell. Where in your value chain can you influence sustainable change?
  2. Don’t wait to get started on the hardest ‘big rocks’. They will take the longest to fix and need immediate attention, even if the goal is a decade off.
  3. Communicate transparently: if things don’t go as quickly as planned, it’s okay, be transparent about your efforts. By communicating honestly about both successes and stumbles, you will keep your community on your side.

Use your buying power to save money—and the environment

As mentioned, seeing the bigger picture helps make more environmental decisions, and that includes investments that your business needs.  When you purchase equipment such as a new ride, do you base your decision on the ticket price? Or do you consider its cost over the entire lifetime?

Make sure you do the calculation. For example, variable frequency drives on a water slide do cost more but typically pay back within 2 or 3 years, giving you decades of cheaper operation.

whitewater water slide

Higher quality equipment also tends to use less energy, and less water if you are a water park. This is not only more sustainable; your electricity and water bills will be lower during your day-to-day operations of the slide. You will also save on chemicals treating the water. Plus, the attention the best suppliers put into design and engineering generally means fewer moving parts and easy access for maintenance. 

Why does that matter? Because with ease of maintenance, you will save downtime as well as replacement costs for parts, or even full rides. Our goals are to keep attractions running safely and reliably for as long as possible. Because that offers the best return and is the most sustainable option. 

Simple steps to take for sustainability in park operations

Your operations will probably have areas you can find quick sustainability wins to get the ball rolling in your park. If you haven’t already, here are some actions you can take that are fairly simple and straightforward:

Waste management

  • Implement a program to correctly sort the recyclables and compost on-site
  • Avoid single-use plastics such as straws, cutleries, cups, bags, and bottles
  • Choose suppliers that use less packaging
  • Switch to digital tickets, season passes, receipts, park maps, and waivers instead of paper

Water and energy conservation

  • Install low-flow washroom fixtures to reduce water usage
  • Capture rain or greywater for irrigation or flushing
  • Use LED lighting to lower energy consumption
  • Install VFDs on all your slides and wave catcher runout lanes

Make the most of nature’s gifts

  • Add shade and plants strategically to reduce water evaporation on hot days and the need for air conditioning
  • Utilize native plants to support local biodiversity and reduce irrigation needs

Water park & theme park sustainability: it’s not too late to make a difference

The climate crisis is changing our world. We have a choice on how we respond.

Our sustainability scorecard guides WhiteWater to look inside and outside our business to change what we can influence.  We want to help share best practices and that includes getting involved with greenloop. Together with Forrec, we are presenting a session during the upcoming virtual conference entitled “Sustainable attraction development – how to plan to build better.”

speakers at greenloop 22 sustainability in visitor attractions conference april 19 to 20

Please tune in to this and the other sessions on 19 & 20 April to be inspired by operators and suppliers of our industry all working together to change the world around us for the better.

To learn more about WhiteWater’s ongoing journey toward sustainability, visit www.whitewaterwest.com/sustainability

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Una de Boer WhiteWater

Una de Boer

Una joined the WhiteWater family in 2015, already an international business to business marketing expert having enjoyed a broad 20-year career ranging across several market sectors from professional services to energy management SaaS. Since 2005 Una’s roles have involved building marketing teams to help organizations put customer understanding at their center and build meaningful brands which connect with employees and customers alike. As a literature graduate and MBA Una believes that Marketing merges storytelling, psychology, data analysis and common commercial sense to simplify ‘why?’ for customers. A member of WhiteWater’s executive leadership team, Una leads the marketing for WhiteWater and all its brands; making sure each international market and business area has a voice which leads the industry. She also heads WhiteWater’s Sustainability initiatives.

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