Theme parks combine thrilling rides with lively shows to provide fun for the entire family. Although theme parks are great sources of entertainment, they're also a cause of concern for environmentalists — such extensive operations require huge swaths of land as well as large supplies of energy and water to exist. Theme parks have a variety of direct and indirect affects on the environment.
A theme park contributes air pollution in indirect — but very important — ways. Pollution is first caused by the massive amounts of energy needed to keep the park up and running. Fossil fuels are burned to power the rides and facilities, heat or cool buildings and light the streetlamps that line the sidewalks and pathways of the park. Even more carbon dioxide emissions are created when excess gasoline is burned in order to transport people to the park, as most theme parks are far from populated areas and can only be reached by car.
An attraction that draws in large crowds of people for extended periods of time — especially one that has many concession stands — is bound to create and collect a lot of trash. Some of the trash can be recycled, but those materials will still need to be sorted and taken to a recycling facility, increasing the consumption of fossil fuels. Trash that cannot be recycled typically ends up in a landfill, where it contributes to global warming by emitting methane, a greenhouse gas, as it decays. Another form of waste that increases dramatically when you bring crowds of people into a contained area is human waste; to address this properly, a park must build its own sewage treatment facility, which requires energy and water to operate, or be connected to the sewage system of a nearby community — a system that can easily be overwhelmed by the park's needs.
Excess Water Usage
Water usage varies from theme park to theme park, but water rides are popular attractions at many and those rides require significant amounts of water to make them operational. A lot of the water used for rides is recycled, but the park still requires a massive quantity of water when the rides are first installed. The basic upkeep of the park's attractions can also put a strain on local water supplies — cleaning acres of walkways, buildings and equipment and caring for acres of landscaping both require substantial amounts of water.
Clearing of Natural Habitats
Depending on the park's location, the impact on the environment can be quite drastic. Most theme parks aren't built in urban areas where they are replacing existing buildings or asphalt lots. Theme parks are typically built in rural areas largely untouched by man and those areas need to be cleared in order for construction to begin. This involves the clearing of trees, leveling of the land and overall transformation of the property. This transformation often leaves various species of birds and animals without a natural habitat in which to make their home.
Kristopher Fiecke has been a professional writer and editor since 1998. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Covering a wide range of topics, his expertise lies in sports, entertainment and household management. His work has been published online for CBS Sports, as well as the personal websites of NFL players.