Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs at Walt Disney World

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t_logo_fbRecently, a TouringPlans user asked for suggestions about where to find eco friendly or fair trade souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Although Walt Disney World does frequently issue statements about their corporate culture of environmental awareness and ethical trade practices, finding souvenirs that are clearly eco friendly or fair trade does take a bit of looking.

As I shopped, three common themes I found were:

  1. If you are trying to find non-mass produced, fair trade, and/or eco friendly souvenirs, you can almost always skip the larger shopping locations (The Emporium, Mouse Gear, World of Disney).
  2. If you want something that has a Disney character or says Walt Disney World, you will have a lot of challenges finding anything that meets these standards.
  3. When talking with different people about what they consider to be eco friendly or “ethical souvenirs”, there is a lot of variation to what people find acceptable.

With those in mind, and with the third point being a disclaimer that you should always buy (or choose not to buy) based on your own personal comfort levels, here’s some items that I found.

Animal Kingdom

It should come as no surprise that Animal Kingdom has the most items for sale that fit into this category. Throughout many of the shops at Animal Kingdom, there were a few offerings including animals fashioned from recycled cans by a master craftsman in Africa, fuzzy beaded necklaces made through the Fair Trade Federation (with a portion of the proceeds supporting a school in Kathmandu, Nepal), and bamboo and coconut shell wind chimes made in Bali.

Bamboo wind chimes found in Asia at Animal Kingdom
Bamboo wind chimes found in Asia at Animal Kingdom. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Although not marked specifically as fair trade or eco friendly, Animal Kingdom does offer a lot of beautiful carved wood artwork and painted ostrich eggs as well.

From time to time, Disney does sell bags made from recycled materials. Currently at Animal Kingdom you can find Eco-Mochila bags and bracelets, made by hand in Columbia from recycled plastic bags.

Probably the most unusual product I found were small notebooks made from elephant “leftovers”. According to the product’s tag:

Elephants eat lots of grass everyday and they poo almost as much. Since their digestive systems don’t really break down the grass all that well, their poo has plenty of fiber. Seeing as those grass is fiber and fiber is the base material used in making pulp for paper, well, we figured Elephant Poo would be a great alternative fiber source for making our paper products.

Well, I guess it goes for saying that Disney has something for everyone…

Epcot

Lots of hidden treasures can be found wandering around World Showcase in the different countries, however the item that really stood out to me isn’t found in a country. Back in the African Outpost area between China and Germany, there is a kiosk called Bead Outpost. Here you can find myriad beads made of compressed paper. According to the signs there:

Disney guide maps and other outdated Disney paper products are collected here at Walt Disney World. Hand selected, colorful papers are then recycled by being shipped to Africa where they are hand rolled into unique beads. Each bead represents the care and craftsmanship of its artist. The extremely durable, water resistant paper beads are then returned to Walt Disney World where guests can choose their own beads and string their own works of art.

Recycled paper beads
Beads made from recycled Disney paper goods are available at Epcot’s Bead Outpost. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

In Future World, many of the souvenirs are similar to what you would find elsewhere on property. One exception is found in the small  gift shop located across from Soarin’. Here you can find some gardening-themed gifts, and my favorite, the Mickey’s Mini Garden plants for sale. This is a great option for a Disney-themed souvenir with an environmental motif.

 

Mickey's Mini Garden
Mickey’s Mini Garden, available at The Land in Epcot (photo by Julia Mascardo).

 

Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios

By far, the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer the least selection for eco friendly and fair trade souvenirs. From time to time, both parks have offered t-shirst made from organic cotton, however finding these is hit or miss.

One of my favorite souvenirs from all the parks, including Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, are the pressed pennies that can be made at machines around property. Even better, at 51 cents per pressed penny, they aren’t hard on the budget either!

If you take the definition of eco friendly to include glass, which is infinitely recyclable, you can find beautiful glass souvenirs from Arribas Brothers.

But overall, if you are determined to find eco friendly and/or fair trade souvenirs, you can largely skip Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Downtown Disney

When it comes to shopping, Downtown Disney has more items for sale than any other single location on property. There are some unique offerings available here as well.

I am a fan of the products at Basin, which can be found next to World of Disney, and Basin White, which is located at the Grand Floridian. With soaps and other products made that are not tested on animals and free of paragons, mineral oil, and alcohol, I can always find a little special something when I shop. A favorite in our household is the Mickey soap slices, available in a variety of scents and colors.

Mickey soap from Basin
Mickey soap from Basin (photo by Julia Mascardo)

In Mickey’s Pantry, located in the same building as Earl of Sandwich, there are a variety of spices and teas for sale. Although none of them are expressly marked fair trade, I like buying gifts like this as they are something people can use instead of adding to household clutter. While I was window shopping, I did find a lovely eco friendly gift hidden back in a corner: candles poured in holders that are actually the cut-off ends of old wine bottles!

When it comes to souvenirs, it is up to the individual to find what fits their personal ethics and budget. However, as I frequently remind people, by far, my favorite souvenir is the one that doesn’t come from stores: the memories that you make with friends and family.

But in case you still are looking for a few more ideas, here are some products that I found in my travels.

Spices, herbs, and teas
Spices, herbs, and teas available at Mickey’s Pantry (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Painted ostrich eggs
Painted ostrich eggs (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Elephant poo paper
Paper made with “help” from elephants (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Mochila bags
Mochila bags, handmade in Columbia from plastic bags. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Wine candles
Candles poured into old wine bottles, available at Mickey’s Pantry (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited eight-year-old daughter.

8 thoughts on “Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs at Walt Disney World

  • August 26, 2014 at 11:24 am
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    I would like to see an article done on pressed pennies – where the machines can be found, what varities are available, etc. I love this souvenir idea 🙂

    • August 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm
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      Agreed. A pressed penny article of some sort would be a good read. I’ve downloaded pressed penny map before, and it just wasn’t the informative.

    • August 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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      Me too! My DD/11 LOVES pressed pennies! She’s purchased more than one of the special pressed pennies books to keep them all in one place. One of my favorite pictures from our first family trip back in ’07 was of her getting one at the Boardwalk. Sometimes we forget to pay attention to the machines until the trip is almost over, then we run back around to find them! LOL! A comprehensive (printable) list would be amazing.

    • August 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm
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      Hi Nicole, Emily, and Krissy:

      If you haven’t looked at http://www.presscoins.com — that’s the resource I use to help track down pennies for my daughter’s collection. Under the listings tab, there are several PDFs you can download that provide current checklists of the pressed coins available out there. Under the Current Designs tab, you can select a location and see what the coins look like.

      My daughter (age 4) loves collecting the pressed coins, and it is something that I can see her keeping into adulthood. She gets to have the fun making them, putting them in a book, and then showing them to friends and family (or just sitting up at night with her flashlight looking at them all until she falls asleep). If you end up with quite a few and don’t want to just keep them in books, there are some *amazing* ideas on Pinterest about things that you can do with them. (My current favorite is the idea of making jewelry with them!)

      I’ll see if I can get an article about pressed pennies out at some point, but in the meantime, that gives you some great ideas to look at. Happy collecting!

      • August 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm
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        Thanks, Julia! I had never seen that site before, but after a quick breeze through, it seems like exactly what I was looking for! I think we’ll be printing the master list to take with us in December!
        Thanks again, you all are amazing!

  • August 26, 2014 at 9:13 pm
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    I bought several bead bracelets last year from the African Outpost. I don’t remember exact price but under $10 and a perfect gift for teachers at home.

  • August 27, 2014 at 12:24 am
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    Thanks for doing this article! I like the beads. I had heard of them once but didn’t know where they were sold. Hoping Disney gets more on top of eco-friendly type stuff soon too.

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