Six Flags, the world's largest regional theme park operatorvirgvir, made two major announcements in June. First, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Second, it announced a major companywide plan to go green. The company wants to reduce electricity and fuel consumption and better handle the thousands of tons of waste generated by more than 25 million visitors each year at its 20 parks across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
While seemingly unrelated, Six Flags is pursuing a strategy being followed by more companies these days: going green to substantially reduce expenses. Yes, it is excellent public relations to let customers know about responsible corporate decisions, but the bottom line for Six Flags intends to cut operating costs and return to profitability.
Each of its 20 parks has the electricity consumption of a small city, so switching over to light-emitting diode (LED) lamps is a key tactic in the plan. One small example was the recent conversion of the Big Wheel at Six Flags’ Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. This 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel had 7,824 incandescent lamps that were replaced with LEDs. The old incandescent lamps cost 35 cents each and the new LEDs cost $4.75 each, but the former annual power cost was $10,531.
“With the new lamps, it is estimated to be only $478 a year,” said Sandra Daniels, spokesperson for Six Flags.
Besides drastically reducing electricity costs, these LEDs provide 35,000 burn-hours, seven times the life of the incandescent lamps. Imagine the labor savings by avoiding all those change-outs on something that big and dangerous to service.
Six Flags’ program includes a wide range of other green initiatives. All vehicles and trains that operate on diesel fuel will be powered by used vegetable oil generated by park kitchens. Older vehicles will be replaced by more fuel-efficient ones. The company has committed to dramatically increase paper, glass and plastics recycling and handle waste more efficiently. In collaboration with Coca-Cola, more than 3,000 recycling bins were installed in the parks. The park is also installing low-flow water fixtures and planting water-saving vegetation.
Six Flags also is investigating the possibility of adding solar power. It hopes to use the land surrounding parks for solar farms to supply clean energy and reduce the amount of electricity purchased.
If going green can help operators control costs, it will benefit everyone, not only by keeping parks open, but hopefully stabilizing consumer prices and making healthier places to have some fun.