“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.” Walt Disney.
Environmental conservation has always been an important pillar of the Walt Disney Company and it continues to be so today.
There are about 40 square miles at Walt Disney World Resort and nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve represents the company’s lasting commitment to responsible land development. In the 1990’s, Disney purchased 8,500 acres in Osceola County and developed a partnership of government, non-profits and business entities and invested $45 million for land restoration. The preserve has now grown to over 12,000 acres.
In 2013, Walt Disney World Resort received the Sustainable Florida Best Practice Award in the large business category for its “Make the Switch” electricity conservation program. This program included installing energy-saving fixtures and systems throughout all of Walt Disney World, LED fixtures were installed in merchandise locations, attractions and more to conserve energy. Even the focal point of Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Castle was equipped with more than 170,000 LED white lights that use the energy equivalent of just four coffee pots.
Disney has made a commitment to recycling in various areas. This includes water conservation and using less water whenever possible and maximizing the use of reclaimed water. About 30 percent of the resort’s overall needs and 80 percent of its irrigation requirements are met with reclaimed water.
Disney Harvest began in 1991 and is still going strong. The program reduces food waste by gathering excess prepared food from Walt Disney World Resort kitchens and distributing it through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. More than 1,000 local children are fed weekly through this program.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles, which live there until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats. The Seas participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as other zoological facilities and conservation groups, in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. Since 1986, Disney’s animal care teams have nursed more than 320 endangered sea turtles back to health and returned them to their home in the sea.
Animal Programs teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot are devoted to the care of more than 1,500 mammals, birds and reptiles, and more than 5,000 fish, including a number of endangered and threatened species. Both facilities are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is involved in many “Species Survival Plans”, cooperative breeding and management groups for critical species. The program has successfully reproduced many endangered animals including African elephants, black and white rhinos, okapi, gorillas and many rare birds.
In fact, a rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that was reintroduced to native habitat in Uganda in 2006 has since given birth to two offspring. This new rhino family is helping to re-establish a white rhino population that has been extinct in Uganda since 1982.
The company said it will transition to using refillable amenities in hotels and cruise ships, which will reduce plastic used in guest rooms by 80 percent. Several states across the United States, including California, are debating proposals to eliminate these tiny toiletries. Each year hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste are dumped coming directly from the tiny toiletries we covet and Disney is looking to do their part to eliminate such wasteful practices.
In July of 2018, Disney announced that it will eliminate all single-use plastic straws and stirrers company wide by mid-2019. Because Disney parks spans several continents this is a large undertaking but one that Disney is committed to. This bold move will eliminate more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers annually.
If straws are a big deal to you, we recommend purchasing a pack of silicone straws from Amazon. We found a great deal for a pack of eight that came with a carrying case and a cleaner for under $10.00. Save a turtle, skip the plastic straw.
Disney is also looking to reduce their waste emissions. In 2018, they successfully reduced net emissions by 44%. By 2020, their aim to reduce net emissions by 50%.
Walt Disney World now has a second large solar farm. The new farm is a 270-acre solar farm that is as big as two Magic Kingdom parks.
The new solar farm features more than 500,000 solar panels which move to follow the sun, and produces enough electricity to run two of Disney’s Orlando theme parks. Disney has announced that with the opening of this new facility, a quarter of Walt Disney World now runs on solar power during in sunny weather.
Disney is committed to reducing its massive footprint. 52 million people visit Walt Disney World in a year. That isn’t taking into account any other Disney park; Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disney etc. According to The Walt Disney Company, “over the last ten years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills, and is working toward the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste.” Could you imagine a Zero Waste Disney? Hard to imagine but what a wonderful model for other companies if they can do it.
In addition to recycling, some Disney locations like Tri Circle D Ranch a working ranch at Walt Disney World and Circle D Corral in Disneyland compost to reduce waste. According to Disney, Circle D Corral “composts all animal waste, hand towels, laundry lint and coffee grounds from Disneyland Resort restaurants.” It’s also received a gold-level Zero Waste certification by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. That means 99 percent of Circle D Corral’s waste is recycled or composted.
The parks also plan to reduce the number of plastic bags in park stores and are currently selling reusable backs on Disney Cruise Line and at all Disney parks for a couple of bucks. The company plans to take a closer look at reusable in-room amenities, and get rid of polystyrene cups at all parks and resorts.
“Eliminating plastic straws and other plastic items are meaningful steps in our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship,” Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products said in a statement.
Disneyland Resort was recently honored with a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s highest environmental honor, for waste-reduction efforts. Over the last 10 years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste from their parks that have been diverted from landfills, and is working toward the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste throughout all of their parks.
The Disney Cruise Line is also doing their part. All ships have dedicated Environmental Officers who monitor the ship’s water quality and supply, oversee shipboard recycling and sanitation initiatives and train other officers and crew members on environmental safety. Disney Cruise Line programs have so far eliminated more than ten thousand tons of metal, glass, plastic and paper from traditional waste streams through recycling, and removed forty thousand pounds of trash and debris from beaches and waterways.
At Disneyland Paris, a food waste collection program has been implemented in the resort’s restaurants and employee cafeterias. The waste collected is treated through biomethanization for energy recovery and use in organic soil.
Disneyland Paris has also taken the step to eliminate and ban plastic straws and will now offer only a biodegradable paper version at guests’ request. This move came just a few days prior to 2019 Earth Day and follows a vote from European parliament last month to eliminate plastic straws and cutlery by 2021.
“The protection of our environment is not only deeply rooted in our brand DNA, but it is also a lasting commitment of our company as we aim to reduce our environmental impact – a critical part of our strategic vision for the years to come,” Disneyland Paris president Natacha Rafalski said in a statement.
Disney is one of the most recognizable names in the world. By taking on such advanced environmental challenges and setting the bar so high, they are setting a standard for other businesses and also individuals to follow. Disney is doing their part and challenging others to do the same. This was important to Walt Disney and we are thrilled to see his legacy live on in the company he poured his heart, soul and dreams into.
Thank you for stopping by and for the love of the mouse, never forget, that it all started with a mouse.