The Magic of Sustainability at Disney

The Walt Disney Company has and always will be identified with the cute black eared mouse named aptly named Mickey Mouse. But what if Disney could have dual identifiers? One would be the adorable fun loving Mickey Mouse while the other would be sustainability. I know that may throw some of you readers for a loop, but anythings is possible!

The Disney Company over the last  three years has maneuvered itself into a spot where it can be identified as a sustainable tourism leader. Sustainable tourism is defined as, making a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate future employment for local people.  The Disney Company is working to make strides in climate and energy, ecosystem protection, water conservation as well as waste management. Many of the items listed here are not noticeable to the human eye when you step into a Disney park or a Disney resort, but are being completed in the back lot of the locations by what Disney calls imagineers. Imagineers stands for - combining imagination with engineering.

Thanks to imagineers Disney has paved its way to a 31 percent reduction in emissions from 2012 levels. The companies over arching goal is to reduce net emissions by 50 percent by the year 2020, and is currently on track to meet that target. Now let us dive into some of the items that are helping Disney reach its goal.


Climate & Energy

Disneyland park and resorts have been around since 1955 and have continued to morph throughout the decades. Each year the park continues to reach record breaking attendance with an average of 44,000 people entering its gates everyday. Many may be shocked that the park can hold so many people at one time, but thanks to its 85-acres that size crowd is manageable. With that acreage there are a lot of items that need maintaining that consume energy.

Thanks to the imagineers that were previously mentioned maintaining and lowering energy usage becomes a lot easier. Forward thinking on behalf of staff as well as updated technology is keeping Disney at the fore front of sustainability.

Many attractions within the park are ran on cleaner gas resources or reused resources. Such attractions as the Disneyland Railroad steam trains as well as the Mark Twain Riverboat use bio-diesel. That diesel comes from used cooking oil from Resorts that then fuel their steam boilers, which eliminates an average of 150,000 gallons of petroleum diesel per year. Other attractions like lot trams, sailing ships, Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, Jungle Cruise boats and Main Street USA vehicles run on Cleaner-burning compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG is a readily available alternative to gasoline that's made by compressing natural gas to less than 1% of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure.

On top of cleaner fuels and reused resources Disney also has attractions and rides that create NO EMISSIONS at all. Such rides as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage submarines as well as the Disneyland Monorail. Thanks to technology and innovation subs can use magnetic coils to propel and the monorail runs completely on electricity. These rides eliminate the use of on average hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel each year.

Water Conservation

Here in California we know all too well about water conservation and recycling after going on year 4 of our historic drought. But Disney goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to conserving. Nearly all the water used at the Disneyland Resort is recycled! Disney has partnered with the Orange County Water District  to use their already made one of a kind groundwater replenishment system. With the system already created engineers just needed to create the infrastructure to divert the waste water to the system. In all the project took a period of a few years to build. Thanks to Disney sharing we are actually able to get a quick description of how it all works "Water is released into Orange County‚Äôs groundwater aquifer then clean water is drawn from the aquifer by local water agencies and distributed to end-users such as homes and businesses."

It is great to see this type of partnership taking place to make a difference. I bet you wouldn't have know this fun fact about Disney's water if it weren't for this blog posting.

Waste Management

I am sure when you think of waste management you think of disposal bins that are separated into trash, recycle and compost. Well let me tell you a little something... there is much more to the process than you would imagine. Management of waste consists of generation, prevention, characterization, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and residual disposition of solid wastes. After reading that explanation I am sure your saying to yourself...your right I had no idea that all of those items are covered under one umbrella. Disney wants to stress the importance of recycling and waste management that they partnered with Waste Management to put in an interactive exhibit named "Don't Waste It" in INNOVENTIONS  at Epcot. At this exhibit you learn of the latest in waste disposal as well as green approached to garbage handling.

Resorts at Disneyland have created a partnership with the Clean the World Foundation, Inc. for recycling of bathroom amenities. So far Resorts have donated more than 1,000 pounds of partially used guest room soaps and bottled amenities each month. And YES they do clean and sanitize the items before they are reused and re-purposed.  The recycled bath items are used to make hygiene items for others around the world that are in dyer need of such items.

Disney also recycles its mattresses and box springs from Resorts. These items are donated to a local LA non-profit for re-manufacturing. There are many in the community who cannot afford to purchase these items so they go to well deserving homes.

Let us also mention that Disney even gives back to pets. Staff members recycle food scraps from 60 restaurants that is converted into animal feed and can and bottle recycling goes to collect funds for Canine Companions for Independence. Disney makes sure to cover all of its bases when it comes to recycling and re-purposing.

Out of the Park

Now that I have covered what is done within Disney Parks and Resorts let us talk about the other projects they have going on elsewhere on other campuses. Many forget that there are other locations that create the Disney magic. One such one would be the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. At this location they have been playing with energy efficiency projects that involve fuel cells. They have installed a 1 megawatt fuel cell that will supplement electricity for the entire campus.

International Efforts

I am sure many have seen the Shanghai Disney Resort that debuted in early June. With this new venture Disney adopted a number of new technologies and design elements to enable reduction of its environmental impact, including a leading new technology to supply the resort with heating, cooling and compressed air, which is anticipated to improve the estimated energy efficiency for resort operation by 300 percent and reduce greenhouse emissions generated from resort operations by 60 percent.

So, now that I have covered all of the sustainability efforts I hope that I persuaded you to associate sustainability with the name Disney and not just the cute mouse. If you happen to have ventured into the world of Disney recently and noticed some of these efforts, let us know!