Just How “Green” is Walt Disney World?
As we now enter the month of April and Earth Day is approaching, I wanted to share some information about Walt Disney World’s environmental practices. I actually approached a Disney cast member with my quest for answers in part because I had stumbled across a twitter user who seemed to think that WDW didn’t even recycle. I knew this was not the case and was aware that even tho there are limited recycling trash cans throughout the park, the sanitation cast members still hand-sort ALL the trash and take out recyclables. I wanted to share more about the company’s practices in an attempt to quell some of these rumors.
Even back before it was trendy to be “green” and concerned with the environment, I knew Disney was leading the way behind the scenes at the parks and resorts. I remember taking an Environmentality class back in 1995 when I worked at Magic Kingdom, and that was obviously 15 years ago. Since then, even greater strides have been made with Disney’s concern for the environment and all who inhabit it. We learned about Disney’s Friends for Change program while at the Disney Social Media Mom’s Celebration as well as the the upcoming release of Disney’s Oceans on Earth Day, both of which highlight the need for everyone to be an environmental steward. Beyond even celebrity volunteering and thought-provoking movies, efforts are made each and every day at the Walt Disney Company to ensure the right choices are being made for our planet’s future. Here are some statistics and facts:
Championing Environmental Stewardship
Since Walt Disney expressed his commitment to the environment more than 60 years ago, The Walt Disney Company has upheld a strong commitment and responsibility to conserve natural resources by seeking to establish and sustain a positive environmental legacy for Disney and for future generations. In doing so, the company is committed to minimizing its overall impact on the environment as it encourages and activates environmentally responsible behavior on the part of Cast Members, business partners, guests and consumers.
At Walt Disney World Resort, this legacy is evident everyday as nearly 62,000 Cast Members effectively manage resources through initiatives such as energy conservation and waste minimization, while focusing on conserving the natural environment through science, education and leadership efforts.
The resort also has a responsibility and obligation to ensure a safe, clean, hygienic environment for guests. With an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of Disney Cast Members and guests, the goal is to ensure that the millions of visitors enjoying Walt Disney World’s facilities are provided with a clean and safe environment. New and existing cleaning products are regularly evaluated to ensure that high standards are maintained while seeking the most environmentally sensitive products available. As a result, all cleaning supplies must meet rigorous sanitizing and safety standards.
Sustainable and Responsible Development
- Of the more than 40 square miles at Walt Disney World Resort, nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
- The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve is a lasting testament to the company’s commitment to develop responsibly. Disney purchased 8,500 acres in Osceola County to allow for build-out of the resort and created a model partnership between government, non-profit and business. Working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida water management districts and groups like Audubon of Florida and the Nature Conservancy, the $45 million investment is a living laboratory for land restoration. The Preserve has now grown to 12,000 acres as other companies have followed the model to expand the original tract. A “green” welcome center is a centerpiece and is open to the public.
At Walt Disney World Resort, conservation and environmental sustainability are not only part of a long-term commitment to responsible stewardship, but also are key business components evident in day-to-day operations.
- To become an EPA “Energy Star Partner,” Disney has implemented energy-saving fixtures and other changes throughout the property. The original implementation of the program saved enough energy to power Disney’s Animal Kingdom in its first year of operation.
- Beginning in 2005, Walt Disney World Resort implemented a “Strive for Five” program, resulting in nearly five percent in energy savings and conservation across the resort.Through ongoing energy audits and the EPA’s Green Lights program Disney strives to use the most energy-efficient fixtures possible.
- Walt Disney World Resort is switching to more efficient and environmentally friendly lighting across property.
- In Resort guest rooms, Cast Members are in the process of replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps that use roughly one-quarter of the energy. When complete, 176,325 light bulbs will have been changed out.
- LED (light emitting diode) lights are far more efficient than neon lights and are used in many signs, decorations and holiday trees at Walt Disney World Resort.
- Even Cinderella’s Castle glows “green” during the holidays with more than 170,000 LED white lights to glisten the Castle, using the equivalent energy of only 12 microwave ovens.
- In 2008, Disney completed the state’s Green Lodging designation for all 23 resort hotels – representing the largest number of Green Lodging -certified hotels in the state. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort was the first resort in Florida to receive the designation when the program launched in 2004. To achieve this special designation, resorts must focus on five categories: water conservation, education and awareness, waste reduction, energy conservation and indoor air quality.
Mindful Waste Management
- Recycling is a big part of waste management at Walt Disney World Resort. In 2007, Walt Disney World Resort recycled more than 39,000 tons of materials including:
- 1,048 tons of scrap metal;
- 1,255,090 pounds (628 tons)of cooking grease; and
- 14 million pounds of cardboard
- Walt Disney World Resort’s approach to water conservation begins with using less water where possible, and maximizing use of reclaimed water. Approximately 30 percent of the resort’s overall needs and 80 percent of its irrigation needs are met with reclaimed water.
- Disney Harvest reduced 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. In 2007, Disney Harvest gave more than 625,000 pounds of food to the hungry in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom provides some unique forms of “waste.” In 2007, over 3,520 tons of manure was sent to the compost facility from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Tri-Circle D Ranch. This produced about 542,000 pounds of compost daily.
Caring for Wildlife and Animals
In addition to ensuring wildlife habitat remains, the company is committed to animals in Florida and around the world.
- The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, supports scientific research and habitat protection through annual awards for the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems.
- In 2007, DWCF awarded more than $1.5 million to nonprofit environmental groups and universities. The funds went toward 104 programs in 42 countries that focus on saving animals and habitats. Among the projects receiving support:
- Purchasing 4,000 acres of land in Guatemala to create a community-managed buffer zone and establish a wildlife reserve for research, ecotourism and organic farming. (ARCAS)
- Studying the serious problems that discarded fishing gear poses to bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay to help save the dolphins from fatal entanglement. (Mote Marine Laboratory)
- Studying the interaction between elephants and bees in Kenya and whether bees can be used as an effective elephant deterrent for crops and trees. (Save the Elephants)
- Florida-based projects have received more than $2.9 million in DWCF grants, including grants of more than $600,000 to University of Florida and $92,000 to University of Central Florida.
- Since 1995, the DWCF has supported 650 projects in 110 countries totaling $11 million.
- The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and The Walt Disney Company have contributed more than $800,000 to rhino protection and research projects in partnership with nonprofit organizations working in Asia and Africa (the only places they are found).
- Disney’s Animal Programs professionalsworked closely with the University of Central Florida to establish a Ph.D. program in Conservation Biology, approved in spring 2004 by the Board of Regents. Many Disney’s Animal Programs Cast Members serve as adjunct professors at UCF.
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other zoological facilities and conservation groups in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.The Seas is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats.
- Disney’s Animal Programs teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends are devoted to the care of more than 1,500 mammals, birds and reptiles, and over 5,000 fish, including a number of endangered and threatened species. Both facilities are accredited under the auspices of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom is involved in many AZA “Species Survival Plans” – cooperative breeding and management groups for critical species – and has successfully reproduced many endangered animals, including African elephants, black rhinos, okapi, gorillas, and many rare birds. In fact, Disney sent three bongo antelope born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Kenya in a unique effort to re-establish the population there. In 2006, Disney sent two white rhinos born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Uganda for reintroduction.
Connecting With Our Community
Support for environmental projects and animal-related organizations are also a part of Walt Disney World Resort’s efforts – as members of the community and as volunteer citizens.
- Walt Disney World Cast Members worked more than a year to provide a unique template for a computerized energy report card to Orange County Public Schools, which is expected to save the school system millions of dollars. In March 2004, it was endorsed and heralded by then U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham as a national model, which is being shared with schools across the country.
- Disney’s Environmentality Challenge encourages Florida students to think about and take action on helping the environment. Since it began 10 years ago, more than 120,000 fifth-grade students across Florida have participated.
- For many years, Walt Disney World Resort has helped support the SPCA of Central Florida. Disney VoluntEARS have participated in an annual walk around Lake Eola that collects more than $50,000 each year in pledges. Walt Disney World Resort also sponsors educational programs that SPCA shares with schools across the area.
- Disney has a strong relationship with The Central Florida Zoo. As an active board member, Disney has assisted with funding for improved animal habitats and the capital improvement campaign. The zoo’s famous hippo, Geraldine, came to live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when her habitat was moved to make way for new improvements there.
- The Florida Audubon Society and its Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland is another partner. Walt Disney World Resort funded a flight cage at the center used to rehabilitate eagles and other raptors before release. Disney Cast Members also helped refurbish the center, and a Disney leader sits on the board of Audubon of Florida.
- Disney Cast Members volunteer their efforts for beach cleanups, wetland re-plantings and removing invasive exotic plants from critical habitats. The Walt Disney World Resort lends its support to the Florida Coastal Cleanup (Ocean Conservancy), Oakland Nature Preserve and the Nature Conservancy.
That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? For a company that would have visitors and customers no matter what their environmental practices, Walt Disney World has really gone above and beyond expectations. For fans of the parks, this should come as no surprise since that tends to be how Disney approaches everything! To keep up to date on Disney’s conservation efforts on land and in sea, follow @DisneyConserve and @DisneyNature on twitter!
Thank you to the Walt Disney Company and Benjamin Thomas for providing me this information to share here with you. All images ©The Walt Disney Co.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, but not an employee of the Walt Disney Co. I have not been asked to post this information, I sought it out through a cast member I met because of my position on the Moms Panel. I am posting this because I am passionate about the Walt Disney Company and enjoy sharing it’s triumphs and dispelling rumors whenever possible. My opinions are just that, and not necessarily representative of the Walt Disney Company.