Happy Earth Day! Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, but Walt Disney was once again ahead of his time when it came to conservation. He once said that “conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.” Walt brought together both education and entertainment with his True Life Adventure series from 1948 through the 1960’s. It was brought to the masses when he aired them on The Wonderful World of Color. Walt’s reputation for environmental stewardship has continued on throughout the Walt Disney Company, and can be seen most prominently at Walt Disney World and heading into the future.
The Walt Disney World Resort has done so much to lower their carbon footprint and put conservation in the forefront — it’s really pretty mind blowing. Starting in 2018, Disney set a goal to eliminate single use plastic items. This included replacing plastic straws with paper ones, eliminating plastic stirrers, and removing polystyrene cups. This has eliminated over 200 million plastic straws and stirrers (Mind blown!). Disney has also begun the transition from individual soaps and shampoos in guest rooms to the refillable ones. As much as I loved my Mickey Soap, this reduces plastic waste by 80%. I am sure that you all have seen one of the largest hidden Mickeys on property, the Mickey solar field! This solar field alone produces enough renewable energy to power two of the four theme parks.
We can’t talk about conservation without hitting the parks, specifically Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Epcot is really the first way that the Walt Disney Company combined entertainment and education in its theme parks. Of course, I am talking about the Land Pavilion and The Seas Pavilion, both a must do on every trip! Living with the Land shows guests how farmers can be more environmentally conscious and grow more produce at the same time. The introduction of the Aquacell for fish farming helped to push forward the idea of sustainable seafood and also fed the Coral Reef restaurant and others throughout Epcot. The hydroponics and string greenhouses grow more than 30 tons of produce per year and provide food to Sunshine Seasons and Garden Grill. They also have pest management labs which use beneficial bugs to combat pests instead of using harmful chemicals. The Seas educates guests about the beauty and fragility of our oceans. Most recently the Imagineers have reached a younger audience through the addition of Nemo and Friends. Crush gives a “totally awesome” (in my best Crush voice) presentation on the sea and all his friends.
Moving over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there could be volumes and volumes of books written on all the things the park does to promote conservation and environmental stewardship. Given that this is an already long post I will just keep it to the highlights. Along with the construction of Animal Kingdom, Disney began Disney’s Conservation Fund (DCF) in 1995. To date DCF has raised more than $100 million to help bring species back from the brink of extinction. Kilimanjaro Safaris lets guests get up close to animals that they might never see otherwise and introduces them to the idea that these animals are poached for different reasons. Some like the white rhino have been almost poached into extinction. It is because of Animal Kingdom’s breeding program that the white rhino is with us today — again mind blown! They also started the Connect to Protect program with the opening of Pandora. You can connect with real scientists on your My Disney Experience App as they lead you through conservation missions. Through this program, you can explore Mo’ara and help to protect the animal habitats on Earth as well.
To once again quote the man himself (Walt), “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” So now let’s journey nine years into the future to 2030, and see what Bob Chapek has planned. He announced a five-prong approach that builds on what the Walt Disney Company has already been doing.
- Achieving zero emissions by producing or purchasing zero carbon electricity and investing in research for low carbon fuel.
- Through water stewardship and sustainable seafood, the Parks and resorts will serve 100% responsibly sourced seafood by 2022.
- Reducing landfill waste to zero.
- Using lower impact products, such as 100% recycled content from verified sustainable sources on branded packaging.
- Building sustainably.
What are your thoughts on what Disney is doing to help save the planet? Have you seen anything in the parks that I have missed? Please comment below.
My name is Sarah Niswender and I have WDW in my veins, going to the parks several times per year as early as 5. Growing up in SoFla I was fortunate enough to have a lifelong Disney education, thanks to my mother! I am now passing the love for everything Disney along to my daughter and somewhat reluctant husband. I have participated in several runDisney events and am looking forward to participating as a part of the WDWRadio running team. See you on Main Street USA!