How Disney Is Making Its Parks More Eco-Friendly

Disney World is almost done with its brand new solar facility. But that's not the only update to Disney's theme parks.


Oct. 15 2018, Updated 3:25 p.m. ET

Over the past year, the Walt Disney Company has announced multiple initiatives designed to make its world famous amusement parks more sustainable. The plans include big investments in renewable energy, a major reduction in waste, power-saving light displays, and much more — and visitors won't have to wait long to see these changes. According to a new report from The New York Times, Disney is preparing to debut some of its eco-friendly updates by the end of the year. But since this is a very big company with very big parks, here's a breakdown of exactly what the House of Mouse is doing to help the planet:

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Switching To Solar Power

Disney World is reportedly months away from unveiling its 50-megawatt solar facility, which will power two of the four parks in central Florida. The site stretches over 270 acres right outside the Magic Kingdom, and will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes per year — or reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 57,000 tons annually. With these savings, Disney hopes to hit its wider goal of reducing net emissions by 50 percent in 2020. 

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This switch echoes Disney's ongoing efforts abroad. Disneyland Paris draws on geothermal energy for two of its parks and a hotel, while Shanghai Disney Resort uses a combined heating and cooling plant that converts waste heat into energy, slashing emissions by 60 percent.

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Ditching Single-Use Plastics

This summer, Disney revealed plans to remove plastic straws and stirrers from all its parks, resorts, and properties by 2019. (The only exception will be Disney Tokyo, which the company does not own or operate.) Disney estimates this change will eliminate over 175 million plastic straws and 13 million stirrers per year, but it's not stopping at straws. The company is also making a push for reusable shopping bags over plastic options, and revamping its in-room amenities.

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Reducing Waste And Water Use

Plastics are just one piece of Disney's overarching goal to divert 60 percent of its waste from landfills and incineration by 2020. According to the company's environmental stewardship report, it's using its 2012 levels as a baseline, and the waste generated that year totaled 314,551 tons. To bring that number down, Disney plans to reduce, recycle, compost, and reuse items through donations. It'll also "utilize thermal waste-to-energy facilities to manage otherwise unrecoverable waste."

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Disney set an additional target for its water use, aiming to maintain potable water consumption at 2013 levels at existing sites by 2018. The company has pledged to include water conservation measures in the design of new parks, and to adopt conservation plans at these developing sites, to decrease the annual 8 billion gallons of water Disney uses in operations.

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Installing LED Light Displays

Disney's environmental stewardship report also makes vague reference to "lighting upgrades" as a possible emission reduction project. But the New York Times points to a more concrete example: the holiday light display at Cinderella Castle. The collection of 170,000 lights is now completely LED, reducing the display's energy usage to "an amount needed to power just four coffee pots."

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