With more than 58 million visitors a year, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the most visited vacation resort in the world. For some, there’s nothing more enchanting than a stroll down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street toward Cinderella’s Castle. For others, it’s experiencing classic attractions like It’s A Small World or Space Mountain. But a look beyond Main Street reveals a whole new kind of magic emerging at Disney–eco-friendly projects and initiatives.
In the past few years, Disney has launched several green measures. Just this year, a 270-acre, 50-plus megawatt solar farm was brought online near Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The company says that the facility produces enough solar power to run two of its four Orlando parks. Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts Worldwide Environmental Integration Director Angie Renner said in a Forbes interview that the facility “provides renewable solar power to the entire Reedy Creek Improvement District, which includes Walt Disney World Resort. This is made possible through a collaboration with the Reedy Creek Improvement District and Origis Energy USA.”
But according to Renner, the 270-acre farm isn’t Disney’s first foray in green technology. She told Forbes that the parks had had ongoing solar projects since the 1980s. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the recently-retired Universe of Energy building at Epcot had solar panels on its roof since 1982–panels that in-part powered the ride’s vehicles. Renner did, however, confirm with Forbes that the “first large-scale venture into clean and renewable energy was [its] iconic 5-megawatt, 22-acre Mickey solar array which came online in 2016 at Walt Disney World.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Mickey-shaped solar farm is located just outside of Epcot, which at one point stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The facility is “part of a 15-year agreement that allows Duke Energy to build, own and operate the farm on Disney’s land. In return, the farm will provide solar power to Walt Disney World,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
During the holiday season, Cinderella’s Castle is illuminated with 170,000 LED lights that use the energy of just around four coffee pots, Renner told Forbes. She said that projects like these represent the company’s ongoing “focus on energy reduction and efficiencies” at the parks. It is also worth noting that Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, the largest in the world per acreage, is “all about conservation, protecting the natural world, animals and the environment,” said Renner to Forbes.
The Walt Disney Company currently operates under a multi-pronged sustainability mission: its aim is “to reduce [its] net emissions by 50% compared to a 2012 baseline,” “divert 60% of waste from landfills and incineration,” and conserve water, the company’s Environmental Sustainability page says. The page confirms that, compared to 2012, Disney had in 2019 already reduced its net emissions by 47 percent and that it “achieved a 57% diversion rate” that same year. Disney made headlines in 2018 when it announced that it would be eliminating plastic straws and stirrers from all of its locations, including the parks. Additionally, Disney says on its Environmental Sustainability page that its entire Disney World bus fleet operates on 50 percent renewable diesel fuel.
According to Magic Guides, Walt Disney World is the largest single-site employer in the U.S. with around 70,000 employees. As of 2019, Disney employed 223,000 people worldwide. In 2019, Disney generated $26.23 billion from its 12 theme parks and resorts alone–more than any of its other operating segments.
As Walt Disney once said, “conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.” The Most Magical Place On Earth is proving that it’s taking its founder’s words to heart as it unites to shape a greener future for the Mousketeers of future generations.