About this Article
Written by: April Kang
Written on: October 15th, 2015
Tags: entertainment, environmental engineering, food & drink, physics, recycling, solar cell, water
Thumbnail by: J. Spence
About the Author
April Kang is a junior from Palmer, Alaska, studying Industrial and Systems Engineering. She loves all things Disney and hopes to one-day work as a Walt Disney Imagineer.
Also in this Issue
Engineering NBA Players' HealthWritten by: Olivia Panchal
Solving the Brain Crisis in SportsWritten by: Alex Budde
The Future of Food: 3D PrintingWritten by: Rebecca Penso
Stay Connected

Volume XVII Issue III > Disney’s “Green” Magic: Engineering Sustainability
This paper discusses the sustainable efforts that The Walt Disney Corporation has made in recent years to reduce their environmental impact and improve sustainability. From food to energy waste, Disney Parks and Resorts has paired up with Walt Disney Imagineering to find innovative ways to conserve energy that not only benefit the guest within the theme parks, but also conserve the environment that the park sits in.


When we think of theme parks like Disneyland and Disney World, what sorts of images come to mind? We are reminded of things like Space Mountain, giant turkey legs, and memories of watching the World of Color. However, with all of these great experiences there is also a cost to the environment that hosts them. Everything from solid food waste and to energy waste must be addressed if they wish to continue to make Disney parks the most magical place on earth. For that reason, Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, announced Disney’s intention to improve sustainability efforts and set a goal to produce no waste in the future in 2008 [3]. Since then, engineers at Walt Disney have been leading a sustainability effort by taking the extra steps to ensure that Disney theme parks maintain honorable conservation policies [1].

The History of Sustainability

Sustainability is the act of creating and maintaining a world in which humans and nature can productively coexist to support future generations [15]. Disney has always had a long-standing commitment to “the environment, conservation and the natural world” [2]. Since the creation of the first park, Disneyland, in 1955, Walt Disney was an advocate for sustainability [1], and since then there has continued to be a wide emphasis on this subject within Walt Disney Imagineering. So what exactly are “Imagineers”? Imagineers are the engineers of all things Disney and the creative force behind all the magic. There are different Imagineers for different jobs, such as project management, graphic design, mechanical engineering, and industrial and systems engineering. It is a wide-ranging term, and it is through the efforts of many intelligent Imagineers that Walt Disney is able to be so successful.
The moment Bob Iger made the announcement to make Disney waste-free, Imagineers already hard at work to ensure his promises were kept. In the future “90% or more of solid waste [will be] diverted from landfill, thermal waste-to-energy facilities, and incineration without energy recovery [and] 10% or less of solid waste [will] be sent to either landfill, thermal waste-to-energy facilities, or incineration without energy recovery” [4]. This is a significant change as it means that nearly all but 10% of solid food waste will be recycled into other material (See Fig. 1) .
Disney/Walt Disney Company
Figure 1: Progress toward waste target, Source: [5].
Imagineers have continued in the past years to find new and innovative ways to conserve both the environment and the magic in the world of Disney. Walt Disney Imagineering is actually one of the founders of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability Corporate Partner Program, otherwise known as the CPP. The CPP is dedicated to create “an interactive relationship between companies and UCLA faculty, researchers, students and other firms to explore the latest business opportunities in environment and sustainability, corporate environmental performance, successful eco-marketing strategy and promotion of companies' environmental initiatives” [1]. Walt Disney Imagineering believes that as a community leader, it has a responsibility to lead the crowds by maintaining the highest ethical standards. For that reason, in 2009 Disney was recognized by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and Reputation Institute as a leader in Corporate Social Responsibility [6].