Disney makes plans to go greener

Mar 10, 2009 By Jason Garcia

The Walt Disney Co. wants to cut companywide greenhouse-gas emissions in half during the next four years, and reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent over the next five, as part of a series of environmental initiatives outlined Monday.

The chief targets: Disney's , resorts and cruise ships, which, according to internal figures, account for 91 percent of the company's total greenhouse-gas emissions through boilers, generators, refrigeration systems, cruise-ship engines and more. The group also accounts for 73 percent of Disney's total electrical use.

"Clearly, our biggest footprint is with the theme parks and resorts. So we know we've got a lot of work to do with them," said Beth Stevens, Disney's senior vice president of environmental affairs.

Disney released the just ahead of what is expected to be an otherwise somber annual shareholders meeting Tuesday in Oakland, Calif.

The Burbank, Calif.-based media-and-entertainment company has been hit hard by the global recession, which has depressed sales of everything from theme-park tickets to television advertising to DVDs. Company earnings tumbled 32 percent during the first quarter of its fiscal year, which ended Dec. 27, and Disney is slashing jobs across its operations.

Shares in Disney closed Monday at $15.59, half its price from when shareholders met last year in Albuquerque, N.M.

Disney's environmental plans were part of a 100-page "Corporate Responsibility" report posted online Monday. In addition to reducing or offsetting greenhouse-gas emissions _ the company's goal is to cut in half its forecast 2012 emissions - and cutting , Disney said it aims to cut in half the amount of garbage generated at its parks and resorts by 2013.

Disney said the environmental targets are interim steps toward long-term goals of achieving zero net direct greenhouse-gas emissions, reducing indirect emissions through electrical consumption, and eliminating all garbage sent to landfills.

Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, called the targets and timetables set by Disney "pretty aggressive." He said the plan to cut electrical consumption by 10 percent was especially promising.

"That's more than you're going to get just replacing light bulbs," Draper said.

Disney's conservation steps likely will be most felt in Florida, home to much of its parks-and-resorts businesses - and much of the waste they generate.

For example, Disney's two cruise ships in 2006 generated nearly 270,000 tons of "carbon-dioxide equivalents," a measure of the various gases thought to contribute to climate change. The two ships, which sail out of Port Canaveral, accounted for 48 percent of Disney's companywide emissions of 566,000 tons for the year.

Disney's theme parks and resorts - which are heavily concentrated at World - produced about 244,000 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents, or about 43 percent of the company total. The figures do not include roughly 14,700 tons generated by Disney World's third-party bus operators, nor about 4,300 tons produced by its on-property landfill.

Similarly, Disney's parks and resorts consumed approximately 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006 - about 73 percent of the company's total electrical use.

The theme parks also are the company's biggest waste producers. Disney's parks-and-resorts division generated 298,000 tons of solid waste in 2006, with 170,000 tons buried in landfills. The rest was diverted for uses such as recycling, composting, donations or reuse.

"Those are fantastic goals for a company with such a large footprint in our state," said Mark Ferrulo, director of Progress Florida, a liberal think tank that promotes environmental causes, among other initiatives.

The environmental data include Disney parks in France and Hong Kong but not Tokyo Disneyland, which the company does not own or operate.

Disney said it will charge a working group this year with devising new clean-energy strategies and will adopt new standards to reduce the environmental effects of both employee travel and catering and employee-cafeteria operations, among other initiatives. Stevens said the company also will improve the fuel efficiency of its corporate vehicle fleet and begin exploring potential biofuels.

"There are going to be many things that we do, some large and some small," she said. "But we're looking across everything and really at how to build environmental criteria into our decision-making."

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(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at www.orlandosentinel.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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