Disneyland is a famous theme park in Southern California owned by The Walt Disney Company that offers numerous attractions including rides, games, food, and hotel accommodations. Unfortunately, despite its positive general image, Disneyland has largely disastrous sustainability practices. The Walt Disney Company is not forthcoming about materials sourcing and carbon emissions and has a particularly dismal track record when it comes to labor practices.
Being such a large place, Disneyland certainly has a difficult task to ensure sustainability in all of its facilities. Many of its mechanical attractions and rides likely require lots of energy to operate and have the potential to create lots of air pollution. Heating and cooling indoor spaces can also account for even more energy consumption. Trash waste also accumulates easily with such a high volume of guests who likely aren’t keeping sustainability top of mind during their vacations. Water use may be another concern, especially because many theme park rides may require a high volume of water. The Walt Disney Company provides no information about the sustainability of its preexisting constructed facilities or sustainable sourcing of single-use supplies for operations like dining and hotel management.
The Walt Disney Company highlights several sustainability initiatives it’s been taking overall, including a 50 megawatt Mickey Mouse-shaped solar panel facility at Disney World. Disneyland itself has steam trains and a riverboat powered by biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil. It’s also eliminated single-use plastic straws and stirrers, committed to only serving responsibly-sourced seafood by 2022, and kept water use constant since 2013. However, merely keeping water use constant may not be enough to deal with climate change-induced drought in Southern California. While The Walt Disney Company has set a goal of being carbon neutral and having zero landfill waste by 2030, it gives little indication of the progress it’s made to achieve these goals. It is difficult to trust that such an energy intensive place like Disneyland will be able to substantially decrease its emission levels without first seeing proof. Additionally, Disneyland is difficult to access without a car, meaning that transportation to and from the theme park is another sustainability concern that seems like it isn’t being addressed.
The Walt Disney Company’s unjust labor practices may be even worse than its lack of attention to environmental sustainability. Many merchandise products sold at Disneyland and elsewhere were discovered to be made in sweatshops oversees, where workers were forced to work 14 to 15 hour shifts for little pay. Conditions aren’t much better for workers at the theme park itself. About a tenth of Disneyland workers reported being houseless at some point in the last two years since 2018, and around two-thirds reported not having enough money to eat three meals a day. Under outgoing CEO Bob Iger, the company refused to raise wages for workers until significant pushback was exerted from unions, several local and federal lawmakers, and even Abigail Disney, the heir of Walt Disney herself. The company now faces a lawsuit alleging gender pay discrimination and illegally forbidding workers from discussing their salaries. Additionally, The Walt Disney Company has faced criticism for racist depositions on theme park attractions and a heavily gendered dress code.