It’s known as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but is it the greenest? Over 650 million people have visited Disneyland since it opened, making it the most visited theme park in the world. In celebration of Disneyland’s 60th birthday earlier this month, it seemed appropriate to also celebrate the California resort’s environmental efforts. Earlier this year, the Disneyland Resort received a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s highest environmental honor, for its waste-reduction efforts.

It’s no surprise Disneyland would receive such an award, considering they have also created their own ecosystem. Since the day the theme park opened in 1955, the Jungle Cruise has been one of Disneyland’s most popular attractions. Yet the Jungle Cruise is more than just a ride — over the past 60 years it has evolved into an original ecosystem. Walt Disney assigned the daunting task of creating a jungle in Anaheim, CA to Bill Evans. An Imagineer and horticulturist, Evans ingeniously brought the wild to Walt Disney’s park: he planted native orange trees upside down to resemble mangroves, and apparently smuggled seeds in his socks to create the flora and fauna that surrounds the ride today. The Jungle Cruise was originally going to be located where Tomorrowland currently is, but Evans built it on the west side of Main Street, USA “to incorporate the large eucalyptus trees planted there by the orange farmers who previously owned the land.”

An overlook of the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland's Adventureland.
An overlook of the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland Adventureland.

Sixty years later, the Jungle Cruise ride has evolved immensely: “Now it has a large tree canopy made up of coral trees, ficus trees, some of the large palm trees and bamboo overhead,” Karen Hedges, director of the Disneyland Resort’s Horticulture and Landscaping, told the Orange County Register. The canopy is as high as 100 feet in some areas of the ride, and the plants have grown as if in a real jungle, retaining heat during the day time so that the tropical foliage stays warm through the night as well. When Anaheim reaches chilly temperatures at night, it will be several degrees warmer under the canopy of the Jungle Cruise. The jungle is so self-sufficient, it doesn’t require much maintenance; landscaping crews occasionally prune the high trees and even let the fallen leaves stay on the ground so the nutrients can naturally return to the soil.

The infamously creative -- and always conveniently-located -- trash cans at Disneyland California.
The infamously creative — and always conveniently-located — trash cans at Disneyland California.

As mentioned earlier, Disneyland is also exceptional at reducing waste. The trash cans at Disneyland are renowned for their individual designs and colorful displays. A bit of “old Disney lore” tells that trash cans are placed every 30 feet throughout the theme park; rumor has it that Walt Disney himself used to watch guests throw away their trash, and each guest would walk about 30 feet until they dropped the trash they were holding onto. While trash cans may seem mundane, their strategic placement represents Disneyland’s ability to truly know their guests, and how the theme park tries to compensate for their size in environmental-friendly ways. In addition, Circle D Corral (the horse ranch at Disneyland California) has achieved Disney’s overall goal of Zero Waste. The Corral recycles paper, cardboard, plastics and metal, and composts all animal waste, hand towels, laundry lint and coffee grounds from the Disneyland Resort restaurants.

The Disneyland Resorts worldwide are introducing exciting environmental initiatives, from electric vehicles in the theme parks to LED lights in workshops and low-wattage lasers for light shows. From Paris to Hong Kong, Disneyland is using its inventive and ingenious spirit to practice environmental stewardship.

© Rissponsible Living, 2015

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