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Walt Disney Co.’s recently announced environmental goals to reduce its facilities’ emissions, waste, electricity and fuel use, and impact on water systems. But, given the number and size of those facilities–stores, parks, offices–operated by the company, are they feasible?

Surprisingly, many of them may well be, environmental experts say, as the company has chosen to focus on elements they can actually control, and given practicable short-term goals.

The environmental goals are part of the company’s 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report, which also discusses other issues such as charitable giving and workplace diversity. Created by an environmental council of senior Disney executives, they include the company’s first comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory. The report covers all of Disney’s facilities, including its theme parks–except for Tokyo Disneyland, which is neither owned nor operated by Disney–resorts, cruise ships, office buildings, and sound stages.

“While Disney has always been a leader in environmental stewardship, we are taking ambitious steps to help preserve our planet for future generations,” says Disney senior EVP and CFO Thomas O. Staggs, in the press release introducing the report.

The company has been an Energy Star partner for more than 10 years, and its Florida hotels have all received Florida Green Lodging Certification. The long-term environmental goals outlined in the report are: Zero waste; Zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions from fuels; the reduction of indirect greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption; net positive impact on ecosystems; minimizing water use and product imprint.

“It’s not comprehensive,” says Lauren Yarmuth, a principal of YRG Sustainability Consultants, New York City. “However, what they’re doing is very impressive.”

The idea of zero waste, though, might be astonishing to anyone who has visited a Disney theme park on a peak day. Millions of visitors generate trash. In 2006, Disney’s theme parks and resorts–again, with the exception of Tokyo Disneyland–generated 298,000 tons of trash, 170,000 tons of which were sent to landfills, the report said. A short-term goal is to decrease solid waste to landfill to 50% of the 2006 baseline level and increase percentage of purchases that include post-consumer recycled material by 2013.

“In terms of zero waste, it’s absolutely feasible,” Yarmuth says. “It’s a matter of the supply chain.”

Disney World in Florida has a major composting facility, and the real trick will be to encourage visitors to separate their trash even as they’re enjoying the resorts, ships, orparks.

“It’s extremely regulated,” says Claire Woolley, a former environmental attorney in her native New Zealand, and now a vice president with Chicago-based tenant representation firm Howard Ecker + Co. Woolley has visited the Orlando compost facility. “Behind the scenes, it’s a tight ship.” It’s extremely important to note that Disney is only focusing on what it can directly control, Woolley added.

“The trick,” Yarmuth noted, “is where they buy cotton candy with packaging from the outside world.”

But much like Wal-Mart, Disney’s sheer size can influence vendors to produce greener materials. Last year, the company recommended that its branded plastic bags be made of recycled material and that paper bags be made from approved pulp.

Achieving zero-carbon emissions may be a bit more challenging.

“It’s kind of aspirational,” Woolley says. “But it’s not a bad thing. It’s kind of possible.”

In 2006, the company reported direct GHG emissions from fuel combustion and refrigerant leaks of 566,042 metric tons, indirect GHG emissions from electricity of 1.1 million metric tons, and 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Disney seeks to achieve 50% of its long-term goal for direct emissions from fuels through a combination of reductions, efficiencies and offsets by 2012, and to reduce electricity consumption in existing assets by 10% compared to 2006 by 2013. That may be more difficult, even the company acknowledges.

“Achieving zero net direct GHG emissions depends on the ability to reduce or eliminate consumption of carbon-based fuels such as natural gas, gasoline and diesel, and acquire or generate carbon offsets from projects. Alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, are currently available, but only in limited quantities and for limited applications,” the report said. “In the case of carbon offsets, there is no formal, governmental oversight or regulation of such efforts in the United States. Therefore, caution is required to choose credible partners to generate carbon offsets. Transparency and completeness in reporting are critical, as well as due diligence in selecting carbon offset programs.”

Financing will be required to create an integrated design approach that would maximize efficiencies, and the company would need to identify opportunities for self-generation on a much larger scale than ever before, the report added.

“They wouldn’t have put themselves out there with this kind of detail if they didn’t think they could do it,” Woolley says.

The keys, Woolley noted, are the specific median goals that can focus the company and give a sense of accomplishment. “It’s really important they’re making the effort,” Yarmuth says. “And it’s the right effort.”

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