Must See Eco-Friendly National Parks

by Lauren Verini

There are many extravagant vacation options to choose from out there, but sometimes there is nothing more fun than a good old fashion road trip. Speaking from first hand experience, driving cross-country is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are so many parts of the country that you get to see that you normally wouldn’t get the chance to, and it really makes you appreciate the great outdoors. Along my journey I got the chance to make pit stops at some of the countries most beautiful national parks. Here are some of my favorites that I saw first hand, plus few more that are still on my bucket list, and the ways they are going green and preserving their beauty.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

One of the most popular sights to see in the U.S., the Grand Canyon spreads across 1,902 square miles. In addition to its vast beauty and breathtaking view, the park makes strides to be more sustainable. With thousands of visitors each year, it can be difficult to minimize waste and the wear and tear on the park. They’ve implemented a water reclamation system that converts waste water into water that’s safe to use for irrigation and toilets, a composting program and shuttle bus fleet that runs on clean-burning compressed natural gas. In addition, all recent buildings to the park meet LEED standards and solar photovoltaic cells, or solar cells, at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, offsetting 30% of the power used in the building.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park has implemented a “green team” to help ensure sustainability efforts throughout the park and to make as little impact as possible on the environment as possible. At the Zion Native Plant Nursery, employees plant seeds from the park to sustain the native plants and try to use as efficient an irrigation method as possible, using filtered river water and a Point-Source irrigation system. In addition, the Zion Lodge operated by Xanterra features organic food and there is a composting station on site for food scraps.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite spreads across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and is a beautiful park best known for its waterfalls that draws people in for hiking, camping, rock climbing and even skiing in the winter months. The park has established an environmental program, GreenPath®, to protect the parks beauty through an extensive recycling program which diverts 41% of waste from landfills, incorporating organic and sustainable foods from local organic farms as much as possible and implementing a composting facility. The park has also re-worked their shuttle bus system to include a fleet of 100% electric hybrid buses. Yosemite’s kitchen also re-uses its vegetable oil, over 25 tons per year, by working with a local California company to turn it into Biodiesel.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

This well-known park only became a national park in 1994 when the U.S. Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act, and before that had been a national monument since 1936. Joshua Tree National Park covers 800,000 beautiful acres of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and Little San Bernardino Mountains. In an effort to be more sustainable, the park replaced fossil fuel generators with photovoltaic (PV) systems, which incorporates solar energy and is striving to also become carbon neutral. In the parks action plan, they are striving to reduce global house gas emissions to 50 percent below the 2008 levels by 2016.

Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho

Established in 1872 as the countries first national park, Yellowstone stretches across three states and over 2.2 million acres. The Grand Canyon is located in Yellowstone as well as the famous Old Faithful geyser, which erupts every 91 minutes on the dot. The employee housing building has LEED certification and as a part of the park’s Greening of Yellowstone Initiative, have implemented a composting facility and a large recycling program.

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