Experts See Green in Yellowstone

Greening Symposium participants, Mammoth Hot SpringsYellowstone has more than three million annual visitors, more than five thousand park and concession employees, and a fleet of hundreds of vehicles.  Despite its significant sustainability efforts, it still consumes enormous quantities of fossil fuels and treated water, and generates tons of solid waste. When it comes down to it, keeping Yellowstone operating for visitors is like running a large business or -- at 2.2-million acres -- a small state.  So recently, with the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s help, the park turned to experts from private industries, academia and others to address some of Yellowstone’s most complex environmental challenges.

Yellowstone has been recognized as a leader in sustainability, and one of the “greenest” parks in the country. From the early use of alternative fuels, to solar-heated buildings and a large composting program, the Park is continually looking for ways to promote environmental stewardship. Here at the Yellowstone Park Foundation, we want to help make sure it continues to be a shining example of innovation through our Greenest Park initiative.  We have made progress with several YPF-funded projects in recent years, but it’s time to take Yellowstone’s programs to the next level with a more detailed, integrated strategy. 

Last month, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and Yellowstone National Park conducted a “Greening Symposium,” with participation from corporate donors, park partners and other leaders in sustainability.* The purpose was to share best practices and tap into group synergy to identify specific environmental objectives and plans. First, participants engaged in large group discussions about greening priorities and challenges, and creative solutions. Then, small groups helped to develop realistic implementation plans for key areas such as leadership, education, water, transportation, energy, purchasing, and waste reduction.

By the end of the two-day Symposium, long-range goals and specific objectives had been compiled and now form the backbone of the Park’s draft sustainability Strategic Action Plan. Park officials have dedicated an internal “Green Team” to refine and execute this Plan. Future approaches call for ongoing participation by a Sustainability Steering Committee that will help audit progress and provide a vehicle to engage new partners with the park’s work.

In short, the desired outcome is to ensure that Yellowstone will continue to be recognized as not only America's first national park, but a global example for advancing sustainable initiatives that will be recognized by both public and private organizations. Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

*Toyota, Kohler, Coca-Cola, Andersen Windows & Doors, New Leaf Paper, Universal Textile Technologies, Signature Carpets, Shaw Carpets, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and academic partners from Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, and Montana State University. Facilitation of the meeting was provided pro-bono by a team from Herman Miller, Inc.  Additionally, the Yellowstone Association and park concessionaires Xanterra Parks & Resorts and Delaware North Companies had representatives on hand to participate in the event.

 

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