A Greener Future For National Parks
A bold idea born of big dreams: that’s how many iconic American companies got their start. It may be the best description of the bill that ultimately established Yellowstone National Park and sparked a worldwide trend of designating parcels of land for public enjoyment. Yet keeping this natural treasure open and accessible to more than 3 million visitors annually presents a unique set of challenges that Yellowstone’s administrators are addressing today with the same innovative spirit that first established the park.
Functioning as a park has an undeniable environmental impact on the very lands those millions visit and enjoy. Yellowstone’s leaders appreciate the fact that they could fall victim to their own success, and in 2010 established a five-year plan to elevate Yellowstone as a world leader in environmental stewardship. In other words, lead by example by being one of the greenest parks in the world. The Yellowstone Environmental Stewardship, or "Y.E.S." Initiative, is the kind of private/public collaboration you hope makes a meaningful impact — and as a representative of one of the industry brands privileged to participate, I can attest that what we’re working on together is making a difference.
Mountain-high environmental management goals
Yellowstone set ambitious environmental management goals to achieve by 2016. Using 2003 figures as the baseline, Yellowstone leaders said they want to:
Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent; and by 2025 achieve a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions
Reduce electricity consumption by 15 percent
Reduce fossil fuel consumption by 18 percent
Reduce water consumption by 15 percent
Divert 100 percent of municipal solid waste from landfills
These are bold and audacious objectives considering the park— all 2.2 million acres of it — holds nine visitor centers and museums; more than 2,000 hotel rooms and cabins, 1,500+ buildings, and well over 400 miles of roads (300 of them paved). The magnitude of the effort to bring this initiative across the finish line required a public/private partnership, with an eye on high impact projects small and large. In the end 27 opportunities were highlighted.
Three Ps to Y.E.S.
The key to a successful Y.E.S. Initiative meant embracing three Ps: public-private partnership. The Yellowstone Park Foundation found the right set of corporations and educational institutions ready to support the initiative through products, services, and financial support that helped the park thoughtfully execute the Y.E.S. Initiative and maximize the effort in leading the way for other parks in the National Parks Service.
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Yellowstone National Park via Shutterstock