The beauty of Yellowstone National Park is beyond the capability of a verbal description. Its majestic mountains serve as beautiful backdrops allowing even the most amateur of photographers to come away with breathtaking photographs of the memories made while visiting. Unfortunately, as millions yearly experience the abundance of Yellowstone’s beauty, tourists bring tons of waste and CO2 emissions, along with other man-made waste, that must be dealt with. “The Greening of Yellowstone” includes a wide array of small environmental projects all working purposefully to conserve and protect one of the nation’s greatest natural treasures. Efforts are being made in the areas of pollution prevention, waste reduction, alternative fuels, recycling projects, and more.

buffalo Yellowstone

One of the greatest beauties found at Yellowstone is the wildlife. NAFTC photo

During the first one hundred years of Yellowstone National Park’s existence, it was visited by 50 million people; another 50 million visitors made the park their vacation destination during the next twenty-five years. During the summer months of July and August alone, the park can welcome more than 1.5 million guests, transforming Yellowstone into a virtual metropolis. An incredible balance must be met to ensure the massive park’s wildlife is sustained and cared for while an increasing number of tourists visit the park every year. In 1997, Yellowstone celebrated its 125th anniversary. Recognizing that many areas of sustainability needed addressed, the park’s management team created the movement known as “The Greening of Yellowstone” to ensure another 125 years of environmental health.

Xanterra, the nation’s largest national and state park management company, manages the Yellowstone Park lodges. Its Environmental Management System (EMS) is called “Ecologix” and incorporates sustainable practices within the park’s boundaries. Xanterra and the Yellowstone management team have come together to accomplish some massive environmental goals such as replacing more than 22,000 incandescent bulbs with efficient compact fluorescent lighting, incorporating sustainable materials in new buildings, purchasing all supplies and products containing recycled content and elimination of toxic materials, and recycling or composting more than 63 percent of the park’s garbage?and that’s just the beginning. Yellowstone has several other partners in sustainability that help address all areas of the park with an eye focused entirely on the health of the environment.

Another EMS initiative, called “GreenPath,” is led by Delaware North, which operates the park’s general stores. It is GreenPath’s goal to reduce waste, increase recycling, and “make a positive environmental contribution to communities.” This goal is achieved through using nontoxic cleaning supplies; stocking merchandise with recycled content, biodegradability, and minimal packaging; and collecting used batteries for recycling. The Yellowstone Association focuses on all things recycled by printing promotional materials on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper, teaching “Leave No Trace” outdoor ethics to its students, and planning new facilities using sustainable designs and materials. Yellowstone Park service stations, which supply visitors with fuel and vehicle service now recycle used motor oil, sell clean and renewable fuels, and use nontoxic automotive cleaners.

In addition, the use of alternative fuels has been a major focus for Yellowstone for more than a decade. In 1995, the park, in partnership with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the University of Idaho successfully demonstrated the use of a ton 4×4 pickup operating on 100 percent biodiesel. Since then, the park has introduced an entire fleet of alternative fuel vehicles to maintain the park’s grounds including tour buses, garbage trucks, and a variety of heavy equipment all operating on a 20 percent blend of canola oil and diesel. The park, with its extremely cold winters, creates a perfect environment to test alternative fuel vehicles and has therefore contributed to advancing research in the areas of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.

Prius at Yellowstone

Toyota donated four hybrid Prius vehicles to the park in 2004. Each Prius features a different Yellowstone natural scene as well as the park’s logo. NAFTC photo

The park has also created a great way to include its staff in its mission to further utilize alternative fuels. In 1998, the park started its Rideshare program which transports park employees to and from the park using alternatively-fueled buses. The cost is jointly financed by employees and Yellowstone National Park. The Rideshare program has several benefits including decreased air pollution from hydrocarbon emissions, increased safety by significantly decreasing traffic, and increased employee moral.

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The park’s Rideshare program transports employees to and from the park using alternatively-fueled buses. NAFTC photo

These are only a few of the many environmental programs of Yellowstone.

Last month, members of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium gathered at Yellowstone to experience first-hand why the work the NAFTC does means so much to our planet, especially in helping to preserve the beauty of one of our nation’s most pristine treasures, Yellowstone National Park. Read More . . .

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