Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day 2012: National Park Service implements "green" plan

With Earth Day approaching, it’s good to know that America’s national parks are taking the initiative to improve sustainability and influence the 280 million annual visitors to the parks.

Big Bend National Park in Texas was one of the first
parks to implement "green" practices a dcade ago.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis recently released the Green ParksPlan to focus on sustainable management of national parks and key environmental issues ranging from reducing energy and water consumption to limiting waste to lowering emissions of greenhouse gases.
“The Green Parks Plan is a comprehensive approach to sustainability that will reduce the National Park Service’s carbon footprint in every park and office,” Jarvis said during a news conference at the Lincoln Memorial. “It addresses how we will reduce energy and water consumption, limit the waste we generate, mitigate the effects of climate change, change what we buy and how we manage facilities.”

Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee
has programs studying and preserving natural elements.
By 2020, the National Park Service will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from on-site fossil fuel combustion and electricity consumption by 35 percent and non-irrigation potable water use by 30 percent. National Park Service employees – more than 20,000 – along with 220,000 volunteers, park partners and concessioners will implement the plan and adopt sustainability as a guiding value.
The Green Parks Plan has nine goals for how park facilities are managed and operated:
  • Meet or exceed the requirements of all applicable environmental laws.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and determine how facilities can be adapted to respond to the risk posed by climate change.
  • Improve energy performance and increase reliance on renewable energy.
  • Improve water use efficiency.
  • Transform vehicle fleet and adopt greener transportation methods.
  • Buy Green and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
  • Minimize the impact of facility operations on the external environment.
  • Employ sustainable best practices in all park operations.
  • Engage visitors and invite them to take sustainable actions in the park and at home.

Jarvis highlighted two success stories, the Visitor Center at Santa Monica MountainsNational Recreation Area in California and the ranger station at John DayFossil Beds National Monument in Oregon. The buildings are called “Net Zero” because solar panels generate all power needed for operations and more.

Green actions keep water blue in
Rocky Mountain National Park
in Colorado,"the accessible
The Green Parks Plan also focuses on concessioners, many of whom have programs to recycle and compost waste, conserve water and energy and reduce fleet fuel consumption.
Other sustainability projects at national parks include:
  • Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The park has reached the Green Parks Plan goal with more than half of all waste diverted from the landfill and recycled.
  • The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The 90-year-old pool is gone, the new pool, which reduces water usage from 7 million to 5 million gallons of water, is due to open this summer.
  • Through relighting, Big Bend National Park in Texas reduced its light bill by 95 percent and garnered the park official “Dark Sky” designation from the International Dark-Sky Association. It’s one of 10 dark sky parks in the world and a boon to night sky tourism.
  • Assateague Island National Seashore installed solar panels that provide 50 percent of power at a new ranger station and solar power for night lights at campground toilets. It also has portable recycling units around the park to divert waste from the landfill.
Photos by Beverly Burmeier.
Information courtesy of Jeffrey Olson, National Park Service

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