Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park and also one of my bucket-list vacation destinations. After months of planning, my family is taking our first, and hopefully not last, trip to Yellowstone National Park this month. As I prepared for our trip, I began to research some of the eco-friendly initiatives in place at the 2.2-million-acre park that welcomes millions of visitors each year.


With that many visitors, waste is obviously a concern. Thankfully the National Park Service as well as Xanterra, the company responsible for managing many of the buildings within the park, have implemented a solid recycling program.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a fact sheet dedicated to recycling at Yellowstone (PDF). Although recycling is commonplace today, the “Greening of Yellowstone” initiative, which is responsible for the early recycling programs, dates back to 1996. Yellowstone was going green before going green was popular.


Highlights from the fact sheet include:

  • Recycling containers are located throughout the park including common areas, campgrounds and employee housing areas
  • Cardboard is the most recycled material at the park by weight, accounting for nearly half of all recycled products
  • Recycling bins are made of steel to prevent the park’s famed grizzly bears from getting into them
  • About 4,000 used tires are recycled annually
  • A recycling initiative for bear-deterrent pepper spray cans is in place — definitely one of the more unique recycling programs I’ve seen

In addition to a solid park-wide recycling program, Yellowstone National Park has achieved many other environmental accomplishments. In 2004, the Yellowstone employee housing facility received LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2011, the EPA awarded the park an Environmental Achievement Award for its commitment to sustainability.


Other eco-friendly features in place at Yellowstone include:

  • A composting facility that was established in 2003
  • A propane cylinder-recycling program
  • 80 percent solid waste diversion rate in 2009

These initiatives are combined with a comprehensive public education campaign, which will ensure that the park is in pristine condition for not only my generation, but for generations to come.

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