To honor the nation’s military veterans, the National Park Service has declared this weekend to be a fee-free weekend at national park sites across the nation. Sustainability initiatives are alive and strong at NPS sites, from electric vehicle charging stations at Zion National Park to the ban on bottled water sales at the Grand Canyon, the NPS operates with the environment in mind.


Eco-friendly motoring

Visitors to the Grand Canyon no longer have to battle traffic as they travel around the South Rim. The National Park Service operates a series of free shuttle buses that run on clean burning compressed natural gas (CNG). The reduced emissions help keep the park’s atmosphere clear so visitors can take in the pure beauty of the canyon.


Across the country at Acadia National Park in Maine, visitors can board a free propane-powered shuttle bus. In August 2011, the bus transported its 4-millionth passenger. Propane is also in use at Glacier National Park in Montana. The park’s iconic Red Bus fleet has been operating on propane for more than a decade.


Sustainable dining

Yellowstone National Park’s Mammoth Hotel Dining Room is a Green Restaurant Association certified restaurant. The dining room earned a three-star rating (on a four-star scale) for its use of local and organic food, recycling and composting program and the use of energy and water efficient products.


At Muir Woods Café in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, visitors are treated to healthy and sustainable grab and go items. Staffers created a rating system that it used when assessing contract bids. Points were awarded in several categories including use of organic and local produce, Seafood Watch green list items, non-disposable water containers and more. The result is a restaurant that not only focuses on sustainable dining but also serves as an educational tool for park visitors.


Green building

The National Park Service is home to dozens of green buildings, including many that have earned LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The agency stepped things up this year, though, with the opening of the National Park Service’s first net zero visitor center.


The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Visitor Center in Calabasas, California is a LEED Platinum certified net zero building. A 94 kW solar photovoltaic system provides enough electricity to power the facility. Other green building features of the facility include a geothermal cooling system, a solar hot water heating system, water efficient plumbing and a clay roof tile “cool roof.”


Will you be visiting a National Park Service site this weekend? If so, try to locate a sustainability program during your visit then come back and share what you found. Thanks!

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