Photograph by EastVillage Images/
Photograph by EastVillage Images/

National Parks Plan for a Greener Future

A pilot program, lead by Subaru, at Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Denali offers zero-landfill alternatives to taking out the trash

Yosemite. The name conjures images of giant sequoia groves, granite cliffs, and Teddy Roosevelt. The nation’s 26th president, who spent three nights sleeping under the stars here in 1903, described the experience as being “like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” One reason Roosevelt slept so well may be that he visited Yosemite more than a century before it became a magnet for some 3.7 million visitors each year.

America’s National Parks are popular, attracting more than 270 million visitors annually. But popularity comes with a price that can be measured in environmental impact. Each year, visitors generate more than 100 million pounds of trash, resulting in a landfill-clogging mass of missed opportunity to reduce waste. Fortunately, a zero-landfill solution is on the horizon in the form of a pilot program, led by Subaru of America, Inc. that aims to recycle, reuse, or compost garbage instead of burying it. 

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Trash Talk

An industry leader in the zero-landfill movement, Subaru’s U.S. manufacturing plant has sent nothing to a landfill since 2004. Instead, 99.9 percent of its manufacturing waste is recycled, reused, or turned into electricity. The Zero-Landfill initiative brings the automaker’s sustainability expertise to national park waste-management practices with the eventual goal of developing scalable zero-landfill implementation plans that all 407 national parks can adopt. 

Reducing landfill waste has long been a goal of the National Park Service. Now, an innovative partnership will bring that goal closer to fulfillment. Subaru of America, Inc. has partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association to test waste-reduction and zero-landfill practices in three national parks, Yosemite (in California), Grand Teton (in Wyoming), and Denali (in Alaska). 

Pull Quote
National parks are an important part of our country and of our legacy. Actions we take now will pay dividends for years to come. One of those actions is addressing the trash produced and found in our parks.
Clark Bunting, President/CEO, National Parks Conservation Association

In recent years, these three parks have collectively generated more than 16 million pounds of visitor waste annually. Due to geographical isolation or inefficiencies at recycling and composting facilities, nearly 10 million pounds of that waste ended up in landfills. One of the first steps in the pilot program is to conduct an audit to determine exactly what kind of trash is being produced at these parks and how best to manage it. The long-term objective is to make the parks garbage-free.

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Sustainable Century

Building on Subaru of America’s multi-year partnership with the National Park Foundation, the Zero-Landfill initiative is timed to celebrate the National Park Service centennial in 2016. The potential of the Zero-Landfill initiative is a game-changer for parks tasked to lead by example in the global effort to confront climate change and its causes. The program will support concessioners with advice on best practices and highlight ways for visitors to minimize their environmental impact while making the most of their national park adventures. Learn more about the Zero-Landfill initiative.

Another initiative, Find Your Park, Love Your Park, an educational program produced by National Geographic with support from Subaru, is designed to empower students to claim parks as places for recreation, conservation, and discovery. This program encourages users to find, share, and become national parks stewards.

Together, these initiatives will not only make hundreds of national parks more pristine to eager explorers, but they will help establish a more environmentally sustainable future in which national parks embrace zero-landfill priorities to guide their waste-management practices.  

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