2017 Environmental Achievement Awards

National Park Service (NPS) recently announced the 2017 recipients of the annual Environmental Achievement Awards, honoring NPS teams and partners that demonstrate exceptional environmental accomplishments. This year, two concessioners were recognized for their achievements in supporting the NPS goal of the preservation, protection, and stewardship of environmental resources.

The NPS Environmental Achievement Award recognizes outstanding achievements in the following areas:

  • Green Innovation;
  • Lean, Clean, and Green;
  • Good Neighbor;
  • Green Dream Team;
  • Building the Future;
  • Environmental Stewardship; and
  • Climate Champion.

Winners:

Buffalo Bus Touring Company at Yellowstone National Park (YELL)

Buffalo Bus Touring Company at Yellowstone National Park received an award for Green Innovation for their efforts on the Low-Pressure Tire (LPT) Program. Buffalo Bus worked closely with the YELL staff over the past three winter seasons to research and experiment with various LPT sizes and models, develop necessary vehicle modifications and specifications, and invest substantially in a wide range of new products to test. The LPT program has improved the wintertime visitor experience with environmentally cleaner and quieter snowcoaches.

Prior to the implementation of LPTs, snowcoaches all used Mattracks, a rubber track system used to go over snow and other difficult terrain. Mattrack snowcoaches were averaging 1.5 miles per gallon. LPT snowcoaches are achieving 3.5 - 5.3 mpg, depending on conditions and tire size. Mattrack-equipped snowcoaches produce 70-75 decibels (dB). LPT snowcoaches produce an average of 58 dB, resulting in a ride that is 4-5 times quieter.

The use of LPTs has resulted in a significant increase in the lifespan of vehicle parts. Because Mattracks are much harder on vehicles, concessioners must replace vehicle parts often and generally the tracks themselves every few weeks (each track is ~$2,500). In contrast, LPTs can last years and cause significantly less damage to a vehicle.

As LPT snowcoaches began to demonstrate significant increases in fuel efficiency, major reduction in noise levels, an abundance of positive visitor feedback, and substantial reduction in cost and materials for over-snow vehicle operators, YELL has committed to allowing the use of these tires in the future, with specifications regarding tire size still in development. Buffalo Bus Touring Company’s leadership has been instrumental to the development of the LPT Program.

Delaware North at Yellowstone National Park (YELL)

Delaware North at YELL received an award for Green Innovation related to Yellowstone General Stores’ zero-waste warehouse. In an effort to bring waste management to a new level, Yellowstone General Stores began a Zero Waste campaign in 2014 at the 40,000-square foot warehouse facility located within the Park boundaries in West Yellowstone, Montana. The goal of the Zero Waste campaign was to ultimately divert 90% of all waste generated on site from entering the landfill through waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting by the end of 2016.

Strategies for accomplishing this goal included working with vendors and suppliers on packaging and source reduction efforts, analyzing the current waste streams and identifying areas for improvements, continual employee and vendor training, and improving purchasing processes.

As of September 2016, the warehouse in West Yellowstone is certified Platinum by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. The warehouse is the first zero-waste facility ever to be established in a U.S. National Park. The West Yellowstone warehouse boasts zero-waste, a closed-loop recycling and composting system, reusable packing materials, environmental purchasing, robust training programs, and a 93.9% waste diversion rate.

As a result of the efforts undertaken by Delaware North, the warehouse diverted 709,027 pounds of waste from entering the landfill between 2014 and 2016. In 2016, over 800 pounds of compost was collected at the facility and used at a Delaware North-owned greenhouse. In two years, the amount of trash going to landfills was reduced 60% while 256,332 pounds of material were recycled in 2016. Delaware North estimates that in three years the new warehouse policies have saved $263,000 in waste disposal fees. Delaware North has shown a commitment to green innovation through the implementation of their zero-waste warehouse.

Yellowstone National Park (YELL) Canyon Area Lodging Redevelopment Team

The Yellowstone National Park Canyon Area Lodging Redevelopment Team at Yellowstone National Park received an award for Lean, Clean and Green. The team, comprised of staff from Yellowstone and Xanterra Parks & Resorts, worked to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification on all five (5) of the Canyon Area Lodging Redevelopment project lodges. Four out of five lodges received a LEED Gold certification, one achieved a LEED silver certification and the Canyon Area site was registered as a LEED Master Site. LEED Master Sites allow design submittal credits to be shared while still allowing for individual certification of buildings.

One of the main goals of the project was to maximize open space and protect and restore existing habitat. Specifically, the project aimed to decrease the overall lodging footprint by grouping the lodges tighter together. As a result of the design and construction, over 1,075,000 square feet of vegetated open space was set aside within the LEED project boundary and of this space 1,050,000 square feet is now protected and restored from previous development.

In addition to the environmental benefits of a smaller physical footprint, the project also had an immense effect of water and energy conservation. Ultimately, the project reduced energy use by 30%, saves 225,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and 3.5 million gallons of water per year.

The Canyon Area Lodging Redevelopment was the largest green building project in NPS history and the team of park staff and partners should be commended for their efforts.

Grand Teton Lodge Company at Grand Teton National Park (GRTE)

Grand Teton Lodge Company at Grand Teton National Park received an award for Green Innovation. They expanded their pilot program to divert pre-consumer food waste from Jenny Lake Lodge, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Colter Bay Village and diverted pre-consumer food waste to local farming operations.

Over the past several years, waste diversion has been a top priority for Grand Teton Lodge Company, and GRTE and staff have spent significant time and energy working to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills. Grand Teton Lodge Company realized that with its eleven significant food and beverage outlets in three park locations, it had an opportunity to make a large impact on the waste diversion efforts at GRTE. After exploring recycling and composting options, Grand Teton Lodge Company discovered that partnering with local farms could make a significant impact. Grand Teton Lodge Company partners with Purely by Chance Farm and the Kelly Garden Project and delivers pre-consumer food waste to these operations for use as feed and/or compost.

As a result of their efforts, in 2016 Grand Teton Lodge Company diverted 17,219 pounds of pre-consumer food waste that traditionally would have been disposed of in local landfills. In both 2015 and 2016 combined, Grand Teton Lodge Company has diverted a total of 20,619 pounds which is equivalent to 89 full trash dumpsters.

Grand Teton Lodge Company plans to continue its food waste diversion project into the future and will continue to help GRTE meet its waste diversion goals.

Honorable Mention:

Xanterra Parks & Resorts Zion Lodge at Zion National Park (ZION)

Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Zion National Park received an honorable mention for Green Innovation. The award recognized their commitment to sustainability and innovative product use through the replacement of standard cleaning chemicals with a more environmentally preferable, and safer, electrolyzed water system in 2016. The new system greatly reduced the exposure of hazardous chemicals to employees and visitors, while providing superior cleaning and sanitizing capabilities.

Electrolyzed water is the industrial name for solutions produces from the electrolysis of ordinary tap water containing dissolved salt. The resulting cleaning product is an effective product that cleans without leaving any chemical residue. Zion Lodge personnel were trained on the needed changes to their operations and seamlessly transitioned to the use of this new product.

Prior to the switch, Zion Lodge was using 100% Green Seal certified chemical which cost significantly more than standard products. With the switch to electrolyzed water, Zion Lodge expects an annual savings of $9000. Since the use of electrolyzed water has eliminated many of the products previously used, employee training and risk concerns have decreased and additionally dozens of pounds of packaging waste have been eliminated from the Lodge’s waste stream.

The switch has been so successful that Zion Lodge plans to continue its use into the future, and Xanterra Parks and Resorts is now considering the same actions at several other NPS sites.