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What We're Doing

Environmental Action at Yellowstone National Park

We are a company based upon values that reflect an environmental ethic and social conscience – for the long term. We are taking the lead in this call and are implementing comprehensive environmental initiatives. Xanterra’s business practices exemplify environmental stewardship, and a desire to protect and preserve the public lands on which we operate.

  • In 2014, we diverted over 74% of our waste from landfill disposal. Through innovative composting and recycling programs, we were able to keep nearly 4 million pounds of material from entering our local landfills. In addition to conventional recyclables (cans, bottles, paper, etc.), Xanterra also recycles or donates for reuse electronic waste, used oil, tires, laundry bags, linens, curtains, batteries, cooking oil, manure, solvents, and more. All told, all of these recycled and donated items added up to over 2 million pounds. Detailed information can be made available through Xanterra’s Ecometrix tracking program.
  • Xanterra sorts refuse to send to the West Yellowstone Compost Facility, where all park organics are processed into a marketable soil amendment. Nearly 2 million pounds of waste is turned into compost each year.
  • Our service center recycles all used automotive batteries, tires, Freon, antifreeze, and paint solvents.
  • Our parkwide bulk amenities program reduces waste by using refillable in-room amenities for soaps and lotions, as we continuously work to eliminate unnecessary materials from entering our waste stream.
  • We recycle all manure from stable operations and provide it to local agricultural businesses, including over 640,000 pounds in 2014.
  • During the entire 2013 operating season at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Xanterra piloted a 3-bin waste collection system. This system, intended to increase Xanterra’s waste diversion rate by offering a wider variety of sorting options for our guests, incorporated new and enhanced waste messaging and signage with detailed sorting guidelines and visual cues as to how waste can be properly sorted. Instead of the option of sorting only by recyclable vs. non-recyclable, guests now have separate bins for recycling, compost, and landfill waste. In 2015, we put these waste sorting stations in nearly 500 YNP rooms and they will be in 40% of rooms by 2016.
  • To round out our waste collection infrastructure, Back Alley Metals waste/recycling containers have been deployed throughout our operations. Having these strategically placed throughout the park helps to ensure that our guests have ample opportunities for waste management and recycling during their stay. Additionally, Back Alley Metals is a local company operating out of Red Lodge, Montana.


  • Installed a “tunnel washer” in the laundry that employs a water recovery system with reported increases in water efficiency of more than 70% for the over 2 million pounds of laundry that we wash annually. It now takes only about 0.3 gallons of water to wash 1 pound, in addition to demonstrating a reduction in chemical use.
  • Unless visitors request more frequent replacement, we only change out towels and linens in guest rooms after three days, in order to reduce water and detergent use.
  • Our Food & Beverage staff are trained on food preparation techniques that do not include “water thawing” by running items under the faucet.
  • We do not irrigate our grounds except in some limited areas, as required by NPS.


  • In 2011, we upgraded Mammoth Dining room lights with 330 Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights from Eco-Story, which save an estimated 86,000 kwh and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 67 tons annually.
  • We continue to replace halogen bulbs with much more energy efficient LEDs at park-wide retail locations. For example, we replaced 20 watt halogen bulbs with 3 watt LEDs in the gift shop at the Old Faithful Lodge—this reduces greenhouse gas emissions by over 6 tons a year!
  • We upgraded over 500 light fixtures at Mammoth from T-12 to T-8 lamps (which use on average 35% less energy), and reduced number of existing lamps by half.
  • The Old Faithful “Old House” rooms, front desk candelabras and dining room, as well as the Roosevelt Lodge chandeliers, are receiving retrofits in 2015 that will feature LED lights that mimic filament bulbs in order to uphold the historic aesthetics of these iconic buildings.
  • In 2011, several large-scale lighting retrofits occurred in our General Accounting Office and all of the facilities in Gardiner, MT. This project involved the retrofitting of all existing T-12 fluorescent lighting to more energy efficient T-8 bulbs and electronic ballasts. These T-8 bulbs not only consume less electricity, but have a higher light output.
  • Overall, we have replaced tens of thousands of incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFLs) and LEDs. CFLs and LEDs can be between 60 and 90% more efficient and last 10 times longer than incandescent lamps while providing the same light quality.

Resource Conservation & Efficiency

  • Our maintenance crew shuts down boilers where applicable on locations during times of low demand. We continue to phase in boilers that operate on propane, which burns more cleanly than fuel oil.
  • We utilize vendor misers—a power saving device—to reduce lighting on most of the park’s vending machines.
  • Replaced old coffee makers with Keurig® brewers. On average, the machines save 16 oz. of water per day and reduce energy use by 90%. We are now examining ways to recycle and compost the coffee pod components.
  • We have implemented an aggressive energy management program in Food & Beverage focusing on managing and minimizing energy use including water, electricity, and propane. We distribute posters, stickers, and checklists that make managing the program straightforward and user friendly.
  • Housekeeping has created an energy conservation program that includes unplugging appliances (hair dryers, mini fridges and fans) in vacant/due-out guestrooms to conserve energy.
  • Our procurement and design standards for appliances, equipment, and structures are based on green best practices, including those required for LEED certification and in conjunction with Xanterra’s overall efficiency guidelines. For example, we favor Energy Star-rated purchases wherever possible.
  • A significant aspect of sustainability is durability; we value the resources and materials that go into our buildings, furniture and other equipment and seek to make it last as long as possible through restoration by dedicated staff, before buying replacements. For example, our support services team rebuilds vehicles, thereby reducing the need for natural resources and energy to generate new vehicles.
  • In 2011, the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room became certified as a Green Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association, a non-profit organization that provides a way for restaurants to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability. To achieve its Green Restaurant certification, the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room installed waterless urinals, high-efficiency hand dryers, dual-flush toilets, and super energy efficient LED lamps, and sources of local, organic, and sustainable cuisine, including sustainably sourced salmon.

Clean Energy

  • Because on-site generation of renewable energy can be quite challenging within the boundaries of a National Park, Yellowstone has included the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in our environmental portfolio. In 2015, we purchased 15,168,637 kilowatt hours (kWh) of American Wind from Renewable Choice Energy. This accounts for 100% of our total electricity usage in one year. RECs are intended to reduce the impacts from the use of electricity when on-site solutions may not be available. By purchasing RECs, Xanterra is taking responsibility for our environmental impact and raising awareness of the changes that are needed in the way our business operates and how we impact the world around us.
  • We collect thousands of gallons of ‘waste’ vegetable oil generated from food service operations for reuse by a local business that converts it into biofuel. We hope to close the loop by using that fuel in our own fleet through a pilot program starting in 2016.
  • Certified new Paintbrush Employee Housing at Old Faithful to U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) highest level, LEED Platinum, in 2015.
  • As of 2015, additional LEED-registered certification projects include the Canyon Area Lodge Redevelopment and Haynes Administration Building.
  • Published a handbook for architects and contractors on “Guidelines for Environmentally Sustainable Design & Construction” to inject environmental aspects into new builds and renovation projects.
  • Built two LEED certified houses that produce more than 7 million btu of electricity from solar arrays.
  • Requires contractors for all remodeling and new construction projects to divert, at minimum, at least 50% of resulting waste from landfill disposal through reuse or recycling. They must also complete a Waste Reduction Plan prior to contract approval, and submit a quarterly project report detailing all activities related to waste minimization and recycling.
  • Upgraded Mammoth Hotel Dining Room bathroom in a sustainable remodel that includes dual-flush toilets, high efficiency hand-dryers, low-flow faucets, waterless urinals, and partitions made from recycled pressed paperstone.
  • Reduced gasoline usage from 2013 to 2014 by 0.7%, which normalized by revenue from our 2000 baseline is an approximately 9% overall reduction in gasoline consumption. Diesel use increased slightly.
  • Replaced two-stroke engines with cleaner-burning and more efficient four-stroke engines on all rental boats.
  • We operate oversnow vehicles, including snowcoaches, in the wintertime that meet stringent NPS best available technology standards as part of collaborative efforts to reduce emissions and noise pollution in the park.
  • Operates 15 hybrid Toyota Prius cars with high mpg.
  • Partnered with NPS in 2015 to take on operation of 3 new Electric Vehicle Charging stations, the first to be offered in Yellowstone National Park. The first will be installed at Mammoth Hot Springs in Fall 2015.
  • For the larger vehicles in our fleet, particularly diesel-powered buses, we are working on a three-year phase out of the oldest, least efficiently burning vehicles. This reduces carbon emissions and improves air quality for park visitors, wildlife and our overall climate. In addition, we have joined park partners for an ongoing educational campaign to reduce engine idling and trips that run at less-than-full capacity.
  • Purchases new vehicles at the most fuel-efficient in their category according to the DOE website. Retires older vehicles with poor mpg during annual fleet purchase.
  • Using five electric eneloop bikes—a pedal assisted, synergetic hybrid model—donated by Sanyo on locations to help reduce vehicle use.

Plan ahead and stash a reusable bag in your luggage—companies like Chico make compact styles for easy travel. Our society consumes almost 1 million plastic bags per minute and most end up in the landfill.

In partnership with the National Park Service, and as supported by a U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Grant, we recently installed Xanterra Park’s & Resort’s first guest-facing Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station at our Yellowstone National Park Lodges property. Now you and your car can both recharge your batteries when you visit the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel location, which is conveniently located just 5 miles from the park’s North Gate entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Two more Yellowstone stations will be installed in 2016.

Recognizing how guests get to and enjoy the National Parks is changing; EV’s are becoming more mainstream with over 200,000 electric vehicles on the road today in the United State. We’ve made the move to adapt by installing a Clipper Creek Dual Mount CS-40 Level 2 system that allows guests to charge their vehicles during the day or during an overnight visit free of charge. For more information about the charging stations, please see our User FAQ. The Clean Cities program and AAA also provide useful general information about EV’s, including how to choose zero- and low-emissions vehicles.

The environmental benefits of bringing such technology to Yellowstone are significant and include support of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, minimization of petroleum use, and overall air quality improvements associated with park visitation and traffic at Yellowstone. For almost two decades, Xanterra’s sustainability initiatives have significantly reduced the company’s environmental footprint. This installation, along with other sustainability initiatives, provides nearly 20 million visitors annually to Xanterra’s operations a unique opportunity to join the Softer Footprint journey.

Xanterra has a goal to achieve 75% total sustainable sourcing covering retail, cuisine, operations, and capital projects by 2020.

Responsible Material Management

  • Preference to products and vendors that minimize packaging and/or provide material take-back and reuse opportunities. For example, one of our largest vendors, Sysco, utilizes plastic pallets for shipping, and takes them back for reuse instead of using wood pallets that tend to break. Our parkwide bulk amenities program also reduces waste by using refillable in-room amenities for soaps and lotions, and bear-shaped bar soaps that are shipped without individual wrapping.
  • In addition to office paper with 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, our paper print shop products, dining menus, guest room directories and signage are also high PCR content as well as processed chlorine-free (PCF) and printed with soy inks whenever possible. For example: we have upgraded our in-room Guest Service Directory binders to ones with recycled content material.
  • We have removed all non-recyclable paper (neon colors) from our print shop.
  • Sanitary paper is 100% PCR and PCF for more than 2,200 guest rooms, campgrounds and RV parks; towels for dispensers at all properties and restrooms; and napkins in employee dining rooms and cafeterias.
  • Sustainably sourced waste sorting fixtures such as locally made, recycled-content Back Alley Metals outdoor recycling stations and recycled content in-room waste sorting units.
  • Switched all of its pens in lodging services to Bic Ecolutions that are made from 75% pre-consumer plastic.
  • Eliminated all Styrofoam disposable food containers from operations.
  • Lodging purchases pillows that feel like down but are actually made in part from recycled plastic content! We have also converted to eco-friendly shower curtains made of non-PVC plastic materials that do not off-gas.
  • Chemicals
  • We review all new chemicals introduced into our park operations for environmental attributes through our Chemical Review Committee and try to minimize the total number of products.
  • Biodegradable and environmentally preferable laundry detergent in campground vending.
  • Housekeeping and other cleaning chemicals that are eco-friendly, including as designated through Green Seal, for the majority of our routine needs.
  • Replaced disinfectants for most departments with Pure Green 24, a product that contains no alcohol, bleach or other toxic ingredients and its manufacturing process produces zero discharge with no waste or byproducts. PureGreen 24 is manufactured from Silver Ions, Citric Acid and Purified Water.
  • Converted to propylene glycol coolant (from ethylene glycol) in all areas of operation to reduce potential toxicity to wildlife.
  • Equipment & Building Systems
  • Automatically adjusted and/or programmable, energy- and fuel-efficient equipment, devices, lighting, HVAC-R, etc.
  • Water efficient fixtures for replacements and construction.
  • Sustainable building and interior materials in addition to those with recycled content, such as regionally sourced, rapidly renewable resource, and/or non-toxic flooring, trims, walls, etc. Includes zero- or low-VOC paints, finishes, adhesives and sealants.
  • Zero ozone-depleting substances (CFC’s etc.) in HVAC-R, including for vehicles.
  • The most fuel-efficient vehicles (by class according to the DOE website) are purchased, with preference for hybrids and other high efficiency vehicles in high-use applications.
  • Our operations achieved over 40% sustainable retail sourcing in 2014, as part of our ongoing commitment to responsible procurement practices.
  • We strive to educate our guests about climate change in the parks and options for reducing our individual and collective impacts through sustainable product choices. Our Retail operation provides a growing array of environmentally friendly merchandise. Products are labeled wherever possible to indicate environmentally preferable status (i.e., organic, locally/regionally produced or Made in USA, sustainably harvested, culturally significant (e.g., Native American art), made of repurposed or post-consumer recycled materials, made from renewable resources, reusable, biodegradable, third party eco- or socially-responsible certification, etc.).
  • Examples of more sustainable products that we offer in gift shops include: durable and reusable items, such as water bottles; recycled content home decor; sustainably packaged gifts; local goods like pottery and clothing; gourmet foods, such as those with Montana huckleberry ingredients; and Native American-made crafts.
  • In addition to utilizing repurposed wine bottles as our in-room glasses, we also sell the glasses in our gift stores. These glasses are branded with a unique sustainability message and YNPL logo, and provide an excellent interpretative opportunity for our guests.
  • As part of our interorganizational effort with others across Yellowstone to transition away from the use single-use disposable plastic water bottles, we’re offering new amenities. We encourage and enable guests to stay hydrated with fresh tap water from the park, and they can replenish at water filling stations found throughout our locations in Yellowstone. In the summer of 2013, Xanterra installed our first dedicated water bottle filling unit, or “hydration station” in the lobby of the Mammoth Hotel. As of early 2015, we will have dedicated stations in four lodging properties and will be adding three more; all locations will have dedicated filling stations by 2016.
  • To complement the hydration station program, we provide lodging guests the option to purchase reusable water bottles. We also offer a variety of reusable containers, at a range of price points, for purchase in gift shops.
  • We do not automatically offer shopping bags to guests at our gift stores, and instead them the option to request a disposable bag. These are made with almost 100% recycled content and our paper gift bags certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • In addition, guests who spend over $50 get a free reusable tote bag (85% recycled content).
  • Retail employees are resourceful about reusing boxes and gift packaging to reduce landfill waste.

Sustainable cuisine’s impacts don’t stop at environmental sustainability. One of the most significant and far-reaching effects of a commitment to sustainable cuisine is the multitude of ancillary impacts that sustainable food choices have on local economies and community development. Keeping food dollars local creates jobs, builds community, protects habitat, and maintains a farming and ranching heritage—all critical values in our rural western communities. To support continued market transformation and support such assets, Yellowstone National Park Lodges collaborates on a daily basis with agricultural vendors to incorporate local foods into menus wherever possible. Meeting the demands of YNPL’s quality standards while finding producers who can service Xanterra’s high peak-season volumes can be challenging for a small business. Our Food & Beverage department has been instrumental in helping to build the local infrastructure to support otherwise undeveloped markets and achieve mutual quality and sustainability goals with such enterprises.

  • Xanterra has a serious commitment to serving our employees and guests healthy and sustainable cuisine whenever possible. In 2014, approximately 38% of our total food purchases were sourced according to at least one sustainable attribute. These purchases cover guest as well as employee dining provisions. Our goal is to achieve 75% sustainable sourcing by 2025.
  • Sustainable options consider: local/regional production regional (e.g., Western Sustainability Exchange partner), eco-certified (e.g. Fair Trade, USDA Organic, non-GMO and Rainforest Alliance), antibiotic- and hormone-free, responsibly harvested, animal welfare and vegetarian attributes.
  • All of our dining menus utilize icons to highlight sustainable choices and some of the producers who we work with. We regularly refresh our menus, as detailed in this recent showcase of culinary options at Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
  • YNPL’s sustainable food program partners with hundreds of local producers in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and surrounding areas. A key to boosting local economies has been YNPL’s relationship with the Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE) in nearby Livingston, Montana. WSE is committed to connecting producers with food purchasers to stimulate sustainable and healthy food systems and strengthen rural communities. The benefit of this partnership is demonstrated by the many new producer relationships that Xanterra has cultivated. The impacts that related purchases have had on these small businesses are significant and help stimulate local market access to high-quality and environmentally preferable products. WSE’s livestock considerations include: no hormones or antibiotics; low-stress handling; produced in the region; USDA Certified Organic; Sustainable Stewardship Practices (habitat conservation, etc.), grass-fed certified; and non-GMO seed or feed.
  • The Director of Food & Beverage Services for Yellowstone National Park Lodges serves on the Western Sustainability Exchange’s board.
  • Examples of sustainable cuisine include local fare such as: teas from Tumblewood Teas; flour and bread products from Wheat Montana; goat cheese from Amaltheia Organic Dairy; lamb from Wolf Ridge; natural prime rib from Harris Ranch; Idaho potatoes; healthy, grass-fed game such as elk and bison; trout from MT Trout Culture in Paradise Valley; produce from Market Day Foods; and a variety of regionally made beer and wine options.
  • In addition, the Wild Alaskan Salmon on our menus meets standards for well managed and sustainable harvesting. Chilean Seabass, Atlantic Swordfish, Shark and Bluefin tuna are not served in the park as they are either a threatened species or are harvested in a way that damages the environment. Overall, we strive to only source seafood that is on the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch “good list”.
  • Instead of selling fossil fuel-based plastic bottles of water, all of our to-go food services offer alternatively packaged, recyclable water bottle products.
  • We continuously reduce the amount of solid waste generated from dining operations in restaurants, delis, cafeterias and other food service areas through the increasing use of bulk condiments. In addition, disposable food and beverage to-go items are made from biodegradable and industrially compostable materials (e.g., paper, corn starch or polylactic acid, or PLA equivalent). Includes containers, utensils, plates, cups and paper products for guests at Concession Facilities.
  • We contributed to the National Park Service’s Food For The Parks initiative, including a case study report and the strategic Roadmap publication for best practices in concessions management.
  • In 2015, Yellowstone National Park Lodges was honored as a recipient of a National Park Service Environmental Achievement Award. The recognition was a direct result of our successes partnering with and contributing to local, sustainable food providers.
  • Implemented ongoing Environmental Responsibility training for all employees, including general orientation and environmental tailgates.
  • In 2011, the Xanterra Sustainability office launched SustainaBits, a weekly dispatch highlighting environmental programs, information, opportunities that is distributed to all employees. SustainaBits topics range from sustainable cuisine menu items, environmental volunteer opportunities, and updated information on park-wide environmental programs.
  • Assembled a very active “Green Team” (called the Yellowstone Environmental Stewardship Council) to encourage employee participation in environmental initiatives and to develop new and innovative ways to move forward toward environmental sustainability.
  • Publishes a Softer Footprint summary of Xanterra’s continued commitment to environmental stewardship at Yellowstone, including project cameos and an Ecomap of the park.
  • Our overall environmental footprint and community support initiatives are explained in Xanterra’s company-wide Corporate Responsibility report
  • Instituted a “Help Protect Yellowstone” campaign to increase environmental awareness of employees.
  • A new employee training program, “Keeping Yellowstone Green: A Guide for Xanterra Employees” was introduced in 2009.
  • Features articles and informational posts in the park newsletter, employee newsletter, Twitter and Facebook pages about our environmental programs and green tips.
  • Our For Future Generations retail themes educate park visitors on climate change in national parks and sustainable consumer choices.
  • Provide in-room environmental education features for guests that includes a reusable water bottle, our Softer Footprint brochure, and information our nonprofit partner Yellowstone Forever.
  • Provides free Eco-Kids activity books.
  • Created a website, For Future Generations, that educates visitors on climate change in parks and traveling green.
  • Offer recycling and waste sorting stations in our guest lodges. The station at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel features a concrete top that is embedded with recycled glass from Yellowstone!
  • All guest rooms feature signage on waste sorting bins to assist with proper sorting of recyclable and compostable (where offered) materials from landfill trash. By 2016, over 40% of our rooms will feature in-room waste sorting stations that accommodate all three waste streams; each of these custom-designed bins contain 342 recycled plastic milk jugs.
  • Guest rooms feature hang tags and mirror decals to support towel and linen reuse and water conservation in general.
  • Support the Green Star employee environmental awards program, which recognizes excellence in environmental leadership either through demonstration of ongoing commitment to our sustainability values at Xanterra or by proposing an idea with tangible environmental benefits that is accepted for implementation by the company.
  • Interact on a regular basis with visitor and student groups that request presentations on Sustainability at Yellowstone, as related to eco-tourism, green careers, climate change in national parks, business innovation, and similar themes.
  • We also contribute to thought leadership via Xanterra’s companywide Sustainability Blog.