XANTERRA PARKS & RESORTS’ INNOVATIVE STORE IN YELLOWSTONE EDUCATES VISITORS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE IN NATIONAL PARKS

Yellowstone’s newest gift store has a single purpose: to inspire visitors to help protect national parks. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges, gift shops, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone National Park, has converted its gift shop in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel into an interpretive facility dedicated to informing park visitors about climate change and offering environmentally friendly products.

The store was dedicated Jan. 7, 2010. Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, spoke at the dedication and gave a keynote address following the event. The event was also attended by some of the store’s key green vendors and non-profit partners including Kind Coffee, Ecowood Display and the Yellowstone Association. Dung and Dunger, which sells bison dung paper notecards and artwork in the store, provided a bison dung paper-based “dedication ribbon.”

Called “For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts” the store opened last summer after a sustainable remodel and the addition of new green products. Since then, interpretive displays have been incorporated into the store design. These new displays focus on the impact of climate change on Yellowstone and other national parks. New product environmental scorecards reinforce that message as well.

“We want the visitors to know that by recycling an aluminum can, purchasing sustainable products or turning down the heat, they’re not only helping the environment, but they’re also supporting the mission of the National Park Service of ensuring that Yellowstone – and all its inhabitants – remain for future generations to enjoy,” said Beth Pratt, director of environmental affairs for Xanterra’s Yellowstone operations.

In keeping with the environmental theme, materials used in the remodeling of the store are reclaimed, recycled or sourced from sustainable operations. For example, shelving was constructed out of reclaimed wood, some of it from buildings in the park, including flooring from the Old Faithful Inn and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The new floor was constructed of Tamarac harvested from a healthy forest in Montana. Lighting comes from energy-efficient, minimum-impact LED (Light-Emitting Diodes) bulbs.

Each product sold also has an original “sustainability scorecard” describing its sustainable attributes. Conventional items are offered alongside sustainable options providing shoppers with the necessary information to make gift choices based on their own values. “We believe this is the first retail store to extensively utilize a transparent and extensive environmental scorecard,” noted Pratt.

Displays include information on the threats climate change poses to our national parks, what the various entities in the park are doing to minimize their environmental impacts and what techniques visitors can use at home. “Xanterra is striving on a daily basis to develop new ways to protect the environment,” said Pratt. “Our hope is that what we learn can be used by others on a much broader scale to improve global environmental health.” The displays will also change over time based upon new information from the environmental community as well as feedback from park visitors and company employees.

Xanterra’s environmental program, called Ecologix, is widespread. Last year the company diverted 72 percent of its solid waste from landfills into other areas such as recycling, reusing and composting. Over the past eight years the company has reduced its overall energy use by 11 percent and its water usage by 18 percent. Xanterra recently began using amenities such as cruelty-free shampoo, conditioner and amenities bottles made of corn starch that are compostable. This single initiative will divert more than 280,000 plastic bottles annually from the waste stream.

General reservations for accommodations, tours and activities can be made by calling Xanterra’s Yellowstone reservations at 307-344-7311 or toll-free at 1-866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375), or online at www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com.