Yellowstone National Park concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts has – for years – been leading the charge to make environmental preservation and sustainable operations a top priority. And the results – measured, documented and available to the public – prove the company’s programs are working.
Many of Xanterra’s programs are highly creative, a necessity when one’s operations are in remote areas. For example, a team of Xanterra employees developed and installed equipment that allows 10,000 gallons of cooking oil annually to be injected into the boiler system for fuel, replacing the need for diesel fuel in the boiler and petroleum-based heating oil. Introduced in 2008 and now being implemented in other Xanterra locations, the system significantly reduces annual carbon dioxide emissions as well as fossil fuels needed to transport the cooking oil offsite for recycling. Xanterra received Environmental Achievement Awards from the National Park Service and Department of Interior for this project.
Last year, Xanterra diverted 73 percent of its solid waste from landfill disposal. Teamwork is critical for a successful environmental program and Xanterra works closely with the West Yellowstone Compost Facility to turn a large part of its waste into compost. More than 2.2 million pounds of compost was produced from park waste and re-used for landscaping projects, and by farmers and residents throughout the region.
Another example of innovative sustainable operations can be found in the company’s guest room amenities. Vegetable-based, waste-reducing soaps are shaped like oval doughnuts with the middle – the part of the soap that is often unused by hotel guests – missing. The design change with something as simple as a bar of soap illustrates how every solution aimed at even seemingly small issues can have measurable benefits for the planet. The new soap design is keeping tons of waste material from entering the planet. In addition, shampoo and lotion are now in biodegradable bottles so more than 280,000 plastic bottles – and nine tons of waste – are eliminated from the waste stream annually.
Xanterra installed a massive tunnel washer and water recovery system in its laundry facility that saves 3,500 gallons of water daily. Xanterra annually washes some 2.2 million pounds of laundry.
“Sometimes the environmental challenges in a one-of-a-kind place like Yellowstone can be daunting, but our employees are utterly committed to continually finding ways to improve the environmental aspects of the way we do business,” said Beth Pratt, environmental affairs director for Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone. “We often find ourselves coming up with new ideas and sometimes even developing our own machines and systems to meet these challenges.”
Another example of environmental teamwork in the park is the development of a first-of-its-kind machine to recycle propane canisters from campgrounds. Funded by Xanterra, the National Park Service and other park partners for the specific purpose of minimizing propane canister waste, the award-winning machine converts canisters into scrap metal. More than 15,000 canisters were processed and diverted from the landfill in 2009.
Pratt and Xanterra recently received accolades from the Association for Retail Environments for an innovative new gift store called “For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts.” Located in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the store’s purpose is to inspire visitors to help protect national parks. Everything in the store – from the shelving and flooring to the lighting and products sold – is sustainable. Products in the store are accompanied by “sustainability scorecards” that provide comprehensive information on the impact the items have on the environment.
Here are some other examples of Yellowstone’s environmental initiatives. For a complete listing of the concessioners specific initiatives – more than 60 in all – visit: http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/environmental-action-at-yellowstone-national-park-1641.html.
- Xanterra is purchasing compostable disposable to-go containers, cups and utensils for use in park-wide food service operations. This step will divert 12 tons of material from the landfill annually.
- In 2009 alone, donated 17,920 pounds of linens to local non-profits for reuse and 97,500 pounds of worn mattresses and box springs to a business that refurbishes them for low-income housing.
- Last year, some 50 percent of construction waste was diverted from the landfill, including more than 15,000 pounds of carpet.
- Xanterra has built two LEED-certified employee houses. The houses are the first residential homes in the nation to apply for LEED certification, the first LEED-certified buildings in the state of Montana and the first LEED-certified concession buildings in any U.S. national park. The homes feature a solar electric power system, structural insulated roof panels, a high-efficiency propane boiler, indirect-heated water heater, Xeriscape landscaping and more.
- Last year the company’s Yellowstone operations diverted 73 percent of its solid waste from landfills into other areas such as recycling, reusing and composting. Over the past nine years the company has reduced overall energy use by 14 percent, water usage by 25 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent.
“We mean business with our environmental programs here, and just like any good business, we measure and carefully study our results,” said Pratt. “While we will not rest on our environmental laurels, and will continue to seek ways to improve our programs, we are pleased with the progress we have made in the last few years.”
Complete details about accommodations, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone can be made by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 1-866-GEYSERLAND (10866-439-7375).