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A Greener Future for National Parks


By Jay Lund

A bold idea born of big dreams: that’s how many iconic American companies got their start. It may be the best description of the bill that ultimately established Yellowstone National Park and sparked a worldwide trend of designating parcels of land for public enjoyment. Yet keeping this natural treasure open and accessible to more than 3 million visitors annually presents a unique set of challenges that Yellowstone’s administrators are addressing today with the same innovative spirit that first established the park.

Functioning as a park has an undeniable environmental impact on the very lands those millions visit and enjoy. Yellowstone’s leaders appreciate the fact that they could fall victim to their own success, and in 2010 established a five-year plan to elevate Yellowstone as a world leader in environmental stewardship. In other words, lead by example by being one of the greenest parks in the world. The Yellowstone Environmental Stewardship, or “Y.E.S.” Initiative, is the kind of private/public collaboration you hope makes a meaningful impact – and as a representative of one of the industry brands privileged to participate, I can attest that what we’re working on together is making a difference.

Mountain-high environmental management goals

Yellowstone set ambitious environmental management goals to achieve by 2016. Using 2003 figures as the baseline, Yellowstone leaders said they want to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent; and by 2025 achieve a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions

  • Reduce electricity consumption by 15 percent

  • Reduce fossil fuel consumption by 18 percent

  • Reduce water consumption by 15 percent

  • Divert 100 percent of municipal solid waste from landfills

These are bold and audacious objectives considering the park– all 2.2 million acres of it – holds nine visitor centers and museums; more than 2,000 hotel rooms and cabins, 1,500+ buildings, and well over 400 miles of roads (300 of them paved).  The magnitude of the effort to bring this initiative across the finish line required a public/private partnership, with an eye on high impact projects small and large. In the end 27 opportunities were highlighted.

Three Ps to Y.E.S.

The key to a successful Y.E.S. Initiative meant embracing three Ps: public-private partnership. The Yellowstone Park Foundation found the right set of corporations and educational institutions ready to support the initiative through products, services, and financial support that helped the park thoughtfully execute the Y.E.S. Initiative and maximize the effort in leading the way for other parks in the National Parks Service.

With two years left in the program, how are we doing? Here are two examples:

Lamar Buffalo Ranch: This site was a prime opportunity for improvement, with sleeping cabins that sit in the Lamar valley inside the park; temperatures reach -40 degrees below zero most winters. New windows were donated, upgrades to insulation and the addition of programmable thermostats in the cabins resulted in a 50 percent reduction in energy use in the first 12 months.

Mammoth Clinic: The most recent priority project in the program, this 1960s era building at the park’s headquarters serves the medical needs of all park staff as well as all visitors to the park each year. Andersen donated windows for the building retrofit, which was completed this past January. Energy data was taken before the remodel, to compare during a 12-month energy consumption analysis. We expect the results to be a significant reduction in energy use by the clinic.

We’re not done yet. We just committed to providing one of our most efficient windows, the 100 Series, to be used in a new dormitory under construction near the site of Old Faithful. These windows are a great example of the unique approach to an environmentally-friendly solution favored in the Y.E.S. Initiative: the window profiles utilize reclaimed wood fiber from our manufacturing operations and have SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certification.

Collaborative success across the centuries

Philosophers, poets and politicians have all contributed to the centuries-long conversation about our country’s natural resources that were eventually designated parklands. Preserving the beauty and vitality of these extraordinary lands ensures our country’s richest assets will be enjoyed by present and future generations to come. The Y.E.S. Initiative is really about “making sustainability more sustainable” or ensuring our national parks always contribute to a greener society.  The work we do today is an important investment in that vision, not just in the future potential of our National Parks, but in the past vision and leadership that led to their creation in the first place. It’s just one example of how drawing inspiration from the past helps us unlock the potential for an even greater, greener future.

Jay Lund is chairman, president and CEO of Andersen Corporation.

3p Contributor

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