The parks are undertaking projects to reduce their environmental footprint and you can do your part to make it even smaller.
Planning your next national park trip with an eye toward conservation can significantly reduce your vacation CO2 emissions, and—when combined with nearly 275 million park visitors a year—make a real difference.
Do Your Part! has a few ways to help ensure your footprint on the parks is more like a bird and less like a bear:
Before You Go
You can make park-friendly choices even before leaving home.
- Stay close to home. You don’t have to travel a great distance to find a great park. Research the options in your region, you might just find a gem you never even knew existed. Click here to find a park near you.
- Explore public transportation options to your park destination. Many parks are linked to train and bus routes. Other parks are in the middle of the city and are accessible even on foot. For additional information view the “plan your visit” or “directions” links on most national park web pages or visit the U.S. Park Service Trails and Rails site.
- If you are driving make sure your car is up to date on scheduled maintenance and check your tire pressure before you go. While on the highway, follow the speed limit—most scenery looks better when it isn’t blurry—and keep the windows up to save fuel when driving at higher speeds. Click here for more fuel efficiency tips or learn fuel efficient driving habits from the EPA.
- Need new gear? Try a gear swap service or the online classifieds. Afraid of commitment? Try borrowing equipment to see whether you like it before investing, or rent equipment—everything from tents to canoes—from an outfitter. Besides, you get better gas mileage on long trips without the canoe strapped to the top of your car.
- Shut down your house when you leave on an extended trip. Turn off and if possible unplug appliances—except your refrigerator—and turn down your water heater. To learn more energy-saving tips visit energysavers.gov or try to make every day Earth Day.
At the Park
It’s time to fully embrace the natural beauty and history of our parks.
- You are at the parks to see the parks, so you need to get around. Be sure to take advantage of the many park bus systems. If you really want to go eco-friendly, use a bike, canoe, kayak, or just hike while exploring. For the really adventurous, try one of the original bio-fuel vehicles and set out on a horse or a mule.
Follow the links below to access information on some of the public transportation and bus and shuttle systems available to national park visitors:National Park Service Alternative Transportation SystemsPark shuttle system pages
- Acadia National Park and the Island Explorer
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Colonial National Historical Park
- Denali National Park and Preserve
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Sleeping Bear Dunes Park
- Glacier National Park
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park and nearby Estes Park, Colorado
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Zion National Park
- When exploring the parks, avoid sensitive areas such as dunes, wetlands and stream beds, and steer clear of seasonal nesting or breeding areas. Many parks are singular hosts for endangered or threatened species and maintaining these habitats is essential for wildlife. Visit Leave No Trace for more information.
- Parks get thirsty and so do you. Pack in your own water, in your own bottle.
- We know you’ve got to eat, so bring your own dishes—and don’t forget utensils. Even etiquette experts approve of a spork when roughing it. Wash and reuse. If that’s not for you, try switching to one of the many kinds of tableware that are 100 percent compostable. It’s a start.
- Speaking of washing. Use the water from the melted ice in your cooler to wash dishes, and wash 200 feet away from streams and lakes. Choose biodegradable and phosphate-free soap to wash your dishes and yourself and be sure to scatter gray water so it safely filters through the soil before heading back to the water supply. Detergents, toothpaste, and soaps harm fish and other aquatic life.
- Go jump in a lake—clean-up and cool off. Choose a lake, or if you dare, wait until you get home for that full-on shower.
- With all this washing, there has to be drying. In a warm park? Dry out in the sun. Sun not an option—use a micro-towel, or use cloth instead of paper.
- Always check on campfire regulations in the park you are visiting. If there are burn restrictions, pack in a compact fuel stove, either way it reduces your impact on the park’s natural resources. Click here for more on responsible campfires.
- Whatever you do, pack out what you pack in. Carry a trash bag to pick up your litter and, heck, any litter left by others. Just because someone else has bad manners, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
- Keep it clean. Make sure garbage and belongings are stowed when boating. Plastic bags that blow overboard can choke aquatic species and wildlife.
- For more odor friendly packing out and in, re-use re-sealable plastic bags from home.
- Buy food in bulk and make your own personal-size portions. Maybe re-use re-sealable plastic bags from home. Once empty, they are great for packing out.
- Use crank electronics, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, or use the sun to recharge backcountry gadgets, for lighting try an LED lantern.
- When fishing, remember that catch and release helps ensure you will have fish for tomorrow’s trip! Click here for more on catch and release.
- We know they are pretty, but when diving or snorkeling near coral reefs, do not touch, stand, walk on, kick, or collect coral. Read some snorkeling tips.
- Don’t be shallow. If you are operating a boat in warm water, navigate carefully to avoid contact with coral reefs, and never drop anchor onto a reef. Also use care when boating in shallow water to protect delicate seagrass below. Click here for more eco-friendly boating tips.
The End is Really Just the Beginning
You’ve seen the park, now you want to protect it even more
- Sort your trash. Divide your waste into recyclables, garbage, and compostable items—if there is composting at the park—or even if you compost and recycle at home. Click here for more on recycling in the parks or read up on the extensive recycling program at Zion National Park.
- Following a trip, wash your gear and vehicle to help reduce the spread of invasive species. And it’s OK to head to the local car wash. The average driveway-bucket wash uses more than 500 gallons of water and the soapy run-off can affect water quality and aquatic life. The average commercial carwash uses only 32 gallons a car, recycles that water continuously, and ensures the run-off is treated before heading back to community water supplies. Click here to learn more about invasive species in our national parks.
- Plan your next trip to a national park; it’s a climate-friendly vacation. Not that there’s anything wrong with golfing, but a typical backpacking trip has a much smaller footprint than a golf vacation of the same duration.
- Stay involved. Plant a tree in your hometown, and help groups like the National Parks Conservation Association protect our parks for the next generation.