Climate Friendly Trip Planner

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

  • 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.

Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

transportation

energy

waste


transportation

The burning of fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change, but these emissions can be reduced by improving your car’s fuel efficiency.

Reduce the number of miles you drive
Use public transportationcarpool or walk or bike whenever possible to avoid using your car. Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. Whenever possible, combine activities and errands into one trip. For daily commuting, consider options like telecommuting (working from home via phone or over the Internet) that can reduce the stress of commuting, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save you money.

Keep your vehicle’s engine properly tuned
A well-maintained car is more fuel-efficient, produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, is more reliable, and is safer! Keep your car well tuned, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, and use the recommended grade of motor oil. Also check and replace your vehicle’s air filter regularly.  For more details, including potential savings from these actions, visit the Fuel Economy Guide Web site.

Keep your vehicle’s tires properly inflated
Check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflation increases tire wear, reduces your fuel economy by up to 3 percent and leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions and releases of air pollutants. If you don’t know the correct tire pressure for your vehicle, you can find it listed on the door to the glove compartment or on the driver’s-side door pillar. More details on the Fuel Economy Guide Web site

Buy smart
Before buying a new or used vehicle (or even before renting a vehicle), check out EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide and the jointly-run EPA/DOEFuel Economy Guide. These resources provide information about the emissions and fuel economy performance of different vehicles. The Green Vehicle Guide provides detailed information on emissions (including Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas scores for each model) and the Fuel Economy Guide focuses on fuel efficiency (including side-by-side fuel economy comparisons and a customized fuel cost calculator). These Web sites are designed to help you choose the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs. There are a wide range of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles available on the market today that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Drive smart
Many factors affect the fuel economy of your car. To improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, go easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoid hard accelerations, reduce time spent idling and unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you have a removable roof rack and you are not using it, take it off to improve your fuel economy by as much as 5 percent. Use overdrive and cruise control on your car if you have those features. For more tips to improve your gas mileage, visit the Fuel Economy Guide.

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energy

Making a few small changes in your home and yard can lead to big reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Explore our list of nine simple steps you can take around the house and yard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

Raise your thermostat in the summer and lower it in the winter
The rule of thumb is that you can save about 3% on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat full-time. Turn down the thermostat 10 degrees when you go to work, and again when you go to bed — a total of 16 hours a day — and you can save about 14% on your heating bill. Also consider purchasing a programmable thermostat if you don’t currently have one

Enable sleep feature on your computer and monitor
Spending a large portion of time in Sleep and Off Modes not only saves energy, but also helps your computer and monitor run cooler and last longer. Most computers and monitors consume only a few watts in sleep mode. In contrast, screen savers can use as much electricity as if the computer and monitor were in full use. Letting your monitor sleep does not cause conflicts with software or network operations, and it can save a substantial amount of energy. When you return to your desk and touch a key or move the mouse, the monitor wakes up automatically.

Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot
About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes—use less water and use cooler water. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.

Purchase Green Power
Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home, includinginstalling solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state.

Replace 75-watt incandescent light bulbs with 25-watt ENERGY STAR® lights Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR® qualified options and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent more than 1 trillion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Replace your old refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR® model 
The refrigerator is the single biggest power consumer in most households. A typical refrigerator made around 1990 uses over 900 kilowatt hours per year – that’s the same amount of energy you would use by leaving a 1,250 watt hairdryer on for a month! ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerator models use at least 15% less energy than required by current federal standards and 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.

Replace old gas or oil furnace or boiler with an ENERGY STAR® model
ENERGY STAR® labeled furnaces and boilers are designed to help save money on your utility bill and reduce energy waste. ENERGY STAR®labeled furnaces are 25 – 40% more efficient than old furnaces, saving you money on your monthly heating bills. ENERGY STAR® labeled furnaces squeeze energy savings from furnaces using advanced technologies. ENERGY STAR® qualified furnaces have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 90% or greater, making them about 15% more efficient than standard models.

Replace single-glazed windows with ENERGY STAR® windows
ENERGY STAR® qualified windows, doors, and skylights save you energy and money, increase the comfort of your home, and protect your valuable possessions from sun damage. They are also better for the environment because lowering your energy use means less air pollution from power plants. Go to the Store Locator to find ENERGY STAR® labeled windows, doors, and skylights. For a typical home, choose ENERGY STAR® and save: $125-340 a year when replacing single pane windows, $20-70 a year over double-paned, clear-glass replacement windows, $15-65 a year over double-paned, clear-glass windows in new construction.

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waste

Reduce, reuse, recycle
If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materialsReducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gasesfrom resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.

Be green in your yard
Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings (PDF, 8 pp., 1.59 MB, About PDF). Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See EPA’s GreenScapes program for tips on how to improve your lawn or garden while also benefiting the environment. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduce the Amount of Unwanted Mail That is Delivered to Your Mailbox and Recycle the Rest

HOW

Cut back on the amount of junk mail sent to the landfill by cancelling unnecessary subscriptions and recycling all unwanted mail. There are a number of services available to help you reduce the amount of unwanted mail in your mailbox. EPA recommends using the Direct Marketing Association service to manage and reduce junk mail.

For more information on recycling, visit EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Web site, and to find out about paper recycling resources in your area, visit the Where You Live section on EPA’s paper recycling Web site.

WHY

In 2008, Americans produced over 5.5 million tons of waste from direct mail. That is approximately 100lbs of mail per household per year. Reducing the amount of junk mail you throw away reduces emissions generated from paper production and disposal, as well as from transporting your mail. While recycling is important, reducing the amount of unwanted mail delivered reduces 3 times the amount of carbon emissions as compared to recycling it.

Find out how solid waste disposal contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

ESTIMATED SAVINGS

  • 460 lbs a year
  • $0 a year

Math and Assumptions

For more on how Do Your Part! calculates Co2 savings, please visit our Carbon Accounting page.

Power Down Your Computer

Enable Computer Power Management Settings

 

HOW

Set your computer to enter system standby or hibernation mode after 30 minutes of inactivity and your monitor display to enter sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. The lower settings you choose, the more energy you will save. For more information and frequently asked questions visit ENERGY STAR.

WHY

Your computer and monitor use up to 25 times more power when they are left on than when they are in sleep mode. Touching the mouse or keyboard “wakes” the computer and display in seconds. If each computer and display in U.S. homes was to sleep when not in use, we would save more than $1 billion in annual energy costs while preventing 15 billion pounds of greenhouse gases.

ESTIMATED SAVINGS

  • 821 lbs a year
  • $60 a year

Math and Assumptions

  • Power management settings are being applied to one computer and display.
  • Computers to entering system standby or hibernation mode after 30 minutes of inactivity and displays entering sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity.
  • Default of 36% as the percentage of computers turned off each night is based upon 2004 Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Report entitled “After-hours Power Status of Office Equipment and Inventory of Miscellaneous Plug-Load Equipment”.
  • Power consumed by a representative monitor in active mode (in Watts) = 32.
  • Power consumed by a representative LCD monitors in sleep mode (in Watts) = 1.
  • Power consumed by a representative desktop computers in active mode (in Watts) = 69.
  • Power consumed by a representative desktop computers in sleep mode (in Watts) = 3. Source: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=power_mgt.pr_power_management
  • Cost of electricity ($0.113/kWh) is pulled from the Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (converted from 2007 to 2008 dollars). Source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/
  • Average GHG emissions (output) per kWh of 1.54 lbs of CO2 equivalent is sourced from EPA’s Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) number for 2009.

For more on how Do Your Part! calculates Co2 savings, please visit our Carbon Accounting page.

Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water Instead of Hot

HOW

There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes—use less water and use cooler water. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes.

WHY

The average American family washes almost 400 loads of laundry each year. About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer is for heating the water. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.

ESTIMATED SAVINGS

  • 443 lbs a year
  • $33 a year

Math and Assumptions

  • Washing a load of laundry on hot uses an average of 1.44 kWh of electricity.
  • Washing in warm or cold water reduces energy use by 50 percent.
  • The average family does 400 loads of laundry per year. Source: http://www.energystar.gov/clotheswashers
  • Cost of electricity ($0.113/kWh) is pulled from the Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (converted from 2007 to 2008 dollars). Source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/
  • Average GHG emissions (output) per kWh of 1.54 lbs of CO2 equivalent is sourced from EPA’s Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) number for 2009.

For more on how Do Your Part! calculates Co2 savings, please visit our Carbon Accounting page.

Keep Your Vehicle’s Tires Properly Inflated

HOW

Tires lose air over time. Unless you’re keeping an eye on them, chances are your tires are under-inflated. Next time you fill up your gas tank check your tire pressure and add air if necessary. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Filling up your tires at a gas station is usually free or costs less than a dollar!

WHY

You can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. That 3 percent may not seem like much but over the course of a year that is an extra 360 miles that the average vehicle could drive on the same amount of gas. Additionally, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

What Parks Are Doing About Climate Change

Our national parks offer a unique opportunity to draw attention to America’s priceless heritage at risk, and to showcase opportunities to protect our shared cultural and natural resources.

The Climate Friendly Parks program of the National Park Service provides parks with the tools and resources to address climate change.

Climate Friendly Parks Work To:

  • train staff on the issue of climate change,
  • manage and reduce their own environmental footprint, and
  • show visitors ways they can be a part of the solution.

More than 50 parks have joined the Climate Friendly Parks program and are working to become models of environmental stewardship that can inspire millions of Americans to do their part in the fight against climate change.

By the end of 2010, a visitor to any park in the Pacific West Region will be supporting a Climate Friendly Park member park. These parks and other member parks across the country work hard to address their impact on the changing climate. In Climate Friendly Parks from the California coast to Maine, staff are measuring the greenhouse gas emissions from park operations and looking for ways to conserve energy and water, recycle, and use alternative, renewable energy sources to decrease their parks’ impact on our changing climate.

 

Zion National Park: A climate friendly park

The new park visitor center at Zion reduces energy use by nearly 75 percent—eliminating more than 300,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

It relies on solar power for 30 percent of its energy and natural light for 80 percent of its lighting. It also features low-energy air-conditioning and a passive solar heating system.

A propane-powered shuttle system begun in 2000 replaced 5,000 private vehicles per day at the park—eliminating more than 130,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The park has also adopted the use of environmentally friendly building materials, nontoxic cleaning supplies, and has increased recycling efforts.

Elsewhere in the National Park System

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: a new park boat, the Nanookaasi (Ojibway for “hummingbird”), runs on biodiesel.
  • Channel Islands National Park: has switched to 76 renewable energy systems in water pumping, communications, and resource-monitoring devices to eliminate the use of more than 28,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year.
  • Yosemite National Park: Visitors receive a strong message about reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) when they enjoy the free shuttle service on Yosemite National Park’s hybrid buses. Operating since spring of 2005, the buses significantly increase fuel efficiency, and reduce particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Assateague Island National Seashore: asphalt roads and parking lots were resurfaced with crushed clam shells and walkways and decks are being maintained with 100 percent reclaimed lumber.
  • Acadia National Park: the Island Explorer, a propane-powered shuttle bus service, has carried more than 2 million visitors to the park from local inns and campgrounds, eliminating the use of 800,000 vehicles in neighboring Mount Desert Island since its inception in 1999. White Sands National Monument: Solar energy powers the Heart of the Sands Nature Center.
  • White Sands National Monument: Solar energy powers the Heart of the Sands Nature Center.
  • Glacier National Park: the park’s historic red buses now run on alternative fuels and have inspired a program where employees ride “red bicycles” between buildings.

Click here for a list of Climate Friendly Parks in the National Park System.

How Parks Are Affected by Climate Change

There is significant evidence of climate change in national parks. It affects the coral reefs in Florida at Biscayne National Park, the massive stands of lodgepole pines in Rocky Mountain National Park and animals that rely on snow in Yellowstone National Park. Climate change effects impact parks with cultural resources as well as natural resources. America’s heritage is at risk as rising sea levels and more powerful storms threaten the coastal parks that tell the story of our nation from its inception.

If we do not take action to slow or halt climate change, our national parks will experience the accelerated loss of glaciers at Mount Rainier National Park, the loss of Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park, and the submersion of portions of historic sites such as Colonial National Historical Park, site of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown.

The ramifications of climate change in national parks are symptomatic of changes unfolding across the larger landscapes to which they are connected—the same landscapes that contain our communities—and the same landscapes we want to save for our children and grandchildren.

Although the situation seems dire, we can still halt the most severe effects of climate change if we take action now. All of us, acting together, can ensure that our national parks—and indeed our own communities—continue to sustain our nation now and into the future. Please join us and Do Your Part!

National Park Resources at Risk

Climate change in the parks threatens some of the most treasured natural and historic places in our nation. Just some of the examples include:

  • Glaciers are disappearing from Glacier National Park, and Joshua trees disappearing from Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Coral reefs are dying in Biscayne and Virgin Islands national parks due to warming water temperatures.
  • Forests from the Great Smoky Mountains to Yellowstone are succumbing to devastating insect pests.
  • Historical parks and delicate seashores along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts face more powerful hurricanes.
  • Wildfires and flash floods threaten ancient American Indian dwellings and artifacts protected by national parks in the Southwest.
  • Roads and buildings in Pacific Northwest national parks are being destroyed by increased flooding.
  • Early snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada is disrupting national park wildlife and depriving California farms and communities of much needed summer water supplies.
  • Wolf and moose populations at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior are in decline.
  • Shenandoah National Park could see the loss of threatened native brook trout.
  • In Alaska’s national parks warming arctic temperatures are altering vital habitat for caribou, polar bears, and many birds.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park could lose high meadows and the wildlife that depend on them.
  • Migrating birds may lose habitat from prairie potholes in the Midwest to essential barrier islands along the Texas coast.

For more information on climate change effects and climate change in national parks visit:

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is more than just a change in the weather; it refers to a pattern of seasonal changes over an extended period of time. These may include increasing or decreasing temperatures, more or less precipitation like rain or snow, and more frequent or severe storms and other weather events. In turn these patterns shape the ecological systems that support not only our national parks and their wildlife, but also our own communities.

The Earth’s climate has changed many times during the planet’s history, with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. Historically, natural factors have affected the Earth’s climate, and changes have unfolded slowly.

In recent centuries the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation has caused the concentrations of heat-trapping “greenhouse gases” to increase significantly in our atmosphere. As the concentrations of these gases continue to rise, the Earth’s temperature is climbing.

If greenhouse gases continue to increase, scientists predict that the average temperature at the Earth’s surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF above 1990 levels by the end of this century, rapidly accelerating climate change. Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including prolonged drought, increases in heavy downpours and floods, more severe winter storms, and earlier snowmelt.

Other climate change effects include rising sea levels due to the rapid melting of glaciers at the Earth’s poles, and the increasing acidification of the oceans as they absorb more carbon dioxide. Low-lying coastal communities around the world are threatened by rising seas, and more acidic oceans are already contributing to the decline of coral reefs.