Sustainability in Action: Reducing C&O Canal's Carbon Footprint

The National Park Service is investing $29 million in 81 individual energy efficiency and water conservation projects at national parks throughout the greater Washington region.

C&O Canal yearly savings: 1.9 million gallons water, $41,000, 148,000 kilowatt-hours.

NPS / Siemens

Reducing Energy Consumption

Reducing Energy Consumption

C&O Canal NHP’s most significant contributor to GHG emissions is purchased electricity. To reduce overall energy use and operating costs, the park:

  • Upgraded to ENERGY STAR computers.
  • Created a plan to reduce lawn mowing activities.
  • Encouraged telework for park employees.
  • Implemented a policy of turning off lights, computers, and monitors when not in use.
  • Eliminated the use of air conditioning on specific floors and in certain buildings.
  • Investigated and developed renewable energy sources where possible.

Energy Savings Performance Contract

As part of the larger National Capital Region (NCR) Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) project, C&O Canal NHP:

  • Installed programmable thermostats in park facilities.
  • Replaced antiquated appliances with low-flow water fixtures and performed an ice machine retrofit.
  • Upgraded to LED lighting with intelligent lighting controls.
  • Identified areas that would benefit from solar tube technology.

The C&O Canal NHP expects to reduce their GHG emissions by 21 percent through the ESPC.


Reducing Transportation Emissions

Transportation is the second largest contributor of GHG emissions at C&O Canal NHP.  To reduce transportation-related emissions, the park:

  • Relocated Park Headquarters to a more accessible, central location.
  • Leased flex fuel and hybrid vehicles when renewing leases and eliminated two SUVs from the park fleet.
  • Right-sized vehicles and established the practice of using small utility vehicles for short trips.
  • Held virtual employee meetings to reduce transportation emissions from park employees.
  • Purchased battery-operated lawn equipment and weed eaters.
  • Educated employees about flex fuels and biodiesel vehicles.
  • Introduced a “no idling” policy for park-owned vehicles.

Increasing Climate Change Education Efforts

C&O Canal NHP hosts approximately 4 million visitors each year. The park’s climate education and outreach efforts are ongoing and extend beyond park employees to include visitors and the local community. These efforts include:

  • Educating visitors and park employees on climate change impacts and how to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Placing interpretive signs in restrooms that highlight energy efficient improvements.
  • Encouraging bike commuting on the Towpath and Capital Crescent Trail.
  • Installing warm season grasses to replace mowed turf where appropriate and developing education materials about the environmental benefits of the program.
  • Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and press releases to share environmental messages.

Last updated: September 22, 2016