More than 200,000 people visit Craters of the Moon every year to explore the cool refuge of a lava tube cave or peer deep into a volcanic crater. Nationwide, the National Park System hosts over 285 million visitors per year. The 1916 NPS Organic Act mandates that parks be managed not only for the enjoyment of today's visitors, but "preserved for future generations" as well. To achieve both, parks must be managed in a way that minimizes our collective footprint on the land. In a word, parks must be sustainable.
As aClimate Friendly Park sustainability is a consideration in virtually all management actions taken today at Craters of the Moon. Park staff utilize an Environmental Management System to monitor and measure the attainment of sustainability goals. Sustainable actions focus on three key areas: energy, waste, and water.
The recently renovated visitor center uses considerably less energy now than before renovation, despite nearly doubling in square footage. Better insulation and inexpensive steps such as temporary storm windows in winter help substantially. Ultra-efficient LED bulbs now light some park housing units, as well. And a new photovoltaic array installed in 2010 produces enough power to offset roughly 25% of the park's overall energy use, further reducing the park's reliance on fossil fuels. Further, the park recently obtained two all-electric vehicles for staff transport. When combined with electricity produced by the photovoltaic array, these vehicles are very close to zero emission.
The result: Craters of the Moon uses the least energy per square foot of any park in the region.
Every year 35 million trees are cut just to supply paper products like hand towels and toilet paper in public buildings across America. To reduce our demand for these resources, the monument's restrooms feature energy-efficient hand dryers instead of paper towels and toilet paper made from 100% recycled sources. Facilities are cleaned with phosphate-free, biodegradable products. Additionally, the monument's recycling program diverts a substantial amount of glass, plastic bottles, aluminum, cardboard, and paper from the landfill. Visitors that take the time to sort and recycle their trash make this program a success - thank you!
Until recently lawns gulped up more than two-thirds of all water used in the park. Combined with aging water lines that leaked continually, the monument's limited water supply simply could not keep up with demand - frequently reduced to a trickle during dry times. Today the high desert is slowly reclaiming ground near the visitor center and residences that once harbored lawns. Replacement of failing water infrastructure reduced the amount of water lost to leaks almost entirely. In this instance, being sustainable had little to do with choice and everything to do with survival.
Below are five sustainable steps you can take to lighten your carbon footprint while visiting Craters of the Moon. You will likely see similarities to actions you have made - or can make - at home:
- Use a refillable water bottle rather than purchasing bottled water.
- Wash and reuse plates, cups and utensils.
- Cool your camper or RV by opening a window instead of using a generator to run the air conditioner.
- Pack out waste that cannot be recycled.
- Drive at the posted highway speed while travelling to the monument; every 5 mph above 65 mph results in a 7-percent increase in fuel use.
To learn about other actions you can take to make your home, office, or school sustainable, visit the Do your Part! webpage.