...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.– Organic Act, National Park Service Mission Statement, 1916
The vast size of Montana relative to the small population provides unique challenges when it comes to Glacier’s sustainability goals, particularly when it comes to recycling. In Montana, the availability of services for recyclable materials like glass and plastic is extremely limited. Here at Glacier, it takes a little extra effort to divert waste from the landfill, but the park is committed to the long-term and works to find creative solutions. We currently recycle everything that the local market accepts and are constantly seeking ways to expand our recycling program. We recycle mixed paper, cardboard, and aluminum. Extra care is taken in the park to recycle used batteries, CFL light bulbs, print cartridges, motor oil, computers/electronics, tires, scrap metal, and bear spray.
Yes, you can recycle bear spray by turning it into the park at the end of your trip. Bear spray canisters are collected from employees, volunteers, and visitors and transported to Yellowstone National Park where they empty and crush them for recycling. You can drop off your expired bear spray at a visitor center or ranger station.
Another way to reduce waste is to carry a reusable water bottle. Sales of disposable plastic water bottles are limited in the park. Refill your water bottle at one of the park's fifteen water filling stations. Filling stations are found in each of our visitor centers, the Swiftcurrent picnic area, the Two Medicine comfort station, as well as at each of Xanterra’s lodging options within the park. Bring your reusable water bottle, enjoy Glacier's refreshing water, and help us reduce, reuse, and recycle!
Recycling in the United States has long depended on exporting plastic to foreign countries, like China. China’s National Sword policy restricting plastic imports due to contamination has impacted the recycling economy everywhere, in particular rural communities where recycling is especially expensive. You can read more about recycling local to the park here. For similar economic reasons, glass recycling has been discontinued locally, but the park is continuing to pursue different avenues of recycling.
Waterbottle Filling Stations
We realize that the easiest way to move towards sustainability is to commit to it from the start. When creating new buildings, we recognize the environmental impact of each developmental stage, from energy usage to native landscaping. Apgar Visitor Center is a testament to that. When it was built in 2007, the Visitor Center gained LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification, an official recognition by the U.S. Green Building Council that attests to a building's environmental sustainability.
Glacier National Park Lodges, operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts offers an “Opt-Out Initiative” for guests to reduce chemical and water usage by reducing their housekeeping services. Over 25% of lodging guests participated in this program in 2018.
At Glacier National Park, we are proud of the accomplishments we have made in limiting our consumption of nonrenewable resources, such as oil and coal, in favor of more renewable energy sources like hydroelectric, photovoltaic (solar), and wind power. Approximately eighty-five percent of our electricity already comes from hydroelectric power supplied to us, but we're going beyond that.
Improved transportation options help to reduce the carbon footprint of park visitors and employees. An electric charging station is available at Lake McDonald Lodge for drivers with electric vehicles to charge up while visiting the park. Glacier is seeking funding to install additional charging stations in the future.
In 2007, Glacier National Park implemented a free summer shuttle system designed to reduce road congestion and transport park visitors, volunteers, and employees to points of interest along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. In 2018, the shuttle system provided alternative transportation to 216,701 riders in less than three months. Eagle Transit also provides a commuter bus for a small fee that drives from Kalispell to Avalanche Creek, making stops in Whitefish and Columbia Falls. This provided transportation to 1,400 riders during the 2018 summer season.
Bus tours are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while visiting the park.
Sun Tours offers interpretive tours, on 25 passenger window coaches, highlighting Blackfeet culture. Daily service from West Glacier, East Glacier, St. Mary, and Browning.
Xanterra also offers tours throughout the park using historical Red Buses. These buses are undergoing renovation to convert from dual fuel gasoline and propane engines to electric-hybrid engines, which will charge during deceleration.
Learn more about your bus tour options here.
Glacier’s employee shuttle was instituted in part to reduce energy consumption and vehicle emissions by employees who commute to the park for work. For a nominal fee, employees who live in nearby communities can ride to and from work in a 12-passenger Sprinter bus. The employee shuttle provides around 950 rides annually, removing an average of 4 vehicles from the road every work day. Additionally, the park fleet has been upgraded over time to include more fuel efficient, hybrid, and biodiesel vehicles.
Especially in the spring and fall when Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed the motor vehicles, bicycling is an extremely popular way to get around the park. Two bike repair stations at Lake McDonald Lodge and Rising Sun are provided for bicyclists by Xanterra.
For park employees and volunteers, the Red Bike Program makes 27 red bikes available to use when commuting short distances within park boundaries. A mail bike is used to deliver mail in the summer season.
With climate change making dramatic impacts to mountain ecosystems, we must be adaptable to change to continue as a sustainable organization. Glacier National Park uses an Adaptive Resource Management (ARM) approach as a tool to understand and respond to our changing ecosystem. Through constant monitoring, we are better able to inform management decisions and plan for an uncertain future.
Current efforts to learn about our changing park include monitoring population trends of climate sensitive species and undertaking Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Study, which is analyzing visitor use and impacts along Going-to-the-Sun Road. We are also using a system-wide approach to battle invasive species and preserve habitat for our native species. Actions such as direct removal of invasive species like lake trout, controlling existing noxious weeds from spreading, and requiring boaters to obtain a park permit for their boats help to preserve habitat and native species from an uncertain future.
Through collaboration with National Park Service offices and other agencies, Glacier has joined other parks as a Climate Friendly Park, developed an Environmental Management System, and conducted Climate Change Scenario Planning workshops to sustainably prepare for the future.
Read about priority sustainability projects made possible by financial support from our cooperating association, the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Glacier National Park’s updated Sustainability Strategic Framework and Tracking Spreadsheet are currently in draft stages, which lay out sustainability goals and action items in six categories: Governance & Communication, Transportation, Waste, Energy, Water Conservation & Resources, and Air Quality. This focuses on creating attainable and challenging goals to move the park forward with sustainability. The plan includes items such as:
The final framework should be complete by the fall of 2019.
Over the last 100 years, the planet’s surface has warmed by about 1.5°F.
Reduce your Carbon Footprint
Many people fall in love with Glacier and then want to reduce their footprint.
The trend of retreat, apparent here at Glacier National Park, is also seen around the world.
Last updated: September 18, 2019