Becoming a Carbon Neutral Park

Solar panels on park headquarters building.
Solar panels on park headquarters building.

NPS photo

In Summer 2019, GGNRA achieved carbon-neutral park operations, accomplishing a major milestone set forth in the park’s Climate Change Action Plan a whole year ahead of schedule. As of 2019, emissions from park operations are offset by purchasing carbon credits. Thus, the park currently contributes no net release of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

Sustainability projects at Golden Gate have focused on reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases generated from our park operations. When we burn fossil fuels for energy and transportation, we add more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. This buildup acts like a blanket that traps heat around the world, disrupting the climate and ecosystems.

Major efforts undertaken by the park to reduce these emissions include using 100% renewable electricity and improving the efficiency of the park fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles. However, the park still relies on natural gas, propane, and diesel for certain operations. In addition, organic materials sent to landfills release methane, another heat-trapping gas. The park will continue working to reduce CO2 emissions and its contribution to climate change. As an interim measure, the park purchased carbon credits to offset its carbon emissions for the 2018 fiscal year. A grant from our non-profit partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, funded these offsets.

What are Carbon Offsets?

Carbon offsets balance out emissions taking place somewhere else. They represent the act of reducing, avoiding, destroying or sequestering equivalent fossil fuel emissions in one place to compensate for carbon emissions elsewhere. Our carbon offsets provider, Terrapass, is certified by Green-e® Climate, an independent certification program for fossil fuel emissions reductions sold in the voluntary market.

GGNRA offset its transportation emissions by purchasing credits to fund anaerobic digesters for Cottonwood Dairy Farm, in San Jacinto, CA. Digesters capture methane gas from farm manure to produce electricity, avoiding direct release of methane into the atmosphere. To offset the park’s waste and energy emissions, GGNRA purchased credits to fund anaerobic digesters for South Kent Landfill. As organic waste decomposes, it releases methane gas. The digesters collect the gas and turn it into electricity that is delivered to the electrical grid.

Carbon footprint for 2018
GGNRA has been working to reduce its carbon footprint, mostly through generating and purchasing renewable electricity. Starting with 2018 emissions, the park has offset the remainder though the purchase of carbon offsets.

Carbon Footprint from Park Operations

The park measures emissions from three different sectors: Energy, Transportation, and Waste.

Purchased Electricity (Energy): this is the electricity we get from our energy providers. As of 2017, the park purchased 100% renewable electricity, creating a carbon footprint of zero from electricity.

Stationary Combustion (Energy): this includes the propane, diesel, and natural gas that is used to heat our buildings and run emergency generators.

On-Road and Off-Road Fleet (Transportation): these are the vehicles we use for our park operations. Light duty vehicles transport staff to various park sites, and heavy duty equipment is used to mow, pave, and move sand on beaches. Most of our sedans are hybrids or electric, while the heavier equipment uses gas or diesel.

Solid Waste (Waste): the waste that goes to landfills, especially organic materials, will generate methane, a potent heat-trapping gas.

Wastewater (Waste): the methane created from sewage is also counted in our carbon footprint.

Last updated: September 13, 2019

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Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Building 201, Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123-0022


(415) 561-4700

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