Greening of Mammoth Cave National Park

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Date: April 27, 2012
Contact: Vickie Carson, 270-758-2192

(MAMMOTH CAVE, Kentucky) "The Green Parks Plan articulates an overarching vision that will make everything we do more sustainable, from reducing energy and water consumption, to limiting the waste that we generate, to changing what we buy, to altering how we manage facilities," NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis stated in the Green Parks Plan, issued this week ( 

In 2001, Mammoth Cave National Park was named a Center for Environmental Innovation. Since then, park managers and staff continue to seek out new ways that consistently demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. The NPS goal was not just to "green" the parks, but to use the parks as models for showcasing and interpreting the best environmental practices and products being developed in this country and around the world. 

"From LED light bulbs, to propane vehicles, from flushing with rainwater, to our extensive recycling program, Mammoth Cave National Park is green and working to become even greener," said Park Superintendent Patrick Reed. "Park staff and our concessioner, Forever Resorts, are constantly on the lookout for new ways to make the park more environmentally friendly and sustainable." 

Mammoth Cave sustainable/green accomplishments:

  • In 2011, Mammoth Cave received a $505,000 grant from the Department of Energy-Clean Cities program to replace aging park vehicles with new energy efficient vehicles. The park was able to replace four old propane buses with four new ones, two bi-fuel pickups with two propane pickups, and one gasoline golf cart with an electric GEM vehicle.
  • The park's passenger and light-truck fleet are all bi-fuel vehicles, running on E-85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). Diesel-powered trucks and equipment are powered by B20, a bio-diesel blend. Tour buses, and two pickups trucks, are fueled by clean-burning propane. Campground staff use electric GEM vehicles for patrols and maintenance.
  • The Park shares a cardboard compactor and a plastics baler with its concessioner, Forever Resorts. In 2011, this partnership resulted in more than 36 tons of solid waste being diverted from a landfill and the recycling of 8,056 pounds of plastic and 64,000 pounds of cardboard.
  • In 2011, recycling efforts Mammoth Cave National Park diverted 84 percent of its waste from going to a landfill. Recyclables from park operations and reconstruction of the visitor center contributed: 77 wood pallets, 64,000 pounds of cardboard, 2,443 pounds of glass, 177 fluorescent light bulbs, 288 pounds of batteries, 2,492 pounds of paper, 8,056 pounds of plastic (all plastics, including polystyrene), 20 tons of steel, 32 tons of scrap metal, and 3,747 pounds of copper.
  • Aluminum hand rails removed from cave tour routes were recycled. Echo River boats were recycled for reuse and now float tourists in nearby Lost River Cave.
  • Visitor center, campground, and picnic area restrooms are equipped with motion-sensor lighting and faucets, and waterless urinals - each urinal at least 20,000 gallons of water/year.
  • LED bulbs are used on all cave tours requiring helmet/headlamps, reducing battery use by 85% when compared to previous battery use.
  • Forever Resorts operates the Mammoth Cave Hotel, home to the only certified Green Restaurant in Kentucky. 

Mammoth Cave's visitor center is under re-construction. Parts and pieces of the old building have been recycled or reused. The new building will be a sustainable showcase, LEED certified at the gold level (  

Green features of Mammoth Cave's re-constructed visitor center:

  • Reuse of waste materials - 96 percent of non-hazardous waste from the old building has been sent to a recycler or reused as of April 6, 2012. All the masonry material from the old administrative building was used on site for landscape fill; 91 percent of construction waste has been re-used / recycled, as of April 6, 2012.
  • Installation of recycled materials in the new visitor center - as of April 6, 2012, recycled materials are incorporated in 29 percent of the new visitor center construction. Faux slate roof shingles are made of 100% recycled rubber/plastics. Glue laminated beams are post-production wood, reshaped to form large beams rather than using old growth trees.
  • The sandstone in the building was quarried from within 500 miles of the park (Tennessee).
  • As of April 6, 2012, 60 percent of the wood used in the visitor center comes from certified sustainably managed forest.
  • Counter tops are made of bamboo, a rapidly renewable material.
  • Natural light reaches virtually every room in the visitor center. Light tubes (through ceiling) reflect natural light into an interior restroom and hallway; all office spaces can view the sky. Numerous windows and a solar tracking skylight above the information desk take advantage of sunlight.
  • The air vent or "chimney" above the information desk allows for venting of hot air from building to enhance cooling, decreasing use of air conditioning.
  • Solar power - 103 solar panels installed on the roof will generate electricity (29 kilowatts) for building use. The photovoltaic system will be able to sell unused power to Kentucky Utilities.
  • Water conservation - visitor center restrooms feature waterless urinals, low-flow fixtures, and a 30,000-gallon cistern that captures rainwater off the roof for reuse to flush toilets. 
  • A "building dashboard" exhibit (touchscreen computer) will display the percent of power generated by the solar panels and the amount of captured rainwater being used at any given time.
  • The building is landscaped with native Kentucky species.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


(270) 758-2180

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