Foster A Sustainability Ethic

Engage the NPS workforce, partners, visitors, stakeholders, and communities to support and participate in sustainability, climate resilience, and environmental justice.

With over 400 national parks, more than 18,000 employees, and nearly 328 million annual visitors, the NPS has an unparalleled opportunity to engage across communities to support an environmental ethic. The NPS will focus on its workforce to promote sustainability across the organization and use the NPS platform to increase awareness among visitors.

The NPS will partner with communities to engage the next generation of stewards and visitors to support sound choices at home and within parks. The NPS will also invest in resources and opportunities to reach underserved and marginalized communities.
Green Parks Plan "Foster a Sustainability Ethic" Objectives:
  1. Use the service’s mission and visibility as environmental stewards to increase awareness of sustainability and climate change among visitors.
  2. Develop and foster partnerships that promote sustainability, climate resilience, indigenous knowledge, and environmental justice.
  3. Increase efforts to engage youth on issues related to sustainability and climate change at parks.
  4. Activate campaigns and communications in parks to advance sustainability as part of the NPS experience.

Get Involved

Are you planning a visit to a national park? There are many ways to ensure that you can support sustainability at national parks before, during, and after your visit.

Sustainability at Parks

To help visitors enjoy and appreciate national parks sustainably, many parks have produced park-specific sustainability tips and guidelines. Find Your Park’s web page for visitor information and details about their sustainability initiatives.

Tips to Green Your Visit

Visitors play a vital role in protecting and conserving our national parks. Whether you are taking a day trip to a nearby park or are planning an extended journey through several parks, there are many ways to make your visit a sustainable one.

Minimize your Environmental Impact

During your visit to a park, be conscious of your impacts on plants, animals, and other visitors, and take steps to minimize them:
  • Review the Leave No Trace principles, which encourage practices to reduce environmental impacts and protect the natural world.
  • Leave rocks, shells, plants, and artifacts as you find them. If you are looking for a souvenir, consider purchasing locally made goods that support the community.
  • Properly dispose of waste. If no waste or recycling bins are available, pack up your trash and take it with you when you leave the area.
  • Do not dispose of waste by burning it in campfires, as this can pollute the air.
  • Keep your hike on a designated trail to avoid inadvertently harming plant or wildlife. In addition, staying on marked trails will ensure that you do not encounter unsafe conditions on your route.
  • Treat wildlife with respect—do not follow, approach, or feed any animals you encounter.

Explore Sustainable Transportation Options

When traveling to, from, or within a national park, consider ways to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:
  • Reduce travel-related carbon emissions by carpooling, using park shuttles (where available), or driving an Electric Vehicle (EV) at parks with charging stations.
  • Plan the most efficient travel route possible. Whether you are planning a cross-country road trip or visiting a cluster of parks, driving more efficiently can reduce your vehicle’s carbon emissions, while also saving money on fuel costs.
  • When driving, reduce vehicle idling time, which lowers fuel economy and pollutes the air.
  • While in the park, consider taking a bike or walking tour instead of driving between points of interest.

Plan Ahead

  • Reduce strain on the environment by scheduling your trip outside of the peak season.
  • Green your stay by choosing hotels and tour companies committed to sustainability.
  • Instead of paper maps, try using a smartphone application with national park maps. Many of these map apps allow users to download maps and use them offline.
  • Consider borrowing, renting, or buying used camping or hiking gear, rather than purchasing new equipment.
  • Bring a reusable bag for trash and recycling to ensure that waste is properly disposed of, rather than left at a trail or campsite.
  • Reduce waste generated from single-use plastics by packing reusable versions of the following:
    • Typical food use items - Food storage containers/pouches, utensils, towels/napkins, straws, and cloth bags.
    • Drinking vessels - water bottles, travel mugs

Last updated: February 22, 2023