If you have been lucky enough to gaze upon the wonders of the Grand Canyon National Park, you likely remember admiring the varying shades of red, orange, yellow, brown, and even dark purple complementing the meandering Colorado River. But you probably didn’t notice that the Grand Canyon is turning green! Well, in the park’s practices at least. The national park has developed a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable management. An Environmental Management System, a continual cycle of analyzing, planning, and improving sustainability within the park, is used to ensure that the Grand Canyon National Park sets determined environmental goals and plans on how these can be reached.
Already, the park has a number of achievements which are evident when touring the site. Walking up to the visitor’s center, it’s hard to miss the 18kW solar array basking on the rooftop. The system was installed in May 2009 by funding from Arizona Public Services customers through the Green Rates program and the Arizona Corporation Commissions Renewable Energy Standard. The array, divided between ideal roof exposure and ground area, provides around 30% of the center’s energy needs, and prevents 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
“This partnership between APS and the Grand Canyon National Park has provided the state with an opportunity to educate, inspire and step forward as a true leader in renewable energy,” said Barbara Lockwood, APS’ Manager of Renewable Energy.
Inside the visitor’s center and along the ground-mounted panels there is general information about the science behind solar energy, as well as information specific to the system at the park. Curious visitors can see real-time energy production data displayed on a video monitor.
It’s obvious that the park does want to engage visitors in their green practices, and one way to do this involves the essential concept of recycling. A recycling program has been adopted for both the public as well as residential areas within the park. Bins are made obvious at intervals around the park for glass, aluminum, cardboard, paper, and plastic. Millions of visitors each year bring huge amounts of road-traveling waste to the park but thanks to the availability of recycling receptors, not all of it becomes garbage.
One huge contributor to waste at the Grand Canyon is disposable plastic bottles. In the past they’ve littered the walkways and trails, making up around 20% of the waste stream and 30% of the park’s recyclables. The park has actually stopped selling bottled water as a result! Staying hydrated while touring the park is a big concern for tourists, so designated water bottle filling stations were installed in busier areas on both north and south rims. These stations bring tourists free flowing Grand Canyon spring water from its Roaring Springs which is tested regularly for safety. Announcements over speakers throughout the park encourage visitors to use these stations to reduce waste, or purchase reusable bottles available for the same price as bottled water.
To move from viewpoint to viewpoint, walkways are kept tidy with the water filling stations along the way to encourage visitors to walk if possible. Otherwise, the National Park Service developed a free shuttle system that runs on compressed natural gas. As a result there has been less motor traffic in the park and better air quality.
The park also now constructs its buildings according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, striving for the highest possible rating. Buildings include a large Maintenance complex, Science Center, and residential housing. New developments are definitely created with great consideration for the environment and the Grand Canyon National Park’s reputation as a Climate Friendly Park.
You can read more about the Grand Canyon National Park and it’s environmental commitment here: https://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/the-greening-of-grand-canyon.htm