Sunday, April 19, 2009

greener parks

"National parks cutting their carbon footprint" is the title of the article I found in the Philadelphia Enquirer. The article discusses how "un-green" our parks are: from the amount of fuel used to get people around the parks and operate the snow plows, to the amount of waste, such as plastic water bottles, granola wrappers and banana peels, generated by the visitors. The Mount Rainer, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks produce more than 30,800 metric tons or carbon annually. This is the carbon footprint of approximately 2700 average American homes.

The National Park Service has partnered with the EPA to make park operations carbon-neutral by 2016, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service.

Chip Jenkins, the superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Complex says that the national parks are the "canary in the coal mine"; the parks are indicators of things to come that will affect the rest of the country. I believe that he is right, because drastic climate changes will affect the fragile ecosystem of the parks first.

I was surprised how much of a carbon footprint the parks have. When I think parks, carbon emissions are the last thing on my mind. I think this is a great effort, and I think that anything that carries the "green" label should be carbon-neutral.


iheartgas said...

While your post tends to focus on national parks, I wanted to share some info on the recently opened Discovery Green Park in Houston. While a small, city park it’s an excellent example of what 'greener parks' can look like.

The $122 million, 12 acre park opened in April of 2008 as the first major park in downtown Houston.
It provides green space in an urban setting among the city’s skyscrapers and sports centers. Visitors can enjoy live concerts, race model boats in the small lake, jog on the running path, or enjoy one of the park’s restaurants.

In addition to creating new recreational space for Houstonians to enjoy, the park has been praised for its green design. The LEED certified park secures 100% of its power from "green" sources and utilizes enhanced HVAC refrigerants and air conditioning units in all onsite facilities. 256 solar panels are used to heat water and generate electricity, and the park's efficient irrigation system recycles groundwater from the garage to fill the Lake,

20 percent of the materials used came from regional sources, and more than 60 percent of the wood used to construct the park came from sustainably-harvested forests.

In addition the park serves as a recycling center on Saturdays and hosts a green farmers market on Sundays. Check it out the next time you are in Houston, or at

Bryan said...

I looked up a little bit of how parks could be "indicators of things to come". Here are some things I found:

According to researchers, climate change is contributing to:

• Possible loss of all glaciers in the Glacier National Park within 20 years.

• Dying coral reefs in Biscayne and Virgin Island National Parks due to increased heat and disease.

• Insect pests thriving and destroying forests ranging from the Great Smoky Mountains to Yellowstone.

• Declining water levels at Lake Mead because of extended droughts.

I also found this from the National Park Service:

"At parks like Bandelier National Monument, higher temperatures and drought have brought high
mortality to the pinon pines as infestations of bark beetles have expanded to higher elevations and new ranges. At Everglades National Park, increasing sea level may overwhelm the mangrove communities that filter out saltwater and maintain the freshwater wetlands. At Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Parks, floods and fires have damaged historic structures and are threatening the loss of archeological sites."

Looks like parks truly are the "canary in the coal mine".

Toby said...

You have to think about the amount of revenue National Parks and National Forests bring to the U.S. Treasury. I assume that visitors (within the U.S. and from around the world) would stop coming to Denali National Forest, for example, if they were told they had to foot-it across the foothills to get a better photograph of Mt. McKinley. If Yellowstone National Forest was walk-only, no one would be able to experience its beauty. Buses and other means of transportation are needed in several National Forests in order to enjoy them. Instituting eco-friendly trams/buses is an option (not the most economical option).
I think the EPA goal of creating "carbon neutral" sanctuaries by 2016 is merely a nice marketing slogan and nothing more.
As far as the trash, the park system ought to do a better job of recycling and enforcement of littering violators.
Also, I am not sure why you say that "drastic climate changes will affect the fragile ecosystems of the parks first." Some of the ecosystems of National Parks/Forests are not fragile; others are fragile. Could "drastic climate changes" not affect the productivity of Indiana corn fields first?