Heavy summer auto traffic and the annual impact of millions of human beings have raised questions about the sustainability of these national parks. But a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton can be a relatively green vacation. In Yellowstone, concessionaire Xanterra Parks & Resorts (tel. 307/344-7311; www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) has implemented numerous environmental initiatives, including a recycling and composting program, sourcing food for its restaurants locally and sustainably, and taking numerous measures to reduce water and energy use. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge, the newest lodging in the park, was built in part from reclaimed wood from the sawmill that cut the timber for the Old Faithful Inn, and the new gift shop at Mammoth has all sorts of green mementoes, as well as a kiosk for visitors to determine their personal carbon footprint and other interactive exhibits. Campgrounds have recycling bins near their entrances. In Grand Teton, the Grand Teton Lodge Company (tel. 307/543-2811; www.gtlc.com) has also implemented very successful sustainability programs to lessen the human impact on the park. The company encourages hotel guests to take a “sustainable stay pledge” in return for several perks, such as a reusable water bottle and a slight discount on a room. A 2015 remodel of Jackson Lake Lodge added water- and energy-conserving fixtures and incorporated recycled materials, and GTLC cooperated with a 2016 park effort to dramatically reduce landfill waste.
But perhaps the best way to look at sustainability is to go off the grid on an overnight backpacking trip. The website of the outdoor-ethics organization Leave No Trace (www.lnt.org) provides useful tips for backpackers on how to leave a campsite in the same condition—or better—than they found it. Backpacking is a refreshing counterpoint to modern life that will give perspective on the issues of sustainability and personal energy dependence.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel.
- Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry.
- Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravel.org) promotes ethical tourism practices and manages a directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- Carbonfund.org (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.com), and Cool Climate Network (www.coolclimate.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
The "Green" Hotels Association (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the association's stringent environmental requirements.
- For information on sutainable outdoor recreation, visit Tread Lightly! (www.treadlightly.org).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.