Insider tips for a weekend at a national park site
It has been 100 years since an important American institution was born. On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson and was established as a new federal bureau to oversee the country’s national parks and monuments.
Since then, the national park system has grown to encompass more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state. With that act, grand sweeps of mountains, canyons, forests, islands and seashores were preserved and made accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Whether you are looking for back-country skiing down a mountain or just a scenic afternoon drive, our national park system has plenty of resources and infrastructure to make a visit enjoyable and memorable to just about anyone.
It was John Muir, a naturalist and early parks advocate who said it best: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
No matter where you live, there’s a good chance one of these mesmerizing landscapes or historical monuments is just a quick road trip away. However, while millions will visit these majestic spots each year, few realize a major challenge faces national parks across the country – waste. The National Park Service manages more than 100 million pounds of waste nationally, much of which is generated by serving more than 300 million park visitors per year – that’s enough to fill the Statue of Liberty more than 1,800 times.
While waste is a major issue in the parks, visitors can make a difference. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has developed a set of tips that visitors can adopt to help reduce some of the biggest contributors to landfills from national parks, including paper, plastics and glass:
Opt for online: While paper maps can be a park staple, there are smartphone apps that provide the same information and more. Even without cell service, some national park apps will give helpful information about where you can spot wildlife, catch a beautiful sunset, or even find a refillable water station.
Mug for the parks: Bring a reusable coffee mug from home or buy one from the souvenir shop to help reduce the 58 billion paper cups that are sent to America’s landfills every year.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle): Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Keep a refillable water bottle on hand or buy one at gift shop, while taking advantage of convenient refilling stations around the park.
Ditch the Plastic Bag: Help reduce waste by not using a plastic bag for your souvenirs or groceries that you bring into the parks. Instead, bring your own reusable bag or tote for your items to help eliminate plastic bag waste.
Take Out What You Bring in: Think about what you bring in. Check to see if it can be recycled or composted in the park you are visiting. If it cannot, try to take it home. It is often far easier to recycle near your home than in rural park areas.