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On Monday, we got a glimpse of the future of the national parks—and it’s a lot greener. Subaru and the National Park Service are teaming up to put an end to trash in our most iconic preserves.
We’re used to thinking of Leave No Trace as a wilderness ethic, something that starts and ends at the trailhead. In this way, we protect our wildlands and keep them free from the lowest common denominator of consumerism: waste. But we’re still dumping our garbage in the parking lot bins, and when we throw something away, what we’re essentially saying
is, “Your problem now!”
The result is predictable: Collectively, in 2013, the 7 million visitors to Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Denali National Parks left behind more than 16.6 million pounds of waste for the park service staff to deal with (never mind the garbage that the park’s concessionaires manage, which is considerably more). Of that, 9.7 million pounds, including Christmas lights, mattresses, and lots and lots of random discards, went to landfills.
Now, the National Park Service, in cooperation with Subaru (employing the first zero-landfill automotive plant in the country since 2004), is asking a provocative question: Can we make garbage a thing of the past in our national parks? This year, they’re teaming up on a pilot project in Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Denali to try to divert all waste headed to the landfill. They’ll be working throughout the three parks and their gateway communities to study how stuff comes in and becomes trash and to figure out how to encourage visitors to leave less—or better yet, no—stuff behind. Nothing leaves no trace quite like nothing.
Learn more about the effort to make these parks zero-landfill here.