National Parks are green travel and eco-tourism hotspots. Just by paying your entrance fee, you're supporting the park system and helping to preserve it for future visitors. But some parks are doing even more in the name of sustainability. Here are some eco-tips to help make your next national park visit even more green.
1. Ride the park shuttles.
Letting someone else drive means you can enjoy the scenery more, encounter fewer traffic jams, and stress less about parking. Plus they are a great option for one-way hikes. Some or all of certain parks are off limits to private vehicles part of the year, but you'll find free shuttles at all the major parks.
2. Re-use your water bottle.
Sure, it's easy to recycle at home with a familiar system, but when you're staying hydrated on the go you might be tempted to let your green guard down. Focus on reusable water bottles, which are better for the environment, and which also provide the added bonus of helping you avoid inflated prices on bottled water.
Zion has even taken the step of adding fill stations throughout the park and banning the sale of plastic water bottles.
3. Visit the visitor center.
Just by using the visitor's center you'll be more informed about how to protect the park. While we all want to get straight to the trails and viewpoints, don't skip the visitor center's valuable informational displays, which will provide ecological context you might otherwise miss.
Constructing energy-efficient buildings with local and sustainable materials is part of the LEED program. Thankfully the parks have almost always considered the natural settings so most buildings complement the natural setting. Buildings at Lassen Volcanic and Denali have earned LEED certifications.
4. Watch the wildlife.
Focus on filling your memory card or just enjoy the show but resist the urge to feed animals—even the cute ones. We all know that feeding bears can be dangerous, but did you know that simply feeding the chipmunks can be deadly for them? Even if others are feeding the animals remember that you're doing them a favor by not teaching them humans are sources of food, so they'll be better prepared to fend for themselves.
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of DanielMac, Fodors.com member