Celebrate the National Parks with Sustainable Travel

fdrBy Ben Walsh, Green Seal’s Project Coordinator

When people think of National Parks, most think of majestic vistas and wilderness locations.  However, there are 409 parks throughout the country that include National Parks, National Battlefields, National Seashores, National Monuments, and National Historic Sites.  Washington, DC, itself has 23 different National Parks including the White House.  I am privileged to be a volunteer at a number of those with the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

In addition to my work with Green Seal, I’ve always been a fan of the National Parks and a history buff.  Looking for a chance to get outside and connect with people, I became a Volunteer in the Parks (VIP) in 2009.  For the last seven years, I have been honored to work at some of our nations most visited and most hallowed memorials. I’ve met soldiers who stormed the beaches at Iwo Jima, couples that marched with Dr. King, and family members who broke down crying at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I have been lucky enough to hear their stories and then re-tell them to the next generation, to the millions of students who come to D.C. to learn about their history. My day job involves enhancing suitability through researching best practices and environmental criteria, while my weekend job allows me to bring the parks alive for visitors and show them why conservation and protection is important. 

cherry blossoms

This year marks the Centennial of the National Park Service, making it an ideal time to get out and visit one of the parks. Many of them may be located in your backyard and you don’t even know it.  Perhaps you will venture out to one of the three most well-known National Parks: Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming and Zion National Park in Utah.  When visiting those parks you can stay at a Green Seal-certified hotel.  The Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Signal Mountain Lodge are GS-Bronze certified, and the Zion Lodge is one of only six GS-Gold certified hotels in the country.

Green Seal’s Standard for Hotels and Lodging Properties (GS-33) focuses on waste minimization, energy conservation, management of fresh water resources, waste water management, pollution prevention, and environmental preferable purchasing.  With the certification, these three properties have demonstrated their commitment to the environment and offer a sustainable lodging option for thousands of visitors a year.

Green Seal Hotel Window Decal1The certification of these three hotels continues a long relationship between the National Park Service and Green Seal.  In 2005, we worked with the National Park Service to develop materials highlighting the sustainability efforts of the agency.  Green Seal conducted research and provided best practices information on custodial care, landscaping, and HVAC and lighting systems.  Four posters were developed and distributed throughout the country for both internal use and to provide information to visitors.

Certification of lodging properties in the parks and materials that highlight sustainability to visitors contribute to the goal of the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

I am lucky enough to work alongside dozens of dedicated Park Rangers and VIPs who protect the land and our history for future generations.  I am proud of the work I do at Green Seal that helps to create a more sustainable world for all.  You can do your part by respecting the parks when you visit and looking for Green Seal-certified products and services when you travel.

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