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Zion National Park Green Team, National Park Service, Utah



Point of Contact

Kristen Legg
kristin_legg@nps.gov
435-772-0208

Project Summary

Install water bottle filling stations at high visitor use areas and eliminate the sale of bottled water

Objectives

  • Reduce the amount of plastic entering the waste/recycling stream

  • Provide interpretive language on the filling stations that discuss the importance of reusing water bottles versus purchasing bottled water

  • Promote a behavioral change by encouraging visitors to use reusable water bottles instead of buying disposable bottled water

  • Promote a safe visit to a desert park by making it attractive to drink local water

Team

Zion Green Team which is made up of employees from the different work groups in Zion National Park and partners: Xanterra, Inc., Lodge concessions; Parks Transportation, Inc., shuttle contractor; and Zion Natural History Association (ZNHA), non-profit cooperating association.

Project Description

Zion National Park, in southwest Utah, encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The park is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and soaring red cliffs. Receiving over 3 million visitors a year, it is the fifth most visited park in the country. Most of these visitors come between May and September, the hottest part of the year in this desert park. Park visitors are encouraged to carry and drink enough water to prevent heat related illness. All visitors to the park are subject to these environmental conditions, so all visitors are targeted to "drink water." Most people today are accustomed to buying bottled water and they are the ones targeted for behavior change through this project.

As a Climate Friendly Park with an active Environmental Management System (EMS), Zion is taking many steps to become more sustainable as well as encourage visitors to "Go Green".  To lead our sustainability efforts we have created a Green Team (see participants above). One key activity as identified in EMS was to install water bottle filling stations, encourage visitors to use reusable water bottles, and eliminate the sale of bottled water within Zion National Park. This will result in the reduction of waste produced by disposable water bottles, provide visitors with the opportunity to drink Zion spring water versus water imported from somewhere else, and long-term potential for reduced production of bottled water if enough individuals change to reusing bottles versus buying bottled water. These all fit into the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle mantra emphasized throughout the country.

In 2008 members of the Green Team saw their efforts of a lot of hard work come to fruition with the installation of water bottle filling stations and elimination of bottled water being sold in the park. Prior to implementation, the team laid out a strategy to design sustainable, attractive, easy to use water filling stations that would be located in convenient places and provide water bottles that were inexpensive and desirable to purchase in place of bottled water. This required the support from both Xanterra, Inc., and Zion Natural History Association, who made a profit from selling bottled water. They fully bought into this effort and now provide a wide price range of reusable bottles, with attractive graphics and BPA free options. There are water bottles available that cost not much more than a bottle of water.

The Green Team's efforts resulted in a cost effective exhibit with a sustainable design.  All of the research and layout were completed in-house by the Green Team with additional support from the NPS Harpers Ferry Interpretive Design Center for the interpretive layout. The porcelain panels and brass paddles and spigots with automatic shut-off will be able to withstand the high amount of use. Due to the high water quality coming from the springs within the park, the minimal amount of treatments are required to exceed EPA standards. In other words additional treatments such as reverse osmosis are not necessary eliminating the need for electricity. The stations are located not only in high visitor use areas, but also where plumbing is easily accessible so no additional trenching for water lines is necessary. In addition each station is outside to provide 24 hour access and is integrated into the design of the buildings.

Bottle Filling Station

The verbiage on the Water Bottle Filling Station is as follows:

ZION SPRING WATER
Bottle Filling Station

Please carry a reusable water bottle and keep the plastic out of the landfill. Fill it here with Zion spring water. Our spring water has been treated to exceed federal and state standards for safe drinking water. Remember never drink untreated water directly from a spring.

Every time you fill your reusable bottle you keep a disposable bottle out of the landfill. And you save money – you can refill an average reusable bottle with tap water once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days before it would cost as much as one quart of bottled water.

By the Numbers
Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles yearly, 167 for each person. About 38 billion end up in the landfills. End-to-end they would circle the equator 217 times. Making them uses ~20 billion barrels of oil and creates more than 25 million tons of CO2

The exhibits were installed in summer and early fall, 2008.  The Green Team chose locations that at least 81% of our visitors will see one or more of these stations, based on a 2006 visitor survey completed by the NPS Park Studies Unit at the University of Idaho. The locations at the Visitor Center and Museum were installed by the Park and the third at the Lodge was installed by Xanterra, Inc. The main station, at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, is visible by bookstore staff. They see visitors filling their bottles all day. Ranger staff inside the building report visitor comments that they used the station and appreciated our efforts to reduce waste. Since installation, sales of reusable water bottles have increased 78%. It is estimated that the park has eliminated the annual sale of over 60,000 bottles of water (based on 2007 bottled water sales for Xanterra; June-September 2007 sales for ZNHA and an estimate for the remaining sales/month for ZNHA).  Imagine that 60,000 fewer bottles the equivalent of 5,000 pounds are not entering the waste stream.

There has been press on Inside NPS and the NPS Arrowhead. Both have generated numerous parks contacting Green Team members that are interested in following our lead. The exhibit received the 2008 "Blue Pencil Award" from the National Association of Government Communicators for being innovative and effective in getting the message across (see attachments). These stations have been so successful that the park will be installing additional stations at two of the heaviest used trailheads (Temple of Sinawava and The Grotto). The stations will be implemented during other on-going construction projects to help reduce the cost of installation. Also the town of Sprindale, Utah, which borders the park to the south, is interested in installing water filling stations as well.

Without the efforts of the Green Team and successful partnerships these water bottle filling stations would not have happened.