With millions of visitors entering Zion National Park every year, it can be easy to feel like just another guest in the crowd. For this reason, many visitors mistakenly believe that their individual actions couldn’t possibly matter. Some leave garbage behind, seeing that others have already done so. Others approach and harass wildlife, feeling safe because a group of other tourists is doing the same.
The reality is that the actions of every single visitor who enters the park matter. The bad behavior of a single guest can have devastating effects on the park. But the good behavior of others can help reduce the carbon footprint that visitors have on the park.
If you want to do your part to protect Zion so that future generations can enjoy its stunning views, keep reading to learn what you can do to reduce your own carbon footprint while in the park.
Utilize the Shuttle
Springdale and Zion National Park makes it easy for visitors to reduce their carbon footprint. If you’re staying at a hotel, campground, or vacation rental in Springdale, you could easily go your entire vacation without ever climbing behind the wheel of your personal vehicle, thanks to the two shuttle loops.
The Springdale Shuttle travels throughout the town, stopping at hotels, restaurants, and other points throughout the town. Its final stop is the Zion Canyon Village. From there, you can easily hop right on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. Use this shuttle to get to all of the best spots in the park, like Zion Lodge, Weeping Rock, and more.
Leave No Trace
Whether you choose to enjoy Zion with some hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities, the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to practice the policies of Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace is a national program that is designed to help educate the population on the effect that visitors can have on the natural environment. There are 7 principles that make up the focal point of Leave No Trace. These include:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: This principle reminds guests to check park rules before they enter and to aim to reduce their contribution to traffic by trying to plan a visit during a less-busy time of year or even time of the week.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Making your own trail through the forest or setting up camp in the middle of a field are both harmful to the environment. When many tourists choose to do this, it can lead to the destruction of animal habitats and wildlife.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: From empty water bottles to leftover food, it’s important to pack out your waste while in the park, or until you can get to a garbage can.
- Leave What You Find: Visitors to the park may not see much harm in removing a cool looking rock or picking a pretty flower. But when hundreds or even thousands of visitors do so, it can destroy parts of the park. All plants, animals, artifacts, and rocks are protected by the National Park Service, and cannot be removed for any reason.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: Campfires are prohibited in much of Zion, except where explicitly allowed in designated campgrounds. Unruly or illegal campfires can lead to horrible wildfires.
- Respect Wildlife: The recent bison attacks in Yellowstone National Park highlighted the importance of being respectful of wildlife by keeping your distance and never harassing them.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Our nation’s national parks are there for everyone to enjoy. Being overly loud, rude, or otherwise disrespectful could prevent other visitors from enjoying themselves, and should always be avoided.
What you choose to pack can help you reduce waste during your vacation. A reusable water bottle will replace the dozens of plastic bottles you would need to use to stay hydrated. You can also opt for a water bladder for your hydration pack instead. These are easy to drink from and carry on lengthy hikes or hot days.
If you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, pack your own mug to avoid using throw-aways in your hotel. You might even consider packing your own coffee to keep from needing the single-use packs provided by most hotels. Or, simply get your coffee from the lobby, where hotels usually utilize large coffee makers and dispensers.
Visitors planning to do any shopping, whether its groceries for making lunch during your trip or souvenirs, can bring reusable cloth shopping bags. That way you won’t need a plastic bag that will later end up in landfills, or worse, blowing through the park.
You can also pack your own reusable silverware and cloth napkins to avoid using plastic and paper when stopping for a quick lunch or enjoying a picnic in the park.
Reducing Your Footprint Before You Ever Leave Home
Besides the many things you can do during your visit to Zion to reduce your carbon footprint, there are also a few things you can do before you ever leave home.
When you’re going to be away for a few days, turn your heat down or your air conditioning up. There’s no reason to keep your home toasty warm or ice-box-chilled when no one will even be inside. It’s best not to turn either one off completely unless you’ll be gone for several weeks. For just a short trip, it will take a considerable amount of energy to re-cool or heat your home once you return, which will negate the benefits of turning your heat or air off while away.
Turn off all of the lights in your home before you leave. If you like to leave lights on to deter break-ins while on vacation, swap out your light bulbs for LEDS. They are 80 percent more efficient and last 6 times longer than other bulbs. Also, utilize a timer to keep from leaving the lights on around the clock.
Finally, unplug all unnecessary electronics. Things like alarm clocks, desktop computers, and even electric toothbrushes all pull power constantly, even if they aren’t turned on. Unplug them before you leave home to save energy and money.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Minimizing your visit’s effect on the natural beauty and resources of Zion National Park doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, the same healthy, eco-friendly habits you probably already have translate to your park visit. From cloth shopping bags to reusable bottles, you can do your part to keep Zion beautiful for generations to come!
If you’re looking for other ways to reduce your impact, check out this article next to learn why a seemingly harmless practice is actually causing some major destruction in the park.