As a geology student, I have a strong love for natural wonders. This is why I ventured out to the Grand Canyon in Arizona to see geology in all its glory. When first arriving at the Grand Canyon’s Visitor Center, I noticed solar panels plastering the roofs of the few buildings within the South Rim of the National Park. This brought me instant excitement; two things I love in one location- amazing geology formations and a place focused on being sustainable.
Disconnected from most of civilization, getting energy to the Grand Canyon is a difficult and expensive task. The Grand Canyon National Park South Rim entrance has a very extravagant Visitor Center, as well as a bookstore and a cafe. I learned that in 2009, the Arizona Public Service along with the Grand Canyon National Park Service installed 84 photovoltaic cells, making this an 18 kW system and offsetting 30% of the power used by the Visitor Center. This amount of energy is equivalent to the amount used in two typical homes! More PV cells are being continuously added to this area since its initial 2009 installation. As you walk around the outside of the center, there are two other PV cell towers generating more electricity for the center.
Not only is the Grand Canyon offsetting some of their electrical needs with solar power, they are also using an advanced grey water treatment system. This system converts wastewater from bathrooms and facilities into water that is safe to use for irrigation and toilet water. This system helps conserve the canyon springs which is essential in such a dry, arid area.
Another way the Grand Canyon is going green is by building sustainably. All new buildings built in the National Park have to meet LEED standards. These standards include using sustainable materials, energy efficient technology, passive heating and cooling, low-flow plumbing, and efficient lighting. To get to and from buildings and locations throughout the park, there’s a free shuttle. This allows for a reduction in traffic congestion that leads to pollution and a reduction of carbon emissions by using “public” transportation.
Lastly, the Grand Canyon has an aggressive recycling program. They have a single-stream program where your aluminum, paper, plastic, cans and glass can all be dumped in the same bin. These recycling bins are located throughout the park – at the entrance, along the trails, at lookout points and at the lodges.
Visiting such a beautiful landmark allows visitors to appreciate the environment we live in so much more. This natural wonder of the world deserves to be preserved. The National Park Service is working diligently alongside the Grand Canyon Village to make sure that this wondrous place doesn’t turn into a trash wasteland or a polluted one.