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Public Lands: Preventing Pollution
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
Preventing Pollution
Public Education
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

2006 Green Parks
EPA Region 8 pollution prevention programs and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have...

Cleaning National Parks: Using Environmentally Preferable Janitorial Products at Yellowstone and Gra...
Documents the process used at Yellowstone National Park to introduce environmentally preferable clea...

Pollution Prevention for Auto Repair and Fleet Maintenance
Series of fact sheets provide complete environmental, technical and economic evaluations of the top ...

Sustainable Practices Thrive In A National Park: Composting at the Presidio
An urban park on the northern edge of San Francisco, The Presidio overcomes challenges on the way to...

Transportation Improvement Plan
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requires each state and metropolitan are...

Using Renewable Energy in Minnesota Parks: A Guidebook for Park Managers
An overview of renewable energy technologies and applications appropriate for parks. Includes case s...

The scale and type of activities on public lands vary greatly. Some units function as entire communities while others include a small area with few improvements, no full-time staff and few visitors. The first step to identifying pollution prevention opportunities requires an accurate inventory of the specific operations at a particular site.Appropriate opportunities can then be identified to minimize waste and pollution, protect workers and visitors, and conserve resources. General areas to concentrate source reduction efforts include:

  • procurement (including material substitution, inventory control and recordkeeping, and purchasing energy and water efficiency equipment)
  • planning and design (such as alternative transportation infrastructures, whole-system building design, preventative procedures)
  • process modification (ranging from reorganization of a work area or schedule to new equipment purchases)
  • maintenance (such as setting regular schedules, general cleaning, removing sludge from separators)
  • employee training and education (topics like good housekeeping procedures, spill containment and cleanup, showcasing P2 efforts to the public)

Examples of pollution prevention in typical areas of operation are listed below. Links for this section include case studies of successful pollution prevention efforts and fact sheets and checklists with more detailed information on preventing pollution in specific operations. (See link at left).

Facility Management

Many pollution prevention opportunities are available during the planning, design, construction, renovation, operations and maintenance of facilities. The National Park Service has developed goals to apply “green” or “sustainable” building practices to build in harmony with the natural and cultural environment. They also have policies to reduce energy usage, promote renewable energy sources, reduce water consumption and provide or improve wastewater treatment. The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) works with state and federal agencies to create cost effective energy solutions for public lands. Some states and local communities provide green building guidelines.

Facility managers are often the people responsible for day to day implementation of environmental programs and the ones who can put new ideas to work. Oversight of contractors and concessionaires should also be considered when searching for pollution prevention opportunities.

Some strategies that will prevent pollution during construction and operation of new facilities include:

  • a whole-building approach for new construction and renovations
  • placing responsibility for energy, solid waste and water charges on the contractor during construction.
  • use of environmentally-preferable materials from local sources when possible
  • orientation and integration of building with the environment to optimize natural cooling, heating and lighting
  • irrigating with recycled water and installing irrigation monitoring systems
  • sweeping paved areas such as parking lots, drives and sidewalks rather than washing and minimizing non-permeable surfaces
  • integration of renewable energy systems into facilities
  • evaluation of new buildings using the Leadership in Environmental and Engineering Design (LEED) criteria
  • installation of energy-efficient equipment, lighting and appliances, programmable on/off timers and/or sensors
  • installation of low-flow fixtures, compost toilets and waterless urinals
  • regular maintenance schedules for HVAC filters
  • innovative wastewater treatment solutions that reduce the use of toxic chemicals, such as natural wetland pools

User education and awareness campaigns are important to the success of pollution prevention in facilities. Education showcases successful efforts, insures continued efficient operation and provides visitors with examples they can use in their homes and communities.

Procurement and Leasing

"Product stewardship" or "environmental purchasing" is a process that looks at the lifecycle of a product and determines the value of a purchase based on: environmentally-sound production, price and performance. Leases can be determined “green” by the same type of lifecycle assessment. Some of the environmental purchasing strategies currently in use by the National Park Service include:

  • minimizing requirements for virgin materials / buying recycled
  • ensuring that all new appliances, HVAC and office equipment meet Energy Star rating standards
  • ensuring that lease arrangements for space are “green” leases
  • ensuring that all new purchases are EPA certified-green products

Environmental purchasing can also help assess less hazardous substitutes for toxic chemicals, more durable products, bio-based or sustainably produced products, and products with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Training for employees in the procurement and leasing division as well as education of all employees ordering and using products is essential to make environmental purchasing effective.

For an in-depth discussion and more resources, visit the Green Procurement topic hub.

Landscape Management

The Strategic Plan for Greening the National Park Service identifies these strategies for landscape management:

  • use of native or indigenous plants to increase health and reduce water and pesticide needs
  • science-based management strategies such as integrated pest management (IPM)
  • composting of organic waste
  • applying compost to provide moisture, weed, disease and erosion benefits
  • erosion and sediment control, including strategies to reduce heavy equipment use


Pollution prevention strategies available in the transportation arena include:

Reducing Dependency on Non-Renewable Energy Sources

  • using alternate fuel vehicles (AFVs) in fleet operations
  • developing alternative park transportation systems for visitors and employees
  • using environmentally preferable road construction materials
  • coordinating with surrounding communities and concessionaires for planning and infrastructure
  • considering a "petroleum-free" park

Visitor Education

  • plans and procedures for cleaning and maintenance of boats and autos
  • showcasing alternate fuel successes and availability
  • encouraging use of mass transport systems or non-motorized travel

Fleet Maintenance Operations

  • enclosed parts washer to reduce air emissions and employee exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • on-site distillation units for recovery of waste solvents from parts-cleaning operations
  • oil water separators on shop floors to remove oil and greasy solids from wastewater

Painting Operations

  • substitute water-based and citrus-based products for paints, antifouling paints and solvents used during hull maintenance and parts cleaning
  • mechanical sanders and scrapers equipped with vacuums to reduce debris entering storm water or open water bodies
  • air-assisted airless, electrostatic application equipment and high volume low pressure (HVLP) painting equipment used by properly trained staff reduce emissions and paint waste
  • contracting out to a facility using the latest clean technologies

Fueling Operations

  • drip pans, spill control and containment areas
  • fuel pump nozzles equipped with automatic back pressure shut-off
  • fuel/air separators on fuel tank vents
  • secondary containment, overflow alarms and accurate record keeping on inventory for tanks.

Visit the Auto Body Shops topic hub and the Auto Repair topic hub for a detailed discussion and resources on pollution prevention for fueling, repair and maintenance.

Hospitality and Visitor Services

Food service, housekeeping and office and conference accommodations provide opportunities for environmentally preferable purchasing of equipment, cleaning chemicals, toiletries, and amenity dispensers. Opportunities for process modifications, water and energy conservation programs also exist. Recycling and composting programs are other hospitality and visitor services that complement pollution prevention efforts.

Detailed discussions and resources on P2 opportunities for the hospitality industry can be found by visiting the Hospitality topic hub and the Food Service topic hub.

Solid and Hazardous Waste Management

The National Park Service and other federal, state and local agencies have set annual goals to achieve reduction of priority wastes through asbestos/lead abatement projects, purchases of hot-parts washers, installation of oil-water separators, and the restoration of contaminated lands. NPS has ensured that unavoidable generation of solid wastes will be handled through composting and recycling by striving to implement 20 new projects a year in each area. These are opportunities for all public land operations to prevent degradation, restore natural areas and involve visitors.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Public Lands Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 12/4/2012