Home Personnel Profile Future Generations Keep Beth Pratt Focused on Preserving Yellowstone

Future Generations Keep Beth Pratt Focused on Preserving Yellowstone

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Name: Beth Pratt
Title: Director, Environmental Affairs
Company: Yellowstone National Park-Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Years with company: “I started in January of 2008.”
My primary responsibilities: “The job is a 50/50 split between infusing sustainability into each department and raising awareness of climate change and helping guests and employees be greener in their own lives.”
Most significant environment-related accomplishment in Yellowstone National Park so far: “Opening the For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts store. We were able to do that at a time when the economy was not doing well.”
Company’s most significant environment-related challenge: “Successfully balancing the need for historical preservation with the need for energy efficiency.”

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK—During the busy summer season, when millions of people visit Yellowstone National Park, Xanterra Parks & Resorts’ Beth Pratt oversees the environment-related training of approximately 3,000 employees. During the winter season, that number drops to 300. No matter the time of the year, however, the director, environmental affairs has her work cut out for her. She also oversees the other green initiatives at the national park that has nine hotels, 17 foodservice facilities, three stables, a marina, 13 retail stores and a fleet of hundreds of vehicles.

“Xanterra oversees more than 800 buildings,” Pratt says. “We also have five campgrounds under our management.”

Pratt, who is a LEED AP, is responsible for continuing and strengthening Xanterra Parks & Resort’s environmental initiatives in Yellowstone National Park including energy, water and waste management, pollution prevention, sustainable cuisine, sustainable design and more.

The graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Regis University in Denver is part of a company that has a long history of environmental achievement. Xanterra, with its Ecologix environmental program, is among the first U.S. hospitality companies to receive the prestigious ISO 14001 International Environmental Management System certification for all of its national park operations. Xanterra’s 2015 Environmental Vision Goals include reducing fossil fuel usage by 30 percent (using year 2000 as baseline) and diverting 50 percent of all solid waste from landfill.

Ensuring Park’s Survival

Her and her staff’s ongoing challenge, Pratt says, is how to get guests and employees to participate in green programs and to change their behavior to ensure that Yellowstone National Park survives.

In their quest to sustain the beauty that Yellowstone offers and reduce the impact of the on-property hospitality-related operations, Pratt says Xanterra has accomplished a lot.

“Last year we diverted 73 percent of our waste from our landfill,” she says. “We have to be creative about how we recycle. A commercial compost facility takes all of the park’s food waste. We donated 97,000 tons of worn mattresses and box springs. We also donated 17,000 pounds of linen. We recycle all of our manure from our stables.”

Approximately 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil per year is now used to help heat some of Yellowstone’s lodging facilities. Pratt says this initiative alone will save about $50,000 a year in fuel costs. Cooking oil from properties not managed by Xanterra will be included in the program soon. Other environmental initiatives involve procurement, cleaning and maintenance, foodservice and retail operations.

“In 2009, 32 percent of our food purchases were sustainable/local,” Pratt says. “We work with a lot of local providers.”

As part of her responsibilities, Pratt is required to submit environmental performance data to Xanterra as part of the company’s ecometrix program. She says that last year Yellowstone National Park was able to cut costs by about $1 million thanks to Xanterra’s environmental efforts.

Gift Shop Receives National Attention

The For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts shop in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel has been very successful so far. The store was dedicated January 7, 2010. In keeping with the store’s environmental theme, materials used in the remodeling of the store are reclaimed, recycled or sourced from sustainable operations. For example, shelving was constructed out of reclaimed wood, some of it from buildings in the park, including flooring from the Old Faithful Inn and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The new floor was constructed of Tamarac harvested from a healthy forest in Montana. Lighting comes from energy efficient LED bulbs.

Each product sold also has an original “sustainability scorecard” describing its sustainable attributes. Conventional items are offered alongside sustainable options, providing shoppers with the necessary information to make gift choices based on their own values. “We believe this is the first retail store to extensively utilize a transparent and extensive environmental scorecard,” Pratt says.

Displays include information on the threats climate change poses to national parks, what the various entities in the park are doing to minimize their environmental impacts and what techniques visitors can use at home. Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone National Park recently received the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Good Earthkeeping award for large properties. The For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts shop is one of the reasons Xanterra won the award. The shop also recently received a sustainability award from the Association for Retail Environments (A.R.E.) in the category “Consumer Education & Outreach.” A.R.E. is a nonprofit trade association representing the retail environments industry.

Green teams at the various park locations help carry out Xanterra’s green projects. Pratt says there is even a park-wide green team that includes other companies besides Xanterra. “It’s like Burger King and McDonald’s sitting down together,” she says.

Pratt, who authors a website on climate change, has always had an interest in the environment, even when she was a child. “As a kid, I loved frogs,” she says.

Today, Pratt gets to work in a natural wonderland that has grizzly bears, coyote, elk, bighorn sheep, and much more.

Go to Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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