Going Green while in Yellowstone

Over 1.6 million visitors each year travel through the west entrance to Yellowstone Park located in West Yellowstone, Montana. This small mountain town of 1,200 year-round residents has the challenge of dealing with mountains of garbage left behind by these visitors. Not just pop cans, water bottles, and personal trash, but the immense of garbage created from local restaurants, hotels, and attractions.

That is why recycling is so critical.  In 2010, over 42,000 pounds of cardboard, 9,000 pounds of plastic bottles and bags, 1,200 pounds of steel cans, 2,700 pounds of aluminum cans, 11,000 pounds of newsprint and 850,000 sheets of office paper were dropped off at Two Seasons Recyling in West Yellowstone.

Taking a green approach to your Yellowstone Park trip is an easy and essential way to protect this incredible place for others and future generations of Yellowstone fans. Here are some simple steps every Yellowstone traveler can use to go green!

  • Use the recycle containers located in the east entry doors of the West Yellowstone Visitor Center or along street corners on Canyon Street and Yellowstone Avenue.
  • Did you purchase bear spray? Dispose of any unused. or partially used canisters at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. (They use them for demos at their bear talks.)
  • Send-It-Home on Madison Avenue will recycle your packing peanuts and bubble wraps. Drop off or give them a call (406-646-7300) for pick up.
  • The Food Roundup and Marketplace grocery stores have reusable cloth garbage bags that can be used instead of plastic bags.
  • When hiking, always stay on marked trails and maintain a safe distance from any animals you encounter.
  • Deposit your trash in marked receptacles or take it with you when you leave.
  • Light campfires only in established fire rings and be sure they're completely extinguished before you leave.
  • Try to buy local products whenever possible instead of those that have been flown or shipped in from overseas. Please support our local economy and get a taste of native cuisine.
  • Keep your showers short, and shut off the water while you're brushing your teeth.
  • When you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning, heat, television, lights or any other electric devices.
  • Reuse your sheets and towels instead of having them changed every day. Many hotels will not replace your towels if you leave them hanging up neatly; if you're not sure, write a note for the housekeeping staff or notify the front desk.
  • Bring your own toiletries and drinking cup rather than using the prepackaged ones provided. If you do use the hotel's toiletries, take them with you and use them at home or during the rest of your trip.
  • Join "Green-Up West Yellowstone" on Facebook and offer up your ideas on how for sustainable travel! Green Up West Yellowstone is a partnership between the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, residents, and local business owners. The program is an ongoing educational effort focused on local sustainability issues all efforts are carried out through volunteers and donations

Bear-Proofing Garbage Cans!
While in West Yellowstone, you will find garbage cans at the West Yellowstone Visitor Center, in the City Park, and along main roads such as Canyon Street and Yellowstone Avenue. But, these aren't your ordinary garbage cans!

Restaurants and food businesses have an even bigger bear challenge in West Yellowstone. In addition to disposing of paper products that smell like food, they have to dispose of food scraps, cooking oils, and other grease that are highly attractive to bears and other wildlife.

Heavy-duty green lids have been specially modified to fit the tops of the 50-gallon containers and are securely. Working in  close collaboration with Fish, Wildlife & Parks game warden for the West Yellowstone area, local police and business owners have created not only the correct bear proof containers, but a way to recycle the grease.

Local Westmart owner Greg Forsythe has been collecting the grease for several years. He uses an onsite machine, measuring around eight feet tall, six feet wide and four feet deep, to convert a large portion of the old grease, along with other additives into biodiesel to fuel machines and trucks at Westmart. He can produce about 250 gallons of biodiesel with the help of his employees and the right concoction of fluids.

He found a lid that can be retrofitted to the tops of the 50-gallon barrels to keep the bears out and the grease inside. The lids are manufactured by TT&B Enterprises, LLC in North Western Ohio and sold by Utah Biodiesel Supply. They are made with 14-gauge industrial strength steel, powder coated and attach and lock to the tops of barrels. They can be padlocked to a stationary surface and have a grated metal strainer to minimize food and other particles from mixing with the used grease.

Forsythe collects the barrels by lifting them off each pallet at a minimum of once every two weeks and uses an ordinary pump to empty the barrels with a metal outtake nozzle on the inside of the lid.

He rounds up the barrels and empties them for his clients at no cost and gets the benefit of using the grease. Some businesses need to have their barrels emptied more frequently than others depending on how much grease they dispose of and how often they change it