eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Sustainability Partnerships Between the Public and Private Sectors

Posted by Luke on June 15, 2010

Sustainability movements, and zero waste in particular, are most effective when there’s a partnership between the public and private sectors.  Yellowstone National Park has established one of the best examples of a public-private sector partnership I’ve ever seen.

I met Jim Evanoff from the National Parks Service last week.  Jim is one of the most senior people in the National Parks Service and manages all things environment at Yellowstone.  Yellowstone has achieved an 80% waste diversion rate through public and private partnerships.  Although Eco-Products’ foodservice items are part of the equation, there’s a lot more involved in that 80% number.

The park draws over 3.3 million visitors every year staying in 2,000 hotel rooms with a staff of 5,000 workers servicing them.  With that many people, the only way they’ve continued to increase the waste diversion rate year over year is by leveraging resources they don’t have.  For materials they couldn’t previously recycle, they built recycling systems.  For example, they worked with universities and private companies to build the first ever propane tank recycling machine.  By partnering with these organizations, they’ve created a business in and of itself that can now divert propane tanks from landfills at every campsite in the country.   Yellowstone alone now diverts 25,000 propane tanks a year.

In the communities like this in which sustainability has taken hold, there has typically been a strong collaboration between businesses and government.  Businesses can invest resources and brand equity among other things.  Governments can implement sustainability regulations and policies.  When both parties work in unison towards similar objectives, rapid progress towards systemic sustainability will occur.

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