Bridging the Gap
Bridging the Gap
CAMPAIGN: Subaru's Love Promise: Environment
I’ve been traveling on a bus for five hours down a backcountry road in Alaska’s Denali National Park when an excited cry goes up from one of the passengers. In response, the bus slides to a halt, dust flying, as we all press faces and hands to the windows, jostling to see, cameras clicking. The creature in question – a bull moose – looks up from the nearby willows as if wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s a true Denali moment, one of many on this day. So far the tally of wildlife we’ve encountered reads like a child’s wish list: eight grizzly bears, four caribou, one golden eagle, and 10 Dall sheep. It’s the kind of day that so many who flock to this majestic national park hope to experience.
“It’s like being a kid again,” says Denise Coogan, Subaru Environmental Partnership Manager. “Your head is on a pivot. Every sight is more wondrous than the last.”
Meeting the Challenge
Coogan and her colleagues aren’t here to sightsee, however. In stark contrast to the idyllic scene playing out before them, the park struggles with a big problem – trash left behind by park visitors. The National Park Service (NPS) reports that caribou have been found dead with stomachs full of plastic bags. The ground gets so cold here that organics freeze, rather than decompose, and may never compost. Glass can take a million years to break down in the natural environment. Coogan is part of an unprecedented partnership between Subaru of America, Inc., the NPS, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), aimed at meeting these challenges head-on through the development of zero-landfill strategies that will help keep the parks clean.
More than half a million visitors come to the park each year, leaving a considerable amount of garbage in their wake. While the parks do a wonderful job collecting that trash and keeping the parks clean for visitors, the trash must be transported 50 miles to reach the nearest landfill. More efficient options have proven elusive. Far removed from any major towns, Denali represents one of the collaboration’s biggest challenges, but also holds the promise of huge rewards. If NPS and Subaru can devise zero-landfill solutions for a place as remote as Denali, those strategies could potentially work just about anywhere. “Waste management in Alaska is such a challenge,” notes Melissa Blair, Alaska field representative for the NPCA. “This is going to be such a wonderful model.”
The zero-waste legacy is something Subaru can’t help but be excited about. “Just to be a part of something like this is such an honor,” confirms Coogan.