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Preserving Nature, One Clean-Up at a Time: Yosemite National Park’s Facelift 2023

Facelift Volunteers showing their excitement at the Facelift Event in Yosemite Valley. We see Yosemite Falls in the background.

Yosemite Facelift volunteers bring joy and enthusiasm to the park.

Yosemite National Park, with its awe-inspiring landscapes and abundant biodiversity, has been a cherished destination for millions of visitors every year, especially during the bustling summer season. As these visitors immerse themselves in the park’s natural wonders, it becomes ever more crucial to preserve its pristine beauty for generations to come. And that’s where Yosemite’s Zero Waste Initiative and the annual Yosemite Facelift plays a vital role.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Yosemite Facelift — organized by the Yosemite Climbing Association and founded by Ken Yager in partnership with the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Hospitality, and many other partners — has become the single largest organized volunteer clean-up event in any national park. This powerful initiative, seeks to unite climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, and the general public in giving back to this magnificent wilderness by picking up litter and debris scattered throughout the park after the bustling summer months.

Zero-Waste Ambition: A Sustainable Collaboration

This year’s Yosemite Facelift aims to be an even more sustainable event than ever before. Building on the success of last year’s efforts and in collaboration with Yosemite’s Zero Landfill Initiative, Yosemite Climbing Association has teamed up with Yosemite Conservancy and Yosemite Hospitality with the ambitious goal of achieving a zero-waste event, diverting at least 90% of the five-day event’s waste from the landfill.

In 2022, we made significant strides towards a zero-waste objective, reaching an overall diversion rate of 89%. While falling short of our target by a mere 1%, this year’s organizing team is more determined than ever to achieve a 90% or higher diversion rate. The commitment to making a positive impact on the environment sets an inspiring example for other parks and events to follow.

Yosemite Conservancy has been at the forefront of promoting sustainability within Yosemite National Park. Our website’s Sustainability page highlights our organization’s efforts to protect the park’s natural and cultural resources, reduce its ecological footprint, and engage visitors in responsible and eco-friendly practices.

Trash Audit by 5 Gyres: Aiming for Transparency and Progress

5 Gyres staff sorting trash at the Facelift booth

5 Gyres audits the trash clean up providing helpful data to the park.

To ensure accountability and assess the footprint of the trash collected at the event, representatives from 5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to combating plastic pollution, will conduct a comprehensive trash audit during this year’s Facelift.

This audit will analyze and assess the collected trash, providing valuable insights into the effects of human activities on the park’s delicate ecosystem. Partnering with 5 Gyres showcases the event’s commitment to transparency, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility.

Getting Involved: Join the Conservation Movement

The success of Yosemite Facelift is a testament to the collective efforts of dedicated volunteers. Trash pick-up volunteer days will commence on Wednesday, September 20, and continue through Sunday, September 24, 2023.

If you’re eager to contribute, register at the booths in front of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center between Wednesday, September 20 and Saturday, September 23, from 8 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday, September 24, from 8 am to 2 pm.

Remember, all volunteers must register before participating in the event.

At the end of each day, the collected trash must be returned to the booths to be weighed and sorted, accurately recording the waste collected and diverted from the landfill.

As a gesture of appreciation for their dedication, participants will have the opportunity to enter in the nightly product drawings and attend engaging evening programs, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among the volunteers.

A Tradition of Caring: Two Decades of Impact

In 2003, Ken Yager, founder and president of Yosemite Climbing Association, initiated Yosemite Facelift, a noble endeavor that has grown significantly over the years, attracting thousands of volunteers from diverse backgrounds. Since its inception, an impressive 28,000 volunteers have participated, volunteering nearly 300,000 hours, and contributing to the removal of more than 1 million pounds of waste around Yosemite. This phenomenal response underscores the incredible power of collective action and reflects the profound love people have for this natural wonder.

Be a Part of the Change: Join us at Yosemite Facelift 2023!

Yosemite Facelift 2023 presents a unique opportunity to make a tangible difference in preserving the splendor of this iconic wilderness. By participating, you play an active role in promoting sustainable practices and creating a brighter future for our planet. Let us join forces to make this year’s Facelift a zero-waste success, leaving a positive impact on Yosemite’s pristine beauty for generations to come.

When I asked Ken Yager why he started Facelift, he said:

“I was appalled by the mountains of trash in the park, and I realized it was time to do something about it instead of just complaining. National parks belong to people, and it doesn’t truly feel like your park until you go out and take care of it — that’s the magic of Yosemite Facelift. With my strong connections in the climbing community, I knew I could garner their support. I believed that by involving everyone – all park visitors and park partners — this event offers a platform to collectively do something great for Yosemite, making it a place where we all play an active part in its preservation.”

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit the Yosemite Climbing Association website. Together, let’s pave the way for a cleaner, greener Yosemite National Park!


Photo credits: Eddy Choz