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Mules Play Their Part in Conservation

Mules Play Their Part in Conservation

Written by: , March 12th, 2020

“These kinds of programs can be inspiring to employees and to guests.”

How composting apples is helping preserve the Grand Canyon

Operation Shrivelly Apples, an award-winning environmental program, began with a dried-up apple and a discerning park employee. In 2013 a Grand Canyon National Park Lodges staff member suggested that the shrunken apples, not pretty enough for park guests, be fed as treats to mules, which are not finicky about what they munch.

The program grew quickly. Now prep cooks in all of the park’s South Rim restaurants place melon rinds, broccoli stalks, carrot shavings as well as shriveled apples, carrots and other vegetables and fruits in five-gallon buckets earmarked for the mules. Porters carry the buckets to the stable where the scraps are weighed, recorded and given to the waiting mules.

As a result, Operation Shrivelly Apples diverted 30,000 pounds of food scraps from landfills annually and the happy mules produced 1.5 million pounds of manure that was processed into compost by a Flagstaff company. In 2015 Grand Canyon National Park Lodges received an Environmental Achievement Award from the National Park Service for Operation Shrivelly Apples.

“The reason for diverting solid waste from the landfill is to increase the life of the landfill. Doing this also helps protect open spaces and reduces pollution,” says David Perkins, director of sustainability, Grand Canyon National Park Lodges. “As a company we can drive the market to decrease the costs of waste diversion from landfills.”

Veterinarians keep close track of the scraps and the amounts given to mules; they are doing well. “These kinds of programs can be inspiring to employees and to guests,” says Perkins. “People expect us to do these kinds of things and the programs boost employee morale.”

Phantom Ranch, the only accommodations located below the canyon rim, conducts its own composting program. Last year 18,000 pounds of food scraps were put into silos. The resulting compost is used for ground cover in the stables, thus reducing the food waste hauled out by the hard-working mules.

How to Explore

Grand Canyon National Park Lodges provides the premier in-park lodging, managing six distinctly different lodges. From the El Tovar hotel, long considered the crown jewel of national park hotels, to Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the floor of the canyon, you’ll find accommodations to help you get the most out of your visit to the Grand Canyon. You can also book rafting, railway, and motorcoach tours. For more information and reservations, visit or call 888-297-2757.

Or consider the 10-day “Bryce, Zion & the Grand Canyon” tour from Holiday Vacations, one of America’s most reputable tour companies with more than 44 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit for more information.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit