Ken Yager Chats About the Yosemite Facelift

Meet Ken Yager, Yosemite Climbing Association (YCA) founder, Yosemite Facelift® creator, family man, climber, climbing historian and resident of Yosemite for 42 years.
Nov 27, 2019 8:00 AM ET
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What inspired you to begin the Yosemite Facelift?

In 2004, while working as a climbing guide, I was getting more and more frustrated by the vast amounts of toilet paper, baby diapers and other small trash that I had to walk through to get to the rocks with my clients. Rather than continuously being angry, I decided to dedicate three days to cleaning it up. Perhaps the outcome would result in having close to a year of clean trails to walk on before I had to do the cleanup again. 

I filled my truck with bags, safety vests and litter sticks and drove to Camp 4, employing the help of 120 members of the climbing community. We gathered 40 plus truckloads of trash. It was everywhere. We had such a great time, I increased the event to a five-day cleanup the next year and reached out to other park user groups for their help. I never realized it would be this much fun! I have been trying to make it more fun ever since.

Tell us about this year’s Facelift.

We had around 3,334 volunteers and gathered 14,126 pounds of trash – 80 percent of which was recycled and kept out of landfills. This brings the total to more than a million pounds removed in the last 15 years. The poundage per year dropped vastly because we removed most of the heavy debris. 

All the Facelift participants, including me, are astounded by how much litter is laying around Yosemite. People personally experience how one person’s small amount of trash, in the aggregate, has a huge effect. For the last six years or so, we have also contributed to special projects for the National Park Service.

How does Subaru support the Yosemite Facelift and efforts to keep the park beautiful?

The relationship between YCA and Subaru is fantastic and only getting better. I feel that we have a lot of the same goals: reduce landfill waste and promote recycling rather than throw things away and forget about them.

As co-presenter of the Facelift, Subaru supports us with some financing, participation, vehicles and messaging. The Official Vehicle of the Facelift is Subaru! Also, the Subaru #DontFeedTheLandfills movement goes hand in hand with what we are trying to do.

What is YCA’s role in supporting the #DontFeedTheLandfills movement?

We spread the “Don’t Feed the Landfills” message through our social media platforms using the #DontFeedTheLandfills hashtag.

#DontFeedTheLandfills

To celebrate the 2016 centennial celebration of the National Park Service, Subaru, the nation’s first zero-landfill automaker, shared its knowledge of waste reduction practices with the National Park Service. The intention of the gift was to reduce landfill waste from the parks and help keep them beautiful for the next 100 years.

Subaru and the National Parks Conservation Association teamed up to create the #DontFeedTheLandfills movement. Three iconic parks – Denali, Yosemite and Grand Teton – piloted the project. By learning from experts at Subaru, the park staff and concessioners hope to further reduce landfill waste, as well as better educate visitors to lessen their environmental footprint within the parks.

What is your favorite aspect of the cleanup?

I enjoy seeing local schools participate through field trips. I also enjoy the energy that builds each day in the park. It’s almost electric. People are having such a great time that it makes all the hard work leading up to the event worth it.

What does the Subaru #DontFeedTheLandfills movement say about Subaru?

It shows me that Subaru is thinking about not only the future of our planet, but also about manufacturing in a responsible way.

Watch and learn more about #DontFeedTheLandfills