When nature calls, campers at Grand Haven State Park, Mich. can now go "green" at a new, environmentally friendly toilet-shower building that is the first of its kind in the state park system. Officials hope to eventually replace all the restrooms at Michigan's 97 state parks and recreation areas with similar buildings, according to an Associated Press article.

The water- and energy-efficient product features natural daytime lighting, artificial nighttime lighting triggered by occupancy detectors, timer-controlled showers with on-demand water heaters and reduced-flow shower heads and low-flow toilets and urinals.

A small array of solar panels on the roof supplements the electricity used for the building's ventilation system. Building materials, including masonry, metal and wood, were selected for their long-term maintenance qualities. A new sanitary sewer line should mean a safer watershed.

The $750,000 cost of the new toilet-shower building — including tearing down its predecessor, installing utility upgrades and winter construction — was paid for by a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant and a matching grant from the state Park Improvement Fund.

The state fund consists of money collected at Michigan state parks for motor vehicle permits, camping fees and concessions. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division operates the park system.

The new campground buildings are part of the DNR's Green Initiatives program, which promotes environmentally friendly management practices and product usage at state parks, state recreation areas and state harbors. Other initiatives now in place or previously tested include cutting back on mowing at certain locations, increasing recycling efforts and using biodiesel fuel in diesel-powered mowers, tractors, bulldozers and backhoes.

A handful of other parks and recreation areas around the country have built or are planning new green restrooms, including Shaver's Creek Environmental Center in central Pennsylvania, the Bronx Zoo in New York City and the Clay County, Mo., recreational trail system.

DNR officials estimate that the Grand Haven building will use about 40 percent less water and require significantly less electricity than the building it replaced. Still, that equates to only about 10 campsites with electrical hookups, so unless campers themselves conserve more energy, there's little chance of a significant drop in the state parks system's utility bills, which totaled $2.5 million last year.

Click here to read the full story.