Parks Canada staffer Pete Clarkson and Surfrider beach clean coordinator Sarah Greenwood check out a broken up shipping container that crashed on the George Fraser Islands. (Photo - Alan Hall)

Island groups working hard to make tourism sustainable

Environmental efforts for tourism discussed at Island economic summit panel discussion

Organizations, businesses and government on the Island are making efforts to ensure tourism is sustainable, said panelists and attendees at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit.

Anthony Everett, Tourism Vancouver Island president and CEO, moderated Mindful Travelers and the Future of Tourism at Vancouver Island Conference Centre and asked the audience to think of ways of finding a way forward that achieves balance: economic growth and viability balanced with sustainability.

Trina White, general manager of Parkside Hotel and Spa in Victoria, said her business adheres to environmentally sustainable practices, despite the fact it could affect potential business. Parkside doesn’t offer customers plastic bottled water, she said, and electric vehicles park for free with gas vehicles charged $17 a night. It has furniture handmade in the Cowichan Valley and housekeeping crews use cloth bags, as opposed to plastic.

White said the hotel diverts 77 per cent of its waste from the landfill, with a goal of 90 per cent.

“You’ve got to think, almost yearly, you’re getting rid of all your linens,” said White. “We’re re-doing all the furniture in the hotel over the last year and all our hallway corridors are being renovated right now. All that material has to be re-purposed and re-used wherever we can.”

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“It’s been very hard at the hotel level when you’re buying, if you think about, linens and furniture and case goods … but if you look, you’re going to find them,” said White. “For example, all of our furniture is handmade in Cowichan Valley now, so we have local products being made here. The emissions are less and we’re supporting local businesses. Silk Road in our guests’ rooms for our tea, local coffee company. The more we can support our local economy, the better, So it helps us on our footprint and it helps support our local area.”

Michelle Hall, vice-president of Surfrider Canada, a non-profit that aims to protect oceans and beaches, said in the Pacific Rim region, the focus is to eliminate single-use plastics, progressive waste management and working together on ocean standard practices. Beach cleanups led by residents, visitors, youths, First Nations, industry and government are one way to achieve that, she said.

“How do we do it? Beach cleanups are probably the most fun and accessible way for visitors, tourists and industry … to clean up the coast,” Hall said to the audience.

“All of our cleanups are an opportunity to collect data to inform our campaign [and] program that we work on to make beach cleanups obsolete,” she said.

According to Hall, debris is used by Lush Cosmetics for ocean-friendly packaging and Surfrider is working with Tourism V.I. to share tips for tourists in partnership with businesses that have ocean-friendly practices.

Bob Rogers, Regional District of Nanaimo vice-chairman, told the News Bulletin the RDN has sustainable tourism in its scope as well.

“We know people are coming here, so we have to be able to facilitate them and encourage the tourism business to really recognize … sustainability, plastic use, etc.,” said Rogers. “We’ve got initiatives going on now … we’ve got the stuff on the EV charging stations going in, so we’re putting in 10 of those as a regional district, but at the same time, businesses are doing them and hotels and gas stations, so we have to address all of that at the same time.”

Everett said further plans are afoot at Tourism Nanaimo around sustainability.

“When we talk about sustainability and tourism for the Island, we also bring that ethic into the work for Tourism Nanaimo,” said Everett. “We’re about to do a tourism master plan for Nanaimo, which will look at all the issues of how people get here, what’s important to visitors and then how businesses meet that sustainability/ocean-friendly lens.”



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