alive logo

Good-conscience vacations

Walk the eco-walk


Eco tourism is alive and well in Canada. Check into one of a growing number of green hotels.

You’ve reduced, reused, and recycled all year, and now you deserve a vacation. Luckily, you don’t have to leave your good intentions at home. Whether you want to play in the sun and sand, hike through the wilderness, or explore a city, there’s an eco-friendly destination just for you.
Between your own green habits and hotel and tourism initiatives, it’s never been easier to go green.

Putting the green in travel

Call it green, eco, or environmentally friendly travel, it means the same thing: decreasing your impact on the environment. How? Easy. When planning a trip, make eco-friendly choices in how you travel, where you stay, and what activities you do.

Check travel and hotel websites to see what they’re doing to minimize their carbon footprint. If you’re unhappy with what you read, tell them. If you are happy, compliment them.
Do your part. A 2007 survey published in National Geographic found that most people leave their green habits at home when they travel. Don’t be one of them. Think green.

Getting there is half the green

How you get to your destination impacts the environment. In general, a train is a better choice than a bus, which in turn is better than a car because the cost of the travel is spread among more people. In other words, the more the merrier. If you’re renting a car, either to get there or at your destination, choose the smallest, most fuel-efficient one available.

The verdict is still out on planes. They make the most sense in terms of time versus distance, plus they can transport a lot of people at once. However, some scientists believe emissions from planes are much harsher on the environment because the gases released at high altitudes may alter the radiation entering our atmosphere.

If you do fly, use airlines with carbon-offset programs and donate money for tree planting.

Easy green travel tips

  • Take nonstop flights and use electronic tickets.
  • Bring reusable snack containers, water bottles, and coffee mugs.
  • Use public transportation to and from the airport, terminal, or station.
  • Pack light; the less you bring, the less fuel is needed to move you and your luggage.

Your own backyard

If money or time is tight, take a green vacation in your own city. Check into an eco-rated hotel for a few days. Visit attractions or tour parts of the city you’ve never seen by bus, by bike, or on foot. Pack garbageless picnics and turn being green into an adventure for the whole family.

Canada’s hotel industry goes green

Canada’s hotel industry is turning over a new leaf—a green one. The Hotel Association of Canada’s (HAC) Green Key Eco-Rating Program supports and recognizes hotels, motels, and resorts that practise sustainable hotel operations.

Its graduated rating system has an online audit that looks at nine areas of eco-friendly practices including:

  • energy conservation
  • water conservation
  • solid waste management
  • hazardous waste management
  • indoor air quality
  • community outreach
  • building infrastructure
  • land use
  • environmental management

Once the audit is tallied, the hotel is awarded a Green Key rating from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility. Currently, the program is voluntary and audits are self-administered.

However, HAC is in the process of instituting on-site inspections in Ontario and Alberta, and across Canada within a year. Quebec inspections are already done by Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Qu?c.

To find an eco-rated hotel, go to and click on the map of Canada. Select your province or territory for a list of lodging properties organized by city. Click on the hotel name to connect to its website for more information.

Note: the Audubon Society runs a similar program called the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. Check their website at

Beaches and bikes

Dalvay By the Sea Heritage Inn (, Dalvay Beach, Prince Edward Island, is a 4 Green Key Eco-Rated hotel and a National Historic Site of Canada. Anne of Green Gables fans will recognize it as the White Sands Hotel from the TV series and movies.

From its kitchens to its office and guest rooms, the hotel follows a strict Waste Watch program and uses products that reduce its environmental footprint. Its lawns and gardens rely on Mother Nature rather than pesticides or irrigation, and its waste water goes to natural settling ponds. A member of the New PEI Culinary Alliance/Flavours Trail, the hotel stresses local food products.

What to do

  • Dalvay’s location inside Prince Edward Island National Park means guests have access to miles of dunes, beaches, trails, and wildlife.
  • Rent a bike and explore the Confederation Trail, or try out the new PEI National
    Park multi-use trail (Gulf Shore Way), which is geared to walking, cycling,
    or rollerblading.
  • Relax on Dalvay’s own beach (towels, chairs, and sand toys provided) or use the hotel’s canoes or kayaks on Dalvay Lake, one of PEI’s three freshwater lakes.
  • Into ball sports? There’s a tennis court and basketball court, plus a practice range with a two-hole putting green.
  • For older and younger guests, head over to the horseshoe pitch, croquet green, or children’s play area.
  • As for meals or high tea, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant is the place to go.

Giddy-up horsie

Combining luxury and a family-owned working ranch, Siwash Lake Ranch, British Columbia, has an outstanding commitment to sustainability and a 5 Green Key Eco-Rating from the Hotel Association of Canada—the highest rating available.

The ranch’s extensive land stewardship programs keep environmental impact to a minimum, while encouraging habitats for native birds and other wildlife. Through a daily best practices initiative, every aspect of the ranch—from administration to housekeeping, from food preparation to mechanical systems—is constantly being upgraded and retrofitted to the highest green standards available. (

What to do

Surrounded by 80,000 acres of wilderness, the ranch offers a host of outdoor activities.

  • Go horseback riding on your own or with a guide.
  • Like fly-fishing? Trout and salmon abound in the area’s lakes and rivers; only keep what you can eat.
  • There’s even a wilderness survival course that teaches how to build a shelter and find water and food in the forest.
  • Or you might prefer hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, swimming, or just plain relaxing.
  • Visit the on-site Sustainability Center and learn about the ranch’s ongoing projects to protect the environment and ways for everyone to green their homes and businesses.
  • Kids ages four through 12 can participate in a daily Free-Range Kids program, a hands-on approach to living on a ranch and being part of nature.

Lakeside view

For a family-fun holiday, check out Cedar Grove Lodge ( in Muskoka, Ontario, a cottage resort located on Peninsula Lake. Cedar Grove is justly proud of its environmental record and its 4 Green Leaf Eco-Rating.

A member of the Ontario Natural Food Co-op and Savour Muskoka, which supports the use of local farmers and culinary artisans, the lodge sources local ingredients and products whenever possible.

Its commitment to wildlife is seen in its support of the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. To offset their use of cars and motorized boats, the lodge has purchased “cleanairpasses” (carbon offsets) for its land vehicles and uses quieter, more fuel-efficient and less polluting four-stroke boat engines.

What to do

  • Relax on your porch, or explore four interlocking lakes using canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, windsurfers, and rowboats.
  • For a little more speed, the lodge offers pontoon boat tours.
  • For fishermen, there’s bass and pike.
  • Kids have a separate roped-in swimming area, complete with slide, diving board, and water trampoline.
  • With 75 acres of undisturbed land, nature trails for hikers abound.
  • For even more nature, Algonquin and Arrowhead Parks are nearby.

Magnificent mountains

Winner of many awards for its environmentally friendly practices, Pine Bungalows ( is nestled in Jasper National Park, Alberta. It earned these awards and a 4 Green Key Eco-Rating by replacing petroleum-based paints and stains with earth-friendly products, nature-scaping its former lawns, and reducing its water and energy use.

Its owners also worked with suppliers to stock environmentally sound products and take back recyclable containers. Other green initiatives include diverting 50 percent of its waste and decreasing fossil-fuel consumption by using electric carts and vegetable oil for machine maintenance.

Pine Bungalows is a mix of new and old, combining rustic, refurbished cabins and newer motel accommodations, some with handicapped access. With a focus on the outdoors, Pine Bungalows offer a series of guided weekend discovery tours during the summer.

What to do

This year’s proposed tours include wildlife photography, birding, wildflowers, and star-gazing. Or use the lodging as a base and explore what Jasper and its national park have to offer.

  • Take a ride on the Jasper Tramway.
  • Visit the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum and Archives.
  • Come in August for the Wildlife Festival.
  • There are plenty of hiking, fishing, and rafting adventures, too.


Hollywood Balancing Act

Hollywood Balancing Act

Drawing on martial arts philosophy, Peter Jang finds mind-body balance in a decade-plus career

Shawn RadcliffeShawn Radcliffe