Jack Springer is fully aware that burning fuel to take whale watchers to witness some of nature’s most majestic creatures seems a bit contradictory.
For the last few years, he has been looking for ways to make up for the environmental impact, as his company Campbell River Whale Watching is in the process of going carbon neutral. It might not be easy, but Springer knows it’s the right thing to do.
They are working with Green Tourism Canada, an environmental certification program for the tourism and hospitality industry, which globally has worked with more than 2,300 businesses.
“We’ve chosen to first clean up our own act,” Springer said.
The company goes through an assessment of its practices and products to measure its environmental footprint.
“They evaluate you each year,” Springer said. “We’re at the silver level.”
It then looks for ways to reduce its impact on the environment while paying to mitigate its effects through carbon offsets—in other words, by supporting green projects.
“You put your money where your mouth is,” he said.
Campbell River Whale Watching is supporting local organization Greenways Land Trust to maintain trails and surrounding ecosystem. Last month, the company made a $5,000 donation and volunteered with the group’s Broom Bash clean-up of invasive weeds at Myrt Thompson Trail. The company also plans to donate whale-watching trips to help raise funds.
Greenways has been around since 1996, and last year planted 1,600 native trees and shrubs. Executive director Cynthia Bendickson said that group has not sought certification as an official carbon neutral project.
“We haven’t looked into doing anything officially,” she said.
There had been provincial grant funding available to assist with the process in the past, but this is no longer the case, so Greenways is focussing its efforts on work to make the local environment greener.
As Greenways is local, Springer wants to direct his money to it, especially it relies on support from the Campbell River community to help plant and maintain native trees and shrubs.
“A lot of the stuff they get, they get by donation,” Springer said. “We just thought we’d get on board.”
While Campbell River Whale Watching relies on fuel for its boats, it has been making changes around its office to reduce its demands on the enviroment and lower its carbon offsets. This has included measures such as installing a heat pump, switching to low-energy lights, changing the office printer to one that is more efficient and uses refillable cartridges, using low-flow toilets and having cellular phone chargers on boats. Springer admits the Green Tourism program is thorough, as it even has stipulations on practices such as the window cleaner the drivers use to wipe the windows.
There is still work to do to get to the gold standard, such as going paperless. Even though Campbell River Whale Watching does not rely on paper that much, the company switched to an online booking system rather than keeping track of scheduling in binders.
Tourism does have an effect on the environment, especially through fuel consumption on flights, though through programs like Green Tourism, companies can find ways to reduce impact while travellers can calculate the impact they have on their environment through activities such as flights.
Springer points to Harbour Air, the B.C.-based seaplane airline, as an example to show that even airlines can reduce environmental impact.
“If Harbour Air can go carbon neutral, then I think anybody can be carbon neutral,” he said.
Considering not only tourism providers but hotels and restaurants, Springer knows there are many businesses in Campbell River that depend on visitors, so he hopes his actions will inspire others to work more collaboratively to go “green” and at the same time promote all of their businesses.
“You have to pave the road for some of the companies,” he said. “We’re all in the same show. We all want people to come.”