How to Travel Responsibly in Vancouver

Sustainable travel in Vancouver.

The global pandemic shuttered travel for more than a year, but it also taught us that, when public health orders allow us to explore the world again, we need to be mindful of our environmental footprint (read why in the Center for Responsible Travel’s 2020 report). Regenerative travel – or leaving your host destination better than you found it – has emerged as a forerunning travel trend for 2021 with its promise to elevate sustainable travel to the next level. Already one of the greenest cities in the world, Vancouver offers plenty of opportunities for locals and visitors to enjoy a rejuvenating escape while helping to protect the planet and give back to the local community.

Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel (courtesy Destination BC/@vancitywild)

Guests staying at Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel can rest assured they’re doing their part for the environment and regional community. It starts with your morning cup of coffee: the hotel partners with Rehoboth Farms, a nearby organic chicken farm, to divert up to 200 kilos of coffee grinds from landfill per week, transforming it into a natural fertilizer; in turn, this fertilization supports Rehoboth’s commitment to sustainable farming of the pastures where their chickens and cattle feed. The farm delivers fresh organic eggs to the hotel every Saturday morning, bringing the partnership full circle. You’re also supporting the community every time you step into the shower: Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is the first in the Lower Mainland to participate in “Soap for Hope”, a program that repurposes and diverts from landfill an average of 1,069 kilos per month of unfinished bathroom amenities. Bars of soap are sent to communities in need of hygiene products, while bottles of shampoo and body wash are sent to homeless shelters, women’s shelters and senior homes across the region.

Miku Restaurant.

Dining at a Vancouver restaurant? Watch for the Ocean Wise symbol on your menu, which denotes sustainable seafood options that support healthy oceans. The conservation program –whose initiatives include the Vancouver Aquarium, currently closed yet continuing to support marine conservation – aims to relieve pressure on overfished species and ensures we can continue to enjoy seafood for generations to come. Nosh on perfectly prepared Ocean Wise fare at Blue Water Café, Miku or Tacofino, or find an Ocean Wise restaurant using this interactive map.

Seeking a sustainable activity? Wild Whales Vancouver is dedicated to protecting local wildlife and nature reserves, which is why the tour operator donates $2 from every whale watching ticket purchased to research and conservation initiatives, including the Center for Whale Research and the David Suzuki Foundation. Hop aboard a tour departing from Granville Island to learn about local marine conservation and glimpse wildlife spanning killer whales, sea lions and bald eagles.

Other local whale watching companies include Whale Watch Vancouver, which likewise donates a conservation fee to the Center for Whale Research, along with select salmon enhancement projects; Prince of Whales, a member of 1% for the Planet, which has adopted orcas from the Vancouver Aquarium with adoption fees supporting research and conservation of regional killer whale and marine life; and Orca Spirit Adventures, which purchases carbon offsets that support protection of the Great Bear Rainforest on the north and central coast of BC.

Harbour Air Seaplanes.

For a sky-high perspective, book a flightseeing tour with Harbour Air Seaplanes, the world’s first and only carbon neutral airline. In 2019, the company achieved another global milestone by launching the world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft, furthering its vision to connect communities with clean, efficient and affordable electric air travel. Book one of their aerial tours of Vancouver, then sit back and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery knowing your tour is supported by carbon offsets.

Grizzly bears Grinder and Coola at Grouse Mountain (courtesy Coast Mountain Photography).

If you prefer a mountain adventure, head to Grouse Mountain, where the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife houses two orphaned grizzly bears living in a protected five-acre habitat (check out their live web cam here). Endeavouring to raise public awareness of the challenges faced by BC’s wildlife, the refuge also participates in an urgent spotted owl rehabilitation program and a global study on hummingbirds. Outdoor enthusiasts seeking a heart-pumping challenge won’t want to miss the Grouse Grind, a 2.9-kilometre straight up the mountain that’s fondly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”. Time your visit for the Grouse Grind Mountain Run, where hikers raise funds for the BC Cancer Foundation and BC Children’s Hospital.

These attractions are a small sample of the sustainable and regenerative travel opportunities available in Vancouver. Read more about the city’s sustainable tourism efforts, and prepare for an eco-conscious holiday when restrictions are eased.

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