Environmental, social and economic sustainability are the corner stones to building a strong and healthy regional tourism economy for the long term. Not only do these principals make for great public relations, they create long term operating efficiencies for your business. Pursuing sustainability doesn't have to mean giving up the experiences we provide either.
Here are 5 simple things your tourism business can do to pursue sustainability.
1. Use low wattage light bulbs. Replacing traditional incandescent bulbs with low energy bulbs, especially in large operations, brings substantial long term savings on your electricity bill. Check out http://www.everykilowattcounts.ca/ to learn more about ways your business can save electricity. In fact, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has a great financial assistance program for businesses to help them make the switch to alternative energy sources. Visit www.mndm.gov.on.ca/nohfc/program_nep_e.asp or call the local Ministry office for more details.
2. Buy local foods whenever possible - while not always in season or always as inexpensive as bulk goods trucked in, the effects are positive. local produced foods are fresher and are not trucked halfway across the province or continent contributing to increased exhaust emissions. Buying local creates economic opportunities for the local agricultural industry and more and more visitors seek local produced foods when they travel-even if it means they are priced as a premium experience. Check out the Thunder Bay Country Market to learn more about the food producers right here in the community. http://www.thunderbaycountrymarket.com/ and http://www.slowfoodsuperior.ca/ are two great sites to learn more about utilizing local ingredients.
3. Greenery - Plant trees and gardens around your tourism Establishment. Not only do trees look good, they help cleanse the air we all breath. Gardens provide an aesthetically pleasing first impression from your customers, give them a place to relax while visiting you and if you're really a green thumb, grow your own herbs and vegetables as well. For the arrival of the Clelia II this year, we installed planters along the dock until our environmental assessment allows us to complete the permanent landscaping and site work. The result is an aesthetically attractive welcome and a distraction for staff to get away from their desks to water and care for the plants for 5 minutes a day. http://www.treesthunderbay.org/ for more information or visit one of Thunder Bay's many nurseries and landscape supply retailers including Landale, Creekside, Trevisanuttos, Debruins, Vanderwees and Bill Martins to get some inspiration.
4. Showcase works by local artisans. Thunder Bay has an amazing arts and culture scene, with hundreds or artists working in a variety of creative mediums. Display their work in your establishment, make it available for sale and promote local galleries to your guests. At Tourism Thunder Bay we make it a practice to buy a number of locally produced art pieces annually as gifts for visiting dignitaries and speakers. Supporting the local cultural industries helps grow a strong local economy across a broader range of entrepreneurs. A visit to http://www.thunderbayculture.com/ links you to the Regional Arts Council.
5. Request Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved paper for your printing needs. While the massive shift towards web based media helps reduce our reliance on paper, print materials will always have a place in business to some degree. when printing envelopes, brochures or guest magazines, request your printer use FSC approved stock. While there may be a premium on this paper now, hopefully, the costs come down as more people demand it and producers listen. http://www.fsccanada.org/ to learn more.
Want to know more about sustainable tourism? Visit www.ecotourism.org. You'll discover that any tourism operation, urban or remote, can learn from the principals of the organization and adapt them to their own business.