Information tourism organizations find the most valuable when it comes to sustainability see more
Green Tourism recently conducted a survey in partnership with the Tourism Industry Associations of Canada, Ontario and British Columbia. We wanted to find out what information tourism businesses and organizations would find the most valuable when it comes to sustainability.
In the face of rising energy costs and carbon prices, saving money on energy was the topic respondents wanted to learn about the most. This is the first in a series of articles that will respond directly to what the tourism industry in Canada has identified as its top priorities when it comes to being green.
At Green Tourism, we also have a consulting practice through which we have conducted more than 1000 energy audits with FortisBC, BC Hydro and the BC Government’s LiveSmart BC program. When speaking with participating businesses, we identified that the key barriers to investing in energy saving projects were: time, budget and knowledge.
Time: Businesses don’t always have time to spend thinking deeply about energy efficiency or to create an energy saving plan.
Budget: You have multiple budget priorities, and energy efficiency often doesn’t rise to the top. Instead many businesses replace equipment and technology on a reactive instead of proactive basis.
Knowledge: With so many energy efficiency projects to choose from, it can be hard to determine what do first, or what is going to provide the best return on investment.
Here are the top 13 recommendations our Green Tourism expert advisors make for improving the energy efficiency of tourism businesses. Read on to learn how your tourism business can reduce energy consumption, reduce your carbon footprint, and save money by going green.
1. Develop an Energy Management Program (it’s free)!
An Energy Management Program is simply a series of procedures and protocols that employees follow to help minimize energy consumption. No matter how big or small your office or building might be, you can create an energy management plan. It may include items such as:
- Keeping lights off in rooms and common areas where natural daylight provides sufficient lighting
- Power down office equipment at night individually or on power bars
- Require housekeeping to close guest room blinds or draperies, keeping rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. In common areas, keep blinds or draperies closed during the hottest times of day and open in the evenings during the summer, and closed at night during cooler weather, where appropriate.
- Have housekeeping manually return thermostats to predetermined set-points, ideally 23C in the summer and 18C in the winter.
- If you have mini-bar fridges, have housekeeping them turned to the highest temperature setting or better yet, keep them unplugged (and slightly open to avoid smells), with stickers on the front to request your guests plug them in should they wish to use them. They cool down very quickly.
2. Use low energy lighting
Skip the CFLs and go straight for the LEDs. Not only are LEDs up to 90% more efficient that incandescent lights and 30% more efficient than CFLs, they last longer than both varieties – between 10 to 25 years, providing significant savings on labour costs. Whether you invest in major LED retrofits, or simply replace them as they burn out, this is the one of the most simple and cost effective ways to reduce your energy costs. Be sure to buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer, and look for CSA approval and an Energy Star rating. Cheaper imported bulbs might seem like a better deal, but they often don’t last or look as nice. Also, pay attention to colour temperature (i.e. cool or warm light), and lumen output to ensure that you’re buying the right bulbs for the right spaces.
3. Install Sensors and Controls
Sensors and controls are a step-up from a basic energy management program which depends on human behaviour to make it work, to one that is run by technology. The most common and cost-effective systems are photo sensors for indoor and outdoor lighting, controlling lights based on the levels of natural light available, and occupancy sensors/key card systems for guest rooms to control both lighting as well as heating and cooling. When a room is unoccupied the lights automatically turn out and the temperature can return to a programmed set-point, typically 23C in the summer and 18C in the winter.
4. Energy Efficient Appliances
When it comes to appliances, spending a little extra on a high efficiency, Energy Star rated products can result in significant savings, up to 50% when replacing old equipment. It’s a wonder not all appliances are required to be Energy Star rated! Refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, televisions, and washing machines are all appliances that you should be sure to purchase in the highest Energy Star rating you can find, the next time you need to replace this equipment.
5. Maintenance and Positioning of Refrigeration Equipment
Ensure that door seals are tight and units are regularly defrosted with no ice build-up. Have larger commercial systems serviced regularly and keep vents unobstructed and grime-free. Ideally, position units away from heat sources such as ovens and enable sufficient spacing for ventilation. Walk-in freezer units should have screens or curtains to ensure any cooling losses are minimized.
6. Hot Water Tanks
Similar to appliances, a high efficiency hot water tank can add up to big savings. If you’re not ready to replace yet, insulate! An un-insulated or poorly insulated hot water tank wastes energy. It should be insulated to least 50mm/2”. Pipes should also be well insulated to reduce heat losses.
An alternative to a hot water tank is an instant on-demand system that produces hot water when required. There are no heat losses associated with storing hot water. On-demand systems are available in both electric and natural gas models.
7. High Efficiency Boilers
A boiler is responsible for providing heating and hot water. Given a cool climate in Canada, its efficiency is an important cost as well as an environmental impact. A boiler’s efficiency is measured by how much of the fuel it burns is converted into useful heat. Modern condensing boilers are the most efficient and are recommended for fossil fuels. They can achieve efficiencies of over 90%.
Biomass boilers are also of growing value and can be very practical in areas where there is a readily available waste wood fuel supply. Care should be employed to ensure feedstock is dry to ensure the fuel provides maximum calorific value. A biomass boiler using wood pellets or other renewable fuel supply should have an efficiency of above 80%.
8. Heat Recovery
Heat recovery units extract waste heat from ventilation and refrigeration systems, typically in swimming pools, kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. By using a simple cross-flow heat exchanger, they can recover heat that would normally be lost. Units range from whole-building systems to smaller exchangers for individual extractors.
9. Roof Insulation
Approximately 20% of a building’s heat loss is through the roof space, and sufficient loft insulation can significantly reduce energy consumption in heating, particularly in older, poorly insulated buildings. Contact a local insulation company for an evaluation and estimate to determine the current insulation value of your roof and what improvements are possible.
10. Glazing and Draught Proofing
Approximately 15% of a building’s heat loss is through windows and glazing. Secondary, double or better glazing will save energy. If these options are not feasible, use blinds and heavy curtains, and implement an energy management program. Draughts from doors and windows also cause heat loss. Have maintenance ensure that windows and doors are properly sealed. Caulking and weather stripping is relatively inexpensive, but the savings can be significant.
11. Variable Frequency Drives and Inverters
Over recent years there have been developments to motors which allow them to operate at variable frequencies and in so doing draw less power. Often called inverters, these motor controllers reduce power consumption by 15-30%. Talk to your HVAC company or engineers about what options might be available for you.
12. Renewable Energy Systems
Unless you’ve already tackled all of the above recommendations, you might want to hold off on investing in a solar, wind or another form of renewable energy generation. Not that we don’t think these systems are super-cool, but unless you have a money tree or an unlimited budget, you will likely find a better return on investment if you tackle some or all of the previous items first. Then you’ll have reduced the energy-demand of your building significantly, and will be able supply more of your own energy needs, improving the payback and ROI on your renewable energy investment.
Of course, if you don’t consume much energy in your tourism business, i.e. a sailing company or small tour operator, considering solar PV to replace a diesel generator for creating electricity or a solar thermal system for hot water, could be a great option for you.
Go ahead and choose one, two or three of the “Top 13 Ways to Save Energy in Your Tourism Business,” and get started! We suggest starting small because we know how busy you are. Setting realistic goals that you can achieve is better than trying to do everything and getting overwhelmed, frustrated and ultimately not getting very far.
Don’t forget the three M’s: Measure – Monitor – Market
Measure: Before you get started, measure your baseline so you can compare your progress over time.
Monitor: Track your reductions in energy consumption to see if you’re getting the anticipated results.
Market: Make your changes part of your green story – your guests, community and other stakeholders love these feel-good stories and it’s a great way to connect with the values of consumers who are increasingly looking to support responsible business.
If you’d like to receive expert advice from one of our Green Tourism assessors, consider becoming a Green Tourism Member. Contact Carol Greenwood, Manager of Membership & Business Development at TIAO for more information.
Simple concepts to apply when trying to purchase goods and services more sustainably see more
Last week at Green Tourism Canada, we received an email from a member about sustainable purchasing. She was wondering if we had a list of “green suppliers” in her area that she could consider purchasing from. I decided to pick up the phone to share some simple concepts she could apply when trying to purchase goods and services more sustainably.
Here they are: 5 steps to help make your purchasing decisions more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Tackle one or do them all, and improve the sustainability performance of your business today.
Step 1: Figure out how much of your purchasing is “local”
Supporting local suppliers is good for your local economy by keeping your dollars circulating in your community, region, or province. It can also offer local environmental and social benefits, such as reduced carbon footprint and pollution, employment, and job creation.
Local can be a broad term, so try prioritizing like this:
- Local – owned and operated within your city or town
- Regional – owned and operated within your region
- Provincial – owned and operated within your province
- Franchise – provincial, national, or international franchise owned by a local
- National – owned and operated within your country
To get started, ask your bookkeeper or accountant to print off a list of your top 10 suppliers/vendors based on how much you spend with them annually. This is a very simple exercise in most accounting software.
Once you have this list, make a note of how local each of your top vendors are, using the definitions above. If you’re not sure about who is local or not, consider sending out a short questionnaire to your suppliers (more on that later).
If you want a fun exercise for your team, download our free Supplier Inventory Mapping Exercise.
Step 2: Figure out how much of your purchasing is “sustainability certified”
Vendors and suppliers who have made the effort to have the products and services they offer certified by an outside party demonstrates their credibility and their commitment to sustainability.
There are many certifications and labels for different types of products and services, but here are few of the common and most credible ones (you can find a few examples on our Partners page):
- Carbon Neutral – variety of businesses and their products or services
- Certified B Corporation – variety of businesses and their products or services
- Certified Organic – primarily food and textiles
- Fair Trade – primarily food
- Forest Stewardship Council – paper and paper products
- Green Tourism Certified – your fellow tourism operators
- LEED Certified – buildings/venues
Take your vendors list and figure out what products and services you purchase from each. Then determine which ones have a sustainability related certification. If you purchase a tonne of products, focus on the ones that you purchase the most of to start.
Step 3: Figure out how much of your purchasing meets the five R’s: Reduce, Repair, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
Can you stop buying stuff you don’t really need? Do you buy a lot of disposables or make an effort to stay away from single-use products? Do you look for gently used products before buying new? Do you buy quality items that last longer and can be repaired or donated instead of throwing in the trash? Do you purchase products that can be recycled at the end of their useful life?
Usually, steering clear of disposable products (think paper coffee cups, plastic water bottles, etc.), will save you money over the long term. There may be an upfront investment to begin, but there is most often a return on investment over a period of time, from the reduced ongoing expense of purchasing disposable products as well as the reduced ongoing costs of hauling away your garbage and recycling.
Step 4: Set a goal and create a plan
What percentage of your purchasing meets one or more of the considerations above? How realistic is it for you to improve this by 10%, 20%, 30% in the next 1-3 years? Unless you’re in a long-term contract with these suppliers and vendors, identify what options are available that are:
- More local. For example, if you’re purchasing office supplies from a big box supplier, is there a locally or provincially owned option that will give you similar service and selection?
- Sustainability certified. For example, are you purchasing coffee for your staff or guests? Check with your supplier to find out if they offer a Certified Organic and/or Fair Trade option. If not, check with their competition.
- Helping you meet the five R’s. For example, do you offer your employees Styrofoam or paper cups in a lunch area? If so, banish these and buy some branded reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. Also, try setting up a bin or area for a local non-profit to pick up used goods that still have some life in them.
Do it now. Write a to-do list of five things you are going to change about your purchasing, who will be responsible, and when it is to be done. Set a reminder in one month to check in. Have these changes been made? Set follow up reminders until they’re done!
Step 5: Get buy-in. Draft a One-Page Sustainable Purchasing Policy
You can go crazy and write a book if you wish, but if you’re like most people in the tourism business – you’re busy! We say a “draft” purchasing policy because we know that you will gain more support and participation in any plan if you ask for ideas and input from the people that are going to have to be a part of making it happen.
Your policy should have these sections at minimum:
- Brief statement of why this is important to your business
- Purchasing criteria to consider, in order of importance to your business. If the five R’s are the most important to you, put these first. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, looking for local or carbon neutral products should be the first criteria.
- List of preferred vendors for your most commonly purchased products/services.
Note re: suppliers and vendors – If you need more information about what vendors offer when it comes to sustainability, ask them! Send a short and sweet sustainable procurement email to your top 10 vendors (or all of them if you’re energetic), and ask them five simple questions:
- Where is your business headquartered?
- Are you a franchise?
- Do you have any green or sustainable certifications?
- How will you help my company reduce waste, energy, carbon, or water?
- Do you have any other environmental, social, or cultural practices that you want us to know about?
Get in the inside scoop on green tourism from the traveller perspective see more
Have you ever asked your guests what they really care about beyond the standard comment cards? Have you asked them specific questions about your environmental responsibility? Most tourism businesses haven’t, but we did.
The travel industry is currently experiencing a “New Tourism”, according to the World Tourism Organization. These new tourists have a high level of environmental and cultural awareness and are seeking experiences that align with their values. A 2013 Travel Guard survey to travel agents showed that 75% believe “green travel is here to stay” and is at the highest it’s been in the past 10 years. More and more, travellers want a holiday that they can feel good about from a social and environmental perspective, while also checking off their budget and fun boxes.
In this special report, we’ve done the work for you; conducting research, collecting surveys and talking to travellers to find out what they really wanted from tourism operators in Canada. We wanted to know:
- Do travellers really care about a tourism operator’s environmental performance?
- Does having a certification really matter?
- Are travellers willing to pay more for a greener experience?
- Is “being green” just a fad?
The results surprised us!
Don’t miss out on getting the inside scoop in this free report, which not only walks you through the research results, but also offers ideas to help you navigate the wants and desires of your guests to boost business, shift consumer perspective and save you money.
Manage your organization's sustainability plan see more
Moving your company towards sustainability needs to come from both the top down as well as the bottom up. Once an executive decision is made to support sustainability, there needs to be ongoing support to establish and implement a green action plan and strategy. Creating that plan and keeping it on track are jobs for the green team.
A green team is a committee made up of people from your company. These employees collectively have insights into all aspects of your organization and can bring ideas from their departments or roles, to improve the company’s sustainability performance. Usually the team is made up of people that self-select to be part of the green team. Their job is to be creative and identify actions to meet goals and targets within a sustainability plan, or to help develop goals, targets or a plan if these things don’t already exist.
Benefits of having a Green Team
Attract top talent: Having a green team will help you attract and engage top talent, by aligning with the values of potential employees. According to a Conference Board of Canada survey, 71% of Canadians want to work for an employer that has commitments to improve their company’s sustainability performance.
Boost employee engagement and morale: Usually the people who volunteer have a strong connection to social and environmental sustainability and a strong desire to do what’s right and make change for the better within the organization. Engagement can spike if employees are feeling positive about the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (according to GreenBiz). By harnessing their passion, you will be able to get green things done by people who love doing them, reducing turn over and boosting morale among all staff who want to see “green” on the company agenda.
Realize ROI: Green Teams can actually help save your company money. Green teams often work to find and implement ways to improve efficiencies, which often have a great return on investment. For example, if a green team decides that setting a target to reduce paper printed by 50% will help meet their waste reduction goals, then that is 50% less paper your company needs to purchase, and less that you need to spend on hauling recycling away. Another example is recommending that the company invest in energy-saving technology such as LED lighting, sensors and controls or EnergyStar equipment. Less energy consumed will reduce operating costs, improving your company’s bottom line. These investments can pay you back in both the short and long term.
Free Download: How to Establish a Green Team
If you’re ready to start off the New Year on the right foot by getting a green team up-and-running, download our handy guide: How to Establish A Green Team in Your Business.
Getting started on this now will ensure that you have your priorities in the right place for 2017, the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Is your company already doing some great things and do you have a certification behind them? Find out how to Effectively Market your Company’s Green Business Credentials.
Make 2017 the year you tackle your eco-to-do-list see more
Watch out Canada! 2017 marks the International Year of Sustainable Tourism and we are super excited to keep you inspired with what opportunities this presents for your business. Read on for some suggestions and stay tuned for more “International Year” inspired articles, resources and tools in the coming weeks and months to help you make a difference for our world and your business in 2017.
Decreed by the United Nations, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism is intended to provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses to create lasting and positive change and economic growth in the communities they operate within. By focusing on improving public policies, changing business practices, and shifting consumer behaviour, it is possible to create a more forward-thinking and impactful tourism sector. Sustainable Tourism is about conserving ecosystems for future exploration, providing jobs within the community, and it is certainly about preserving and sharing cultural values, diversity, and heritage.
“2017 presents a unique opportunity to explore and highlight tourism’s potential to help transform our world into a place of prosperity and wellbeing for all.” – The United Nations
So what are these opportunities exactly, and how as a business can you adopt some of these practices? Maybe you’re already taking steps in the right direction, but need fresh ideas…well, rest easy: the UN has laid out a roadmap for success and it starts simple:
Advocacy and awareness-raising: talk it up! Get the word out that sustainable tourism can have a huge impact on society and the environment and that as it turns out, it creates more functional and prosperous economies. Go figure!
Knowledge creation and dissemination: promote the tools necessary to monitor and measure your business’s positive (and negative) impacts and get that information out there.
Some bigger ticket action items to think about in this new year…
Policymaking: get behind national tourism policies that encourage holistic approaches to tourism development and promote evidence-based policies that advance your business’s contribution to sustainable development.
Capacity-building & education: consider supporting and possibly implementing educational strategies that promote the contribution of your tourism business to development.
With all this in mind, and given the spirit of the new year and resolution-setting…why not take a minute to find out how your business stacks up on the sustainability spectrum? Take our quiz and discover some of our favourite tools for measuring success and taking action.
(Too much?) Let’s make 2017 the year we tackle our eco-to-do-lists, cut out the greenwashing, and make real and lasting change in our industry. After all, with all the benefits of sustainable tourism on development and business, what really is the downside?
Capitalize on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism see more
We all know New Year’s resolutions can be hard to stick with and that’s why we’re going to try hard to help your business stay on top of your sustainability goals this year. After all, that’s sort of our mission, with this whole saving the world business!
So instead of just throwing the idea of the UN’s “International Year of Sustainable Tourism” out there and hoping it sticks, we’re taking a different approach. We’re going to help you dig deeper into some of the ideas and actions suggested by the UN, offering more specifics on how your business can take these concepts and run with ‘em. So let’s dive in!
First up: advocacy and awareness-raising. If you are already talking up your green story then you’re halfway there! …Did we lose you at “green story?” Fear not, Green Tourism has plenty of free resources that we’re happy to share and hoping you download and use. Take a gander at this handy guide on Three Steps to Kick-Start Your Green Story for pointers on how to get started with yours.
By developing and sharing your green story, you’re telling your customers that not only are you invested in protecting the natural environment but that your values align with theirs, which according to experts accounts for upwards of 83% of consumers who are consciously choosing to support companies that are progressive in this industry. An authentic green story will not only help to attract new guests, but also to foster a space for conversation to happen and for more enriched business-customer relationships to develop. This spells success for your business in the long-run, especially as green tourism and sustainability efforts continue to build.
Brett Soberg, Lead Captain and Co-Owner of Eagle Wing Tours, and Green Tourism Gold member, has found that telling his sustainability story is great for business:
“Many of our clients have commented on the fact that they book with Eagle Wing because of our sustainability stance and because of the organizations we support and belong to.”
If this is old hat, but you still want more ways to build awareness and advocate for sustainable tourism within your business, keep reading!
Thankfully, the UN offers many different suggestions to build on the notion of crafting an authentic green story. Here are our favourites:
Develop a media and/or social media plan to include interviews with staff, articles in local (or national) publications, and blog posts as an effective means of getting your business and story out there to a larger audience.
Use the “International Year” logo in communication materials throughout the year to keep the conversation going internally, and with your customer base.
Now that you’ve talked the talk and are crafting, updating, and sharing your green story, it’s time to walk the walk. In our next post we’ll explore how to share the progress you’ve made with your sustainability actions and how to stay accountable in 2017!
And if you haven’t yet, why not give our sustainable tourism quiz a try to find out where you’re at!
Taylor Poelman posted an articleGreen business tools for your organization see more
Spring is the perfect time to check in on those green business goals we keep waxing poetic about over here at Green Tourism Canada, and it’s also a great time to check in on your progress. Why? Well, it’s been over three months since the start of the new year, it’s almost the start of a new quarter, and with all resolutions a solid reminder is always welcome.
Plus, while tourism is a year-round business, many tourism operators start to see traffic increase in the spring. The sooner you can churn through that data and update your metrics, the sooner you can start talking about how much energy, water, and waste you’ve saved over the last year or last few months, which is a key part of your green story. Tracking your progress towards your goals not only helps keep your tourism business accountable (you said you were going to ditch the plastic cups, but did you actually? And how’s that switch to LED lights coming?), but they also show that you are committed to your green business goals and are in this for the long haul.
In our last post we explored different ways to raise awareness about sustainable tourism, with one big component being your green business story. According to UNEP’s “Road Map for Celebrating the International Year of Sustainable Tourism” the next step in this journey is to “promote the tools necessary to monitor and measure your business’s positive (and negative) impacts and get that information out there.” A good green tourism story is useless without some facts and figures to back it up, right?
So what are those green business tools and where do you begin? If you’ve already worked with some tracking tools, or have worked with Green Tourism in the past, then you’re well on your way. If you’re wondering where on earth to begin, look no further! Here are a few tools to get started with.
4 Tools to Help You Crush Your Sustainability Goals
- Create a Supplier Inventory to determine just what percentage of your suppliers are local with this awesome mapping exercise.
- Conduct a Waste Audit, then talk about your results with your guests and staff.
- Measure Your Carbon Footprint using ecobase Carbon Software (BONUS: Green Tourism members currently gain free access)
- Call Us! We make it our business to help other businesses create sustainability goals and then stick with them. We live for metrics and holding ourselves (and others) accountable. Get Certified with Green Tourism. If you’re a member of TIAC, TIAO or TIABC, you get a $100 discount on your membership fee.
The key with any green business tracking tool is to measure once to establish your baseline, then measure your progress on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. And don’t forget to talk about your results! It does no good to compile reams of data and have them sit in a pile, taking up space. Even if the numbers