The phrase “Walking Softly in the Wilderness” has always been a guiding principle for our homesteading lifestyle, and our approach to developing Paddlers Inn. To “go green” is a lifetime decision for us, not just a business decision designed to target a market’s response.
In 2016 & 2018 we invited a very intense and thorough audit of every aspect of our business, to see how our efforts to minimize our environmental impact would be judged internationally, and to make sure we are doing the best we can, as well as let prospective guests get an idea of how we operate and put our green ideas in to action. The green tourism organization originated in Perth London. Canada’s branch is www.greentourismcanada.ca and our audit was performed by Green Step Solutions here in BC. My only complaint is that I don’t understand why this process is limited to tourism businesses rather than being applied to all types of businesses?
Both Bruce and Joseé have spent most of their adult springs & falls (no pun intended) planting trees, hundreds of thousands of them, in BC’s beleaguered forest lands, seeking employment that contributes to the environment, rather than exploiting and trashing it. We planted, managed, and eventually ran our own silviculture contracting company, offering high quality, pesticide-free, forestry management, with high paying local job opportunities for people living around the Echo Bay area. At one time we employed six families here; now they’re all long gone as are the jobs that helped them live here.
We built our homestead and guest buildings, mostly by ourselves, as we have been able to, spending most of our life doing so. In the early 80’s getting lumber for building involved Bruce pulling in logs that were drifting by with his kayak whenever the opportunity arose, and then using a chainsaw and Alaskan Mill to carve out beautiful boards. When our appetite for lumber increased, we gathered more logs, and then once a year Billy Proctor would drop by and tow the whole pile over to his beachfront, where we would winch them “up the hill to the mill” site to be sawn apart by Billy. “What dimensions do you want to cut today?” Same price any cut, cheap enough to build a community, another kind of beautiful! Forever thankful…
Some of our buildings are “new”, but most buildings and some materials have been revived and re-purposed. The main part of our homestead building was a float house built in the early 1900s, which was hauled ashore by Bruce & Billy in 1990, to be added on to increasing its size by 400%. Our Blue Room – Sauna building was a warehouse in Echo Bay in the 1920’s through until the 80’s when we bought it from Ray Rosback. The Float house Lodge used to be our communities church back in the 80’s, and The Float house Cabin was Suzi & George’s sewing shed back about the same time. The Cliffside Cabin was Dave & Cory’s bakery in the 90’s, and The Gathering Place is brand new, with its lumber having been transported by railcar on the world’s largest privately owned train [logging] operation here in the north-island, recently gone the way of the dodo bird, as are the ancient old growth trees it hauled for so many years…
All of our buildings are made from local wood, and aside from some plywood, there are no artificial building materials or drywall anywhere to be found here. Everything has been built to last, with fewer products off-gassing us, dry wood remains mold free, and there’s almost no shipping cost associated with getting the bulk of our building materials here, as they are from here! This makes for low carbon footprint buildings.
We have been recycling forever, (Bruce’s dad was an active part of “Spec” recycling in Vancouver in the 70’s, and Bruce grew up learning that Reduce is the first step in this process). We are very pleased that now we can drop all of our recyclable materials off here in the North Island, rather than having to haul them all down-island as we have done for decades. All of the food waste and compostable’s are collected throughout the season in sturdy, lidded garbage cans, and then in the fall, we put it all into the soil of the greenhouse to energize next season’s growth.
We do shop organic, for sustainably produced products, from as locally as possible, even if it costs a bit more, to support our north island economy and community, and to support preferably Canadian companies that we want to see succeed in our consumer-driven economy. We try to avoid purchasing anything that is environmentally toxic, or that doesn’t promote health to the workers involved in its construction and its end use. All of the cleaning products that we use are environmentally friendly & biodegradable. Laundry hangs out to dry in the sun and breeze, and if there is none, then it hangs on a multitude of laundry lines that permanently adorn our living room ceiling where the woodstove is available if needed.
Of great importance to our environment’s health is how much fuel we use, and how we handle its use including our reduction of using it. We use as little fuel as we possibly can, and are probably the only water taxi operating on the coast that tries to do as few trips as possible! Rather than running back and forth shuttling a multitude of individual groups of travelers, we pick specific dates and times and then try to fill as many seats as possible, doing as few trips as we can. We hope to see whales during these 2-hour crossings, for the sheer joy of it, and also so that no-one has a need to book an additional whale watching tours. We believe that any disturbance imposed upon an animal’s normal behavior has an impact and that more disturbance is worse for the animals… We have always enjoyed the quiet unobtrusive presence that is possible when kayaking through the wilderness, often gliding along virtually silent and unnoticed!
Once at the lodge, the majority of power used here is generated by our large array of solar panels. Gone are the days of running our fairly “quiet” Honda generator while the guests were out paddling so that we could do the laundry or operate our power tools. Love is: battery operated tools that can be taken anywhere on the property, and beyond without having to bring a generator!
All of our lightbulbs are LED, and all our appliances are “Energy Star” rated. Our water is gravity fed from a nearby creek and so requires absolutely no power to be used. This is very nice! We cherish the quiet of nature that is found here as well as its roaring silence.
Part of being considered as a Gold level environmentally responsible company is to also give support to other initiatives taking place both locally around us, and abroad in the international community. As Paddlers Inn has become more financially viable, we have looked for ways to improve our facility, and as well share our revenue with other people and projects that could use assistance, most of them here in BC, and many in the Broughton Archipelago.
We agree with the concept of “1% for the planet” and that donating 1% (of one’s gross income) directly to organizations that do “environmentally positive work” is a great idea, and so we look for organizations that we would like to assist, and there are so many to choose from! This past year we donated 2.2% of our gross income, and in the spirit of reconciliation and support for UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People), we have directed approx. half of our donation funds to local First Nations initiatives, including a community potlatch, an intro to kayaking day for youth, and by demonstrating on-the-ground support and solidarity with local First Nations efforts to rid the Broughton Archipelago of open net salmon farms, who’s damage here is only surpassed by our logging industry, in so much as salmon are concerned. Where do salmon come from? not the sea, but from crystal clear gravel beds throughout B.C’s coastal creeks and rivers. Trash the nurseries and what do you get… We will continue to look for ways to expand our support into our community, and environmental activism, and already have plans for more in 2019. Supporting us helps us “pay it forward”.
Bruce and Joseé have a passion for forests, having spent 40 years living, working, and building within the abundant environmental wealth of B.C.’s big tree giants. Frequently throughout their lives Bruce has been involved in activities directed at educating the public as well as persuading the BC Forest Service & company managers to properly apply sustainable forestry practices here in BC, which would include no use of pesticide’s & herbicides and a virtual end to all old-growth logging as we know it. Simply put “our generation has already taken more than our share” Bruce was a co-founder, and the initial vice-president of The Cortes Island Forestry Committee which has had some success in its aim to work cooperatively with industry and their local First Nation, to preserve and sustainably use and enjoy their forested lands. They are an example and envy of many other communities. Currently, Bruce continues to meet with government, company, and environmental organizations, advocating for an end to our continuing unsustainable practice of logging old growth forests, and general trashing and then exporting our unprocessed forest lands.
A few years back Bruce was also very involved in Sointula’s transition to a regional district level recycling facility for Malcolm Island. He attended many coffee-table meetings on the issue, and initiated, arranged, and single-handedly chaired, two well attended public meetings where he encouraged community members to be informed and involved.
We feel that being “activists” and trying to make a positive contribution while having less impact upon our mother earth’s back, is essential for human and global health. Humankind has always had the opportunity to work toward individual and common betterment (including the earths) or not, and we find that doing so feels and looks good, both inside and out, and leads to a better night’s sleep!
Om to the earth…
The photo below is of all of our lodge operations recyclables for 2018. The bags on the ground are mixed hard plastics.