Sustainability in Alberta

Alberta is certainly taking the lead in sustaining the environment, especially in transportation. The CTrain in Calgary is the first public transit system to power its fleet with wind-generated electricity. The award-winning system draws all kilowatts of electricity from a dozen wind turbines located about two hundred kilometres south of Calgary. In Banff you will find Canada’s first diesel-hybrid-electric bus system, which comes complete with ski and bikes racks for all the active travellers that visit the resort town and surrounding national parks. In Canmore, the Eco-Cab system runs visitors and their goods around town in fuel-efficient Toyota hybrids, and the small Communitea café allows you to borrow (for free!) their green bikes and tour around the city.

The province is also big on “agritourism”, a combination of agriculture and tourism, which helps travellers learn about sustaining the fruits of the land, so to speak. There are sausage factories, beekeeping farms and the Sunnybrook Cereal farm in Red Deer to visit.

In keeping with products of the land and the locals, there are a plethora of farmers’ markets to see, with a wide selection of organic produce and locally made soaps, spices and other products. The Curry Barracks in Calgary and the firehall in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona are year-round farmer’s markets.

It may seem to be an eco-standard at all hotels, but it was Canada’s Fairmont chain of hotels and resorts who were the ones that created the reuse-your-towel-and-sheets recycling program. The success of the program has launched its glass and paper recycling system, the Green Partnership Guide, donations of unused products to local shelters, energy efficient lighting, and a whole slew of other eco-innovations that have kept Fairmont at the helm of environmental stewardship.

The Fairmont isn’t the only hotel in Alberta working hard to protect the environment. Aurum Lodge, about 40 kilometres east of Banff National Park, was planned, built and is operated with minimal environmental impact. The bank of solar panels that fronts the lodge handles 70 per cent of the lodge’s power needs. This wilderness retreat also has a state-of-the-art biological septic system, practices indoor composting, and offers guests low-impact activities such as paddling, hiking, caving, mine tours, cross-country skiing, ice-climbing, and geological excursions. Pine Bungalows, nestled among the forests in Jasper National Park, is owned and run by a eco-passionate family. They have a ‘Dark Sky’ policy that encourages guests to use flashlights at night in order to appreciate the thousands of twinkling lights overhead, and have removed instead of added units. They have converted lawns to meadows, and have a strict no-pesticide or fertilize policy. Their recycling system is so thorough that even the employees bring their waste from home to make sure it all avoids being sent to a landfill.

Ecotourism by Province

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