Trout Point Lodge has embodied eco-friendliness since it first opened its doors, including the very design of the main lodge building. A few years ago, we redoubled efforts to reduce outside inputs and harmful outputs from operations. Trout Point expanded its on-site gardens, installed bulk amenities dispensers (with BVLGARI products in them), converted all paper resources to 100% recycled content, and started using 100% natural cleaning agents, among other practices.
Such commitment resulted in recognition from the Hotel Association of Canada ECOmmodation program with a rating of 5 Green Keys, and from organizations like Eco Hotels of the World with 5 stars.
However sustainable tourism practices just begin the process of really having a meaningful impact on the environment and the reality of climate change. One story that resonates with Trout Point is that of the Aspen ski resort in Colorado. Here’s an interview with Aspen’s Auden Schendler from Fast Company magazine:
AS: The old enviro movement would ask us to put solar panels on the roof of the Little Nell. And we just did that. But that five kilowatt array is meaningless. It is absolutely a tiny amount of the hotel’s energy use. However, what we did was we tied those panels to one room in the hotel. And that room is where the most powerful and influential people stay, including, among others, George Soros. We put the energy generated by the array onto the home page of the computer in the room, and also show the energy use in that room.
FC: Then what?
AS: Okay. Now you’ve taken the old-school enviro measure that is sexy but doesn’t do anything and tied it to this tremendous lever that only you have access to. If you get lucky and that person decides that this is a crucial issue that they want to take action on, you’ve done more with that one connection than you’ve done with 20 years of trying change light bulbs [to compact fluorescents] and retrofit boilers at the ski resort. That’s just one attempt we’re trying to make at pulling the biggest possible lever.
FC: Another one being the infamous tussle with Kleenex
AS: We get a call one day from Forest Ethics, and they say, will you ban Kleenex because their forestry practices are lame, there’s no post-consumer waste at all in Kleenex, and they’re not engaging with the environmental community. I say I’ll check into it. We use $25,000 worth of Kleenex a year. For me to switch it out is not difficult, and we do (for a somewhat less bad product from another company).
We get eviscerated in the papers. One: Who are you to criticize another company, you use tons of energy and move people up and down the hill for no reason–it’s totally wasteful. Two: This is flagrant greenwashing. It was so bad that I went to my boss and said I screwed up. Two weeks later we got a phone call from the CEO of [Kleenex parent] Kimberly-Clark, a $32 billion company. They’re bigger than most countries. If you can change them, then you can change entire industries, the whole way forests are managed—that’s a big lever. They sent a team down to meet with us and we started exerting disproportionate influence on a big corporation.
FC: What was the upshot?
AS: We sat down and expressed our interests, and we said, “You guys have to get in the room with the non-profits, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.” We brokered a meeting and got Greenpeace and NRDC in the room with Kimberly-Clark.
The point is that small businesses like Trout Point–which is a lot smaller than Aspen–can have more of an impact by making something out of its practices in a way that influences those who come into contact with us: guests, employees, vendors, the press, etc.
Finally, Trout Point is all about expressing the “power of place,” which can truly only be done if the business follows green practices. That’s the foundational level of being a geotourism enterprise, but a true expression of place goes well beyond just using recycled paper products, sustainably-caught seafood, or organic gardening. The impact the Lodge can have is much greater than a single household, but just as Mr. Schendler said, it’s like putting up that 5 kw solar panel–the real world impact is negligible. What’s not negligible is how a business like Aspen or Trout Point translates and magnifies its green efforts into wider, consciousness-changing impacts on stakeholders, large & small.
In a similar way, only by embracing the meaning of the place we’re in–Nova Scotia, Yarmouth County, the Tobeatic Wilderness–can green practices really gain meaning that will encourage people to pause, think, and experience the world anew. Mr. Schendler’s arguments are about scale and leverage–and he is correct–but the leverage itself depends on geotourism values.
Geotourism means practices that enhances a place’s geographical character in its widest sense–not just its environmental well-being–including such factors as culture, aesthetics, and the makeup of its inhabitants.
More about this later . . .