Canada is the second-largest country in the world. There are few places in the world that are as perfectly suited for sustainable tourism as Canada. One of the best ways to experience eco-tourism in Canada is to immerse yourself in the vast and scenic wilderness, whether it be the coastline, the forest or somewhere in between. Travel in Canada offers the opportunity to experience unspoiled wilderness, natural beauty and low imprint eco-adventures.
But where to start? With a country as large as Canada deciding on a province or region to focus your eco-adventures is a start. While choosing what part of Canada to visit might be the hardest part of the journey, what is not hard, is finding sustainable tourism activities and ecotourism in Canada. Protecting the environment is a common goal across much of the country.
The terms ecotourism and Sustainable tourism go hand in hand. Sustainable tourism takes into consideration the economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being of an activity.
The United Nations World Tourism Assocaiation has put together a comprehensive definition that makes it very clear what Sustainable tourism really is. “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. – UNWTO
If researching ecotourism is new to you, do not worry. My goal is to outline how easy it is to experience ecotourism in Canada, without even realizing you may already share a lot of ecotourism values. While reading this article, you will learn the basics of ecotourism and how to incorporate it into your British Columbia and Canadian travels.
5 Ways to Encorporate Eco Tourism into your Canada Travels
1. Participate in Indigenous Tourism Activities
Indigenous Tourism is a growing segment of tourism in Canada. Indigenous Tourism in Canada can be defined as a tourism activity in which Indigenous people are directly involved either through control and/or by having their culture serve as the essence of the attraction. Ecotourism is a big part of Indigenous experiences in Canada because of their connection to the land. Popular Indigenous experiences include whale watching & nature tours, Northern lights viewing, dog sledding trips and horse back riding as well as fishing and hunting expeditions.
Other ways to support Indigenous owned business are to visit Indigenous owned restaurants, stay at hotels owned by indigenous people, visit museums and interpretive centres to learn about Indigenous peoples of Canada (SLCC in Whistler is one of the newer ones)
2. Shop Locally
Purchasing souvenirs is a big part of travel. It is also a great way to support the local people. When it comes to souvneir shopping in Canada, choose to purchase locally made art and goods, rather than imported products.
When you are shopping and eating out, think about your impact as well. Choose an ice cream cone instead of a cup. That is one less cup and one less spoon being used. Bring your own shopping bag as well. Just small adjustments to how we travel and the choices we make will all make a difference when it comes to sustainable travel in Canada.
3. Choose to walk, hike and bike
While some tours will drop guests off at a destination and then pick them up and leave, there are plenty of opportunities to explore in a more sustainable manner. Perhaps it is as simple as parking your car and exploring on foot. Towns like Whistler BC and Banff AB are very walkable and renting bikes to explore are very popular things to do.
This does not need to mean Instead of driving out to the Bow river in Banff, take a 10 minute bike ride instead. Do not make this out to be something more intimidating than it needs to be. Small changes are all that are needed.
4. View Wildlife From a Distance
There ar plenty of companies that offer eco experiences that you can only see in Canada. Whether it is whale watching off the coast of Vancouver, or seeing the polar bears in Manitoba, there are plenty of opportunities to see the native Canadian animals in the wild. There are important things to keep in mind when you encounter wildlife in Canada.
Make sure you keep a distance. One thing that the guides at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort say about the Grizzly bears, is that if you cannot cover a bear with your thumb extended in front of your face, you are too close!
Never feed wildlife. This also includes improper disposal of garbage or not storing food properly when camping or hiking. This teaches animals that humans provide food. Once an animal has tasted human foods, it may seek it out instead of its food found in the wild.
Never sneek up on wildlife. If hiking, wear bear bells or make a bit of noise. Hike after breakfast and before dinner to avoid the animal’s most active periods.
5. Stay to Paths
This is an important one that I talk to with my kids almost every time we venture out. When hiking and exploring outdoors, avoid excessively kicking rocks and exploring off trail. This will help keep the nature pristine for everyone to enjoy.
More Ways to Travel Sustainably in Canada
- Accommodation: Book locally-owned lodges, hotels, and guest houses. This keeps more of your dollars in the local economy.
- Leave no trace: dispose of your litter properly, whether in a city, out on the water, or on a hiking trail.
Popular Sustainable Travel Activities in Canada
Below I have put together some of my favorite eco-experiences and sustainable travel activities in Canada.
- Canoe on Lake Louise at Banff National Park
- Meet Boo, the resident Grizzly Bear at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Revelstoke
- Bike in Whistler
- Canoe the River of Golden Dreams with Whistler Eco Tours
Sustainable Travel in Canada Conclusions
There are so many positive aspects for travel and tourism in Canada. It creates employment opportunities for locals and is also great for those who can explore opportunities for remote jobs. It can also help to preserve local cultures. While some say the most sustainable type of travel is not to travel at all, I highly disagree. Travel is not one-sided. The traveler is not reaping all of the benefits of these experiences.
Travel has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment. It can serve as a tool to finance protection of natural areas and increase their economic importance. A big part of ecotourism in Canada is creating a connection to the places we visit and integrating with the local communities. Instead of just snapping photos from a distance, travellers can immerse themselves in local cultures and really soak up all there is to know about a destination. This is the enriching and transformative part of travel that I love sharing with everyone I meet.
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!