If you haven’t guessed what North America’s greenest city is, I’ll give you a few more seconds.
And a hint!
It’s a peninsula.
Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint of any city in North America, and they are on track to being the greenest city in the world by 2020. (I learned all this when I finished my Vancouver destination training!) Vancouver is a sustainable traveler’s dream. It’s got nature, local food, low carbon emissions, cultural excursions—it’s chock full of anything you could want! So here are ten sustainable reasons to visit green living’s Mecca: Vancouver.
It is ridiculously walkable. “Kelsey, aren’t all large cities walkable?” Why, yes, large cities are generally very walkable. However, the city of Vancouver is two miles wide. Just two miles! This means you can walk from one end of the city to the other in 30-45 minutes! When I think about how much of New York City or Chicago I can see by walking 30-45, it’s only a small percentage. (And forget about LA…) All this walking is good news for sustainability and your wallet—no need for cabs!
#2 100 Mile Diet
Local food is an important part of the sustainability ecosystem. Typically “local food” refers to food grown or raised within 250 miles of you. Now, to me, that doesn’t seem terribly local—250 miles can take me out of state. But the 100 Mile Diet (started in Vancouver), is a hyper-local food movement. To take advantage of it and eat some tasty noms, visit greentable.net for local, sustainable restaurants in Vancouver.
#3 Stanley Park
Over 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is larger than New York’s Central Park. If you are fully committed to staying on the peninsula to reduce your carbon footprint, but still want to see nature, Stanley Park is here to save the day. It has an amazing array of things to do—you could easily spend an entire day (or days) there. It has beaches, restaurants, and miles of hiking. (Plus it’s gorgeous!)
#4 Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
This park is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. But don’t worry, you don’t have to drive, because a free shuttle is offered from Canada Place (the cruise port). It takes at least two hours to visit the entire park—more if you’re feeling adventurous and want to experience the Cliffwalk. And don’t forget to take an eco-tour or go on the Treetops Adventure, which takes you 100 feet into the rainforest on seven suspension bridges.
#5 Carbon Footprint
As I said before, Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint of any city in North America, and has a plan to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. A zero-waste plan is in the works, as well as a plan to use 100% renewable fuel by 2050. And even more enticing for toursits, parts of their Greenest City Goals include greener transportation, access to nature, local food, and clean air and water. You can feel confident that your tourism dollars spent in Vancouver are going to important projects!
#6 First Nations
Don’t forget: sustainable travel doesn’t just mean environmentally-friendly; it also requires social and cultural sustainability. The UBC Museum of Anthropology has more than 535,000 pieces. 7,100 of those are from First Nations’ peoples in British Columbia. The Bill Reid Gallery in downtown Vancouver features pieces of First Nations artist Bill Reid, as well as other First Nations artists. And if you’re looking to support a First Nations owned company, check out Takaya Tours. They offer guided rainforest tours and canoe tours in ocean-going canoes similar to those used by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. It’s a unique opportunity to get outside and learn about First Nations’ cultures in British Columbia.
#7 Granville Island
Granville Island is the perfect place to pick up some local food or support local artisans. First, jump on the aquabus to get across False Creek. Plenty of sustainable seafood options are available at Granville Island, and if you’re feeling more intrepid, check out the artisan sake maker! This is also a great place to pick up some sustainable souvenirs. The stores in the Net Loft building offer First Nations artwork and local wines.
#8 Grouse Mountain
But say you want even more nature than Stanley Park can offer! Grouse Mountain’s got it, and Vancouver provides a free shuttle to get you there! If you are an avid hiker, try your hand at the Grouse Grind, otherwise known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” It’s a steep grade with a total elevation gain of about 2800 feet, which can take even the most experienced hiker about 2 hours. And to give your legs a break, take the gondola back down the mountain. For stunning views of the Vancouver area, be sure to check out Eye of the Wind, an observation pod in a wind turbine! Numerous other opportunities exist to see wildlife, eat, or explore your adrenaline-junkie side!
#9 Water Adventure
Vancouver is a peninsula. So luckily for you, you have plenty of opportunities to go seafaring. Whether you go whale-watching (best in April-October) or on a wildlife safari with Vancouver Water Adventures, you’ll get your marine fix! More active travelers will enjoy ocean kayaking and paddle boarding, while laid back travelers will enjoy Harbour Cruises.
#10 Resorts Beyond Vancouver
It’s hard to find sustainable all-inclusive resorts—but not outside of Vancouver. Sonora Resort, despite its luxuriousness, is deeply committed to sustainability. They rigorously conserve their water, employ local tribe members, and offer sustainable wildlife-viewing (especially of bears). Pitt River Lodge is perfect for just getting away or getting away to fish. It is only accessible by boat or air (they provide transportation if you’re not arriving in your own boat). And since it depends on the river for business and well-being, Pitt River Lodge is deeply committed to river conservation.
While this list includes scads of reasons why Vancouver is a sustainable traveler’s paradise, it hardly covers them all. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to email me or write a comment below!
Now get out there and go!