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January 8, 2020
Concerns about global climate have come to impact every facet of life in Canada. In 2019, for the first time climate change was a top priority among voters in a federal election. The phenomenon that is Greta Thunberg gripped the country during the Swedish activist’s September visit with more than 500,000 marching with her in Montreal alone. Municipalities, meanwhile, are driving adoption of low-carbon practices while altruistic entrepreneurs are putting the planet over profit by creating opportunities for consumers to make purchases that best support the environment.
The travel industry is increasingly affected by consumers’ attachment to climate health. The most strident of environmental advocates believes conscientious travellers should limit themselves to only essential journeys. But the call of exploration is as innately human as the desire to foster a better world for children. Tourism can evolve with the rest of society and, indeed, the industry has already started to challenge itself to do so.
The Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada for 2020 endeavours to spotlight destinations that are at the forefront of environmental progress while remaining exciting places to visit with quality attractions, innovative enterprises, nature-filled activities, and outstanding accommodations.
Vacay.ca’s team of travel journalists took two years to compile the report, which emphasizes municipalities and parklands that have made sustainability a hallmark of their experience.
Previous editions of the 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada have proven to be an accurate indicator of tourism trends across the country. The first edition of the rankings for this new decade signifies the importance of environmentalism as a defining factor of Canadian travel now and in the future.
The list is topped by the nation’s most iconic national park and also includes seven destinations from British Columbia, the most “green” of the country’s 10 provinces.
Why You Should Go: It’s not just for the big mountains and the unbelievably grand views. Banff and Lake Louise are sustainable travel destinations because of their plates and coffee cups, too. A chefs collective in the area has a commitment that can be seen in every meal with sustainable ingredients sourced from the closest places they can find. Eating here means eating food from here. That includes at the region’s two iconic hotels, Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Lake Louise. Along with collaborating on community initiatives, both properties have sparked their own sustainability efforts. Fairmont Banff Springs — which operates a whopping 12 restaurants — has said it will reduce its food waste by 30 per cent by the end of 2020. Fairmont Lake Louise has shifted to a fully LED light property, among other changes. Given how many people visit these locations each year and how much food is prepared and consumed within them, their influence on environmental efforts is significant.
The ski resorts are also taking their environmental initiatives to a new peak. At Mount Norquay, a hashtag campaign called #NorquayNudge is gently urging habit changes from guests. Reusable dishes and cutlery are now used, and plastic straws and cup lids have been eliminated. At Banff Sunshine, new sweaters made of recycled textile waste have been added to the resort’s collection. Each sweater saves 6,200 litres of water and uses materials that would otherwise go to waste.
The volume of visitors means it’s difficult to keep Banff clean. But community efforts in recent years have led to frequent group clean-up hikes and educational discussions with locals and tourists. You might find arts projects from kids made of recycled material or notice a kiosk outside of popular stores where residents talk about environmental issues that are increasingly top of mind.
These efforts underscore what we already know: Banff is a special place for Canada and the planet. If there is anywhere to go in this country to celebrate the natural world and find inspiration to revere it, it’s here, in this remarkable and timeless jewel of the Rockies.
What’s Happening for 2020: This year marks the 135th anniversary of the founding of Banff National Park and visitors who spend just a little time in the area can witness how a thriving community that depends on tourism has made sustainability a top priority. The town is aiming to have zero human-big mammal conflict incidents by 2022 and that means everyone, whether you live in Banff or are just visiting, are encouraged to properly dispose of their waste. By 2030, the community wants to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels. These reductions will occur at a time when tourism is expected to increase, both from Canadian visitors and international travellers.
On the festival scene, big ones include SnowDays (January 16-25), which features ice-carving competitions, snow sculptures, culinary events, and a play zone for kids. For those who want an event with less layers, the Banff Yoga Festival (May 29-31) celebrates its fifth edition. The national park is seeing more and more events focused on food and drink, including the excellent Banff and Lake Louise Craft Beer Festival (November 26-28), a showcase of Alberta’s sensational and diverse brewmasters.
Vacay.ca Editor Petti Fong Writes: “Banff is a living, breathing example of how a destination with a long history is choosing to make a difference in how we experience it today and in the years to come. Visitors coming here are left with not just memories and selfies but with a renewed faith and responsibility that the places we go to, whether it’s far from home, or right in our backyard, are worth fighting for so future travellers will get to experience the same awe and wonderment of being someplace monumental for the very first time.”
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