What environmental stewardship looks like at Farewell Harbour Lodge

"Hey Dad!  You,  Mom and the Brockways run an eco lodge, right?  Well, what are you guys going to do to combat climate change?" That was a pretty simple question our youngest son asked us at the dinner table a few months after we bought the lodge in 2016. As we fumbled for an answer, we realized that we didn't have one yet. That started us on a path to ensure that we could look our son square in the eyes and say that we were committed to being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Farewell Harbour Lodge is committed to a conservation ethic, at our lodge, in our region and on the planet. We try to do the small but important things like practicing the 3Rs and energy conservation. We also believe in getting involved in some of the science taking place in our region that is helping scientists understand the complex web of life that surrounds and nourishes all of us. We support local conservation and research efforts through our involvement with  the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA), the Marine and Education Research Society (MERS) and Orca Lab. We are also avid participants in iNaturalist, a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. 

One of our core conservation efforts is around climate change. We are deeply concerned with taking concrete actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and lower our carbon footprint. For an excellent documentary highlighting the pressing effects of climate, check out Before the Flood - Leonardo diCaprio’s eye-opening film. We owe a commitment to the wildlife that surrounds us and who depend on healthy forests and marine ecosystems for their long term survival, as do we all.

We know that many of our own actions contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. We use boats to transport our guests to and from the lodge (as well as daily excursions around the marine environment) and we use fuel to heat our lodge and cook with. We also know that the majority of our guests travel from around the globe to our special corner of the planet, traveling on large aircraft that consume vast quantities of GHGs. 

Back in 2016, after our son's dinner table question,  we made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2020. Unfortunately, COVID-19 delayed our progress but we are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025.  We took a huge step in the last few years by working diligently with the team at Climate Smart and our own team to assess our carbon footprint. Climate Smart's mission is simple: Helping businesses to track and reduce their Green House Gas emissions.  Based on our 2019 operations, Farewell Harbour Lodge had a carbon footprint of 172 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).  You can read the report issued by Climate Smart on our operation here. By making our GHG emissions report public, we are hoping it will stimulate other Canadian tourism businesses to join the growing group of companies who are making a commitment to reducing emissions and to carbon neutrality.  

Over the last 4 years since we made our commitment to carbon neutrality, we have spent significant money and resources to reduce our GHG emissions. Most notably we installed a state-of-the-art battery/inverter system to reduce our reliance on the diesel that powers our physical facility. We have also installed high energy efficient LED lighting around the lodge and upgraded some electrical appliances to make it easier for our batteries to remain charged for longer. 

Of course, our most significant GHG emission is from the diesel powering our boats to take us to see bears and other amazing wildlife. The technology to reduce GHG emissions in high thrust marine diesel engines exists but is not yet practical in our application. What do we do about that??

The concept of carbon neutrality is focused foremost on reducing your emissions. However, the other aspect of carbon neutrality is that where you cannot reduce your emissions, you can offset it. So while we wait for electric powered marine engine technology to catch up (as well as continuously looking to other technologies with the mindset of reducing as many emissions sources in our operation as possible) we are choosing to purchase carbon offsets. 

What are carbon offsets? The David Suzuki Foundation describes offsets as 'a credit for emissions reductions given to one party that can be sold to another party to compensate for its emissions. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tonnes of CO2 - equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers and trading platforms.'  

To be sure, there are criticisms of carbon offsetting, but right now we believe that putting a price on carbon emissions is the best way to stimulate the change to a lower GHG economy and drive the technological and behavioural change that will increase our chances of addressing the climate crisis. In some respects, our guides at Farewell Harbour Lodge are on the front lines of the climate challenge, walking the rivers and forests of the Great Bear Rainforest and seeing the impacts of ocean warming and acidification on declining salmon stocks and hungry bears. Our home is the spectacular Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest and, while still abundant and beautiful, our region is seeing changes in natural systems that are becoming harder and harder to witness.  We want our children to enjoy this very special place on the planet and enjoy the beautiful bears and whales and the smell of the rainforest. We want YOUR children to be able to enjoy this too! 

So while we continue to look for ways to reduce our 172 tonnes of GHG emissions, we have made the commitment to offset those 172 tonnes by participating in the carbon offset program offered by The Gold Standard. As The David Suzuki Foundation says, "The Gold Standard is widely considered to be the highest global standard for carbon offsets. It ensures that key environmental criteria have been met by offset projects that carry its label. Only offsets from energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects qualify for the Gold Standard. These projects encourage a shift away from fossil fuel use and carry inherently low environmental risks."

We will be encouraging our guests to calculate their own GHG footprint for their travel journey from their homes to British Columbia and offset those as well if they wish. The Gold Standard has a nifty GHG footprint calculator for this purpose. 

If you have any questions about our GHG footprint audit, carbon offsets or other aspects of our environmental commitments, please don't hesitate to drop us a note.