How to Celebrate Earth Day in Whistler Every Day
What makes Whistler special? Time after time, we hear the same answer: the mountains, the lakes, the old-growth forests, the rivers, the wildlife – essentially, nature. Whistler holds a place in so many people’s hearts because of it.
With our lives so entwined with the outdoors, in a town designed around car-free travel (for residents and visitors alike), it’s no wonder many local businesses have focused on sustainability. For some, like Backroads Whistler and Ziptrek Ecotours, the environment has been the founding inspiration behind what they do. How do you get people outdoors and learning about nature while keeping a low ecological footprint? By taking them on fun-filled, gravity-fed and people-powered adventures, of course!
Whistler is full of these kinds of stories and passionate individuals who celebrate Earth Day not only on April 22, but every day. If you likewise feel inspired to tread a little lighter during your time in Whistler, here are a few ways to go about it:
Go Car Free
You don’t need a car to get to Whistler, you can take a coach or shuttle bus from the Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver.
Coach and Shuttle Bus Details
Whistler Village and the Upper Village are car-free, pedestrian-only zones that take you on a lovely meander past parks, restaurants, shops and conveniently, to the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Many accommodation options and tour operators are located in or within walking distance of these two hubs. If you’re staying outside of the core, most hotels offer shuttles into the Village and you can also take public transit.
Have Fun on a Low Footprint
Founded in 1985, Backroads Whistler is a pioneer of eco-tourism in the area. Eric Wight, the owner, consciously decided to keep the adventures people-powered over motorized methods of sightseeing to lessen the effects on the environment.
Backroads helps you explore Whistler’s waterways by canoe, kayak or SUP with guided tours or rentals (including multi-day). Knowing how important the health of these ecosystems are, they hold community clean-ups of the lakes and the River of Golden Dreams.
Cleverly, at their rental base in Lakeside Park, they also offer a frozen treat to any kid who picks out five or more pieces of litter from the lake. A new initiative has been finding a second life for their life jackets. When they’re no longer picture-perfect but still completely usable, they are donated to community groups.
Charles Steele and David Udow, the co-founders of Ziptrek Ecotours, wanted to create an adventure-based learning experience. They opened the very first zipline tour in North America right here in Whistler. While on tour, guests can learn about the coastal temperate rainforest and The Natural Step, a framework for making sustainable decisions. The President of The Natural Step claims Ziptrek has been the biggest driver of public awareness for the program to date.
But don’t worry, just because they’re big on nature doesn’t mean they’re light on thrill – Ziptrek Ecotours is home to five zipline tours from the family-friendly Bear Tour to the longest zipline in the US and Canada, The Sasquatch®.
Whistler Eco Tours
As the name suggests, Whistler Eco Tours (WET) offers experiences that “bring people back to nature”. You can have just about every method of people-powered fun from bike tours to SUP rentals. They also offer programs for large groups and schools.
WET guides are friendly and knowledgeable individuals who can answer your questions on everything from tiny rock-dwelling pikas to the towering Western redcedar giants of the old-growth forest. A day out with them and you’re sure to walk away with a deeper appreciation for the landscape around you.
Whistler Golf Courses
The golf courses in Whistler share habitat with wildlife of all kinds, from bears to birds. Because of this, many of the golf courses have their own individual programs around sustainability and take measures to reduce wildlife impact. The Whistler Golf Club, Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club (“The Chateau”) and Nicklaus North are all certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries.
The certification requires conserving water and monitoring quality, protecting the biodiversity of indigenous plants, limiting chemicals, offering signage on wildlife and protecting wildlife habitat. The Chateau even has bat boxes!
Hiking in Whistler
With so many hiking trails that lead you through fascinating mountain microclimates up to stunning vistas, it’s no wonder hiking is popular here. But these trails and environments are sensitive and facilities are limited. It’s important to learn outdoor ethics and general backcountry etiquette before heading out.
Eat Local, Dine Sustainably
Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants
Eating vegan or vegetarian can greatly reduce your environmental impact, even if it’s only a couple of times a week. Lucky for us, there are many options to choose from in Whistler, see our Insider’s Guide: Vegan and Vegetarian Eats in Whistler for suggestions.
The Ocean Wise Program
Ocean Wise is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, their umbrella efforts include a sustainable seafood program. If a restaurant is a partner, they’ve committed to serving sustainable seafood either in-part or exclusively. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol on menus for the distinction. There are many participating restaurants in Whistler including Araxi, Stonesedge Kitchen, Earls and more.
Ocean Wise Restaurant Finder
Farm to Table & Whistler Farmers’ Market
With the fertile, nearby Squamish and Pemberton Valleys, the farm to table movement took root in Whistler. A few restaurants that are well-known for doing it oh-so-well are Alta Bistro, Creekbread, Aura and Mount Currie Coffee. You can pick up your own farm-fresh produce and support local vendors on Wednesdays (July 3 – August 28) and Sundays (May 19 – October 13) at the Whistler Farmers’ Market.
Support the Straw Wars and BYO
An easy way to go green not just in Whistler, but everywhere, is to bring your own reusable travel mug, water bottle, shopping bag, cutlery and straws (if you need them) with you. You can also find these items in local Whistler gift shops and grocery stores. The tap water in Whistler is safe to drink (read about it here) and has even been rated as some of the best tasting tap water in the world. Many of the local coffee shops are participating in “straw wars”, encouraging customers to skip the straw and reduce plastic use.
If you forget your BYO items and need to rely on take-out containers, you will find recycling stations around Whistler Village. These are bear safe in an effort to reduce habituating bears to garbage sources.
Stay Somewhere That Cares
Most of the hotels and accommodation properties in Whistler have sustainability initiatives such as in-room recycling, an opt-out of daily linen changes (for water conservation) and energy-conserving building systems. A couple of interesting ones include:
Nita Lake Lodge
This lakeside, boutique hotel offers Tesla charging stations, has a rooftop garden and is home to the farm to table restaurant, Aura.
With all of the shopping options here, Summit Lodge knows it’s easy to end up with a little more than you brought. But what to do with the items you can’t squeeze into your suitcase? You can pop them in the “One Less Thang” box, provided in-room. The hotel staff will see that it’s diverted from the landfill (if in useable condition) and donated to a community program like the Whistler Re-Use-It Centre.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler
In addition to their golf course efforts, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler also houses bees, integral to a healthy ecosystem, in their rooftop garden. Plus they have their own Climate Change Strategy, waste reduction initiatives, green dining program and more.
Whistler as a Whole
Whistler as a community is committed to doing its best with an integrated community sustainability plan called Whistler 2020. So far this plan has seen the creation of a wastewater energy project, a green building standard, protection of natural areas and more. The list of goals is extensive and it aims to achieve each one.
Whistler Blackcomb has also been a leader in the ski-industry with impressive initiatives around energy conservation and renewable sources, waste management and public education. They released a documentary series called The Big Picture which explores our responsibility towards the outdoor places we play, visit and call home. It is definitely worth a watch. Whistler Blackcomb is striving for a zero operating footprint by 2030 and has been able to reduce the amount of energy used and waste sent to landfill even with an increase in visitors.
There’s much to uncover when it comes to our passion for the environment, strike up a conversation with your tour guide, chairlift buddy or barista and you’re likely to hear even more stories and tips.
Visit Whistler.com to learn more about sustainability in action and start planning your green getaway.