Low Impact Travel

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines Eco-tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” Here are three holiday ideas that have the protection, sustainability and enjoyment of the environment as a top priority:

Adventure Canada – Adventures in the Arctic, Galgapagos, Scotland and beyond. In 1996 Adventure Canada established a Discovery Fund to strengthen sustainable initiatives and projects in the regions where they travel. www.adventurecanada.com.

The Resurgence – Voted one of the world’s 25 best eco-lodges by National Geographic and situated in the spectacular Abel Tasman region of New Zealand. The operators plant a tree for every guest, and have extensive resource monitoring practices in place. www.resurgence.co.nz.

Eldhestar – Horse riding tours in Iceland, with hotel accommodation and hotsprings. The hotel was the first in Iceland to be awarded the Nordic ecolabel, the Nordic Swan. Direct flights to Iceland are now available from Edmonton with Iceland Air, starting from under $800 return. www.eldhestar.is.

Enhance your zero-impact travel plans by purchasing carbon offsets for flights. There are many resources out there and some airlines (Delta, Virgin, United and Quantas are a few) give you this option when purchasing travel. The David Suzuki Foundation has lots of information on how this works, and cautions buyers to make sure that purchases address the issue of “additionality” to ensure a true reduction in emissions.

While I would love to take off on any of these amazing adventures, the budget or schedule doesn’t always allow it. When I’m short on time or cash, Waterton Lakes is my go-to eco-destination for a peaceful and restorative getaway. With the well-known phrase “take only photos, leave only footprints” in mind, I made a weekend visit to the park last Fall.

Using the Fernie Branch’s Kootenay Carshare Co-operative vehicle to travel, I save money on vehicle costs and help to reduce the overall number of vehicles both on the road and going into landfill. I stayed at the Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort, an environmentally conscious property and one of the only hotels open in the off-season. They offer affordable rates, comfortable rooms and suites, a full service restaurant and bar, plus a pool and gym complex.

The Red Rock Canyon was closed for repairs, so I decided on the Lineham Falls hike based on a local recommendation. A gradual climb through the valley to the base of the cliffs below Mount Blakiston was exhilarating enough for me, but hard-core hikers will love the extended trail up the mountain for what is known as one of the best mountain scrambles in the region.

The falls were little more than a trickle in late October, but two white specks caught my eye high on the cliff face. I watched in fascination for over an hour as the agile mountain goats traversed the rocks, and then shared part of my return hike with an inquisitive Capercaillie (Wood Grouse) as I passed through a denser section of forest. This is a beautiful 4-5 hour moderate hike suitable for most abilities, with spectacular views and lots of wildlife just a few minutes from Waterton Township.

The Fernie Museum is currently showing “Peace Park Perspectives,” a photographic exhibition by artist Norman E. Riley featuring stunning photography from Waterton Park and the surrounding area.