Home to expansive green spaces, old growth forest, abundant local wildlife and seemingly never-ending shoreline, it’s easy to relax and feel connected to the earth on Vancouver Island. But Victoria takes “green” to a whole new level – we’re also a national leader in environmental initiatives, working in concert with many partners that share a commitment to sustainability. In fact, in 2023 Greater Victoria became a Biosphere Certified destination, shining on a global scale!
Spending the extra time to research a carbon neutral operator or indulging at a farm-to-table restaurant are just a couple of small conscious decisions that will minimize your impact as a traveller. Individually, each one may make only a small difference — but collectively, becoming more conscious about the little things can have a huge cumulative impact.
From carbon neutral designations to sustainability in tourism, read on to discover the many venues and experiences that are available to the earth-conscious traveller in Victoria, British Columbia.
Please note that businesses are operating with enhanced safety measures in place; including limiting group sizes, increased cleaning regimens and more. Please check directly with the business for their COVID-19 safety protocols.
THE BIG PICTURE: SUSTAINABILITY IN TRAVEL & TOURISM
The Greater Victoria area has the beginnings of a green economy that supports clean technology, markets local and sustainable businesses, helps businesses green their operations, and generates green jobs. The City of Victoria launched the Climate Leadership Plan in the summer of 2018 which is our roadmap to reducing our community-wide emissions by 80% from 2007 levels by 2050 and making the switch to 100% renewable energy. Zero Waste Victoria, which was released in Fall 2020, is the City’s plan to reduce landfill waste by 50% by 2040.
MAKING AN IMPACT:
Education is key when it comes to mitigating the effects of over-tourism. Destination Greater Victoria founded the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism conference in 2018 as a gathering place to discuss the challenges and impact of global travel. Learn more.
In 2021, Destination Greater Victoria achieved carbon neutral designation from leading climate advisory services company Offsetters. It is the first major destination marketing organization or convention and visitors’ bureau in North America to reach this milestone. Learn more.
Also in 2021, the Victoria Conference Centre (VCC) achieved carbon neutral designation from Offsetters. The VCC is owned by the City of Victoria and the leadership of sales and marketing of the facility is the responsibility of Destination Greater Victoria. Learn more.
Efforts to reduce environmental impact at YYJ airport have been ongoing for over a decade. Since 2013, Victoria Airport Authority has reduced its emissions by 22%, reduced emissions per passenger by 19% and has achieved the Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 2 for emission reductions. The airport has restored over 1,500m of creek to date and water use is approximately 40% below the North American per passenger airport average.
GETTING EXPERT ADVICE:
Connect with environmental business experts at Synergy — a Victoria-based sustainability management firm and experts in mobilizing climate action.
Image: Victoria Conference Centre
GETTING AROUND GREATER VICTORIA
Getting around Victoria sustainably is a breeze! As Canada’s most walkable city, covering the downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods by foot is a great way to see Victoria. The City of Victoria has also invested in protected bike lanes to make it safer, easier and more environmentally sustainable to get around and connect the downtown core with regional destinations. The Victoria Regional Transit System runs seven days per week serving the entire Greater Victoria region, including the Victoria International Airport, all ferry terminals, the downtown core and western communities. You can get almost anywhere in Greater Victoria with a $5 day pass.
The City of Victoria has approved their electric vehicle strategy, which included EV charging stations throughout the downtown core. Investments have been made into hiking trails with guides to not only minimize impact but to also connect with the history and ecology of a place.
Do you want to spend the day exploring Greater Victoria? Do it in an electric vehicle with Tesla Tours and customize your day! Whether you want to sip your way through the Cowichan Valley, explore Tofino or sample your way through the Flavour Trails on the Saanich Peninsula, you can see and do it all, gas-free.
Wilson’s Transportation is the largest bus company on Vancouver Island and is a local family-owned business in Victoria. They have focused on converting a portion of their fleet to electric. In addition to this, they were the first fleet transportation business on Vancouver Island to be Green Certified and Surfrider approved by the Vancouver Island Green Business Association. Going the same route but focused on hydrogen bus conversions is 100% carbon neutral Pacific Northwest Transportation Services.
Getting here is half the fun! Harbour Air Seaplanes has been fully carbon neutral since 2007. In addition, the company is in the process of converting its fleet to electric aircraft – a world first. Not to mention, they are on the path to becoming Biosphere Certified!
Image: Harbour Air Seaplanes
SUSTAINABLE HOTEL & CONFERENCE FACILITIES
Many of our main conference hotel partners feature strong sustainable initiatives, including:
The Parkside Hotel & Spa is also a locally owned hotel and proud to be carbon positive! By measuring and offsetting its emissions, the hotel’s offset funds support three major projects that create both environmental and social benefits including The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project, The Quadra Island Forestland Conservation Project, and Uganda Efficient Wood Cookstove Project. They are also one of Victoria’s Biosphere Certified hotels.
The Victoria Conference Centre is 100% carbon neutral. With 77,000 square feet of meeting space, 21 multi-purpose meeting rooms, a large exhibit hall, and a 400-seat lecture theatre, the VCC can host up to 2,000 delegates or small, intimate gatherings. Learn more. Book an event.
The Inn at Laurel Point is B.C.’s first Carbon Neutral Hotel. They have made numerous investments towards their focus on their sustainability efforts. Some of those include, Soap for Hope, 7 Stream Recycling program, Net Zero Airconditioning, Sheets for Bandages, and Earth Day power hour. On top of all this, they are also Committed and on the path to becoming Biosphere Certified!
Image: Inn at Laurel Point
Choosing experiences and tours with companies committed to reducing their carbon emissions is a great way to keep the earth front of mind while travelling. For example, companies like Eagle Wing Tours are committed to reducing and offsetting their carbon emissions 100%, and is the only third-party verified carbon neutral whale and marine wildlife watching company. They’re also the first marine ecotour operator IN THE WORLD to become Biosphere Certified!
Ocean River Sports specializes in kayak and stand up paddle rentals, tours and courses, offering a unique emissions-free west coast experience. They are a Biosphere Committed adventure sports operator.
The Butchart Gardens are a stunning sight to see. They also have an impressive list of environmental initiatives, including recycling and composting programs, and extensive use of manual, mechanical and non-chemical weed control methods.
The Malahat SkyWalk is the ultimate natural high. Enjoy the scents, sounds and textures of the coastal forest as you walk gently to a spectacular lookout 250m above sea level. Built in partnership with the Malahat Nation, SkyWalk is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability in its structures and day-to-day operations.
SUSTAINABLE DISTILLERIES & EATERIES
Victoria-based Phillips Beer is responsibly-brewed craft beer with many environmental initiatives including CO2 recapture, water reduction and glass repurposing. They earned the 2015 Master Brewers Association of America’s Award of Excellence in Sustainability.
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse is a farm-based cidery located on the Saanich Peninsula just minutes from Victroria. Their 10-acre farm is home to more than 1,300 apple trees and has become one of the top agri-tourism destinations on Vancouver Island. Sea Cider is focused on a mission of sustainability, socialbility and community involvement.
FARM TO TABLE:
Victoria has made a name for itself as a global contender in innovative culinary experiences. With the mildest year-round temperatures in Canada, this enviable climate allows Vancouver Islanders to grow, harvest, nurture and prepare local dishes year-round. Many of our accommodation partners have invested in vegetable, fruit and herb gardens to pick straight from their garden and serve right to their guests.
Niche Grocerant – As the one-stop shop for Victorian flavours, Niche Grocerant is a locally focused specialty food retailer with a fully licensed restaurant. Find all your favourite foods and farm-to-grocer bounty from the Greater Victoria Flavour Trails, Victoria, and Vancouver Island. Niche is on its way to becoming Biosphere Certified!
Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub is Canada’s oldest brew pub and has been doing farm to table for more than 30 years. Partnering with 35 local farmers and producers to serve fresh, local foods year-round. They’re also on the path to becoming Biosphere Certified!
Insider tip: The Flavour Trail is a self-guided expedition that celebrates the culinary richness of the Saanich Peninsula. It’s a small enough region to tour by standard or electric bike. Get a taste of the Island!
Image: Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse