Sustainability was built into the foundation of Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre. Located outside Campbell River, BC, owners of this off-grid resort started the lodge to teach others about respecting and conserving the great outdoors. Strathcona Park Lodge was built by current owner Jamie Boulding’s parents Jim and Myrna Boulding in 1959. Boulding’s grandfather owned the property and together the family turned it into a summer camp and fishing resort in the early 1960’s. His parents were teachers, using the resort as a chance to educate children and wildlife enthusiasts about the importance of self-propelled adventures with a “leave no trace” mentality.
By the 1970’s Strathcona Park Lodge was a full time outdoor education centre. Because they have been off grid from the start, energy has always been top of mind. They have constantly been talking about alternative energy, and even hosted a conference on the subject in the 70’s. They strive to evoke the passion within people to become stewards of the environment. A tremendous number of people have been influenced at Strathcona Park Lodge over the years. “We are changing the planet, one person at a time,” says Boulding.
They started the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training based on their highly effective staff training, which is now an accredited and sought after program “designed to train high quality and well-rounded outdoor educators and guides.”
Being a part of Green Tourism has helped Strathcona Park Lodge with the ‘big picture.’ “Green Tourism offers outside advice with lots of good ideas. Sharing ideas that are workable and sharing what other companies have done and what works and doesn’t work is really valuable to us,” adds Boulding. “We are always looking for ways to improve so it’s great to gain a new perspective, you have to be creative.”
There are several buildings on site. The newest are more energy efficient than the original buildings, however all are powered and heated by renewable energy either by wood from the site or from the >80kW micro hydro generation, which was built specifically for the Lodge in 1988. After the hydroelectric dam was built, they continued to improve infrastructure around the resort and gained buy-in from staff, many of whom choose to work at Strathcona because they have a deep passion for helping the environment.
Boulding says they are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency, and are looking into alternative energy sources like photovoltaic solar panels. Strathcona’s grid is often maxed especially when the resident guests and staff total 300 people. “It doesn’t take many hair dryers to use all the power,” says Boulding. “We are changing people’s mindset when they stay here about how they use energy. Our biggest concern is making sure everyone gets enough hot water.” He is so attuned to living off the grid he can tell when their load is maxed by a slight change in the hum of the refrigerator.
Besides their strong energy focus, Strathcona is doing a ton of things to consciously reduce their environmental impact. To reduce waste, they try to be paperless in billing with suppliers and guests, and all accounting and management is done online. All staff follow their strict waste management rules by separating raw food, cooked food, burnable, recycling, cardboard, refundable bottles and anything else that can be diverted. At the end of the workday less than 10% of the waste goes to the dump.
Local Food First
Food is a huge focus for Strathcona. Their team works with local farmers to increase their supply of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables (freshly picked and transported in reusable bins), which accounts for up to 75% of their supply in the summer. And for the rest of their suppliers, they have a policy that requests them to supply seasonal, local and organic options first. They buy local wild fish, mostly salmon. And the Lodge has instituted a vegetarian day, ‘Meatless Mondays,’ and provides meatless options throughout the week with choices of vegetarian proteins, such as lentils, cheese and legumes.
Reducing Transport Trips
Transportation is also a focus by mandating to use as little transportation and food storage as possible by using dried goods rather than canned/frozen. A lot of staff live at the lodge so everyone commutes by foot or bike, and they use a ride-share or have other employees purchase necessities for them to save travel trips.
Boulding’s focus moving forward is to reduce the amount of propane and electricity even further, and find alternatives to things like cooking with tinfoil and eliminating absolutely all paper from being printed.
Strengthening their Gold
Strathcona Park Lodge has just been reassessed for their Gold this past month and in the words of their assessor, Darrell Eason, “Undoubtedly SPL continues to be an outstanding environmental steward, always improving and always leading. An older site means there is a need for constant monitoring and balancing initiatives, which the owners do brilliantly. We at Green Tourism are proud to have them as members, and their gold grading is retained easily.”
Learn more about Strathcona Park Lodge https://strathconaparklodge.com