Adventurers come from around the world to experience the iconic Columbia Icefield. It’s the largest of its kind in the Rocky Mountains, and one of the most accessible in North America. The experience of exploring ancient glacial ice, and seeing the awe-inspiring Columbia Icefield firsthand, is unmatched. It's something that should never be taken for granted. For those of us living and working here, we feel our great privilege comes with even greater responsibility.
The Glacier Discovery Centre, in Jasper National Park, is surrounded by untouched wilderness. Preserving this pristine playground is hugely important to the team at the Columbia Icefield Adventure. Promise to Place guides every aspect of our business and is part of an ongoing effort to lesson our carbon footprint. We believe that each eco-initiative we implement—no matter the size—will have a positive impact. It also just feels good.
Interested in learning more? Read on to find out what we’re doing now and how you can get involved.
1. Refurbish versus replace
Rather than overhauling our entire Ice Explorer fleet, we’re upgrading all 22 vehicles. To date, almost half are fully refurbished, and the new engines we’ve installed have drastically reduced nitrogen oxide emissions. Another plus is that the eco-friendly horsepower is positively impacting our guest experience. Quieter engines create a calmer feel on the ice, which enhances the magic. Bonus! We’ve also retrofitted our motor coach shuttles. By extending the life of existing vehicles we’re reducing the environmental impact associated with new production.
2. Biodegradable is best for hydraulic fluid
The new hydraulic fluid—the stuff that keeps things moving—we’re using in our Ice Explorer fleet is zinc and calcium free. Conventional transmission fluids contain these minerals, which can seep into the soil and water stream. To mitigate the ecological effects of our operation, we’ve sourced a product that’s more than 30% biodegradable within 28 days. It’s also recyclable and nontoxic to water-inhabiting species.
3. One-of-a-kind water treatment
We’ve installed a new water treatment system in the Glacier Discovery Centre. It removes the detectable nutrients from wastewater before releasing it back into the environment. Thanks to the system’s advanced oxidation technology, we’re now exceeding Parks Canada’s strict environmental standards.
4. New energy efficiencies
To help reduce our fossil fuel and energy consumption, we’re replacing our generator system from diesel to propane. Diesel engines produce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. The new energy-efficient system uses multiple smaller generator sets that are designed to activate only when extra power is required. Depending on the generators that are selected, all of these particulates will be reduced. We anticipate a consumption savings of up to 50 percent. We’re also upgrading all lighting to LED, as part of the energy reduction initiative.
5. Recycling in a national park
As we operate in a remote, un-serviced area, we’re fully responsible for the disposal of all waste and recycling. Each season, between May and October, we transport our cardboard, paper, glass, plastic and aluminum recyclables to a depot in the town of Jasper. Removal services are at our cost of course!
6. Scheduling for efficiency and experience
Our operations team has analyzed and restructured our transportation schedules. By simply adjusting our tour times, we’ve increased vehicle utilization from 67 percent to 80 percent. Even better? We’re attaining these improved efficiencies while continuing to deliver an incredible guest experience. A win-win in our books.
7. Supporting local for a cause
We love supporting local—if a product meets our “Promise to Place” standards. Rocky Mountain Soap Co. in Canmore exemplifies what we look for in a partner supplier. Firstly, the products are incredible. Secondly, the company is unwavering in its commitment to making toxin-free beauty products. We love that too. And, we share the philosophy that less is best. At least when it comes to chemicals and waste. We’re thrilled to have eliminated single-use plastics and only offer refillable soap and lotion dispensers in the Discovery Centre and Glacier View Lodge.
8. Responsible food and beverage
You’ll find another exciting eco-initiative in our kitchens. We’ve switched out condiments—sugar, salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.—from portion-sized packages to refillable dispensers. All straws are now paper, and our cups, plates and utensils are compostable. We’ve also changed the individual packaging on group orders, and now just use one recyclable cardboard container. Our sandwich and salad supplier is Alberta-based Made. It’s a local company, we love the food and all of the packaging is compostable. Another perfect partnership.
9. Guest participation
We believe that working together realizes greater results. Inviting guests to take part in sustainable practices will have a positive long-term effect. At Glacier View Lodge we offer EcoStay—a third-party program focused on hospitality sustainability. Its purpose is to encourage businesses to give more—to society and the environment—than receive. Many of the initiatives we’ve outlined—LED lights, refillable amenities, etc.—are elements of EcoStay. Guests can opt in to the program by registering their room for a nominal fee of $2 per night. All proceeds go directly to reducing our carbon footprint.
10. Guest education
We also encourage guests to consider their impact on sustainable travel. Small acts add up. A few easy additions for your packing list include a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, shopping bag for souvenirs and snack bags. If you’re driving, carpooling is a great way to save on gas and reduce road congestion. Everybody loves a road trip singalong, right? Finally, taking a sightseeing tour will also help reduce emissions, and allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy the epic Rocky Mountain scenery.