Brewster Environmental Stewardship Practices
Brewster Travel Canada has a special appreciation for the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies - an area the company has called home since 1892. Brewster recognizes that this environment is part of a sensitive ecosystem, and that it has a responsibility to maintain responsible use of the land. Extensive efforts are made to educate employees, comply with and exceed government regulations and review practices on a regular basis to ensure high standards are maintained. This is Brewster’s commitment to be a leader in heritage, community and in environmental responsibility.
Water plays an important role in all glacial environments. This is particularly true at the Columbia Icefield, where melt-water flows into three different oceans and provides some of the world’s best drinking water. Although this could potentially offer the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre an abundant supply, the approach Brewster takes is completely opposite to this. The operation places a high priority on water conservation and is successful in its efforts by maintaining a water consumption average per visitor that is only 14% of the provincial average. The installation of low-water fixtures and the utilization of recycled gray water are just two examples of proactive initiatives that contribute to this.
The upper terminal of the Banff Gondola is located on a mountain peak at 2281 metres (7486 feet). Water supply is limited and conservation efforts are incredibly important from both an operational and environmental perspective. There are several processes in place to ensure that water consumption is minimized. One example is the installation of a vacuum plumbing system, which enables specially designed toilets to use only 1 litre of water per flush (conventional toilets use up to 28 litres per flush). This initiative and others are proving to be successful with overall water consumption at the Banff Gondola averaging only 5% of the provincial average per visitor.
Mount Royal Hotel
As one of Banff’s heritage properties, the Mount Royal Hotel has a special appreciation for the area. Extensive efforts are made to do its part in preserving the environment through water conservation. Practices like the installation of flow restrictors in all tap and shower heads attribute to the hotel’s ability to regulate and conserve water on a regular basis. In addition, the hotel has launched a “Guest Linen Program” in which guests are encouraged to re-use linens to reduce the water used in laundry services.
Minimizing Environmental Impact
One of the most popular highlights at the Banff Gondola is the original weather station and Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site at Sanson’s Peak. With so many guests enjoying the scenic vistas from this viewpoint, the Banff Gondola decided that something had to be done to protect the sensitive alpine environment leading to it. In partnership with Parks Canada, the company took on a four year project that resulted in a 1 km environmentally friendly boardwalk system. Upon completion, a re-vegetation program was also implemented to replace the previous damage caused. This boardwalk, now known as the ‘Skywalk’, has proven to be an ideal solution for wildlife habitat connectivity, vegetation and the visitors that come to this attraction each year. Brewster was recognized for these efforts in 2001, and was presented with the Bow Valley Heritage Stewardship Award for ‘Best Environmental Practice Associated with Commitment to Addressing Common Ecosystem Concerns’.
The Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre uses a combination of simple common sense and innovative technology to reduce human impact on the environment.This is no small feat in an area that is frozen solid six months of the year, and then suddenly hosts over half a million visitors* in the summer months. However, Brewster makes every effort to implement voluntary practices that all work towards the common goal of minimizing environmental impact.
Some examples include:
- The stairs that link the parking lot to the main building are raised off the lateral moraine to allow the delicate ecosystem that lives there to continue its growth in the brief summer months.
- The use of snow blowing equipment for sensitive areas, rather than plowing, avoids compacting snow into ancient trees and risking damage to branches. The snow blower lifts and throws the snow, eliminating compaction and damage.
- Prior to its construction, cuttings were taken from local willow and birch, propagated in greenhouses in Vancouver, and then reintroduced to the area once construction was completed.
* Based on the number of visitors that go onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield.
Conservation & Heritage Messaging
The topics of heritage and sustainability in the Canadian Rockies National Parks are key components in the commentary provided by Brewster Driver Guides. Drivers undergo extensive training upon starting their career with Brewster and become experts in communicating Canada’s National Park values. Parks Canada has taken the step to recognize Brewster as a “National Park Specialist” for this contribution.
Banff Lake Cruise
The Banff Lake Cruise provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the surrounding mountains, wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the area. Entertaining guides share personal and historical stories that give visitors a special appreciation for these treasures that surround the lake.
The Columbia Icefield is home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals. A key mandate for both Brewster and Parks Canada is to increase the understanding, appreciation and respect visitors have for this extraordinary place. This is best demonstrated through the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre’s Glacier Gallery. Exhibits in the gallery project strong conservation messages about the area’s natural surroundings. This is reinforced through driver commentary on the Glacier Adventure.
Environmental and heritage messaging plays an important role in the process of developing a holiday package. Brewster Vacations ensures that this messaging is portrayed through specially designed package content that encourages visitors to gain a better appreciation for the environment they are visiting.
Reducing Energy & Fuel Consumption
Motor coaches are the most fuel-efficient mode of transportation in North America. One single coach can replace as many as 55 passenger cars and requires 82% less fuel per passenger than a hybrid car. Motor oaches provide 184 passenger miles per gallon of fuel; single-occupant automobiles, in contrast, achieve only 28 passenger miles per gallon. Further, Brewster has made it a company mandate to only use fuel with reduced sulphur content.
Mount Royal Hotel
The Mount Royal Hotel places a great emphasis on reducing its consumption of energy. Several initiatives are in place including the installation of super efficient hot water boilers (used to manufacture domestic hot water), energy efficient lighting and electronic thermostats. The hotel has also taken the unique step of utilizing the hot water system to heat the hot pool, thereby replacing a gas boiler.
The entire facility at the Banff Gondola is powered by electricity so that no direct emissions are released into the mountain air. The energy consumption is monitored and controlled by a sophisticated computerized management system that has been custom designed for the operation. This system, as well as a commitment to upgrading to the latest in energy efficient products, has helped drop energy consumption significantly. In just a three year period (2000-2003), consumption dropped by 15.7% or 800,000 KWH.
At the Columbia Icefield, extensive efforts are made to recycle anything and everything that can be recycled. In fact, there is a dedicated recycling area complete with a cardboard bailing machine at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. Every week a bus takes recycled materials to a recycling plant in the neighboring town of Jasper. Other examples of recycling efforts at the Columbia Icefield - foundations of the staff quarters are recycled drill casings and the staff parking lot base is made from recycled asphalt.
Mount Royal Hotel
Like all Brewster businesses, the Mount Royal Hotel places a great emphasis on its recycling program. Designated recycling areas allow staff to ensure that multiple items are recycled on a regular basis.
Special Treatment Systems
The Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre’s sewer treatment plant was designed and built specifically for this facility. It uses a biological ozone based treatment system to meet or exceed strict Parks Canada standards. Brewster takes a pro active approach on treating sewage by only using phosphate-free soap and detergents. Even the staff quarters at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre are provided with these products to ensure compliance with the policy. In addition, a qualified sewage treatment technician is onsite throughout the season conducting water sampling tests.
Other Initiatives & Associations
Brewster realizes that even the smallest things can make a difference when it comes to preserving the environment. Through participation in environmentally friendly associations and groups, or even by making minor operational adjustments, the environment is always front of mind.
Monitors are now used to announce tour departures in order to decrease the amount of sound pollution at the Columbia Icefield. The operation has also adopted policies of the International Dark Sky Association (www.darksky.org) to reduce light pollution, which ensures a clear vision of the night sky when 15 feet from the building. The Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre has also been recognized by the Fatal Light Awareness Program or FLAP (www.flap.org), whose goal it is to safeguard migratory birds in urban environments.
For more information, contact:
Brewster Travel Canada
(403) 762.6936 or click here to email.