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Bluewater Adventures

Slow travel is green travel

Today it's possible to compare features on almost everything from TVs to the fuel consumption of a car before you buy. It makes it easy to make smart, informed decisions and as the green movement grows, environmentally friendly ones too. One day soon Randy Burke hopes that will include the carbon footprint of a holiday.

The owner of Bluewater Adventures, a Vancouver based sailing cruise ship that plies the waters of British Columbia, is working on providing the carbon emission information for every trip the company offers so that would be cruisers can compare before booking. It's part of a footprinting exercise Bluewater underwent in 2008 to become carbon neutral.

"We became aware of the carbon neutral concept a few years ago," Burke says. "So, we started to do some research." Bluewater was already a relatively low impact business. "I'm proud to say we travel slow," he says. As much as possible they use wind power to navigate and kayaks to explore once at anchor. The trips are longer than average tours. "People zooming about on short holidays, more often, have a bigger impact than if they take one 10 day trip sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands," he points out.

Still he knew the company could do more. "We were doing a good job, but there was still an impact," he says. With the help of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, Burke figured out the company's carbon footprint and then did more research and bought offsets. "While we have purchased offsets that are being applied here in BC, I am really looking forward to coastal projects being developed and offered as offsets that directly and positively impact where we operate," he says.

The move was not good for the bottom line, but Burke says it's something he morally had to do. "If I prescribe to the tenants of ecotourism - involvement in conservation of the environment and culture - then I have to take this issue seriously," he says. "If other companies look at us and feel like it's something they need to do, great." And he's hopeful consumers will reward his ethics like they have with other businesses that have followed the same path.

At the same time, he realizes offsets are not a panacea. "There's a lot of confusion about what they do and don't do and what they are," he says. "We plan to educate our clients. It's a roll we need to play." And the company needs to continue to reduce their carbon impact. Burke talks to staff and other small cruise companies to find ways to reduce fuel consumption. Using kayaks more and zodiacs less for instance.

"We're going to continue to reevaluate our program and look for ways to offer a more environmentally friendly product," he says.

Website: www.bluewateradventures.ca

PHOTOS Bluewater Adventures