Treading Lightly in Campbell River

Guest Blogger: Chris Istace @stasher_bc 

Chris joined us in Campbell River to dive deeper into how our community and businesses are building sustainable practices into their everyday.

Taking a more sustainable approach to travel is a priority for both visitors and local businesses in Campbell River. We met with a few local companies to learn how they are paving the way for more mindful travel experiences.

 In this article, we will highlight a few companies that care deeply about their natural harmony in Campbell River. We will look at how they are leading the way in showcasing the importance of how our choices equally as visitors and as businesses can reduce our footprint and make travel and tourism more aligned with nature and local culture.


kayaking on the campbell river

Examining our History 

Museums help us understand our place’s past and present, while also looking to the future. The Campbell River Museum’s exhibitions reflect on how communities grew, what impact they had on the Indigenous First Nations and how the environment has changed from settler impacts. The displays and exhibits (check out Sacred Journey until November 7 2021) are of such detail and curation that you would expect in Toronto or Victoria, a world-class experience. 

Here the museum helps us come to grips with the effects of colonial expansion in Campbell River not only on the local Indigenous population but also the environment. Learn how the stories of living in natural harmony with the land are now being heard and have been part of the local Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-Chah-Nulth and Coast Salish First Nations culture for millennia.

While at the museum you can learn more about Roderick Haig Brown, a leading pioneer in B.C’s conservation movement who lived in Campbell River between 1946 and 1976. He was key in bringing awareness to the effects of resource extraction industries and Campbell River’s growth on the environment. Learn more about his legacy with a visit to the Haig-Brown Heritage House. His legacy is coming full circle as the community embraces and strives to find the balance he so desired between people and the land they tread upon.


Moving towards ethical and sustainable wildlife & marine viewing 

Campbell River Whale Watching are leaders and educators in sustainable eco-tourism space. Partnering with Wilderness International they are working to protect old-growth forests in the Toba Inlet – right in the very region they are providing tours. Plus, for every visitor that joins their tours, they make a donation to The North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA) which supports conservation and businesses within the marine environment.

Co-owner Stephen Gabrysh explained how their dedication to sustainability goes beyond their tours. All the employees at the company are integrating sustainable practices into their lives. When they stopped offering plastic bottles, they prevented 7,000 bottles from going to landfills. They review every aspect of their operations for their carbon footprint through Sustainable Tourism 2030 audits of which they are ranked silver. This includes encouraging staff to commit to 150 hours volunteering in environmental efforts in the community, looking at how the staff get to work as well as how much and of what kind of waste the company generates. By connecting with nature, learning about conservation stewardship and seeing sustainable practices in action Stephen hopes their guests leave inspired to look at their own impacts while on their visit and at home.

Bluetree Photography

Bluetree Photography

Bluetree Photography

Bluetree Photography

Finding joy in the slow lane 

A big part of being sustainable is through looking at how we visit an area and get around to all the spots we want to visit. Laurel Kronk is a passionate cyclist and kayaker who calls Campbell River home, in fact living right on the river. Wanting to share her passion with others and help them visit the outdoors of Vancouver Island that she loves so much led to the creation of Island Joy Rides. Helping you find “joy” in the outdoors on both land and water Laurel encourages travellers to park their cars and take the slow route through nature by joining a guided or self-guided kayak or bike tour

On her kayak tours through the Campbell River estuary, you come up close and personal with the natural landscape as the land and river meet the ocean. Salmon jumped all around us, seals poked their curious heads up to see what we were all about and coastal birds filled the forest canopy above us. Laurel educated me more on some of the history I saw at the museum how industrialization damaged the estuary but the transformation it now sees thanks to local organizations doing restorative work. Her tour helps guests reflect on the effects industry has on nature but how we can work together to revitalize them through first-hand immersive experiences like this. Laurel left me with a final guiding mantra she employs for herself and her guests at island Joy rides. That mantra is the three S’s ~ Safety, Stewardship and Senses.


Indigenous Stewardship with Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours

Orford Bay located deep within the Bute Inlet at one time was a flourishing village and home to the Homalco First Nations. History would see the effects of industrialization and colonization of the region nearly wipe out their entire community and way of life. Thankfully history is now turning course and the Homalco First Nation are reclaiming their lands and culture. One way they are achieving this is through their wildlife and cultural tours.

Office Manager Chyanne Trenholm shared how their goal is to educate guests on the Homalco First Nations culture. A culture where we need to treat the land and wildlife with great respect as stewards and not just something to take from for either resource or experience. Through the tours, guests are immersed in an Indigenous tourism experience that stays with them for the rest of their life. It is with the hope that learning how people, wildlife like the orca or the grizzly and the water and land we all exist upon is intimately interconnected and all our choices should be rooted in this knowledge.


Community Brewery

While some choices as visitors for sustainable experiences and activates are obvious like wildlife tours or cycling, things as simple as a meal or brewery stop are important also. A favourite with locals and travellers is Beach Fire Brewing which has been a part of the Campbell River community since 2016. During a sit-down with owner Darrin Finnerty, I learned about their efforts to meet the popular craft beer demand and popularity in a sustainable manner. Outside of the reduce, reuse and recycle mindset, another way businesses can be sustainable is by partnering with local businesses and their community.

For Darrin, this includes providing all the spent grains from the brewing process to a local farmer as cattle feed. They save and donate all their restaurant food scraps to a local farm for chicken feed. And Work with local environmental stewardship groups to do restorative work and donate to their efforts. One example is their spruce tip seasonal beer that uses locally harvested spruce tips with proceeds of sales going to support ecological work in the Campbell River estuary.

Photo by Blueree Photography
Photo by Blueree Photography

Supporting local 

Rounding out ways as visitors we are supporting a sustainable difference is by spending our money with small businesses that are pledging to do their part. Alissa from Westcoast Wildflowers had me full inspiration on how she is being part of the bigger story in both culture and environment. Feeling a calling to bring a different type of retail store to Campbell River she opened the doors this past year on her shop providing a platform to Indigenous brands, voices and artisans. A few of those indigenous brands fall into her efforts in zero waste product dispensary offerings from body products to even coffee. Mindful of the shipping and carbon footprint in the retail industry Alissa has made it her goal to maintain 75% of the store with Canadian companies. With change-makers like this who are changing the narrative of the products we use, the companies we support and the diversity of the people behind those brands we become more in tune with the impact of our consumer decisions.


Greenways to explore 

Lastly, to connect all these sustainable eco-friendly businesses and destinations in Campbell River together is the Greenways Loop. This multi-use pathway system completes a 26 Kilometre loop around the entire city of Campbell River. On this trip, I brought my bike along and I was able to ride my bike to each of these businesses mentioned above. I was also able to experience places like the Tyee Spit, Rotary Seawalk and Beaver Lodge forest lands. New signage and maps help make your experience relaxing and enjoyable.


On your visit to Campbell River, we hope you take the time to explore ways you can stay with a smaller footprint and discover your own natural harmony with the region. We are all connected and everything is one from the land to the sea to the people and wildlife. So visit often, tread lightly and be a mindful visitor as we eagerly await your visit. Hope to see you soon.