Member Spotlight: Orca Spirit Adventures

Operating out of Victoria, BC, Orca Spirit Adventures’ mission is to offer their guests authentic whale and wildlife experiences, prioritizing the protection of the environment while doing so. They have recently been reassessed by GreenStep, to achieve Sustainable Tourism GOLD Certified.

Tell us a bit about your business. What makes you different?

Orca Spirit Adventures founder John Douglas was instrumental in building the whale watching industry in the region, launching the first covered vessel operation in Victoria, BC over 25 years ago while also helping to create responsible whale watching guidelines committed to research, education, and ethical whale and wildlife viewing.

The Orca Spirit crew lives, breathes and thrives on respecting the environment, while creating extraordinary guest experiences.

Why is sustainability important to you/your business? 

Orca Spirit has made a long term commitment to protect and preserve the spectacular natural setting we are fortunate to do business in, by actively practicing the principles of eco-tourism and sustainability.

In fact, we have been taking United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) definitions to heart, using them to guide decision-making across every aspect of our business for many years.

For us, that translates into taking a leadership role in our community by developing and implementing eco-tourism awareness programs, and continually monitoring our use of natural resources for areas of improvement.

Why did you join GreenStep Sustainable Tourism? 

Orca Spirit Adventures has received Gold Certification from GreenStep Sustainable Tourism, which is the only Canadian provider of a Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recognized standard and certification program for the tourism industry. To receive a Gold standing, we had to meet a specific standard after an official assessment of criteria in 19 different categories such as guest and employee engagement, sustainable and local purchasing, energy conservation, and natural and cultural interactions. This assessment gives us insight into how to further reduce our impact on the environment, how to best manage future projects, as well as create a personalized action plan moving forward.

What sustainability related projects, policies or initiatives do you most want travelers to know about?

Orca Spirit Adventures established a ‘Green Management Plan’ to guide every facet of our organization from the ground up, and encourage every team member to demonstrate a sincere commitment to a sustainable future. The Plan focuses on seven areas, including:

  1. Waste Reduction—using compostable plastic bags in our gift shop, a water station vs. bottled water, purchasing paper towels and toilet paper made from recycled-materials
  2. Greening our Clean—purchasing environmentally-friendly cleaning products from local supplier Planet Clean
  3. Conscious Purchasing—reducing and re-using supply packaging
  4. Green Transportation— staff incentives for biking to work, using a Toyota Hybrid Prius for deliveries and transportation
  5. Conservation and Sustainability—staff volunteers with organizations like the Jack Brookes Hatchery and Cetus Society
  6. Reducing Energy Consumption—lowering thermostats, using energy-efficient lighting and low-flow water fixtures
  7. Monitoring and measuring each initiative to drive perpetual improvement

What are some goals and/or actions you plan to take in the future to further increase the sustainability of your business?

Orca Spirit has a “go greener” plan which includes no longer selling bottled water to guests in offices and during regular tour schedule, saying goodbye to plastic bags, monitoring water consumption and vehicle use, purchasing only environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, track and offset fuel consumption for vessels and vehicles provide information on green actions, conservation, and contribute through donations and time to local organizations.

To learn more about Orca Spirit Adventures – head over to their website at www.orcaspirit.com