Explore Lake Simcoe program status update

The Explore Lake Simcoe Sustainable Tourism program  was created to support business adoption of sustainable recreation and tourism practices. Through this program, business operators received technical support, educational services and information about sustainability practices specific to their business needs. An extensive list of resources can be accessed through the Green Resources section of the website. ELS is also on Twitter @Visitlakesimcoe and Facebook.

Since the Lake Simcoe area is within a short commute of the Greater Toronto Area and offers many low-impact outdoor activities which support the tourism-focused economy, the program was a natural fit for the watershed. Lake Simcoe has been at the centre of environmental protection initiatives and–as a result– its health is improving. Yet, care must be taken to continue to protect the health of the lake, and small business has a role to play.

The businesses that interacted with the ELS program adopted a variety of new initiatives, the focus of which are outlined below:

  • Waste diversion: new recycling programs, increased waste diversion, waste audits, cigarette litter recycling, use of a water station for refillable bottles, #nostrawchallenge
  • Energy efficiency: lighting upgrade, appliance/equipment upgrade, power down electronics, installation of timers
  • Water conservation: monitor and reduce water use
  • Customer education: installation of educational signs for customers, website messages re: sustainability
  • Water protection: reduction in use of salt for winter ice control, raised awareness of wetland protection
  • Low impact transportation: installation of bike lock stations, application for an electric vehicle charging station, anti-idling policy
  • Employee involvement: staff consultation, reusable mug program (discounted beverages for staff with mug)
  • Eco-friendly purchasing: change in types of cleaning supplies, purchase of compostable take-out containers

Stories showcasing the efforts of business participants can be found under the Green Leaders section of the ELS website.

Over the course of the two years, a few patterns emerged.

  • There was great value in communicating about environmental priorities. The opportunity to share expertise between sectors can benefit the entire small business community.
  • Customer education and expectations play a role in what business can achieve. If customers do not accept new practices—no matter how environmentally beneficial—then pressure exists for the business to cease participation.
  • New initiative implementation takes time. Business cycles may make changes more or less relevant at certain times, or new practices may take time to implement. Thus, resources are best provided at the precise time businesses require them.
  • Technology upgrades may only be relevant when businesses are undergoing renovation or need to replace aging equipment. Since the top issue that businesses identify as a barrier to adopting sustainable initiatives is cost, programs that offer financial incentives are well received.
  • Barriers exist that affect waste diversion. Many businesses point to a lack of widespread accessibility to municipal and organic waste collection services as a barrier. Other issues such as cost, space limitations, health and safety concerns, or staff time to sort material limits diversion. Businesses have sought out innovative solutions or partnerships to overcome some of these barriers.

Contact us at info@explorelakesimcoe.com if you have any questions, if you would like to receive a copy of the report, or if you are interested in attending an information session about the program this September.

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