Third-party certification and the Explore Lake Simcoe project

As the Explore Lake Simcoe (ELS) project moves forward, we continue to learn about the steps that local businesses are taking to increase energy efficiency, to divert waste, to conserve water, and to reduce the use of toxic products. As a result, we regularly add case examples to the Explore Lake Simcoe website that highlight these efforts. Some examples represent businesses just beginning to explore environmental sustainability, while others represent businesses that have been committed to sustainability for a long time.

The profiles are posted on the website for two purposes: 1) to share information and ideas between businesses interested in implementing sustainable practices, and 2) to provide potential customers the information they need to make decisions to support businesses that make the environment a priority. That being said, the information contained in these profiles represent self-reported efforts, thus ELS points to a number of third-party certification programs for verification.  Businesses that are working with Explore Lake Simcoe and have achieved a level of certification with a third party will have the certification mentioned on their ELS profile. Certification programs often have incremental levels that businesses can achieve, and in those instances, the level of achievement will also be mentioned.

For the golf sector, ELS recommends compliance with the Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

For the Boating and Marine sector, ELS recommends compliance with the Boating Ontario Clean Marine program. For beach certification, ELS recommends compliance with the Blue Flag program.

For the Agricultural sector, ELS recommends participation in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs  Environmental Farm program.

For the Ski Sector, adoption of environmental best practices suggested through the Sustainable Snow Resorts Association is recommended.

For the Foodservice and Accommodation sectors, the certification program landscape is more crowded. The template available on the Green Restaurant Association Certified Green Restaurants® website outlines many best practices. In Canada, LEAF –Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice — provides certification for food service establishments that meet specific criteria. the Also, look for Fair Trade certified menu items, local and or certified organic foods and waste minimization strategies. Accommodation certification programs to look for include: Green Key Global, EcoStay or Tripadvisor’s Green certification. For camping, look for program like KOA Kamp Green.

There is no standard certification for adventure outfitters.

Profiles on the ELS website are meant to act as a guide, and it is still important to ask questions of your providers to make sure they understand you are a consumer who cares about environmental protection.

Questions can relate to the following areas:

  • Energy – What does this business do to ensure energy is used efficiently for heating, lighting, cooling, cooking and transportation?
  • Waste—How does this business minimize waste? Do they reuse items, encourage the use of reusable items such as cups and water bottles? Do they offer compostable take out containers? Do they consider the full lifecycle (raw materials, design, manufacture, use, disposal, reuse) of products being offered?
  • Water- Does this business take steps to reduce water use and protect water quality?
  • Toxic materials – Does this business take steps to reduce the use of toxic materials such as cleaners and pesticides?
  • If relevant–Does this business take steps to reduce the impact on the natural environment and protect/expand naturalized areas?

Businesses who are genuine about their commitment to environmental sustainability should be transparent in their efforts around these issues. You can read more about the efforts of some businesses in the Lake Simcoe watershed as they move forward and embrace sustainable practices.

About The AuthorAileen MacMillan holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from the University of Waterloo, and has worked as an independent consultant on environmental projects related to waste management, water quality protection, and environmental education. She has many years of experience working in small business and working collaboratively with teams and individual stakeholders.

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