Green Stay option at hotels

“Would you like our Green Stay option?” queried the clerk at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

“Would you like our Green Stay option?” queried the clerk at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

Since I’m an ecotourism specialist, I’m all for green initiatives, but some are just ‘green-washing.’ I want something that actually helps the environment and this program fits the bill.

Edmonton’s Hotel Macdonald is part of the Fairmont family; its Green Partnership Program has been recognized by the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the World Tourism organization.

The Green Stay program includes paperless checkout, less frequent linen changes, free parking for hybrid vehicles, and a tree planted and cared for in your name by The Carbon Farmer Inc., an Alberta-based carbon offset provider.

Mandy Quon, Hotel Macdonald sales manager, explained further, “The trees are planted near Manning . . . by Brad Raibey. This is a third-generation farmer who is giving back to the environment by replanting trees.”

I found it ironic that a farmer would replant land his grandparents worked hard to clear, but there is a long-term strategy behind The Carbon Farmer.

Brad, a biologist, and his wife, Rebecca, a social worker, feel that sustainability is an environmental and societal challenge so they took their professional training back to the family farm in 2007 and set to work on a new kind of crop.

Brad and Rebecca plant trees instead of wheat or barley.

The carbon absorbed by the trees is sold as offset credits to businesses and people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald became a partner in 2009 after Mandy heard about the program and saw a fit with the Fairmont’s commitment to sustainability.

For each hotel guest choosing the Green Stay option, one tree is planted; for every three trees planted, one tonne of carbon emissions is offset.

This purchase contributes to the planet’s sustainability and that of an Alberta farm.

“We certainly see The Carbon Farmer and our trees as enhancing the sustainability of our farm. The goal is ensuring our third-generation farm is well-positioned for the generations to come,” Brad says.

Some people have criticized Brad and Rebecca’s decision to replant cleared land.

“But when people learn that we are focusing on areas of key habitat potential or marginal farm land, we turn most of the skeptics into supporters,” Brad explains.

“We hope to partner with other landowners very soon to plant trees on their land and help ensure they can take advantage of this market opportunity and at the same time benefit the environment. This is indeed a business model that can be used by other farmers.”

So if you want to help a farmer when you travel, look for a hotel with a carbon-offsetting program like the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald or do it yourself by buying credits from a carbon off-setter.

• To calculate the carbon offsets of your next trip, visit Sustainable Travel International at http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/

Carol Patterson of Kalahari Management Inc. has been speaking and writing about nature tourism and emerging destinations for two decades. When she isn’t travelling for work, she is travelling for fun. More of Carol’s adventures can be found at www.kalahari-online.com.