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Victoria groups celebrate sustainability certification, but cruise waste still a concern


Tourism can be both helpful and harmful for ecosystems on Vancouver Island.

That's why Greater Victoria groups are looking to get stamped with a sustainable seal of approval.

The Parkside Hotel is one of nine Greater Victoria businesses that just got "biosphere" certified.

The certification means that the hotel is committed to environmental sustainability, as well as cultural diversity, responsibility and equity.

"Travel has been historically seen as something that deteriorates a community, but 'sustainable' is really that no-trace kind of tourism," said Trina White, general manager of the Parkside Hotel and Spa.

The Parkside Hotel has rooftop gardens and its lobby is home to koi ponds that are filled with rainwater.

But what you can't see is that the hotel is also carbon neutral.

"The whole point is to make sure our greenhouse gas emissions are as low as possible," said White.

Destination Greater Victoria is also celebrating becoming the first urban centre in North America to get biosphere certified by the Responsible Tourism Institute.

"Sustainability is a decision-driver for about 80 per cent of leisure travels, and more importantly, the highly lucrative conference business," said Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria.

While Victoria is making progress, an environmental group says things are far from perfect.

"Transport Canada has designated the B.C. coast as a toilet bowl by not matching our neighbours' rules on cruise ships," said Anna Barford, a shipping campaigner with grassroots environmental group

Last season, Transport Canada asked cruise ships to not discharge sewage within three nautical miles of shore, but that request was not mandatory.

"Groups that are local to the coast, that are connected to the ocean, are taking the action that they can," said Barford.

"It just so happens that [Transport Canada] holds the pen on the regulations."

When it comes to shore power for cruise ships, which would allow cruises to charge and not idle in Victoria waters, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority hopes to make an announcement soon. Top Stories

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