Call me skeptical. Whenever I see “Green Biz of the Year” I wonder what really made this particular business entity a winner. Is it a popularity contest or is there something substantive behind it?
I always learn something from the winners. Not only about living green, but about how people make substantive contributions that reach far beyond the immediate community where they received recognition.
Jack Rosen of Island Escapades on Salt Spring is one of these people. He became very interested in outdoor activities as a teenager in Toronto, and moved to Whistler after finishing high school, ultimately attending the University of Victoria for a degree in Leisure Studies. Once at UVic, a major part of his learning happened outdoors with young offenders who were recently released from prison or in a reman program.
Jack observed that when these young people spent time outdoors achieving things they had never thought possible — things like climbing a mountain or paddling a river — it had a lasting positive effect on them. Not only did they learn to respect themselves and the environment, but the outdoor experience had a healing effect as well. Many of the boys had experienced traumatic events, and healing was an essential part of being able to create a different kind of future.
Having seen firsthand how outdoor expeditions can change lives, Jack came to Salt Spring in 1990, creating Islands Escapades in 1991 with life and business partner Candace Snow. Beginning with a few day trips out of Beddis Beach, the company now employs 18-20 people in summer to coordinate and lead camping trips for teens and pre-teens, eco-education programs for school groups, weeklong programs for kayaking or surfing, kayak guide certification, and expedition planning. In addition, Island Escapades offers beachside accommodation in Ganges, as well as a cottage on Cusheon Lake.
Sustainability and eco-education are part of daily work life at the company. All of the programs teach participants about the region’s biodiversity and the impact of human activities on our fragile ecosystems. Participants experience “clean and green” even when they’re not paddling or climbing. Waste from the organic vegetarian meals prepared to feed up to 20 people per day is composted for use in the vegetable garden. Everything else is recycled. The cleaning products used in the rental accommodations are biodegradable and phosphate-free.
In addition to expeditions and accommodations, Island Escapades includes a retail store that features green brands such as Patagonia and tentree.com. The latter plants 10 trees for every item purchased.
Every part of the business at Island Escapades reflects its deep commitment to educate visitors and protect the environment for future generations. Even oilsands execs have come with their families to experience the marine environment firsthand. And it has changed their attitudes, making them much more aware of what’s at stake if bitumen were spilled along B.C.’s coast.
And that’s what Island Escapades has always been about — changing attitudes and changing lives.
The following photos are courtesy of Island Escapades.