Millions of people visit Granville Island in Vancouver British Columbia yearly. With consumables like food and coffee being the most popular items this would normally add up to a lot of waste going to the landfill from heavy tourism. But on Granville Island they’ve gone zero waste inspiring many other places to learn how they do it and what it is they’re planning for the near future.
How Did Granville Island go Zero Waste?
They started back in the 1970’s when they began reusing historical structures on the island to make places like Bridges Restaurant and the world famous Public Market. In the food market, they banned Styrofoam containers and mandated the use of only compost-able or recyclable takeaway containers. They also created guides that each business can customize to educate customers on what to do with each type of waste product to that it can be properly recycled or composted.
Granville Island also worked with BC Hydro, the local utility company, to install energy efficient light bulbs around the island on both building interiors and outdoor lighting. On top of that, Granville Island also uses an electric utility vehicle for the maintenance crew instead of relying on outside fossil fuels. Individual businesses on the island have also created new waste management improvements.
- Restaurants are introducing zero waste practices in their kitchens in order to make sure that food gets composted or delivered to those in need.
- Granville Island Broom Company makes sure they’re waste broom corn get composted in large scale compost bins.
- Granville Island Brewery sends their spent grains to local farmers to be used as livestock feed.
- The Artisan Sake Maker uses rice paste byproduct to make cosmetics, ensuring they create multiple uses out of the rice material.
- Micon Products, a metal tool manufacturer, recycles all of their scrap metal.
These efforts will also help Vancouver meet or exceed the ambitious 80% waste diversion rate they mandated by the end of 2020. By April 1st, they also banned the used of plastic bags on the island in favor of reusable shopping bags.
The Future of Zero Waste on Granville Island
In 2017, Emily Carr University left their building on Granville Island which opened up a 20,000 square foot facility. New development of this facility is called the “Arts & Innovation Hub” which will likely include new restaurants, shops, studios with spaces for creative innovation and sustainable initiatives. This provides a huge opportunity to expand upon the zero waste principals on Granville Island they’re already implementing. They announced Johanna Lauyanto, a sustainability and communications specialist, as one of the council members in 2019. By having her onboard, this speaks to their plans for future sustainable development on the island. The council’s plans for sustainability is mentioned in the “Granville Island 2040” strategy where they state “urban sustainability” is central to their vision.
The Granville Island Council will be addressing things like:
- “Living Labs” where they plans to partner with organizations that are focused on “livability and sustainability of cities” to do research, prototyping, testing and public education on sustainable solutions.
- Environmental sustainability. Where they plan to make Granville Island Carbon Neutral, explore renewable energies like solar for the island, create closed loop food systems and look at zero emissions requirements for new buildings.
- Habitat restoration. They would like to restore the Wetland habitat with the help and guidance of local First Nations.
These are only some of the topics highlighted in the 68 page vision “Granville Island 2040: Bridging Past & Future” created by the Granville Island Council for what they would like Granville Island to be by 2040. Essentially, an inspiring creative space for arts, innovation, and commerce all done in a sustainable and zero waste way.
Electric Car Charging on Granville Island
More than just taking into account waste materials, businesses and organizations have to be thinking about how their customers get to their stores and travel around the marketplaces. Granville Island has already been adding multiple level 2 charging stations for electric car owners. There are 2 chargers outside of ‘Edible Canada Marketplace’ on Rue Johnson Street across from the Public Market and a row of 6 chargers with dedicated parking spaces inside the Old Bridge St. indoor parking lot. These are located on the right hand side near the parking lot entrance.
In the future, it would be ideal to have a section with multiple DC fast chargers on Granville Island. This would cater to EV owners who do a quick stop by the Public Market for their goods while recharging their car. The level 2 chargers can fill up quickly, especially on the weekends, so it would be great to have another option.
If your anywhere in the downtown Vancouver area one of the best (and most affordable) ways to get to the island is by electric ferry all year round. By walking down to False Creek you get to see more of the city and from multiple locations, False Creek electric ferries can take you to Granville Island. This may be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to go sight seeing and shopping on Granville Island, zero waste and zero emissions.
Zero Waste & Responsible Tourism
According to The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), nearly 5 million tons of solid waste (which makes up 14% of the world’s global solid waste) is produced from the tourism industry a year. So by transforming this 1 sector, the tourism industry, we could prevent a large portion of the world’s waste from polluting the Earth.
We have to be responsible with tourism and create a zero waste tourism industry if we expect it to go on sustainably. If a small island in Vancouver, BC Canada can show the world that you can create a zero waste economy by creating simple rules and making sure proper facilities are in place for both businesses and customers, then every business in the tourism industry across the planet either needs to step forward and do the same or we have to start making laws requiring that tourism businesses operate on a zero waste level. It’s the responsible thing to do. Millions of jobs can be created globally to ensure that this 1 industry helps create a circular economy. Our species can’t keep carrying on “business as usual” and expect that nothing terrible will come of this. We have to start fixing this now while we still have the chance to.
Zero waste tourism would be a phenomenal step forward in reducing global waste. Waste that is created needlessly from an industry of pleasure. By using the same zero waste principles that Granville Island has adopted and advancing with in future developments, the rest of the global tourism and manufacturing industries can make a huge impact on reducing waste and doing their part to take care of this planet. Granville Island’s zero waste ethics will continue to set an example for the amazing things that humans can accomplish when we decide to solve a problem and then take action on it.