Shades of Green
We at Voyageur are committed to doing our best to be green. We face many challenges in our efforts to be green not only as a business but also as a business located 56 miles from the nearest town. It isn't always easy, practical or economical to be green where we live but you can be sure we give it our all.
"We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted…"
— Theodore Roosevelt, "Arbor Day-A message to the schoolchildren of the United States." April 15, 1907
We like to say we are not only a sustainable tourism business but also a carbon off-setting vacation. Since our guests spend days in a wilderness area away from their homes and vehicles they are significantly reducing their carbon footprint by vacationing with Voyageur. They are not using electricity, driving their vehicles or producing the amount of waste they would if they were at home or at almost any other vacation destination. Going on a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip has always been a great vacation and now there's a reason to feel even better about it, especially if you outfit with Voyageur.
We live in a time where some things are very inexpensive and it's almost cheaper to buy new rather than repair something. While this may save time it doesn't do much to save the environment. When people throw their old or broken items away they fill up landfills and new ones must be made. This creates more waste and uses more energy. If careful thought went into purchasing items in the first place then it would help immensely. Before we make purchases we ask ourselves, Will it last? Can I repair it? Could I borrow it? If the answer to all of these questions is "No" then we don't bother to purchase it.
"I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use."
— Mother Teresa
We think green when we purchase items because we buy with the environment in mind. How much packaging and what type of packaging is used is a main concern. Can the packaging be recycled? Is it the largest quantity I can find? Can I reuse the container? We buy products made from recycled materials and have all of our letterhead and envelopes printed on recycled paper. We have battery chargers so we can use rechargeable batteries and if something can be reused then we reuse it or get it to someone who can.
I don't believe in throwing things away. I like to find people who can use items we no longer need. We have a great Thrift Shop in town that accepts clothing, toys, books and many other items. The library takes old books and magazines and the Senior Center reuses old greeting cards. Boxes and packaging material are saved to ship out items from our store or used for storing things. We send out plastic liners with our canoe parties and when they come back we use them for our trash bags. If a trash bag isn't completely full then we just dump the contents into a different bag so we can continue to use the same bag. Whenever possible we find ways to reuse items so they do not end up in a landfill.
"But our waste problem is not the fault only of producers. It is the fault of an economy that is wasteful from top to bottom-a symbiosis of an unlimited greed at the top and a lazy, passive, and self-indulgent consumptiveness at the bottom-and all of us are involved in it."
— Wendell Berry
We keep many things out of the landfill by recycling, something we have done at Voyageur since we first purchased the business in 1993. This was practically unheard of on the Gunflint Trail and most folks thought we were a bit crazy. Guests and homeowners who visit Voyageur find separate bins for glass, tin, aluminum and plastic so they can sort their trash. All newspaper, phone books, catalogs, magazines and office paper are brought to town to be recycled and cardboard is either reused or broken down and recycled as well. Even our fuel canisters that come back from trips are recycled. Cook County has recognized our efforts in recycling and they allow us to keep a recycling trailer on our property which they swap out when full. The list of items we recycle is almost endless from computers to cd's, printer cartridges to cell phones and many things in between. If you can recycle it then we do so whenever we can and if it can't be recycled then we either don't buy it or we are sure to reuse it.
We care about the environment we live in. We want to do our part in reducing the amount of energy we use and in keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible. From simple things like turning off lights or unplugging appliances when they are not in use to purchasing Energy Star models when old appliances break down and can no longer be fixed, we make an effort to be conscious of our environment. We use low flow toilets and showers and educate our guests to conserve the water they use by turning water off when they do not need it running. We ask guests and our staff to turn lights and fans off when not in use. We have two new washer and dryer sets that are high efficiency and help us save lots of water and electricity. When light bulbs burn out they are replaced with new CFL bulbs. We try our best to reduce the size of our and our guests' carbon footprint by being energy efficient.
"'Solid wastes' are the discarded leftovers of our advanced consumer society. This growing mountain of garbage and trash represents not only an attitude of indifference toward valuable natural resources, but also a serious economic and public health problem."
— Jimmy Carter
We live green in a place where we can still drink the water from the lakes and air pollution is unheard of. We maintain a working septic system and keep any possible pollutants as far away from the water as possible. We do not use fertilizers on what little lawn we have so we are sure to keep water run off clean and pure. We keep our vehicles well maintained with good tire pressure so they are a fuel efficient as possible. We limit our trips to town, car pool when possible, run errands for neighbors and have a no idle rule to keep emissions from our vehicles as small as possible. We care for our environment by cleaning up the roadside and planting trees every spring.
We know there is more we could do to become a darker shade of green. We will continue to make green choices whenever we can. We are committed to making the world we live in a better place not only for us but also for our children and theirs.