The summer of 2020 will make a lasting impression. Forget your globe-trotting plans, whatever you were planning it will have to happen here! But is that such bad news? 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already heard mentioned – by tourists passing through – the existence of wonderful places in Quebec and Canada that I’ve never heard of before…yes, it’s a little embarrassing! 

In addition, as we all know, travel often involves high greenhouse gas emissions (plane, boat, car and all the rest).  

So here we are on the eve of summer, with an acute sense of the claustrophobia of confinement and a titanic need for fresh air. The majority of us are hunched over in front of our screens with too many open tabs and our endless list of potential webinars to watch. Yet we have no opportunity to go visit faraway places.

So, what do we do? 

Well, turn on your child-at-heart switch and get ready to LITERALLY go play outside! It’s time to discover or rediscover our space and all its beauties, but in an environmentally friendly way. Local getaways, outdoor activities, gourmet tourism, discovery walks … the options are endless.

Here is our little guide for a green vacation near you!

*Thanks to my great colleagues, who shared their vacation plans with me, who inspired me and thanks to whom I’m now counting the days before I can disconnect myself for my own vacation. 

For those who likes sports

Hiking, scooters, roller-blading like it’s 1999 singing Livin’ La Vida Loca, swimming, canoe-camping… 

Oh, speaking of canoeing, did you know that Canada has the largest number of lakes of any country in the world?  It would be a shame not to take advantage of it!

Bike trip around the city – the bicycle has become a pandemic must-have. Easy to ride, park and store, it’s good for exercising, and to get from point A to B. Many cities have decided to rethink their space in these times of COVID and are offering miles and miles of new bike paths. You can even find little tools to help you know where to stop on your rides. Don’t forget to tie a basket on your bike to stock up on fresh produce, craft beers, and so on…

*Please note that some hiking trails, cycling trails, lake access in Sépaq‘s parks and on Parks Canada sites are once again accessible to visitors, but you will have to obtain your access online. 

For epicureans

While discovering your region, take the opportunity to practice “epicurean tourism” by sampling local products. Not only will you offer a good time to your taste buds, but local consumption is also beneficial for the environment and the local economy!  

If you find yourself in the woods, why not indulge in RESPONSIBLE wilderness harvesting and discover the medicinal plants of the area? Now, WARNING, we like you ALIVE so don’t put everything in your mouth or on a wound, okay? And FYI, when I say responsible, I mean not tearing up everything in your path! 

There are some good books that can help you achieve your quest, like The Boreal Herbal Book, Forest Feast and The Boreal Gourmet, which my colleague Shane, the Head of our Food and Nature campaign, loves.  

For those seeking mindfulness

Have you ever heard of shinrin-yoku? It’s a Japanese concept. Shinrin means “forest” and yoku means “bath”. So a forest bath would consist of soaking in the atmosphere of the forest. We’re not talking about doing sports in the forest here, it’s more about being in nature and connecting to it through sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. 

Too esoteric for your taste? Maybe not – Several researchers seem to confirm the positive health effects of a little forest bath! This reconnection to nature would favour “a low concentration of cortisol, a slower pulse, a lower blood pressure, a greater activity of the parasympathetic nerve and conversely a lower activity of the sympathetic nerve“. Another study reports a decrease in the level of stress and depression in people who practice shinrin-yoku.

Speaking of trees, did you know that the Greenpeace team has often been called “Tree Huggers” by people who don’t share our positions? 

Yes, yes, I’m still trying to figure out how that’s offensive. 

So imagine that with the pandemic, physical distancing and all that it entails, the Icelandic Forest Service recommends that we hug trees to break our sense of distance! So during your shinrin-yoku, don’t forget to hug the trees around you.

Otherwise, a little yoga retreat at home can also be a good way to recharge your batteries. There’s a lot of good intel online to help you prep!

You can take a moment for yourself while camping, in a cottage, in the woods, and even in your living room…but take advantage of the moment to observe nature, the fauna and flora that surround you. Many of us noticed different species near our homes during the pandemic – the question we can’t ignore: were they always there and were we just too hyperactive to see them?

For the makers

For all the wannabes MacGyvers in the world, why not take up arts and crafts over the holidays? Instead of buying something new, if you’re a little creative, doing it yourself can be very rewarding. 

If you’re a big entrepreneur like some of my colleagues, you can start an ecovillage project or build a small cottage to accommodate your family and friends while respecting physical distance. 

Note: This last suggestion requires a large lot, please do not annex the alley behind your 3rd floor walkup! 

For the social butterflies

Ah! I just saw several pupils dilate here. Are you in need of social interaction? Well, there are ways to organize some nice little things while respecting the obligation of distancing yourself…What about a park trivia night? Or even a dance party? 

“A dance party?!?” you might say. 

Yes. Do you remember the party where someone weird was dancing next to you. You were too polite to just turn and walk away, so you kept dancing, keeping a “nice” distance between you and that intruder…There you go! Same deal. 

Green tips

Whatever activity you choose, try to keep the environment in mind. 

Whenever possible, try to choose eco-friendly accommodations. Pick up your garbage. Even if it’s biodegradable or organic, if it doesn’t belong to the ecosystem you’re in, it’s best to take it back with you. Avoid disrupting ecosystems – and just because it’s beautiful doesn’t mean you have to touch it! As I often say to my daughter, “Look with your eyes – not with your hands!” Also try to use active transportation, which is good for the environment and your health! 

The buzzkill section

Well, now that I can tell you’re all excited about the upcoming holidays, I have to be a Debbie Downer just for a few moments: Covid-19 is still a reality, whether you like it or not; so, in a nutshell, the golden rules: 

1- “French kissing” all the strangers you come across, you won’t do. 

2- Declining offers to share food after your friends (probably well-intentioned, but perhaps drunkenly) have licked their fingers and rooted through it, you will do.

3- Brushing up on your basic public health and hygiene best practices, you will consider.

4- Identifying accessible public restrooms before your adventure, in order to avoid using the backyard of a stranger, this you must commit yourself to doing.

On this note, this summer, let yourself be free and get to know your local region!

Send us pictures of your green vacation to inspire others.

Saihanba Wind Farm in Inner Mongolia. © Simon Lim / Greenpeace
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