EcoStar Awards Showcase Green Business as Force of Great Change

Brett Soberg, head captain, GM and co-owner of Eagle Wing Tours, enjoys the ocean view from the company’s 4 Ever Wild catamaran. Eagle Wing’s commitment to the environment and education earned the company a 2016 EcoStar Award.

Annual EcoStar Awards Showcase Green Leadership

A big light was shone on sustainability in our region at the Vancouver Island EcoStar Awards on November 10 at the Inn at Laurel Point. Hosted by the CRD for a decade and revived by Synergy Sustainability Institute in 2015, the EcoStar Awards recognize those organizations that are making strides in doing business in the greenest way possible.

“The Island has so many businesses that lead in sustainability practices,” says EcoStar Awards co-ordinator Kimber Parmar. “The awards are about bringing municipalities, businesses and nonprofits into a room together, and taking the time to celebrate and commend each of them.”

The EcoStar Awards are about bringing together people too — the individuals at the heart of these businesses who are pushing the envelope and challenging the norm, putting themselves out in front as sustainable-minded mentors for the business community.

The award categories keep growing year after year and now span 15, including Eco-Preneur of the Year, Manufacturing Excellence, Greenest Office, Technology Excellence, Experiential Tourism, Lodging & Accommodation, Maritime Industry, Food Security, Climate Action, Social Impact, Waste Management, and Water Stewardship & Conservation.

Bernhardt Contracting took home the 2016 Leadership in Construction award for its energy-efficient passive-house designs.

“We pay a lot of attention to how we insulate: creating a good air barrier, installing good windows and doors, and orienting the building toward the sun,” explains owner Mark Bernhardt, who cut his teeth on Alberta oil and gas impact assessments before deciding to apply his sustainability know-how in a greener way through construction.

“In construction, a lot of this stuff is easy to do,” says Bernhardt, who is pleased to be a force for change in an industry that is often slow to evolve. “We found we can really make gains and help along a lot of change within the industry.”

Bernhardt’s Fernwood and Vic West passive houses are certified to the International Passive House standard, a science-based, economically driven standard first derived in Germany.

For many organizations, the EcoStar Awards acknowledge business practices that have been in place for years.

“We started what we’re doing nine years ago,” says Habit Coffee owner Shane Devereaux, whose company was awarded Greenest Small Restaurant. Devereaux made a deliberate decision to purchase and stream waste as responsibly as possible when the coffee shop first opened its doors on Pandora Avenue back in 2007. Habit diverts 96 per cent of its waste, transports coffee and supplies between its two locations via bike, and made use of reclaimed residential flooring, fixtures and joists in the construction of its Yates Street location.

“The awards are a progression of what we’re seeing in our community and around the globe,” says Devereaux. “It’s an acknowledgment, not just for us but for the community as a whole, that we’re moving forward in the right way.”

Kathryn Genereux, owner of Inspire Hair Design, a 2016 EcoStar Award winner, believes making it possible for clients to experience top-notch hair-care services without compromising their own health and the environment.

For Greenest Retail Store winner Inspire Hair Design, owner Kathryn Genereux says the EcoStar Awards bring her face to face with inspiring stories of other thought-leading companies on Vancouver Island.

“Often it naturally forms new partnerships and ideas for the future,” she says. “Companies like that find a way to fit in with each other down the road.” One example Genereux points to is an EcoStar Award winner from last year whose products she now stocks at Inspire. “In that community, with good exposure to everyone, you can find ways to work together and create better partnerships.”

The EcoStar Awards are a way not only to honour local green businesses, but to get a wider audience — individuals, families and communities — thinking about how to lessen their environmental impact.

“Vancouver Island has a distinct profile within the province — and being an island, it’s good to encourage ourselves to think like an island,” says Tofino mayor Josie Osborne, keynote speaker for the November event. “The more we can think about being self-sufficient and distinct, the better. When you live on an island, it’s more front-of-mind; there are natural limits. It causes us to focus on living within our means.”

Do the awards occasionally serve up surprises? “Totally!” says Parmar, who shares responsibility for reading through all the nominations with Synergy Enterprises founder Jill Doucette. “We always find out about a bunch of businesses that haven’t even been on the radar. It’s very exciting.”

Parmar hopes that the EcoStar Awards’ reach and appeal will ripple outward in the coming years, encouraging nominations from even more mid- and north-Island businesses. Devereaux notes that those businesses who are conducting themselves with sustainability at the fore tend to draw others into the fold. “We do it because we think it’s what we should be doing — because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “We end up having conversations with other business owners to show them it’s way easier and less expensive than people think to start approaching how they do things differently.” 

For the full list of winners, visit: