Earth Day Every Day: Celebrating the Power Hour
Since 2007, Harbour Air has transported 2.8 million passengers to destinations throughout coastal British Columbia. 2.8 million. As you can imagine, a lot of fuel is required to fly 2.8 million people around the coast.
When a company has an opportunity to make a difference it’s that company’s responsibility to grab that opportunity and run with it.
Or fly with it. That’s just what Harbour Air Seaplanes did.
Earth Day happens on April 22nd, 2016 and I had the opportunity to sit down with Harbour Air’s marketing and media relations coordinator, Vanessa Johnson to discuss some of the company’s efforts to raise environmental awareness and conservation on this day and throughout the rest of the year.
Kelvin: Harbour Air is North America's first carbon neutral airline. What does that mean to you and how much of a challenge was it to reach this point?
Vanessa: It was a big challenge, no question, but it’s one we as an airline felt strongly about and very committed to. The process of calculating greenhouse gas emissions started in 2007, which was an employee-led initiative and a very forward thinking one in the industry. We started working with Vancouver-based Offsetters to help us better understand and reduce our impact on the environment. There’s a lot to calculate. Fuel is an obvious one for airlines, but there’s also the comfort of our employees, the energy we use on heating and cooling, employee commuting habits, business travel, paper use. A lot of that can be done by making smart choices about the other companies we choose to work with.
You're committed to a specific set of sustainable initiatives not only to celebrate Earth Day, but as a way to help guide Harbour Air’s commitment to the environment year round. Can you describe them and why the airline chose these initiatives?
One project we’re working on right now is a complete waste analysis in our terminals. We’re working on an all-inclusive compost, newspaper, garbage, and plastic recycling system so everything is disposed of responsibly.
Printing, is another large item that we (and most businesses) go through. We choose to work with companies with matching values like Hemlock Printers (a carbon neutral company).
From an employee standpoint, the company has a mandate to provide a healthy environment, both inside and outside. You’re working in a healthy place and contributing to a healthy environment at the same time. We’ve recently won an award as one of Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers for 2016 and part of it is because of these initiatives. We have a health and wellness program, Harbour Air encourages people to get outside, buy running shoes. I use it for yoga classes, which is a great perk.
On April 21st, I understand that hundreds of people in Victoria are going to ditch work to pick up garbage for an hour. 60,000 pieces of garbage were picked up by the team in Victoria in 2015.
The competition started here in Victoria with the city declaring Power Hour on April 21st, an initiative designed to get people outside to clean up for an hour. I’m proud to admit that we’re founding partners in the initiative alongside our carbon neutral friends at the Inn at Laurel Point and Eagle Wing Whale Watching. It was a great way to get involved in the local community and lead by example, and it’s grown steadily since then. Last year we had 18 businesses taking part. It’s a fun and easy way to do your part to keep the city looking sharp. Every single piece of trash that’s picked up is weighed and accounted for and the winning business is awarded the golden garbage award, which is a coveted trophy.
Everyone is quite serious about winning, as serious as you can be about leaving the office for an hour, in the sun, cleaning up the community!
In terms of Earth Day, the key is that we’re simply raising awareness. It’s a small initiative but it all counts. Plus, we picking up traction every year!
Enough traction that Harbour Air is taking part in its own internal version of the challenge, right?
You bet. We’re taking the same rules and holding our own competition across bases. There’s a fair share of friendly chirping (or 'trash talk') going on right now in the lead to the event. Every Harbour Air terminal is involved because people couldn’t just stand by and watch Victoria have all the fun.
Earth Day is an important event all over the world. Why is it important to Harbour Air?
Like we see with the Power Hour garbage competition, Earth Day is a simple way to raise awareness for one day and then commit to it throughout the year. The events on the day bring communities together, and for us, we get to fly that carbon neutral flag which is so important to us.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep their neighborhood clean. That’s why we keep a close eye on the communities in which we live, work, and fly.