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Our CO2 Footprint

So it is the end of the year and you are thinking about donating money to any of the organizations that rely on our help to keep doing their good work. But there are so many, how do you decide who to give to and even more important, how much are you going to give? Sometimes it can feel so overwhelming to be faced with so much need, especially if your “donation budget” is limited or arbitrary that indecision stops you from helping out at all. So here are a few suggestions to help you in your generosity.

First off, how much are you going to give? What amount of your hard earned cash does it make sense to give away and how do you justify that generosity to yourself or your family? Well, most of us need to work to make a living and for most of us that involves using some form of fossil fuel burning transportation to make the daily commute. If we didn’t work, we wouldn’t have any money to donate so how about a self-tax on our work related transportation impacts? For the past few years, we at Misty Isles Adventures have self taxed ourselves on the diesel that we used working Misty Isles. This year we have expanded that to include all gas and propane used for our boats and vehicles.

What is our calculation? As a business, we keep all of our fuel receipts. In 2010 we used 2,178 litres of diesel in Misty Isles. Diesel produces 2.7 kg of CO2 per litre and so we produced 5.9 tonnes of CO2 this way. In addition, we used 1751 litres of gas and propane which produces 2.4 kg per litre for a total of 4.2 tonnes of CO2. So in 2010, our business operations produced 10.1 tonnes of CO2. We self-tax ourselves at $50 per tonne and so we have established that we will donate a minimum of $505 to charities. This money is directly related to our work and we regard it as part of the cost of doing business.

But it is also more than this. It is a chance at year-end to review this aspect of our impact on the environment and to see if there has been a change in our CO2 production. It is a chance to at least partially mitigate our impacts by donating to environmental organizations. And it is a chance to reflect on using the sails and bicycles even more!

What if you don’t need to work or commute for a living? Do you still travel for recreation, adventure and learning? Keep your fuel receipts. Websites such as and make it easy to find out your carbon impacts from air travel and other activities. If you travel to someplace beautiful for a vacation, why not do a little good at the same time?

We start by giving close to home. The Georgia Strait Alliance, Friends of Cortes Island and Salmon Are Sacred are all working hard to keep our area ecosystems vibrant and healthy. Samantha is passionate about animal welfare and gives to The Fauna Foundation and Farm Sanctuary. And after my time spent working in the Antarctic, I have a strong affinity for the Southern Ocean and so we give to the Sea Shepherds for their defence of the whales against the Japanese harpoons.

Sure, there are still many more worthy agencies we’d like to help but at least now that we have justified a minimum donation budget, we can be generous to those we feel strongly about.

Our thanks to Barry Saxifrage who supplied the following CO2 calculations for a four day exploration of Bute Inlet and the Discovery Islands we did with a group of six passengers.

Barry writes ” I thought I’d pass along my CO2 emissions research for our trip. Misty isn’t great on CO2 per kilometre…but it isn’t used as a long distance transport vehicle. It is used for vacationing. On that measure it is an excellent low-CO2 vacation option…especially when there are many people on board. Here is the data:”

370L of diesel
2.7kg of CO2 per liter of diesel
420L of gasoline
2.4kg of CO2 per liter of gasoline
62 hours of Misty running
6L diesel/hour = 16kgCO2/hour
75 hours of Misty average engine time
5L diesel/hour = 13.5kgCO2/hour

1/3 tonne CO2 TOTAL
24 hours*5L/hour = 120L = 324kgCO2
1/18 tonne CO2 per PASSENGER
324kg/6people = 54kg/person = 20L/person

How does our 4-day trip CO2 compare to other vacation options?

* SUV with 2 people driving to Nanaimo and back
* SUV with 4 people driving to Victoria and back
* Average car with 3 people driving to Victoria and back
* Full bus driving to Edmonton and back (best land transport option)

* Seaplane Seattle-Cortes = 2 times more per person
* Fly Vancouver-LosAngeles = 18 times more per person
* Fly Vancouver-Toronto = 33 times more per person
* Fly Vancouver-India = 170 times more per person. Each person flying Van to India emits more than they would taking two Misty adventures per year for 80 years.

Grizzly Bear Adventure

After a warm greeting on a cool day, Misty Isles departed Cortes Bay with almost zero visibility in the fog. Many of the guests were quite intrigued watching Mike navigate around the rocks and past other boats by radar and by hearing. We cleared the fog just off Squirrel Cove and ran the rest of the day under mostly sunny skies.

Two of our guests were to have flown in to Powell River that morning and then taken a water taxi to Cortes Bay to join us for departure but their plane could not land in the fog. They spent the day on an adventure of their own trying to join us and when they finally caught up to Misty Isles just a short distance from our destination at Orford Bay, they were very ready for a hot, relaxing cup of tea!

Upon arrival, we were immediately taken by mini bus to where the Orford River and Algar Creek join together. As we walked out on the sand bar we could see the chum salmon hovering in the streams ready to spawn and this is why the grizzlies gathered here to feed. We were fortunate enough to see a large boar come charging through the stream right towards us and catch a salmon no more than 10 metres from where we stood, then return with the fish in his jaws to the opposite bank where he devoured his catch.

That night we ate supper at the Orford bunkhouse, good solid camp fare of roast beef, potatoes, chicken wings, frozen veggies and pie. After a long adventurous day, it was good to hit the bunks in the spartan although comfortable bed rooms.

We were up at 6am the next morning for breakfast and then back out to the sandbar in the growing daylight. In all, we saw upwards of 20 grizzly bears including a very rare sighting of a mother with three cubs. In addition to the bears there were mergansers, bonapart gulls, eagles and herons all feasting on the salmon or their eggs. We even saw a harbour seal swimming in the river close to the bears. The run of salmon comprised mostly of chum returning to the river was not strong this year and any returns at all are due in large part to the fish hatchery here run by the Holmalco First Nations band.

You can’t view these magnificent bears without a sense of awe. To most of us, these top predators exemplify the wilderness and it is a wonder to us that they live so close to Cortes Island. We can only hope that it would remain so. Plutonic Power is vying to put in a run of river power plant further up the Orford watershed. The Homalco First Nations Band who run the bear watching tours are in the planning stages to replace the existing camp with a world class destination resort. The construction of reception facilities, a 5 star lodge, gift shops and all of the attendant infrastructure. We were told that it is only a half hour helicopter flight to bring guests from Whistler to Orford Bay. We were told that they wanted fewer guests with deeper pockets to reduce their environmental impact. We can only hope that the bears agree to this business plan.

Late morning saw us underway onboard Misty Isles again with partly cloudy skies and lunch with a magnificent mountain backdrop. After a close look at the “Hole In The Wall” and the abandoned Holmalco village of Church House, we hoisted sail to take advantage of the westerly breeze as we headed for Toba Inlet. We sighted harbour porpoise along the way and the maple trees blazed yellow on the hillsides. Onboard, we tended the sails and told stories while Samantha served up tea and cookies until late afternoon when we arrived at Toba Wildernest at the mouth of Toba Inlet. We gathered in the comfort of the Mountain View cabin for our supper of “grizzly fare”, Samantha’s famous BBQ teriyaki salmon with fresh, organic vegetables followed by homemade chocolate brownies. The perfect way to end a fantastic day!

Our return to Cortes Island on the third day had us southbound through scenic Homfray Channel to view ancient First Nations pictographs and old pioneer homestead sites. Desolation Sound which is normally full of yacht activity in the summer, was practically deserted and the flat calm waters threw back mirror reflections of the mountains and clouds above. A last bit of excitement was the rendezvous with the water taxi to send our Vancouver bound passengers on their way and then we returned to Cortes Bay to end a fantastic day out on Misty Isles and another very memorable trip.

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