Where Eco-Friendly Rises To
The Level of High Tides
Story by Fyllis Hockman
Photographs by Victor Block
ure, we are all now accustomed to hotel rooms admonishing us to leave
the towels on the rack so they can be reused. And occasionally, we come
across two waste baskets in the room, one for recycling paper. And we
feel so good about ourselves when we do so.
We rarely encounter the European standard of motion-controlled
hallway lighting. Or placing the room key into a slot that turns on
the lights and AC when we enter, and turns them off when we leave. Too
many Americans, it seems, prefer to have their rooms already chilled
and lit when they return.
So the Green Suite at Digby Pines in Nova
Scotia, Canada is an anomaly. Okay, so not really a U.S. phenomenon
but close enough at least so that we can lay claim a little just by
leaning over the border. And how often is a room on the itinerary of
a property inspection simply because of its environmental attributes?
I was virtually jumping up and down on the bamboo-infused bed linens
with excitement at my newly discovered eco-friendly accommodations!
Bamboo, it seems, is a natural fabric that is very hyper-allergenic
so the fibers are used in the towels and sheets; bamboo shutters adorn
the windows. The headboard is made from a re-cycled door. The cooling
and heating system is more energy efficient than normal AC/heating methods.
And a recycling trash bin is divided into four units one each for
paper, plastic, compost and garbage.
Now admittedly, I didn't know whether the saran-type
wrap protecting the plastic cups in the bathroom should be put into
garbage, paper or
maybe even plastic. But I loved having the choice
and only regretted not ordering in pizza so I could at least have SOMETHING
to compost. Much of the furniture was refinished or made with no carbon
footprints and natural decorations of stone and driftwood and local
artwork added pizazz to the room. The dual-flush toilet was just a bonus.
I cringed when I saw the 1200 watt hair dryer knowing
how long it takes my 1875 watt version at home to dry my hair. I'm still
at a loss to understand how the tiny implement managed to dry my hair
in record time. There were a lot of other less-obvious and more scientific
nods to environmental awareness and sustainability that cumulatively
I knew made a huge difference. I was eco-humbled.
And fortunately, the eco-friendly efforts extended beyond
the Green Suite. Low-level electricity is used throughout the hotel
with an emphasis on natural light; the kitchen recycles to such a degree
that nothing, I was told, even goes to a landfill; the chef grows his
own herbs, and there's a green roof atop the spa that in addition to
providing a home to a vast number of plants also impacts building sound
and heat insulation, improves air quality, retains storm water as well
as provides other environmental benefits. I wanted to jump up and down
on the roof, as well!
The spa, warm and quiet under its green roof, uses Aveda
all-natural products which supposedly are the greenest on the market
(Aveda apparently uses wind power to manufacture their products). The
spa also has cork flooring, which not only helps with noise reduction,
but is kind to the feet of masseuses and hairstylists standing for long
periods of time. Happy feet those!
In cabins with fireplaces, compressed sawdust replaces
wood because it has a zero percent carbon footprint. Natural gas has,
of course, replaced oil, and there is even a "Green Team"
comprised of staff members assigned to come up with new ways to save
energy. The composting bin in the Green Suite was one of their ideas.
Digby Pines may not yet have equalled European standards
but they're trying.
Of course, even the most eco-friendly of rooms is not
enough reason to stay in one, so I ventured out to explore the immediate
environs of Digby and Annapolis Royal.
Digby is known for two things not usually found on your
standard travel itinerary. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in
the world, at times approximating a 52-foot drop between high and low
tides, the latter resembling literal mud flats at your feet. In Digby,
the difference measures a mere 20-20 feet of water, but that's impressive
enough! The Changing Tide Diner, Rising Tide Café, Tidal Boatyards
and other similarly named businesses provide constant reminders of the
cosmic peculiarities of the town. The other Digby phenomenon is that
it is the scallop capital of the world. But more on that later.
The town is a combination of a working fishing village
combined with quiet tourist getaway even in the middle of the
summer season, which resident businesses probably bemoan where
visitors and locals easily mingle. The Nothing Fancy Furniture Store
sets an appropriate tone for the town.
The Evangeline Trail from Digby to Annapolis Royal,
its nearby northern neighbor, is still reminiscent of the forest primeval
immortalized in Longfellow's poem by the same name. The "murmuring
pines and the hemlocks" continue to line the road. Greenery so
intense as to require a richer, deeper color to describe it. The blue
waters peeking through from the Bay of Fundy provide a welcome diversion.
Annapolis Royal, so steeped in Mi'kmaw (one of the First
Nation people who initially inhabited Canada), English and French history,
that even their gardens are called historic, with floral arrangements
dating back to the 16th century. The official name? Historic Gardens,
of course, where horticultural practices of the Mi'kmaw are on display.
So too are those of the early French settlers who found a way in the
mid-17th century to harness those aforementioned tides through the use
of dykes in order to make the land arable. The gardens dazzle visitors
with diversity of design, variety of blooms and explosions of color
that disperse splendor like multi-hued shrapnel.
Soft mauves spar with demanding purples, subtle yellows
complement arrogant fuschias, perky pinks play against brilliant reds.
Some flowers beg to be noticed while others preen and primp without
guile, knowing they effortlessly capture your attention. I had to be
dragged from display to display, unable to voluntarily extricate myself
from all that beauty. But there it was again and again, at every turn,
down every path.
Across the street lies Fort Anne, a resplendent attraction
in its own right, which saw multiple battles between the English and
the French as control of the city changed hands between the two 7 times
over 400 years. As a travel writer I have been the unhappy recipient
of many a fort tour over many a year. I don't particularly like forts.
But Fort Anne made me reassess the decades-long aversion. Covering 37
acres of land that was not only battled over by the French and English
but also occupied at times by the Mi'kmaw, the Scots and Acadians over
a period of hundreds of years, every exhibit, sign, plaque, display
kept me engrossed in the history and enmeshed in the past.
A visit to the Tidal Power Station brought me back to
the eco-friendly present. Created in 1984, it is the first and only
tidal plant in North America to generate electricity by harnessing the
powerful waters of the Bay of Fundy. Think they learned anything from
the Acadians who long ago tamed the tides for agricultural purposes?
It felt like nature coming full-circle.
The town places a heavy emphasis on preserving heritage
houses, and community opposition prevents the development of any fast
food restaurants. No McDonalds will reign over Annapolis Royal.
Remember those scallops? Well, they're everywhere
on pasta and pizza, in chowders and salads, in rolls and in wraps. On
one dinner menu at Digby Pines, they were served breaded, grilled, bacon
wrapped, pan seared and as a salad add-on. I didn't see any scallop
ice cream but it's probably because I didn't look hard enough. Even
the local Shell gas station got into the act by renaming itself "The
By this time, my eyes were definitely beginning
to roll. And the last thing I wanted to eat was a scallop!
Though there are many other areas of interest around,
I chose, like the tides and the scallops, to remain local and
happily returned to my bamboo-laden, hyper-allergenic, compost-making,
energy saving room. It's sure going to be hard to stay at a regular
Holiday Inn the next time I travel: Where am I going to put my left-over
pizza? For more information, visit www.digbypines.ca.
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