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Eco-Friendly Vancouver

In honour of Earth Day (Apr. 22), we highlight the city’s green scene

Art installation on the Cambie Street Bridge. Photo by KK Law

Art installation on the Cambie Street Bridge. Photo by KK Law

Troubled Water

If you’re afraid of getting your feet wet, this may not be the art installation for you. The bold graphic stripes of chromatic blue on the pilings of the Cambie Street Bridge and nearby lampposts aren’t just for decoration. “A False Creek” by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky marks the inlet’s future waterline if sea levels continue to rise. The warning holds water: melting ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland will have far-reaching consequences on our own coastlines. In effect, the colourful wraps of blue are akin to a wrap of string around your finger: a reminder that the future of our shores may look very different from the present. It’s no longer just water under the bridge.—Jill Von Sprecken

At Salmon n’ Bannock, feast on sockeye salmon on bannock with sweet potato wedges. Photo by KK Law

At Salmon n’ Bannock, feast on sockeye salmon on bannock with sweet potato wedges. Photo by KK Law

Living off the Land

When you bite into that salmon dinner, send a mental thanks to the fish, which First Nations treat with respect as the bringer of life to forests and streams. The contemporary foodie attaches great romance to the notion of living off the land and eating locally sourced food, but it’s worth remembering that traditional gathering, hunting and preparing food was a laborious and physically strenuous process. Men pursued animals and fish, and women gathered shellfish, kelp, fruit and vegetable greens. Pacific Coast cultures depended largely on salmon netted or harpooned from rivers and ocean, then smoked for future use. Oil came from whales, seals and eulachon (oolichan), a small smelt that could be lit as a candle. Food was collected in woven cedar baskets and fresh fish was skewered on sticks, or steamed with hot stones and water in a bentwood cedar box. Game augmented the food supply. Teas steeped from fruits and berries were used for healing. At the potlatch, hard-won food was ceremoniously given away to guests as an integral part of spiritual ceremonies.—Louise Phillips

Evalyn Parry in Spin

Evalyn Parry in Spin

For the Love of Bike

With the mayor donning a helmet for his daily commute, it’s no surprise that Vancouver has a bicycle culture all its own. Watch for the bike lanes that snake through the city—some marked with vibrant green paint and cyclist-shaped lights—and events with valet parking for your cycle. Whether you’re touring the seawall or using pedal power to get around, here are a few spots to drop your kickstand for a while.

Musette Caffè
Park your two-wheeled transport inside or out of this bike-friendly café. Find musettes—racing feedbags easily handed off to moving riders—adorning the walls of this eclectic spot, along with energy-providing 49th Parallel roast and hearty sandwiches, soups and salads. Browse the Raiment Cycling Clothing sold inside and leave energized and ready to hop back on your cycle.

Spin
The two-wheeled star steals the show at The Cultch (Apr. 9 to 20). Touted as “muse, musical instrument and instrument of social change,” the bicycle covers a lot of ground. Luckily, the award-winning Evalyn Parry is there to keep the wheels turning. Watch the tale of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to pedal around the world, to the music of fenders and bells. Who knew the bicycle was so multi-talented?

Critical Mass
This homage to cycling takes place in cities around the world and involves hundreds—or thousands—of two-wheelers and their riders taking over the streets. Catch all the bells and whistles in Vancouver on the last Friday of each month. It begins at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and whether you’re watching or taking part, this ride promises high spirits, crazy costumes and plenty of bicycles gussied up for the event.—Jill Von Sprecken

Beehives at VanDusen Botanical Garden are tended by a beekeeper. Photo courtesy VanDusen Botanical Garden

Beehives at VanDusen are tended by a beekeeper. Photo courtesy VanDusen Botanical Garden

Bee-autiful Vancouver

Make a beeline for the Vancouver Convention Centre to see the city’s most spectacular example of sustainable design. The platinum LEED-certified building uses a seawater heating and cooling system, recycles nearly half of its waste and boasts a fish habitat in its underwater foundations. If that isn’t green enough for you, look up: the centre’s six-acre living roof houses more than 400,000 plants and grasses and four hives where the bees are as busy as…well, bees, producing honey used in the catering kitchen. Aspiring apiologists can also find these powerful little pollinators in the harbour garden at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel and at VanDusen Botanical Garden, which are both sweet on using the fresh honey in their restaurant menus. It doesn’t get more local than that.—Kristina Urquhart

The stunning wood ceiling at VanDusen's visitor centre. Photo by KK Law

The stunning wood ceiling at VanDusen’s visitor centre. Photo by KK Law

A Living Building

Some say beauty is only skin deep. When it comes to the Visitor Centre at VanDusen Botanical Garden, this statement couldn’t be more wrong.

Sure, the building is magnificent, with its abundance of natural light and dramatic undulating roofline reminiscent of a flower or whale, but it’s also one of the most eco-friendly structures in the world. Reclaimed lumber, on-site water capture and a photovoltaic system to generate electricity are just a few of the green strategies employed. Opened in 2011, the $21.9-million building was designed to be energy- and carbon-neutral and to meet both LEED platinum certification and the more stringent Living Building Challenge (www.ilbi.org), which analyzes seven key components: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty.  Just a pretty face? Not in this case.—Sheri Radford

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