A Green City Guide to Vancouver

City: Vancouver
Population: 600,000
Green Cred: Vancouver is a metropolitan port city nestled between mountains and the ocean in the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver draws 90% of electricity from renewable resources, mainly Hydroelectric dams. The birthplace of Greenpeace.

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Vancouver is frequently listed at one of the most livable cities on the planet. It’s a stunning jewel of a city with a mild climate and a high quality of living. With the recent 2010 Olympic games this past winter Vancouver has been with streamlined with convenient new transit lines, LEED facilities, and an overall facelift. Here are just a few of the green features of Vancouver.

A feature of Vancouver that makes a great green place to visit is the transit system. With the addition of the brand new Canada Line Skytrain, a transit line that takes you from the Vancouver International Airport into the City Centre in approximately 25 minutes, the Skytrain lines can get you to and from major transit hubs and key attractions all over the Metro area in a matter or minutes. With so many things to do, transit will be a very important part of your stay.

Places You Must Go

Stanley Park
No visit to Vancouver would be complete without spending some time in Stanley Park, a 400 hectare park adjacent to the Downtown area. Stanley Park includes a stunning 5 mile seaside walkway/bikeway, gardens, playfields, fine dining, forest trails, swimming pools and water park, horse-drawn tours, a children’s farmyard and miniature train.

Granville Island
By its pure existence Granville Island is a fantastically green space. The tiny island located below the Burrard Street bridge was once a dilapidated industrial area filled with toxic saw mills and factories which have since been restored and converted. Redevelopment of Granville Island since the 1970s has proven to be one of Vancouver’s greatest success stories. It now houses Emily Carr University of Art & Design, the Arts Umbrella (a children’s art centre), hundreds of art studios and shops, restaurants and pubs, a theatre, a community centre and kayaking school, a water park and picnic areas, tennis courts, a thriving waterfront market ripe with fresh local produce, meats, seafood, baked goods and handmade crafts. With a seaside open-air waterbus to take you from downtown right into the heart of Granville Island, it’s worth setting aside at least one full day to investigate all it has to offer.

South Main Street Neighborhood
In recent years South Main has emerged as the city's hip, handmade capital—the place to shop for locally made and designed fashion, gifts, household items, crafts, and art, as well as the best selection of Antique shops in the city. South Main is easily one of the most affordable ways to shop for ethical, locally-sourced items in the city. There's always something new and wonderful to discover there.

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Things You Must Do

Grouse Mountain
A year-round mountain-top resort with skiing, ice-skating, hiking, and more. For a challenging workout try the Grouse Grind in summer, an intense two-mile hike straight up Grouse Mountain to one of the best views of the city. The world-class lodge and out-buildings at the top offer several dining options including The Observatory, award-winning fine dining and a member of the Green Table Network and Ocean Wise Sustainable Seafood, as well as more casual options for those looking to enjoy a beer over the view after their trek or day of skiing.

Bike around Stanley Park
There are several bike rental shops along Denman Street, which connects both ends of the Seawall loop. Take a leisurely bike ride along the five-mile seaside concrete path that takes you around the entire park past the downtown core, the North Shore mountains, under the Lions Gate Bridge, along beaches, past rocky cliffs and Redcedar forests and back to Denman Street at English Bay. It's not unusual to pass seals, schools of fish, Great Blue Herons, and tons of other wildlife during this trip.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge or Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
To get a taste of the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, be sure to visit one of two suspension bridges precariously hung over the deep wide canyons of water flowing down the mountainside. The Capilano suspension bridge is the most visited tourist attractions in the Metro Vancouver area. In addition to the 450 foot bridge, the park also features the Treetops Adventure, a series of walkways suspended high in the forest canopy. Unlike Capilano, the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is free to cross and leads to a network of trails along the canyon and into the woods. Both bridges are sturdy and safe to cross and host millions of people each year.

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Where To Sleep

The Sylvia Hotel
A Heritage Landmark Building in a prime location, right on English Bay next to Stanley Park and across from Granville Island with great access to transit, surrounded by natural beauty and rich in history, the Sylvia is also pet-friendly. In its efforts to create a more sustainable travel future and reduce their impact on our environment, The Sylvia Hotel employs 35 eco-initiatives.

The Listel Hotel
A boutique hotel in Downtown Vancouver’s trendy Robson Street shopping district in the West End neighborhood, close to the City Centre and key transit hubs. The Listel Hotel employs 47 eco-initiatives including solar panels, heat pumps and a high-efficiency boiler which has reduced the hotel's natural gas consumption by 30% per year. Also features a green roof.

The Cambie Hostel
The Vancouver Gastown location of the Cambie Hostel is right in the heart of the nightlife district in Vancouver. A vibrant and exciting place to stay for the young and young at heart, with rooms above the Cambie Bar & Grill, a favorite among locals.

Where To Eat

The most ethnically-diverse, healthy, and eco-friendly dining options can be found in the Kitsilano neighborhood, southwest of downtown Vancouver. A top pick would be the Naam, a 24-hour vegetarian restaurant famous for almost constant line-ups for delicious uber-healthy options which make it worth the wait.

Main Street and Commercial Drive also offer a great selection of off-beat restaurants. Favorites include The Foundation, an all vegetarian menu in a casual, hip atmosphere at the foot of the South Main neighborhood. Sweet Cherubim Natural Food Store and Restaurant is a grocery store/vegetarian restaurant with a wide selection of vegan options on Commercial Drive.

A couple of other excellent choices include Afghan Horsemen, an authentic Afghani dining experience complete with traditional seating with low tables and cushions on the floor, belly dancers with swords, live music and a menu complete with kebabs and a vegan platter. And for a great pizza visit Rebelious Tomato, a chain of restaurants across the city offering organic pizzas.

Shops To Visit If You're There For A Day

Shops To Frequent If You're There For a Year

Green Spaces

Great Independent Artisans

(Images: 1. Vancouver Skyline, City of Vancouver; 2. ground Mountain Views, wikipedia commons; 3. Lynn Canyon, Kathryn Wright. Originally published 2010-07-28)