Environmental Sustainability in Action – And How You Can Take Part in Your Business

As stakeholders in the regional tourism landscape, we’re actively encouraging people to #ShopLocal. We want our visitors to invest in our community, whether they live here or are travelling from outside of our borders. Happily, visitors are responding en masse, and are supporting our local businesses and attractions with gusto. In addition, visitors are increasingly drawn to businesses that incorporate and element of sustainability to their operations—whether it’s through the products offered, how the business is run, or the green technologies and responsible systems they invest in.

What can this mean for your business? Well, besides the satisfaction that being a sustainable business owner can bring (which is no small thing!), implementing an environmentally responsible business model can impact your bottom line. This is not an unattainable goal—here in York Durham Headwaters we’ve got lots of businesses that are doing this successfully, and are enjoying as a result the bump in interest from a new generation of savvy consumers.

We are thrilled to spotlight three of our businesses that go above and beyond every day to ensure that they are giving back to the earth, and to ensure that they have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible. It’s in their DNA, you could say. Read on to learn about what unique initiatives they have implemented, and what takeaways you can incorporate into your business model.

Goodlot Farmstead Brewing Company

18825 Shaws Creek Rd., Alton

If you haven’t heard of this powerhouse family-owned hops farm and craft brewery, then allow us to introduce you to the first organic farm-to-barrel brewery in the Ontario Greenbelt. Goodlot’s mission is to operate the farm in a carbon negative manner, and feels that every business in the 21st century is obliged to account for their greenhouse gas emissions.

To achieve this carbon negative goal, owners Phil and Gail Winters have implemented several impressive strategies. For instance, farming is done organically using regenerative practices to sequester more carbon in the soil than is emitted. To support biodiversity on the farm, the Goodlot crew avoids tilling, uses cover crops to regenerate the soil, rotates livestock, and works to increase the organic matter in the soil to support soil biology. The farm also strives to reduce greenhouse gases by altering its energy use. The brewing barn, for example, has been renovated to “Passive House” standards (super insulation with non-toxic materials, among other requirements) to reduce all heating and cooling loads in the building. Goodlot runs entirely on electricity so that there is no direct combustion of fossil fuels, and has installed almost 20kW of solar modules to supply its energy needs.

To promote responsible visitation, Farmer Phil and his team encourage patrons to walk, cycle, horseback ride or carpool. They are even contemplating enacting a discount program for patrons who arrive by a greenhouse gas-free mode of transport (though this idea has not yet launched).

B2B Takeaway: Goodlot’s Recommendation for Best Practices

When it comes to operating responsibly, Phil and his team encourage all businesses to seek out the available knowledge. “There is so much knowledge out there—we just need to tap into it,” he says. “The solutions are generally very accessible, and experts can guide you through the whole process.”

It starts with choosing responsible suppliers, he points out, and knowing how your suppliers are operating with respect to their environmental impact. You can do this by selecting local suppliers, and relying on responsible suppliers for gas and electricity like Bullfrog Power to reduce your energy footprint. Phil recommends you begin your carbon reducing journey by doing an internal audit of your practices and deciphering your greenhouse gas emissions, before developing a plan to reduce your impact on the environment.

King Cole Ducks

15351 Warden Ave., Whitchurch-Stouffville

For nearly seventy years and across four generations, this family farm in Stouffville has been passionate about producing duck products of the highest quality using time-honoured, natural farming practices. Today, they celebrate the fact that King Cole is the brand of choice by chefs and consumers in our region and around the world.

What makes King Cole Ducks unique is that it produces zero product waste. Every part of the duck is used in food, clothing and/or agricultural products. “We always joke that everything is used but the ‘quack’,” says Patti Thompson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The feathers are washed and dried for use in duvets and clothing. The bedding from our barns is composted into a rich soil enhancement for gardeners and landscapers. We also recycle two-thirds of our water which is used in the barn for washing and cleaning. And every piece of the duck is consumed.”

As part of its corporate strategy and continuous improvement plan, King Cole Ducks is always looking for ways to be more environmentally sustainable. For example, its 2021 business plan involves a reduction in packaging thanks to new equipment. And for on-farm transport, the farm continues to grow its league of small ‘gators’ versus pickup trucks, which helps reduce fuel consumption. “This is a small impact, but it is still a commitment to thinking environmentally responsible,” Patti says.

B2B Takeaway: A Unique Staff Perk

Here is a great little perk: King Cole Ducks offers gardens to its staff in 10 by 10 plots which they fill with duck compost. These plots are offered to anyone who would like to grow their own vegetables. Staff will tend their gardens during lunch, before and after work, and even on the weekends. Hats off to King Cole Ducks for coming up with a way to get the whole team invested in protecting the environment!

Forget-Me-Not Alpacas

1595 Concession Rd. 3., Beaverton

They have a face that can soften even the hardest of hearts, with a glaring underbite and impossibly long eyelashes. They are gentle, sweet creatures that communicate in clicks and hums. Sometimes they spit. Everyone loves an alpaca. In Beaverton, environmental responsibility is a passion of Forget-Me-Not Alpacas. It’s no wonder, since alpacas are actually extremely sustainable animals. For one, clothing made from natural sources are better for the environment than synthetics which take many years to break down. But alpaca wool especially, which is super soft and hypoallergenic, does not contain lanolin like sheep’s wool does, so can be processed without hot water or harsh chemicals.

In addition, alpacas have toes, not hooves, so they are gentle on the land. They also nibble the tops of grass instead of ripping it out by the roots like some larger livestock. And let’s not forget that Paca Poo is a highly nutritious fertilizer that has lower levels of nitrogen than other types of manure, so crops are less likely to “burn”. This means you can literally scoop raw Paca Poo onto your crops without needing to compost or treat it first.

With such an environmentally sustainable product, it’s no wonder that owners Sandra and Geoff Bannon take their sustainability efforts to the next level. “We do not use pesticides or herbicides on our property an are committed to only planting native plants,” Sandra says. “We also add to our pollinator garden every year and have a long-term plan to reduce invasive species on our property. We have 60 acres of woodlot that will remain naturalized to support wildlife.”

B2B Takeaway: Use downtime to im-paca-prove your business

Of course, when COVID-19 reached our region, many businesses moved to an online model, and Forget-Me-Not Alpacas is no exception. “When all of the events we normally attend to sell our product were being cancelled, we knew it was time for an online store,” Sandra says. “When the opportunity to participate in the ShopHere ecommerce program was offered, we decided to jump in, and we incorporated an online booking system as well for farm tours.” Obviously, this is a great way to reduce travel to the farm, as well as reducing the impact of foot traffic by visitors.

But that’s not all that Forget-Me-Not Alpacas did with the unexpected downtime that the COVID-19 shutdowns brought. Sandra and her team decided to use the time to seek out further education on soil health through online resources and structured courses. “I have been learning about soil by reading and attending courses through Guelph Arboretum and many free online resources,” Sandra says, “and we have adopted no till gardening, never use pesticides and herbicides, and continuously add organic matter (which we luckily have lots of) to the soil.”

Want to learn more?

CCT can help you get ready for spring visitors. Check out centralcounties.ca for opportunities, featured articles and B2B resources.


Story by Katherine Ryalen


Central Counties is located North of Toronto


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Chuck Thibeault

Executive Director, Chuck Thibeault