Question time with Cath from Kayak Noosa

Global Eco Conference is always a fantastic opportunity for us to meet some of our Ecotourism Australia certified operators and talk to them about what our certification is doing for their business. This year, Cath Withyman of Kayak Noosa was among the inspiring business operators we met and were lucky enough to hear speak about their work.

We took the opportunity to get in touch with her following the conference to ask a few questions about efforts towards sustainability and how EA certification has benefited her business. Her responses offer some insight into the initiatives tourism operators can take to improve their business, not just for themselves, but for the benefit of the environment and the local community in which they operate.

unnamedKayak Noosa are located at Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and offer guided kayak sailing adventures that give clients the experience of river and ocean paddling and kayak paddling and kayak sailing in the amazingly beautiful Noosa region. Kayak Noosa is owned and operated by Rod and Cath Withyman and have proudly introduced in excess of 10,000 people to the recreational activity of kayaking since 2006. Their tour products are Advanced Ecotourism certified.

Kayak Noosa’s goals for conservation and sustainability are simple:
“Do all that we can to protect and conserve the environment so that our kids will be able to enjoy and appreciate the same wonders of nature that we have.

How has Kayak Noosa been involved with conservation in the local area:

“Locally and internationally we are involved with a number of conservation and environmental projects. One example is, for the past 6 years we have been involved with the National Clean Up Australia Day activities. We make our fleet of kayaks available to the public to use at no cost. We coordinate the river clean up activities and are site coordinators for this annual event. Not only do we remove litter from the Noosa River on this day, but each day we are on the water we are picking plastic and debris out of our waterways.

“We also support our local waterway conservation groups, Noosa Landcare and Noosa Integrated Catchment Association by allowing them use our kayaks for their river monitoring and Seagrass programs.

“On a broader scale, we donate $1 from each of our Dolphin Adventure tour bookings to the Sea Shepherd Society to assist in their Southern Ocean anti-whaling operations.”

What other initiatives do you have underway or are you involved with to promote sustainability and environmental responsibility?

“Education:
All of our guides are outdoor educators, interpreters and naturalists in their own right with varying degrees of experience/expertise in a wide variety of areas. We love to share our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for the marine environment, through interpretation and teachable moments as they unfold in a casual and laid back manner.

“We have developed a set of Marine Mammal viewing guidelines that are in line with the National Guidelines. These can be viewed by clicking here.

“We have also developed our visitor travel tips to assist our visitors in making responsible choices when they travel. These can be viewed here.

“Recycling:
Our office program is pretty straightforward. All paper/plastic/metal/tin products are separated & recycled. On the water we are always collecting rubbish, flotsam and debris, which we bring back to shore with us for disposal. Waste from our tours is separated into recyclables, garbage and compost. We strongly encourage guides & guests to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Composting:
We compost all organic waste for re-use on our fruit and vegetable garden. Our worm farm also enjoys the benefits of organic food waste.

“Local and Organic Foods:
We organically grow most of the fruit and salad ingredients for the meals provided on our kayaking adventures. Our fruit orchard and vegetable garden is based on Permaculture principals, which helps to ensure the long term sustainability of our agricultural practices.

“Where and whenever possible, we strive to buy local and/or organic foods and support the producers and suppliers of local and organic products.

“Energy Efficiency at the Office:
Kayak Noosa’s home office is run out of a small energy efficient building constructed of rammed earth with solar power and solar hot water. All our water is harvested on site and is 100% pure from the clear skies above.

“We are currently working with the owners of the Boathouse Marina, where our Kayak Centre is located, to investigate ways to improve our energy efficiency. We are advocating for the installation of solar power at this premises.

“Gear and Equipment:
We purchase ethically sourced products and buy as locally as possible.”

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How did the Eco-certification process help your business?

“We were one of the first companies (as Aussie Sea Kayak Company) to be certified under the original NEAP program in 1997. Since then we were re-certified as Kayak Noosa in 2008 and then gained Level IV certification this year, 2013.

“We find that the process of reviewing all aspects of our business is highly beneficial. Taking a good hard look at what we do, how we do it and identifying ways we can improve is always positive. The certification process facilitates this detailed business analysis and ensures that we have the background systems and processes in place to consistently deliver a high standard environmentally focused experience.”

Once getting certified, what have been the benefits of Eco certification for your business?

“Certification for our business was a way of validating and recognising our environmental focus and sustainable business ethics. It has helped us to gain recognition and raise the awareness of our environmental efforts within our local community and most importantly to our customers.

“While our customers do not necessarily choose us because we have ECO certification, they do comment that they recognised we have achieved certification, and often ask us about the process and what the certification represents. We also use it as a talking point on our tours to educate our guests about eco certification and how they do have the option to choose responsible tourism businesses when they travel.”

What advice would you give to other tourism operators?

“Use the resources and skills of the EA team when you go through the process. They can often help with suggestions or templates. Also, don’t give up, it is a big undertaking and does take time, commitment and organisation. However, it is the actual process that is the most beneficial part of certification. It is the reviewing, planning and changes made as you go through the process that is the most beneficial part.”

To find out more about Kayak Noosa, click here.

To find out more about Ecotourism Australia certification, click here.

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