Outdoor Recreation Student Works Toward a Sustainable Future in Tourism

Working with Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society and UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals, Cheshire aims to bring in partnerships to educate about sustainable business practices

Bridget Stringer-Holden (she/her) // News Editor
Valeriya Kim (she/her) // Illustrator

Sophie Cheshire (she/her) has taken on an ambitious project for her first year at Capilano University (CapU).

The Outdoor Recreation Management student is working alongside the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society to bring sustainable tourism practices to Howe Sound. “I felt very drawn to work with [the society] in some sort of capacity,” said Cheshire. “When I spoke with Ruth [Simons], she introduced this project to me, which immediately sounded like something I wanted to do.”

Cheshire met Simons, the coordinator and president of the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society, through an EarthWorks event hosted by instructor Roy Jantzen last fall.

Jantzen helped Cheshire outline a self-directed study course for the Spring 2022 semester, marking the start of a year-long project to create partnerships between the society and outdoor recreation businesses that operate in Howe Sound.

Cheshire started her research in January by looking at UNESCO’s global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “I didn’t know much about the SDGs at all, so then I had to go and do a bunch of research — what do these mean, what are we looking for, which ones do we want to focus on?” 

She eventually settled on Goal 17, partnerships for the goals, as her main focus. Cheshire has also been examining goals related to Life on Land, Life Below Water, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities and Sustainable Cities and Communities.”

During her research, Cheshire noticed a lack of proper framework or government mandated requirements — things that are needed to create sustainable tourism businesses. “There’s a lot of work to be done in that aspect, but where I want to take this specific project is to set some framework that businesses could aspire to, specifically for the Howe Sound Region.”

Before Cheshire can interview businesses in the region, she needs project approval from CapU’s Research Ethics Board — something the first-year student called an “interesting” process. “It’s a very formal, academic way of wording things […] you have to be very specific about the questions that you ask them and how you ask them,” said Cheshire. “That’s been challenging for me.”

She hopes the project will provide more access to marginalized people within the community. “Really it’s for us to figure out where the areas of opportunity are and provide resources to these businesses on who they could partner up with,” said Cheshire. 

She spoke with Federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault on March 11 about her ideas for the project, including a potential partnership between Inclusion BC — which supports and advocates for people living with disabilities — and Power To Be, a local non-profit that provides outdoor recreation for people living with disabilities.

Cheshire hopes to start the second stage of her project as part of her co-op this summer. As she would be the organization’s first employee, the process involved a great deal of paperwork for them to become an employer. However, Cheshire has a job description and is simply waiting to sign the deal once funding is secured through a third party.

During her co-op, Cheshire aims to build community through the society’s website. “The goal is to have [businesses with identified best practices] present workshops to the other businesses, creating partnerships,” she said, citing sustainable mountain biking businesses as an example. 

The workshop idea was sparked by another class at CapU currently working with the society. Once that class completes their project in April, it will be handed over to Cheshire who can work to implement the ideas.

The International Coordinating Council approved Howe Sound’s nomination to become Canada’s 19th UNESCO Biosphere Region on Sept. 15, 2021. This new biosphere extends from West Vancouver up the Sea to Sky Corridor — almost to Whistler — and includes parts of Bowen Island and then Sunshine Coast.

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