Laurie Adams, founder of Tobermory’s lux eco-lodge E’Terra, shows how you can live large in harmony with the environment
E’Terra Inn is a luxurious eco-retreat in Tobermory, Ontario, established by Laurie Adams, a fourth-generation Tobermorian with a history in eco-tourism and a noted speaker on subjects including green build projects.
Toronto Living contributor Meaghan Clark asked Adams to share her thoughts on the green build movement and on the meaning of E’Terra, along with tips on how to incorporate their ideas in our own renovations.
TORONTO LIVING What motivated you to build E’Terra?
LAURIE ADAMS“I did the whole project on a dare. I was interviewing an environmental engineer about the viability of an ecologically friendly inn, and he said it couldn’t be done. He said, ‘Go ahead and turn Canada green if you think it’s really worth it.’ Finding the balance between human and environmental values is our mission, steering us all toward a brighter future for the earth (Terra) – hence the name E’Terra. E’Terra Inn is a prototype to challenge the integrity of our environmental ethics, and to engage our six senses with an executive edge.” TL Why was it so important to create a “luxury” eco-retreat? LA“We are targeting corporate leaders in hopes that a visit to E’Terra will inspire them to be more environmentally aware in their own lives and lead by example. E’Terra is a branded philosophy about balancing economics, environment and ethics. It evokes creative changes that lead to exceptional business and environmental results.” TL Most people don’t associate luxury with green buildings. How do you propose to change their thinking? LA“Those who come to explore and learn at E’Terra can find information on how to be more environmentally responsible in their everyday lives, not just while travelling. We work with others to achieve similar goals and objectives in their industries, and to provide information on the building and principles behind the inn, which are available to all visitors. It’s just one person doing one thing at a time.” TL You’ve insisted that every supplier, contractor and partner provide you with their company’s green policies and practices. Was that difficult to accomplish? LA“It was three years of painstaking research! We took into consideration how and where every product was made, by whom, and its environmental impact. Corporations had to produce a working environmental policy focusing on North America. E’Terra is at least 85 per cent North American-made. The biggest challenge was the research, and getting corporate environmental statements. Some companies didn’t even respond when we asked for their published environmental policies.” TL Many readers think about creating a greener home, though most lack the time and energy to follow practices like yours at E’Terra. What’s the easiest way to incorporate green ideas into a home build/renovation? What’s a good place to start? LA“Stringent LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards are administered by the non-profit Canada Green Building Council, a system that could well be applied to ecohouses. E’Terra’s standards, including who, what, when, where, why and how, could also be adapted. They allowed us to build a wonderful, sustainable resort, and they’re just as important as most green certification guidelines set out for all of us to follow. We established a checklist and rated products by six measurements: VOCs (volatile organic compounds), quality, value, impact on the environment, the supplier’s environmental policy, and their reputation and customer service.” TL People argue that doing a green build or renovation is too expensive. What’s your argument for eco-friendly cost-effectiveness? LA“Building green is the right thing to do and more cost-effective for our environment, but it is not cheap. E’Terra was more expensive than we first anticipated.”
TL How has the residential building and construction industry changed when it comes to green buildings and renovations? Are suppliers offering more choices? LA“Somewhat, but getting wood was very difficult. To earn the certified wood credit under the LEED system, for example, wood must be stamped as originating from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The hardest thing was to find enough certified FSC wood, which is ironic in a country with a major wood industry! I bought wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), most of which comes from Ontario and the eastern United States. You still have to research and look for green products.” TL The U.S. and western Canada seem to be further advanced in terms of options, supplies and examples of green buildings. Why do you think Ontario and eastern Canada are so far behind? SM“For starters, E’Terra is the first eco-lodge built in a colder climate. Costs, weather and availability of year-round activities all play a part in this dilemma, as does attitude. Western Canada still has a homesteading attitude, and that makes for independent building projects.” TL What can the consumer do to assist in making Ontario greener? LA“Use wood as a main construction medium, because of its sustainability. Use environmentally friendly glues and coatings to minimize offgassing. Use local products, and retailers and industries that support the local economy and reduce the environmental impacts associated with transportation. Consider using nature as part of a natural cooling system by planting more trees; consider radiant heating during colder months. Buy organic produce and locally farmed goods.”