Montréal walks the walk when it comes to green living -- or, more accurately, it bikes the bike. Its BIXI system, a self-service bicycle rental program that debuted in the spring of 2009, began picking up awards even before a single bike hit the streets, including a prestigious Edison Best New Products Award for best product of 2009 in the Energy & Sustainability category.
That was high praise for a service that had yet to satisfy even one customer. But since its launch, BIXI (which is an abbreviation of the words bicyclette and taxi) has proven popular. Fees and details are listed at www.bixi.com/home or call tel. 877/820-2453 or 514/789-BIXI (2494). As with programs in Berlin, Paris, and Barcelona, BIXI users pay a small fee to pick up bikes from designated bike stands and drop them off at any other stand. (Helmets are not included.) Modular bike-rack stations are Web-enabled and solar-powered, and are open spring, summer, and fall (Apr-Nov). At the beginning of the 2010 biking season, BIXI had 5,000 bikes on the road and 400 stations in Montréal's central boroughs. Last season, over three million trips were made.
BIXI is most economical for short trips (that's what it's designed for), so visitors who want a bike for a full day or longer will find it cheaper to rent from a shop.
Montréal does make it easy to bike. There is a huge network of bicycle paths throughout the city, with whole sections of roads turned into bike lanes during the warm months.
These are walking cities, too. In the warm months, Montréal closes off large sections of main streets for pedestrian-only traffic, including rue Ste-Catherine in the Village and, for special events, rue St-Paul in Vieux-Montréal and rue St-Laurent in the Plateau. In 2009, the Plateau neighborhood unveiled a 15-year plan to create more pedestrian-only streets, wider sidewalks, and a tramway line on avenue du Parc, which runs north-south through the eastern side of Parc du Mont-Royal. It's part of a grander effort to reduce traffic and encourage public transport and strolling.
The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) oversees the Green Key Eco-Rating Program (in French, Clé Verte), which awards a rating of one to five green keys to hotels that minimize waste and reduce their ecological footprint. The voluntary, self-administered audit assesses five areas within hotel management, including housekeeping and food services. Recipients often display a Green Key/Clé Verte plaque in a prominent location alongside other commendations. While HAC does not currently verify the audits on a national scale, the Corporation de l'industrie touristique du Québec (www.citq.info) does so within the province of Québec. To read a description of each award tier and to locate Green Key hotels, visit www.greenkeyglobal.com.
Restaurants throughout the region tout locally sourced food on their menus, with much of the region's food grown, raised, or caught within 161km (100 miles). At the high-end Aix Cuisine du Terroir in Montréal, for instance, terroir refers to soil and the restaurant's allegiance to products grown in the immediate region. You can also find "biodynamic," or organic, wines at many restaurants.
Bring carry bags when you go shopping: BYOB took on a new meaning -- Bring Your Own Bag -- in early 2009, when the province's Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) liquor stores stopped using single-use plastic and paper bags. "It's a green action," said a spokesperson. "It's really a big statement for sustainable development." The initiative was easy to push through at the wine and hard-liquor stores because the province has a monopoly on them. The hope is that, by setting the bar high in SAQ stores, other retailers will follow suit. Reusable bags are sold at SAQ stores for C75¢ to C$4.
In addition to the resources listed above, visit www.frommers.com/planning for more tips on responsible travel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.