Categorized | Hotel and Resort Guide

Digby Pines Resort: Where eco-friendly takes on a new meaning

Digby Pines

Photo: The eco-friendly roof atop the Digby Pines spa 


By Fyllis Hockman

Sure, we are all now accustomed to hotel rooms admonishing us to leave the towels on the rack so they can be reused. And occasionally we come across two waste baskets in the room, one for recycling paper, the other for everything else. And we feel so good about ourselves when we separate our trash.

Rarely do we encounter the European standard of motion-controlled hallway lighting. Or placing the room key into a slot that enables the lights and AC when we enter and turns them off when we take our room key and leave. Too many Americans, it seems, prefer to have their rooms already chilled and lit when they enter.

So the Green Suite at Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa in Nova Scotia, Canada is an anomaly.


The headboard made from re-cycled door

I was virtually jumping up and down on the bamboo-infused bed linens with excitement at my newly discovered eco-friendly accommodations.

Bamboo, it seems, is a natural fabric that is very hyper-allergenic so the fibers are used in the towels and sheets; bamboo shutters adorn the windows. The headboard is made from a re-cycled door. The cooling and heating system is more energy efficient than typical AC/heating units. And there’s recycling trash bin divided into four units — paper, plastic, compost and garbage. Other rooms include brown paper bags for compost and clear bags for garbage.

Recycling bins

Recycling bins

Now admittedly, I didn’t know whether the saran-type wrap protecting the plastic cups in the bathroom should be put into garbage, paper or maybe even plastic. But I loved having the choice and only regretted not ordering in pizza so I could have something to compost.

Much of the furniture was refinished or made with tiny carbon footprints and natural decorations of stone and driftwood and local artwork added pizzazz to the room. The dual-flush toilet was a bonus.

I initially cringed when I saw the 1200-watt hair dryer knowing how long it takes my 1875 watt version at home to dry my hair; I’m still at a loss to understand how the tiny implement managed to dry my hair in record time. There were a lot of other less-obvious and more scientific nods to environmental awareness and sustainability that cumulatively I knew made a huge difference. I was eco-humbled.

Eco-friendly room decoration

Eco-friendly room decoration

The eco-friendly efforts extended beyond the Green Suite. Low levels of electricity are used throughout the hotel with an emphasis on natural light; the kitchen recycles to such a degree that nothing, I was told, ever goes to a landfill; the chef grows his own herbs; and there’s a green roof atop the spa, which in addition to providing a home to a vast number of plants, also impacts the building’s sound and heat insulation, improves air quality and retains storm water as well as provides other environmental benefits. I wanted to jump up and down on the roof, as well.

The spa, warm and quiet under its green roof, uses Aveda all-natural products which supposedly are the greenest on the market (Aveda, for example, apparently uses wind power to manufacture their products). The spa also has cork flooring, which not only helps with noise reduction, but is kind to the feet of masseuses and hairstylists standing for long periods of time.

In the cabins with fireplaces, compressed sawdust replaces wood because it is carbon neutral Natural gas has replaced oil and there is even a “Green Team” comprised of staff members assigned to come up with new ways to save energy. The composting bin in the Green Suite was one of their ideas.

Other environmentally sound touches include eco-friendly laundry detergent and dish washing soaps, insulated blankets on hot water tanks, eco-friendly soap and shampoo in all guest rooms, the use of energy efficient light bulbs and energy efficient thermostat controls wherever possible, and the use of recycled paper. The resort composts, recycles and reuses as much as possible. It also supports local food producers and suppliers.

Of course, even the most eco-friendly of rooms is not enough reason to stay in one, so I ventured out to explore the immediate environs of the town of Digby.

The Tides Turn

Mud flats

Mud flats

Digby is known for two things not usually found on your standard travel itinerary. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, at times approximating a 52-foot drop between high and low tides, the latter resembling mud flats at your feet. In Digby, the difference measures a mere 20-20 feet of water, but that’s impressive enough.

The Changing Tide Diner, Rising Tide Café, Tidal Boatyards and other similarly named businesses provide constant reminders of the cosmic peculiarities of the town. The other Digby phenomenon is that it is the scallop capital of the world. But more on that later.

The town is a combination of a working fishing village combined with quiet tourist getaway —even in the middle of the summer season, which resident businesses probably bemoan — where visitors and locals easily mingle. The Nothing Fancy Furniture Store sets an appropriate tone for the town.

The Evangeline Trail from Digby to Annapolis Royal, its nearby northern neighbor, is still reminiscent of the forest primeval immortalized in Longfellow’s poem by the same name. The “murmuring pines and the hemlocks” continue to line the road, greenery so intense as to require a richer, deeper color to describe it. The blue waters peeking through from the Bay of Fundy provide a welcome diversion.

Annapolis Royal, so steeped in Mi’kmaw (one of the First Nation people who initially inhabited Canada), English and French history, that even the gardens are called historic, with floral arrangements dating back to the 16th century. Historic Gardens — yes that is its official name —is where horticultural practices of the Mi’kmaw are on display. So too are those of the early French settlers who found a way in the mid-17th century to harness those aforementioned tides through the use of dykes in order to make the land arable. The gardens dazzle visitors with diversity of design, variety of blooms and explosions of color that disperse splendor like multi-hued shrapnel.

Historic Gardens

Historic Gardens

Soft mauves spar with demanding purples, subtle yellows complement arrogant fuchsias, perky pinks play against brilliant reds. Some flowers beg to be noticed while others preen and primp without guile, knowing they effortlessly capture your attention. I had to be dragged from display to display, unable to voluntarily extricate myself from all that beauty. But there it was again and again, at every turn, down every path.

Hundreds of Years of History

Across the street lies Fort Anne, a resplendent attraction in its own right, which saw multiple battles between the English and the French as control of the city changed hands between the two seven times over 400 years. As a travel writer, I have been the unhappy recipient of many a fort tour over many a year. I don’t particularly like forts. But Fort Anne made me reassess my decades-long aversion. Covering 37 acres of land that was not only battled over by the French and English, but also occupied at times by the Mi’kmaw, the Scots and Acadians over a period of hundreds of years, every exhibit, sign, plaque, display kept me engrossed in the history and enmeshed in the past.

A visit to the Tidal Power Station brought me back to the eco-friendly present. Created in 1984, it is the first and only tidal plant in North America to generate electricity by harnessing the powerful waters of the Bay of Fundy. Think they learned anything from the Acadians who long ago tamed the tides for agricultural purposes? It felt like nature coming full-circle.

The town places a heavy emphasis on preserving heritage houses, and community opposition prevents the development of any fast food restaurants. No McDonalds will reign over Annapolis Royal.

scallopssign2Remember those scallops? Well, they’re everywhere — on pasta and pizza, in chowders and salads, in rolls and in wraps. On one dinner menu at Digby Pines, they were offered breaded, grilled, bacon wrapped, pan seared and as a salad add-on. I didn’t see any scallop ice cream but it’s probably because I didn’t look hard enough. Even the local Shell gas station got into the act by renaming itself “The Scallop Shell.” By this time, my eyes were definitely beginning to roll. And the last thing I wanted to eat was a scallop.

Though there are many other areas of interest around, I chose, like the tides and the scallops, to remain local — and happily returned to my bamboo-laden, hyper-allergenic, compost-making, energy saving room. It won’t be easy staying at other inns in the future: Where am I going to put my left-over pizza?

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