The owners of Anupaya Cabin Co., Shan and Pete MacLaggan, would surely agree that small steps have the capacity to create big change the world. An understanding that individual choices can make a difference for the environment is why the couple first partnered with Greenstep Solutions to improve the sustainability of their business, and do their part to save the planet, one day, one stay, at a time.

It was in 2021 that the trendy and chic accommodation, Anupaya Cabin Co., first opened its doors in Deep River, Ont. A spin-off of their popular retail business, Anupaya Quality Goods. Anupaya Cabin Co. was focused on capturing the Ottawa and Toronto market for visitors looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Formerly an old hunting and fishing lodge, Anupaya Cabin Co. was fully renovated to create a minimalist atmosphere of Zen-like, cozy, beachfront cabins nestled along the Ottawa River, giving every guest a view of their own slice of Ottawa Valley heaven. 

After purchasing the property in 2021, the couple set out to renovate the original lodge in record time in order to be able to open for the summer season.

“We renovated six cabins in six weeks,” said Shannon. “Being a seasonal resort, we HAD to have a positive season on the books and it was absolutely insane…we had volunteers and friends who used up all their vacation time to help us paint and renovate. It was some busy and chaotic and bananas. But we did it!”

Shan’s husband grew up in Deep River, but they met while living in Montreal, and she explained there was a bit of culture shock transitioning from the big city to a small country town like Deep River. But after the initial shock wore off, she fell in love with the landscape of the Ottawa Valley. As a former urbanite, Shan was in the perfect position to judge how guest’s experience would be received by an urban demographic, and was confident this area would appeal to the Ottawa and Toronto markets.

“We saw that there was a gap in the market. There were a ton of rustic hunting and fishing lodges, but the area was missing a more elevated experience. We wanted city folks to come and enjoy our wild spaces, while still enjoying a luxurious stay. Really delicious, organic beds and have higher-end accommodations,” said Shannon. “This area is so, so special and we felt really pulled to share it.”

Certifying with Greenstep

Anupaya began their sustainability certification journey in pursuit of B Corp certification, something Shannon describes as “Greenstep on drugs” referring to its far more in depth certification process. Shannon explained the B Corp certification process took two years, and was started back before Anupaya Cabin Co. was founded, and when Anupaya Quality Goods was their only business.

Shannon was delighted to learn the Greenstep certification would be a little easier to navigate.

“What I found really wonderful about Greenstep is it’s focused on tourism…with other certification programs it’s this huge, overwhelming thing to step into it. It’s geared more towards BIG BUSINESS, it’s a lot of money and a lot of time and can be really prohibitive for small businesses. With Greenstep it feels so personal. So attainable. You have these direct conversations, Zoom calls, phone calls, you feel like you are held throughout the process, it’s very collaborative and supportive.”

Among the changes implemented by Anupaya include changing all lights to LED, adding timers to lights to reduce time spent turned on, installing low flush toilets, using Energy Star appliances, creating on-site permaculture gardens and even a composting system for every cabin on the property.

“The whole thing with certification is about measuring. Having tangible proof.” Shan explained. “We have to weigh how much waste we are producing at Anupaya. How much water we use. How much garbage is going out. How much we are recycling and composting. Having those numbers allows us to see where we are, where we wanna go and then making a plan to get there.”

Shan calls the accountability piece of Greenstep certification “really cool” especially for corporations where it’s easy to let things slide. In Shan’s case, she and her husband have kept the long term goals in mind for their business.

“Growing Anupaya in a way that is sustainable for us, the longevity of our company, that was a decision we made when we decided to keep it a family business,” Shan explained. “We had some offers for seed funding and vendor backing, but it never felt like a fit for us because it’s never been about the bottom(less) line. Yes, we need to be profitable to make an impact, but it’s always been about connect with folks and protecting our wild spaces. So doing business on our own terms has meant that we have to go a little bit slower, and while that can be a little frustrating, it also feels very congruent and aligned for us.”

Baby Steps

With the Greenstep certification behind them, Shan is not resting on her laurels and understands that true sustainability is about continuity, and for Anupaya Cabin Co. the journey will never end, just lead to new destinations. Reigning in her enthusiasm for taking on new projects is one thing she has learned is necessary in order to prevent burnout.

“I have so much energy to put into this place but we’re trying to make peace with our pace,” Shan said.

The couple has had discussions about getting solar panels for the business, which they ultimately decided to put on hold for the time being. Shan noted acknowledging their limits also falls in line with Greenstep’s philosophy.

“That’s really beautifully aligned with Greenstep. It’s not about perfection, you don’t have to have a score of 100 to become certified. It's that the intention is there, the desire to do better, and then taking the necessary steps to get there.”

Shan’s advice to other business owners considering exploring Greenstep certification is simple: Just take one (green) step at a time. “You don’t have to be this massive, multi million dollar company to do good. Quite the contrary. Start small, and little by little, you’ll get there,” Shan said.

About Greenstep Certification

The Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization is working with Greenstep Solutions to provide a limited number of free spaces for financial support to complete a Sustainability Lens Assessment, Diagnostic Review and Sustainable Tourism Certification. 

For more information read the program overview here or contact Kasey Rogerson here.