Feb 3, 2011

Guest Post: Meet the Green Girl and The Canebrake

I have been dubbed “green girl” by the folks at my office. My official title is Sustainable Initiatives Coordinator, which is a bit laborious and pretty vague. Green girl certainly cuts to the point, plus it makes people feel guilty when they see me and they are carrying a Styrofoam cup. I find this highly entertaining; as if I have the power to single handily bring Styrofoam use to an end in Oklahoma. Hardly. But hey, if it makes people think twice then so be it. What I actually focus on is sustainable tourism in Oklahoma. Still vague? I work with any tourism entity from tiny restaurants to large hotels on what they can implement to make their business more efficient, environmentally aware and locally focused, in essence how to run a more sustainable operation. A sustainable operation focuses on the interplay of environmental, social and economic factors.

Blah, blah, blah, you say. Ok, don’t give up on me yet. I just needed a few primer sentences so when you read these blog posts you understand what we are talking about when we say sustainable as it refers to tourism. But enough with the definitions, if you want to know more about our ECO program or sustainability, just hop on over to our site.

So what is the green girl doing on the Oklahoma Dispatch? Simple. I want to dispel two myths about green travel in Oklahoma. 1. That it doesn’t exist. 2. That people don’t really care about sustainability, especially the tourism industry.

My hope is that through these posts you discover cool and innovative places around our great state that you can visit and support. What you are bound to discover is that while we can use a lot of big words, fancy ideas and interesting products to discuss sustainability, it really all comes down to the people. So I look forward to introducing you to some of my favorite “sustainable friends,” as I call them, and telling you their stories.

So first up, The Brackens...The Bracken Family runs The Canebrake Restaurant and Resort in Wagoner, Oklahoma. I am an Oklahoman but my geography leaves a lot to be desired. Needless to say I had never heard of Wagoner, nor had I been there. However, it didn’t take long until I was introduced to The Canebrake. This place is probably the mecca of green travel in Oklahoma. That is not an exaggeration. It is a serene resort situated near Ft. Gibson Lake and every detail has been intentionally thought out. Sustainability is at the core of everything The Canebrake does and that stems from Sam and Lisa Bracken.

Sam serves as the executive chef at The Canebrake. He oversees the restaurant and all dining options with extraordinary care. I’ve never had a bad meal from Sam. He sources a lot of his ingredients locally, purchases organic and most importantly knows where his food is coming from and is happy to tell you all about it. This past weekend I had meatloaf sliders from local, organic bison. Yum.

The Canebrake often has cooking demos in conjunction with other activities where Sam and his hospitable team turnout wonderful meals while explaining the food and processes they use.

Lisa teaches yoga at The Canebrake. The Canebrake has yoga classes everyday as well as yoga workshops. I attended a yoga workshop last weekend led by Lisa. Lisa is a tiny ball of energy who manages to contort her body into any shape imaginable. Tiny, energetic and a contortionist! Yes, it’s true and typically these types of people evoke a nice blend of jealousy and annoyance out of me. But Lisa defies any stereotypes and is an incredibly relatable, low key yogi. She teaches with a great sense of humor and encouragement. She sells Okie Yoga t-shirts that say, “Namaste, Y’all” on the back. I think that pretty much sums up Lisa.

A main part of The Canebrake is the Yoga Barn where all the classes take place. While The Canebrake is incredibly polished and well done it has a down home sense as people walk through the lobby in their yoga ware with yoga mats in hand. Since The Canebrake is located on 400 acres there is plenty of space and outdoor options. I find the space to be welcomed relief from my usual busy routine.

All the rooms and suites at The Canebrake are luxurious yet comfy. They employ a variety of green energy practices, many of which you wouldn’t know about if I didn’t tell you. The property uses geo-thermal for heating and cooling as well as solar. The insulation for the aforementioned Yoga Barn is denim. Yep, old blue jeans. This is effective insulation keeps the temperature consistent no matter the season.

The Canebrake has an aggressive recycling program, ensuring a reusable home for almost all disposed products. They participate in the Clean the World program. Clean the World collects shampoos and soap from lodging properties, sterilizes and recycles them and distributes them to children in parts of the world where soap is needed but not accessible.

The spa, oh yeah, there is a spa. So the spa uses products that are kind to you and the earth. At this point I hope you see a theme. Thoughtful. The Canebrake is a thoughtful destination. Lisa, Sam and their team are committed to running a thoughtful business. No one is doing anything because they have to, rather because they believe in it and they have seen the benefits of the choices they make. As a visitor, I benefit from their thoughtfulness, but so does a whole bunch of people from local farmers to kids on other continents. It’s a good cycle of thoughtfulness they have created. So when you need respite from the crazy of your daily grind head over to Wagoner and chill with the Brackens. You can thank me later.


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