How we're making a difference at MacQueen’s Island Tours / WowCuba and how you can help

At MacQueen’s Island Tours/WowCuba, treading lightly on the planet has been a lifelong mission.

Company founder Gordon MacQueen began business in Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1976 selling woodstoves, wind turbines and bicycles. Back then, we were called Tools for Simple Living. At home, his wife and children lived in a wind-powered home tending to organic gardens and raising their own animals.

The PEI retail bicycle and tour business gradually grew into a successful bicycle tour company which expanded operations to include the complementary tourism season in Cuba when the oldest children finished their studies.

The company now offers an array of soft adventure holidays in Cuba including cycling, scuba diving, hiking, kayaking and more.

What does our company and its employees do for the environment?

1. Our head office in Prince Edward Island, Canada is constructed from energy-efficient concrete forms, and we use a wood-pellet furnace for heat and hot water. We’ve built apartments above our offices for most of the family staff members, also reducing the need for daily commuting and also allowing us to (remarkably) use just one car among all family members for any transportation that can’t be managed by bicycle or on foot. Energy-saving light bulbs and LED lighting tubes also help to reduce our electric power consumption. We’ve installed the maximum allowable number of solar panels and hope local regulations one day permit us to expand to completely offset our carbon footprint with renewables.

2. We save on paper wherever possible. Our company has not published paper brochures since 2003. We use the internet for publication of all product material, allowing not only for more immediate information access for our international clients, but also greater flexibility and versatility as a company. All of our invoices are electronic, and only the most essential documents require printing by our clients.

3. The province of PEI, is Canada’s leader in recycling & composting, and we’re on board. Our company separates metal, cardboard, paper, recyclable plastic, compost and waste. Many bicycle boxes from our retail bike shop are saved for resale to travelers. Kinetic bike sculpture artist Ahmon Katz and Danny’s daughters transform some of our metal waste into art and jewelry.

4. We sell & service used equipment, as well as new. In Cuba, when we renew our fleet of rental bicycles, the old ones are often used for parts, and we also regularly make donations of old equipment to the Velodrome. We also use the tube patching service offered in Cuba. While this is not necessarily financially practical in Canada, in Cuba an inner tube can be economically repaired instead of replaced.

5. Unlike most other bicycle tour companies in Cuba, our company’s tour leaders reside in Cuba for the entire tour season. Our staff travels between Canada and Cuba just once a year, greatly reducing their carbon footprint. The other upside to this practice is that our tour leaders are also the most experienced and knowledgeable about Cuba, having thereby acquired a deep understanding of Cuban culture and structure.

6. In Cuba, our tour leaders and bicycle outfitters use their bicycles as their daily transportation.

7. As with most Cuban residences, when at home our representatives cook with propane, water is gravity-fed, and they use local farmers markets when purchasing produce, much of which is organically grown. We have a small garden project in Cuba that supplies us, our families and neighbors with a zero-km food source. In PEI Danny has a hobby garden in the Bike Shop too. Much of Cuba’s food supply is not prepackaged – recyclable bags are used on trips to the market. Whenever possible, they try to combine transportation for common tasks.

8. We thrift alot. When it comes to recycling and repurposing, Cubans are like “hold my beer” – they’ve taught us much.  It’s just another way to show your love for the planet while not totally sacrificing the consumer devils some have lurking inside. Antique, vintage, locally-made furniture and recycled art pieces can be found throughout our homes. When we don’t need something anymore but it’s still useful, we donate it or transform it.

9. In Cuba, public health advisories recommend drinking bottled or boiled water, so we can’t use tap water or public water fountains for our guests’ hydration needs. WoWCuba provides bottled water for our cycle tour participants as the accommodation installations we visit on tour can’t currently ensure a sufficient daily supply of boiled/then chilled water as a more ecological alternative to single-use plastics. Boiling water is admittedly a more practical alternative in home settings. However, we do ensure that the empty (gallon rather than single-sized) bottles are also later recycled, donated directly by our tour staff to dairy farmers for storing and transporting milk.

10. We include gratuities for many services in our group cycle tour prices and also provide information on local tipping practices as part of each cycle tour information briefing. We strongly urge our clients to be generous with tips where warranted, and to tip strictly for services provided in an attempt to discourage the development of deviant social behaviour. Besides paying living wages to our direct company employees, we also provide financial incentives to key staff in the offices of our ground handlers and service providers. We strongly believe that travel should benefit not only the visitor, but also the local population in the host destination.

What can you do as a traveler to reduce your environmental footprint?

Would it surprise you to know that Cuba is the ONLY country in the world which has met the WWF’s minimum criteria for sustainability in their Living Planet Report? The Sustainability Development Index (SDI) is the ONLY one that counts, because it not only takes into account a nation’s human development score (from stats on life expectancy, health and education), but also the extent to which the per capita carbon footprint exceeds Earth’s natural limits. You can’t have one without the other.

With widespread organic agriculture, collective transport, and more recently a nationwide energy revolution which has replaced a lot of common household appliances with more energy-efficient models, the elimination of incandescent bulbs, and a national campaign to save energy and water, the rest of the world has a lot to learn from these any many other Cuban practices. If you have to take a plane somewhere, then you might as well make it count and learn from Cuba’s example.

Sustainable Travel International offers travelers tips on how to make your exploring more sustainable.



  • Rather than using a rental car, we offer collective transfer service to our clients on many routes. This is especially practical if you’re traveling solo or as a couple. Bus service is also available locally between many tourism poles not available on our collective transfer routes.
  • Rent a bike instead of a car to travel within Cuba.
  • Use bicycle taxis to get around some of the urban centers you may visit on your travels.
  • Sail around Cuba. Let the wind be your motor. Charters available on the south coast in Trinidad and Cienfuegos.


  • Many of Cuba’s hotels use solar heated water
  • There are many (sometimes underutilized) ecotourism properties in Cuba. We have selected many of these properties as our preferred lodging on several of our group cycle tours.
  • If staying multiple nights in a property, many hotels also ask you to hang up any towels that you can reuse, reducing the need for daily laundering of linens
  • Pack your own soaps/shampoos in your checked baggage and avoid single-use non-recyclable products which contribute to landfill.
  • Only use the air conditioning when necessary. Make it a habit to turn off all lights and appliances when leaving your room, if it’s not otherwise equipped with an automatic shut-off system.


  • Eat less meat. In Cuba there are lots of bean-based dishes. Many Cubans don’t eat meat on a daily basis (mainly out of necessity, not choice) but we can learn from their example that a healthy diet can (and should) include less meat. A typical lunch for many common people in Cuba would be rice with a fried egg on top, plus perhaps some locally-produced seasonal organic produce such as avocado or maybe even a banana or some plantain.
  • Eat locally-produced products where possible. If on a cycle tour with our company, our tour leader loves to make stops at rural fruit stands, sample fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice (often served in recycled beer bottles turned into drinking glasses) or purchase farmer’s cheese & guava paste for his tour group to snack on.
  • Order natural juices in restaurants (instead of bottled/canned beverages) when available.