EnviroFest to put sustainability on parade 

Put on your green hat, because Whistler is seeking participants for the biggest EnviroFest it’s ever had.

The event, now entering its seventh year, is intended to be the biggest ever as it expands to a three-day festival for the first time. Held annually during Canadian Environment Week (June 1 to 7, 2008), EnviroFest is a chance for Whistler businesses to show their sustainable chops during an outdoor fair, but this year’s festival will have a little more.

“It's a message of unity, it's showing that we are all in this together and we can all be part of the solution,” said Marie Fortin, coordinator of EnviroFest.

Beginning June 6, participants will first be treated to the Gaia Gala, an opening ceremony event to be held at Maurice Young Millennium Place. The event, MCed by Kevin Damaskie, sustainability coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, will host a presentation by Bruce Sanguin, author of Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity, that will be titled Global Warming and Mutual Crisis and Opportunity.

The Gaia Gala will also feature a “rock multimedia” show by Vancouver-based musician Toby Beaulieu, whose music, including electric guitar and video, and is described by Fortin as “Pink Floyd-meets-Enya.”

The EnviroFest Fair will follow on June 7 in Mountain Square. Whistler businesses and other participants will be provided with free tables and tents to show off their commitment to the environment. All participants are allowed to provide samples, coupons and other amenities for the duration of the event, but they are not allowed to sell anything.

“Even if they just do a few things that are helping Whistler move towards sustainability, (businesses) can be part of EnviroFest,” Fortin said. “They don’t have to be shy. Some businesses still (feel) like they're not doing enough, but as long as they're doing something, it could be just a recycling program, it brings people together and talk about our success to move towards sustainability together.”

Participants are encouraged to “close the loop” by providing opportuinties to recycle, reduce and reuse the materials they give out as part of a commitment to Whistler’s “zero waste” initiative.

“Zero waste means closing the loop, you know, so composting whatever you can, recycling whatever you can,” Fortin said. “So if you compost everything you can and recycle, and don't use packaging that you can't recycle, then there's zero waste.”

The Energy Film Festival, an event that Fortin organized last year and that has now been melded with EnviroFest, will follow the fair on June 8. This year’s festival will mark the second time that the film festival has been held.

Touting itself as an “educational community event” that aims to raise awareness about global warming and sustainability, it will showcase a series of films from Canada and the United States that focus on sustainable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and various other issues related to climate change.

One of the films, Crude Impact, is a documentary that will explore human dependence on fossil fuels and focus on the environmental threats posed by oil.

Envirofest itself began in 2001 — at that time it was an initiative by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the municipality was participating as a partner, according to Heather Beresford, Environmental Stewardship Manager for the RMOW.

“We said this is too good to let slip away, so we carried on,” she said. “It's a grassroots, local chance to show what businesses are doing towards sustainability, particularly around environmental sustainability.”

The festival will be organized by Whistler-based marketing organization Hilltrip, on behalf of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

The deadline to book a space at the EnviroFest Fair is May 31 and willing participants can contact Fortin at marie@hilltrip.com.

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