First person: Peter Skeels-Selling sustainability 

Whistler is a strange place for a hemp store. Tofino? Sure. Saltspring Island? OK. Nelson? Makes sense. But how can a store that doesn't sell the big brand names like Gap, Eddie Bauer or Roots survive in Whistler?

According to Peter Skeels, manger of Fiber Options, it's all about choices. Originally from Toronto, Skeels is a man with ideas. He likes to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

The wood floor and shelves at Fiber Options are made from recycled materials. The floor was salvaged from clearcut wastewood, while the shelves were formed from wood found on a decommissioned logging road. The store's sign is carved from a 1,000-year-old cedar tree from Meares Island.

How did you get involved in the hemp industry?

I've always wanted to have a store that is environmentally conscious and tries to source local goods. I wanted to start putting a face to the product ? you know, somebody made this; there's a human behind this. If there was a sweatshop here in Whistler, I guarantee that no one's going to buy those clothes. You ask kids these days where an egg came from and they say "the grocery store." They can't even put the chicken and the egg together. We commodify everything.

Is the hemp industry sustainable?

You can make 25,000 different products from hemp ? from plastic to pants to paper. You can make anything. Ninety-nine per cent of paper comes from forests. We sell tree-free paper. People are always surprised paper can be made without trees. Every acre of hemp equals four acres of trees. Hemp only takes 100 days to grow. It's easy to grow, it's a great rotator crop and it's super-sustainable. Trees take 100 years to grow.

How hard is it to sell something that doesn't have a logo on it in Whistler?

I don't know what our fascination is with that stuff. If you bought a blank shirt, it would be $40. You buy it with a logo and it's $80, yet you're walking around advertising for that company. It should be free. They should be giving it to you. It's crazy.

How does a store like Fiber Options compete in a town where name-brand recognition is everything?

I get so many customers coming into the store that go "Wow, this is finally something different." Because, let's face it, everything in this town is the same. Our store is definitely unique and people appreciate that. It's all about ideology; it's all about stories: what's the story of yourself? That's what people buy.


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