Whistler hotels have ways to go green
From worms to bins, almost anything can be re-used
By Chris Woodall
The newest employees at the Chateau Whistler won't be at all squeamish about what they eat.
A crust of bread, a half-slice of ham, or maybe the occasional mint: it's all the same to a box or two of red wriggler worms.
They'll work for food. Twenty-four hours a day.
Their only reward is to help make the Chateau Whistler a green hotel.
A hotel is probably the greatest single potential polluter in a resort.
Where a single person or a family may produce a bag or two of garbage a week; and where a restaurant may produce a dozen bags of waste foods, a hotel produces garbage by the ton: buckets of food scraps, soiled linens by the kilometre, convention debris by the truck load, and all the bottles, cans and throw-away cups and plates to satisfy an army.
Everything, of course, has packaging. Forests of cardboard boxes are generated daily.
It's not good enough any more to simply pack all that garbage into a truck and haul it to the dump. The forces of recycling won't let a hotel do that. Government legislation and municipal bylaw want hotels to be more responsible.
For the hotel, beyond the nice idea that "it's good to be green," there's the bottom line to think of. On the one hand, dumping fees are high and going to be higher.
On the other hand, thar's gold in them thar hills of garbage.
Pop cans, beer containers and alcoholized coolers are of obvious note. Each has a refundable deposit.
But come the autumn, wine and booze bottles will have deposits, too, making them economical to save and return to the liquor store for a refund.
The Chateau Whistler and its fellow CP Hotels have gone into the recycling game full-bore, setting up recycling committees, committing staff to do nothing but handle, fold and separate recycled stuff, and training all the rest of the hotel's staff to dance the recycling boogaloo.
"It starts with them: if they don't recycle, the system doesn't work," says Stephen Bowack, shipping and receiving manager who marshals the Chateau Whistler's recycling plan.
That system needs to be clearly labelled and simple to use so that staff place items in the proper bins.
In a hotel like the Chateau, training is ongoing as scores of new staff come on board to replace others who've continued their travels, says public relations manager Sonya Hwang, who also chairs the hotel's green committee.
In the Chateau's service hallways at the kitchen/conference room main floor, and at housekeeping stations throughout the remainder of the hotel, bins are labelled to accept as much of a breakdown of a guests' leavings as possible.
The biggest problem is space to arrange the various bins, Bowack says. It's a problem that only gets more complicated as items are segregated into more specialized piles.
There are clear plastics and coloured plastics. There are steel cans and aluminum cans. There are broken glassware and broken porcelain plates.
Space is a problem faced by the Delta Whistler Resort Hotel, too.
"We don't have the space for a recycling centre," says Doug Stackhouse, Delta's director of rooms quality.
But that doesn't stop the hotel from having blue igloos serviced by Carney's in its loading dock area to handle the same sorts of items locals see in trash compactor sites.
The Delta also has recycling areas on the room floor landings. By day cleaning staff empty small blue boxes in each room, by night housemen haul what's collected on each floor down to the loading dock area.
Recycling can be a matter of if you don't have to spend money, it's the same as saving money.
Just not having to go to the landfill means saving on tipping fees, but there are organizations who are glad to pick up all kinds of cast-offs.
One organization picks up the Chateau's and the Delta's partially used soaps and those mini shampoo bottles for use at half-way houses and other mid-city shelters.
The Delta even gets its guests on board.
If a guest prefers, he or she can tell the hotel to not change towels or linens daily. Housekeeping staff will still make beds and sweeten up the room, but not having to do so much laundry saves the hotel money on contracted-out laundry costs and saves generally in energy used to heat the water that would have washed all those very slightly soiled items.
The Chateau will soon have worms to help out.
The Chateau currently pulps all the waste food generated by the thousands of restaurant guest and convention meals created each day, squeezing out as much water as possible to compact what's left over.
"We have 800-1,000 pounds of food waste a day, depending on the season," Bowack says.
The left over food pulp makes good composting material, but the bears and other wildlife tended to think it made great snacking material when the Chateau tried it out on the golf course.
Having 170,000 red wriggler worms in three bins go through the hotel's food waste in a few days — coffee grounds and bits of paper included — to turn it all into castings, is a much better and animal resistant fertilizer.
The Delta hasn't gone as far as hiring a few hundred thousand worms and had been thinking along the lines of a mechanical facility. But it would take up a great deal of space, Stackhouse says.
Keeping a hotel like the Delta in top shape means its renovations result in recycling a lot of big items, too.
When capital improvements meant replacing all-metal bifold doors, they went to a scrap yard instead of the dump. Excess paint is given away rather than poured out.
Old rugs are offered to staff or for quick sale, as are worn blankets, pillows, clock radios, telephones, etc., that may find new homes in budget motels as well as in staff or other residences.
"We donated quite a lot of blankets corporately to Manitoba flood victims last year," says Doug Avery, Delta's maintenance manager.
"The items that are reusable are probably a bigger factor than recycling trash. It's the price of constantly renovating a high-end hotel and having to keep everything in top shape," Avery says.
Every day seems to bring up new ways to recycle something, or to make the process easier to do.
"I don't think there's a day that goes by that we don't think of what we can do," the Chateau's Bowack says.
Best of all, both hotels welcome any questions on "how'd you do that" from other Whistler businesses.