TED conference coming to Whistler during Olympics 

Community’s efforts towards sustainability will be focus of forum

Whistler will play host to a forum on community sustainability during next year's Winter Olympics, the director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability announced this week.

Cheeying Ho explained her group is organizing the forum through TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), a prominent conference group with a strong web following, although officially the forum is considered an independent TEDx event.

"To be able to host a TED event is very exciting because they are so well known for inspirational speakers and getting people to think about different ideas and getting people inspired," said Ho, who received the license from TED last week.

"We thought during the Games time would be a really great opportunity to get worldwide attention on the thinking going on in Whistler and what the community is doing around sustainability."

Details are still being finalized, but Ho hopes to have both local and outside experts speak about community sustainability.

The event will be held on Feb. 18, 2010 at the Whistler Public Library, which she said will be converted into the Whistler Canada Olympic House during the Games.

However, a spokesperson from the Resort Municipality of Whistler said plans for the library during the Olympics have not been finalized.

Ho added that even though seating at the TEDx event will be invite only, the talks will be available online through live-streamed webcasts, similar to the traditional TED Talk webcasts. The Centre for Sustainability also wants to implement a "social media strategy" so people can, for example, discuss ideas using Twitter throughout the forum. A Twitter hashtag will be created for the event.

TED is a New York-based non profit founded in 1984 that organizes an annual conference in California each year. TED Talks, as the lectures are called, cover diverse topics including science, art and design, politics, global issues, and education.

Past speakers include former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Bono, and Nobel Laureate winners James D. Watson, Murray Gell-Mann and Al Gore. More than 400 of these talks are provided for free TED.com.

TEDx events, on the other hand, allow schools, businesses, libraries or groups to hold their own TED-like events. To date, over 56 countries plan to hold TEDx events in the next year, including Indonesia, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Ted was also involved with Pangea Day event in Whistler last May.

The Centre for Sustainability does not have to pay any fees to TED to host such an event.

The TEDx event is not the only way the centre hopes to promote its goals during the Games, however. The centre also plans to develop a promotional video showcasing some of the actions Whistler has taken in recent years.

"We are also going to collect a ton of stories from around the community and put them up on our website," said Ho. "We are hoping we'll be the contact for anything to do with sustainability stories."

The centre sparked controversy within the Whistler community when it was formed last December. Even though the centre is separate from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the municipality has contributed $120,000 worth of seed funding for the next five years. Several community members were concerned a non-profit group would further strain the municipality's stretched budget.

However, this week Ho said the centre's business plan is complete, and the group continues to make significant progress on its initiatives.

She said that beyond a contract with the City of William's Lake to develop a sustainability plan and the Resort Collaborative Project with the provincial government, the centre is also organizing a series of workshops for local businesses.

The workshops, called Climate Smart, will show businesses how to save money through energy reduction as well as how to communicate their environmental-friendly policies to consumers. Workshops are currently scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 7, and Nov. 10. The cost is $1,500, but the Government of British Columbia, through LiveSmart B.C., will provide 20 scholarships, valued at $1,500 each, to help small and medium sized businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase efficiency and save money

Ecotrust Canada is partnering with the Whistler Centre for Sustainability in presenting the Climate Smart training program. The program "is designed to provide local businesses with the tools to become more competitive in an era of carbon regulation and volatile energy prices." More information can be found at: www.whistlercentre.ca.

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