Greening an unsustainable business through recycling, smart shopping and carbon credits
Trevor Chelswick is realistic in that he knows that the changes he is making at AllSeason Vacation Rentals and its nine properties are not going to make Whistler a sustainable place to live, work or vacation.
He also knows that you have to start somewhere.
"About six months ago I realized I was in a position to implement programs, to see how much time and money it does take to recycle, to become more environmentally sustainable," said Chelswick.
"The way it stands is that I dont have a bureaucracy. When I decide I want to do something, I get it done. I have the knowledge and Im in the right position to do these things. There are really no excuses not to do them."
Chelswick has a degree in environmental science and biology from the University of Western Ontario. One of his first projects in coming to Whistler was working with the municipality and Carneys Waste Disposal to implement a blue box system for strata properties.
From there he started a cleaning service which he operated for several years, until June of 2001 when his company acquired AllSeason Vacation Rentals and the responsibility of maintaining five properties in the Glaciers Reach. He now manages nine properties in the complex.
Once he found himself in a position to make environmentally-friendly choices and changes in the way the properties are operated and maintained, he started looking for ways to make the business more sustainable.
"One of the first things I did was to go after the low-hanging fruit, the things that are easiest to change," said Chelswick.
In the recycling department, he noticed that while large blue boxes were available in the building complex, there was no way for guests to separate garbage in their rooms, and no room to put smaller blue boxes.
To remedy the situation, Chelswick obtained reusable blue bags that attach to the cupboard door under the sink beside the garbage. A note explains the use of the blue bag to the customer and directs them to the waste management room for the strata.
Chelswick is currently working with Carneys once again to purchase these blue bags and make them available to the public and other property management companies.
"Ive had them for several months and I can tell you that the costs are minimal and most guests are using the bags. A lot of this stuff was on its way to the landfill, where its not going to do anybody any good," said Chelswick.
Another initiative was to review the companys use of supplies and cleaning products. Their main supplier, Slope Side Supply, did an audit of the products the company uses and rated them on a scale of one to three; one signifies that a product is the most environmentally-friendly available while a three means a product should be reassessed. To make things easier, Slope Side also included a short list of environmentally-friendly alternatives.
For example, in the future the company will be switching from individually packaged shampoos to dispensers that can be filled using a bulk packaged product.
"This stuff is more low-hanging fruit," explained Chelswick. "A lot of these products are already available, as long as youre in the habit of looking for them. Whistler is fortunate to have a company like Slope Side that is also looking for ways to become more sustainable, because as suppliers to a large number of companies in town they are in a position to help companies do things better, and change the way they think."
Another initiative that Chelswick is just starting to implement is offering guests the ability to purchase a "Zero Net Carbon Emission Vacation." The idea is that AllSeason would plant trees to off-set the carbon created by guests coming to Whistler.
Although he says his calculations are rough at best, Chelswick went through the exercise to see if the program was economically feasible for guests and the company.
What he discovered was that a family of four visiting Whistler from Europe will produce about 30 tons of carbon dioxide, the majority of which is produced by flying. AllSeason then found an American company that will plant a tree in an endangered rainforest for $1.50. If every tree can off-set approximately one ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime, a Zero Net Carbon Emission Vacation for a family of four from Europe could be available for as little as $45.
"For a vacation that could easily be costing them in the neighbourhood of $10,000, its not a lot of money," said Chelswick.
He has since presented his idea to Tourism Whistler, which is in the process of refining the concept for other Whistler accommodation businesses in the resort. Chelswick welcomes their involvement because it means the concept will be studied more in depth. So far he hasnt found any other working carbon off-set program in the world to base his own program on.
"My calculations are rough, and only apply to a family of four from Europe. What needs to be done is a more thorough study, about 10 scenarios that we could apply to the majority of visitors to Whistler," Chelswick said. Those scenarios, providing the calculations are verifiable, could one day be used to create a scale to charge people for Zero Net Carbon holidays.
He hopes to have more information and some kind of program in place for guests by this winter, and to promote the program in the marketplace. He is the first to admit that his program is flawed the fact that each of his units has a hot tub goes against the basics of energy and carbon conservation.
"Some people look at it as fluff, and to a degree theyre right," said Chelswick. "Im the first to admit that its not a solution. But my purpose was to get people thinking about the carbon they are producing. This is just something to get people thinking."
Chelswick wants to share his template for more sustainable management with other property management companies in Whistler, including the Zero Net Carbon program.
"The problem with Whistlers sustainability initiative is that right now there are no tools in the toolbox. I want to put some tools in there that people can apply to their businesses and their lives," said Chelswick.
"The real benefit of these programs Ive adopted is education, especially when you look at our clientele. The CEOs and business leaders that come to Whistler could learn something here that they could take back to their businesses. Thats the biggest thing that could happen.
"They could start thinking about the little things they could be doing, and then the big things, and thats where the real change is going to happen. Thats why Whistler should go through this sustainability exercise. One CEO can have more effect that 50 protesters," he said.
You can learn more about AllSeasons environmental programs at www.whistlervacations.com in the Links section.