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Logo wear offers sustainable products

Municipality gets into business of self-promotion

By Alison Taylor

Every hour 2.5 million water bottles are thrown away in the United States — a statistic that isn’t lost on Whistler council.

As they sealed a deal with a company dedicated to social and environmental responsibility for their new logo line last week, every councillor, save Gord McKeever, had a plastic water bottle at hand. Open water jugs are not permitted in council chambers at Millennium Place, which is why McKeever carries his own reusable bottle.

And so, even as Fairware’s Denise Taschereau called council’s efforts “leading edge” in their commitment to sustainability, she couldn’t resist sharing the pointed statistic about discarded water bottles in the U.S.

“It’s sometimes those little things that we forget about in terms of changing behaviour,” she said in the wake of council’s decision to use Fairware for its product line.

“We always try to educate with our products.”

Reusable water bottles could be one of the new products offered in the True Local Whistler logo wear line. Taschereau hopes to include facts in the bottle or on a hangtag to educate customers. The hope is the message will resonate enough with them to change their behaviour.

It could also be a place to toot Whistler’s own horn as it moves down the path on its sustainability journey.

“Even the fact that your council asked your municipal administration to ensure there’s sustainable product… is totally leading edge,” said Taschereau. “We certainly don’t get a lot of that in other situations I’ve worked in.”

The Whistler logo products will begin rolling out this fall.

At council’s insistence two months ago, municipal staff explored a partnership to offer sustainable products in the logo wear mix.

Fairware is based in Vancouver and looks for suppliers that promote ethical sourcing.

John Rae, the municipality’s manager of strategic alliances, said a realistic goal is to have 10 per cent sustainable products in the first year of business, moving to 25 per cent the following year and 50 per cent after three years.

Going 100 per cent sustainable right off the bat won’t give them the credibility with retailers. The world, it seems, is still not ready for these products.

“Let’s get in on the journey,” encouraged Rae.

Taschereau explained to council that there are not a lot of sustainable products in the supply chain. There are still issues around quality and there is also a premium on some products.

But that shouldn’t deter them.

In addition to water bottles, other products under development for the Whistler logo wear are: 100 per cent organic cotton T-shirts, 100 per cent recycled polyester fleece jackets and a 100 per cent recycled plastic wallets.

There are, said Taschereau, no shortage of ideas.

In addition to apparel the licensing program is expected to include greeting cards, food products, pins, mugs, key chains and specialty gifts.

Council has entered into a two-year contract with Fairware and Wilson International.

Councillors were pleased about the progress.

McKeever said: “It feels more like a Whistler project now.”

The logo line is expected to generate $150,000 in revenues in the first year. That money will go to the long talked about Whistler Centre for Sustainability, an organization which does not yet exist but is expected to be a community resource in the years to come.