Environmental performance not up to snuff 

Whistler's environmental performance has not been up to snuff, according to the Whistler2020 2009 Whistler Performance Monitoring Report.

In a report to council last Tuesday, Dan Wilson, Whistler Centre for Sustainability's tourism business and monitoring specialist, showed that the overall physical imprint of Whistler's developed area increased over a three-year period from 1,014 hectares in 2006 to 1,088 hectares in 2009.

There has also been a three-year increase in the number of solid materials used, water usage and primary energy usage.

Wilson suggested that the results are much better than they would be if the Whistler2020 Task Forces had not been implanted to work toward sustainability.

Mayor Ken Melamed echoed Wilson's sentiments.

"I'm not really distressed about the amount of red that shows in the protecting the environment column because I know our commitment is very strong and we're doing the best that we can to manage around those impacts to pre-committed growth," Melamed said.

Despite the increase in these numbers, Whistler's overall greenhouse emissions have decreased from 143.4 tonnes of CO2 in 2006 to 117.4 in 2009. This is due in part to Whistler's transition from propane to natural gas, as well as the implementation of energy saving technology in the new Cheakamus Crossing and Rainbow neighbourhoods.

The estimated hazardous waste diversion rate has also increased for the better over the last three years, from two per cent in 2006 to seven per cent in 2009.

Composting has decreased significantly since 2006, from 40 per cent to just 23 per cent in 2009.

The 2008-2009 monitoring period from which the information was pulled showed progress both toward and away from Whistler's vision of sustainability as identified through Whistler2020. The report was divided into five priorities for progress: enriching community life, enhancing the resort experience, ensuring economic viability, partnering for success and protecting the environment, and shows a plethora of information in all categories.

Overall, the report shows positive resort experience, with trends in this area and visitor numbers generally increasing. Summer satisfaction increased for the first time in three years, reversing a slight downward trend, while winter satisfaction has stayed more or less the same. Satisfaction for the resort's atmosphere and ambiance has risen over three years, sitting at 95 per cent satisfaction among both winter and summer visitors. The only negative for resort experience was the rate of criminal code offenses has risen over three years, though it did decrease from 2008 to 2009.

According to the data, 31 per cent of permanent Whistler residents had incomes below the cost of living in 2008, following a three-year trend away from the Whistler2020 vision. But 85 per cent of seasonal residents reported incomes below the cost of living, up from 70 per cent in 2007 (2009 data is not available).

The local workforce did decrease between 2008 and 2009 but it is still above the 75 per cent target.


On the positive side, Whistler residents view themselves as quite healthy and satisfied with where they live. About 90 per cent of permanent Whistler residents were satisfied with Whistler as a place to live in 2008, while 84 per cent of seasonal residents were satisfied. Both figures were down from the year before. (Again, 2009 data was not available.)

Councillor Ted Milner had some issues with the high level numbers as they relate to what's really going on in the community.

"I'm just a little concerned that these high level results you're coming up with here are so high level it's hard to see what they really mean."

He added, "You really have to look, and I'm sure you do, at the demographics. Are the schools growing? Are the kids finishing school? Are the parks working? Are groceries affordable? It'll be interesting to see how you define satisfaction. I'm satisfied if I have lunch and a beer later."

Wilson said they ask a random sampling of community members whether they are satisfied with living in Whistler, as well as asking 12 questions regarding Whistler services.

"It's a high-level result that we're essentially tracking over time, really about people's satisfaction in Whistler," he said.

The annual comprehensive monitoring program tracks a wide range of performance and contextual data. To see the entire report, visit www.whistler2020.ca/whistler/site/explorer.acds



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