January 05, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Getting Greener 

The Centre for Sustainability is helping Whistler find its way to better, cheaper, greener living.

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In 2010, the Centre worked for Ucluelet, putting together a background report on its greenhouse gas emissions, creating a greenhouse gas monitoring system for them, and writing up a chapter on emissions for the official community plan. "They had to work out our carbon inventory, and how to bring those numbers down. It takes a lot of research and modelling, data mining and number crunching," says Andrew Yeates, Ucluelet's Chief Administrative Officer. "It was phenomenal value for money and a great experience. It's hard to be an expert in everything. It's great to have a group you can go to and trust." Similarly the Centre did a "baseline" energy study for the Lil'wat nation, ending in March 2011. "It provided good scientific backup for what a lot of people knew: a lot of the older houses aren't particularly energy efficient," says Kerry Mehaffey, economic development officer for the Lil'wat. "They did a really great job; diligent and great at fact finding."

The Centre also offers a "QuickStart" scheme to help other towns quickly get their community plans up and running, following in the footsteps of Whistler 2020. In December, it received $100,000 from the Real Estate Foundation, a non-profit founded by the real estate industry to spend the interest earned by its pooled trust deposits on good works. The Centre will spread that out over five communities in the new year.

Intangible results

"If a community is serious about sustainability, you have to put money into it," says Ho. As for complaints that investing in sustainability doesn't seem like a wise move when many people are jobless and the housing market has slumped, the counter-argument is that tourists are increasingly looking for sustainable destinations, and that if Whistler doesn't keep up or establish a lead, then the town will lose out in the near future. "We can't crack the nut of the fact that people get here by jet," says Ho. "But there is evidence that people are increasingly, if everything else is equal, choosing resorts with more responsible tourism practices."

The mountain itself is behind all things sustainable; as far as DeJong is concerned, the more the merrier. "We have the opportunity to become the most aspirational mountain resort in the world," he says. "We can't achieve that without partnerships."

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