Province provides $70,000 for Natural Step 

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has secured $70,000 in funding from the provincial government to help its planned implementation of The Natural Step sustainability framework over the next few months.

The Ministry of Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers announced Wednesday, April 18 it has made the money available under its Greening Communities funding allocations.

The Natural Step (TNS) program was adopted by the municipality last fall and is being incorporated into its draft Environmental Strategy. The revised document will eventually be released as British Columbia’s first local government sustainability action plan. It will be made available to other communities to copy and a Natural Step resource centre will be established locally. Whistler is also the first community in North America to pilot the sustainability program, which derives from Sweden.

The RMOW’s resource management consultant, Dave Waldron, says the funding boost has come at the perfect time for the "early adopters" of TNS in Whistler, namely the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, Fotosource and the RWOW.

"The money will help existing training initiatives," he says. "Teams from the early adopters have been to the workshops and are now training others within their organisation about TNS philosophy."

The Natural Step Program is the creation of leading cancer researcher Dr. Karl-Henrick Robert from Sweden, who became concerned that the environment was continuing to deteriorate while scientists squabbled over the issues. After extensive research he produced a set of four basic system conditions.

The first system condition is that substances from the earth’s crust – minerals, petroleum, and other materials – should not be extracted at a faster rate than they are replaced, otherwise they will accumulate as waste.

The second condition is that man-made substances should not be produced at a faster rate than they can be broken down to avoid accumulation. This includes chemical compounds that are persistent, bio-accumulative and that aren’t easily broken down, like plastics, PCBs, and Freon.

The third condition is that we should not diminish the productivity or diversity of nature, harvesting our ecosystems at a faster rate than they can replenish themselves. This applies to fisheries, forestry, agriculture and society.

The fourth condition is that we have to use energy efficiently and meet human needs with fewer demands and a fairer distribution of our resources.

Waldron says the municipality and the other early adopters plan to officially launch the Natural Step program into the wider community this June or July. Written manuals or "toolkits" will be made available to facilitators, small businesses, households, schools and local government.

However, he says positive spin-offs from TNS principles can already be seen among the early adopters.

"The municipality is using sustainable materials and energy sources in the renovation of the Whistler Conference Centre, while the Chateau Whistler is also looking at energy and waste reduction measures." He says once The Natural Step sustainability action plan is in place, it will significantly change the whole way the town operates.

"There are so many areas we can act more sustainably, from the type of ink we purchase to the percentage of old growth trees a newspaper allows during its printout," he explains.

Jenny Kwan, minister of Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers, says Whistler’s adoption of TNS will help attract more residents and visitors. Meanwhile Whistler Mayor, Hugh O’Reilly, adds that the environment has always been a top local priority. "We want to protect the natural beauty that has made Whistler so successful and to lessen our impact on the earth," he says. "This project provides us with the tools we need to work together for a sustainable future."

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