WB wins environmental award 

Company named one of Canada's greenest employers once again

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Big win Whistler Blackcomb has won yet another award for its commitment to environmental stewardship.
  • File photo
  • Big win Whistler Blackcomb has won yet another award for its commitment to environmental stewardship.

For the 10th year in a row, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has been named one of Canada's greenest employers by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers.

"We have a real culture around sustainability here and we're so proud of our staff," said Allana Williams, an energy manager and environmental coordinator with WB.

The award recognizes companies that have successfully reduced the company's environmental footprint and engaged employees to help obtain green objectives.

Since 2000, WB has made some impressive strides on the environmental front, reducing waste to landfill by 71 per cent and energy consumption by 14 gigawatts hours—enough to run the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for 14 years, according to Williams.

2017 saw less dramatic results: When compared to 2016, overall waste dropped by 3.5 per cent, while overall hydroelectricity use rose by two per cent.

A big factor in this could be increased traffic in the resort. Williams noted that on a per guest basis, WB saw a savings of 16 per cent in waste and five per cent in energy over the two years.

WB has been streamlining building operations and improving snowmaking equipment to conserve energy as well.

Controls were added to the compressors of snowmakers on Whistler, which allow operators to better control when and at what level the machines operate.

The retrofits alone allowed the company to save 1.5 million kilowatt hours, said Williams. "It always takes the same amount of water to make snow. The energy actually varies on temperature."

On the waste front, the resort has taken steps to reduce the number of straws used in its restaurants.

Small and lightweight, straws are horrible polluters, as they often make it into the ocean, where they can entangle marine animals and be consumed by fish.

"If you're in a Whistler Blackcomb restaurant you should not be offered a straw—and if you are, it should be a compostable straw," said Williams. "We were finding the straws were actually ending up in the compost ... we thought, well, let's just get rid of them."

Handling and reducing the waste generated at WB's many festivals continue to be a priority, said Williams.

For the past two years, WB has offered waste and recycle stations at Crankworx, Whistler's busiest summer-time festival.

Volunteer staff is on hand to instruct the public on how to properly recycle, providing a learning opportunity for the public.

The "next step" will be to tackle things like swag (the free products that are given out by companies), said Williams.

But guidelines for the various companies on what can and can't be handed out won't be in place until 2019, she added.

"We wanted to focus diverting and recycling everything that's coming out right now," said Williams. "For next year we hope to have some guidelines in place for the waste side."

WB is currently pursuing an ambitious environmental target that calls on the resort to achieve zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat.

Upon its purchase of the resort in 2016, Colorado-based ski resort giant Vail Resorts set the target for all 14 of its properties, adding an end date of 2030.

Is the deadline doable? Williams believes it is.

"The last little bit will definitely be difficult, but we're hoping with technology we can get there," she said.

The ski-resort operator was roundly criticized last year after it was reported by several media outlets, including Pique, that Vail Resorts Political Action Committee (PAC) had sent thousands of dollars in political contributions to the campaigns of noted climate change deniers in the U.S. Several high-level executives at Vail Resorts, including CEO Rob Katz, have previously donated to the PAC.

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