Responsible Tourism in Whistler, Canada

Responsible Tourism - Whistler

Ski Safari asked Whistler resort management how they limit the resort's environmental impact e.g. usage of renewable energy sources, waste management and recycling programmes etc....

1. Energy

We have so far switched over 11,000 light bulbs in 3 years to CFL’s to reduce energy.  We have installed a mini- hydro turbine at our New Symphony Express to provide green power to the washrooms and lift hut there. We have set up a SPS Hybrid Heating system in two restaurants to reduce propane use by over 70%. We have installed timers and sensors on hundreds of fixtures and light switches to reduce energy.

2. Waste Reduction

We recycle over 800,000 beverage containers/ yearly to remove them from landfills. We recycle 20 items including light bulbs, bicycle tyres, cardboard, scrap metals, plastic, tin, aluminium, all electronic equipment, telephones, paper, packaging and many others. We compost over 100 tonnes of food waste yearly from our major restaurants and bars. We have a procurement group which is adjusting our buying practices to reduce both waste and emissions. We also hold a mountain clean up day each year to reduce litter on the mountains which can lead to pollution and animal deaths.

3. Emissions Reductions

We have a company carpooling program which moves 50 people daily from outside communities to work. We reduce emissions from workers by 600 kg/year by doing this.  All of our new snowmobiles are low emissions two stroke which produce less CO2 than 4 strokes.  We are replacing old propane heating systems with hybrid electric systems to reduce our propane use.

4. Habitat Protection

We currently offer daily bear viewing tours to educate guests on bear biology and habitat. We have spent over 1 million dollars since 2001 on mountain restoration projects. We have identified sensitive areas on mountain and these sensitive areas are protected from development. We have a volunteer Habitat Improvement Team which works with local community groups bi- weekly in the summer to restore ecosystems in Whistler. Many of our new ski developments are based on ecosystem management so that we are not creating ski runs that ruin the existing ecosystem. We also have an Environmental Fund which is used to support local groups financially in the habitat restoration activities.

5. Education

Every year we train up to 500  staff on our environmental programs. We also host groups from around the world to educate them on sustainability in a ski area.  We hold awareness contests throughout the year to get staff involved in our programs.

6. Water Conservation

We have an extensive water quality monitoring program.  To ensure the best quality drinking water for our guests and staff, we have a very stringent water-testing program and work closely with Coast Garibaldi Health authority.  On mountain, we reduce erosion and pollution through the implementation of standard operation procedures that include policies for erosion control, hazardous materials handling and spill response.  Our staff undergoes training in these areas and contractors must sign off on these procedures before working on the mountains.  To conserve water, we have installed waterless urinals at the Roundhouse restaurant on Whistler.

Ski Safari asked Whistler whether they promote sustainable tourism e.g. sourcing local food products and supporting local suppliers etc....

We do not currently source local food products. We do support local suppliers by purchasing certain products from Vancouver. As there is no real resource base in Whistler we do not purchase things from within Whistler.
We do hire many people from the Mt. Currie First Nations and Squamish First Nations which are our two neighbouring communities. We also have employment training for First Nations youth to teach them how to integrate into the work force as they get older. We also have a First Nations Snowboard Team which we fully support from both of these communities.

Through our Whistler Blackcomb Foundation we have given over 3 million dollars to local community groups to support their efforts.

Whistler Blackcomb Environmental Fund - Staff donate dollars from their payroll and the Whistler Blackcomb foundation donates matching dollars to the fund. A committee of employees then decides where to donate the funds annually for restoration-conservation projects within the Whistler community. Since 2001, $197,000 has been allocated to 28 projects that have a large volunteer labor contribution.

Ski Safari asked whether the resort is involved in any local or national social projects e.g. community projects, housing schemes for employees etc....

Whistler Blackcomb is very involved in local projects through the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. We have our own employee housing which is subsidized so that we can attract good employees and they can afford to live in Whistler. This year over $500,000 was raised for:  a CT scanner, crisis intervention and suicide prevention, supporting new programs at a local First Nations school, expanding a Re-Use It center, and providing a grant for a new public library.

Local Government and Community - Whistler Blackcomb is an early adopter of the Natural Step principals with local government and other businesses. A sustainability plan which was facilitated by the local government called Whistler 2020 is a now a formal working document for resort wide sustainability efforts. Whistler Blackcomb participated on all 15 focus groups. This working document has been recognized by the UNEP as the best program for a community of less then 10,000.

Overseas Aid - We have sent aid overseas in the form of winter clothing, computers and books.  We have sent more than 15,000 articles to Romania and more than 5,000 items to Nepal, Kashmir and the Ukraine.  A Whistler Blackcomb representative has travelled in-country to Romania to verify that items are reaching their intended recipients.  We also provide in-kind consulting services to help communities trying to promote tourism in their area by developing resort areas.

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