In a world where everyone is going green, Whistler Blackcomb is leading the pack. Just days before Earth Day, April 22, Whistler has been named on of Canada’s Greenest Employers by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers project for the fourth year in a row.
“We are both honored and humbled to be recognized for our environmental stewardship,” says Arthur DeJong, Whistler Blackcomb’s mountain planning and environmental resource manager. “Whistler Blackcomb staff live, work, and play in the mountains and being immersed in nature every day inspires us to do our part for a more sustainable future. Environmental stewardship is part of our corporate culture and it is our hope that guests who visit Whistler Blackcomb will be inspired by our actions and perhaps decide to incorporate more sustainable practices into their own lives.”
Whistler recognizes the threat climate change is to the environment and works hard to achieve a zero operating footprint. They believe in an “Every Step Counts” philosophy. Before “green” was a term for more than a color, the resort was conscious of their own impact on the planet. They hired an in-house environmental management team in 1997 and have had one ever since. The team has worked tirelessly on a company-wide Sustainability Policy. The policy lists Whistler’s main areas of focus including energy conservation, waste management, and guest and staff awareness and education.
Here are a few of their top environmental achievements that lead to them making to the of Canada’s Greenest Employers list this year:
The Fitzsimmons Creek Run-of-River Project: Whistler launched a hydro-powered renewable energy plant in 2009, producing 33 gigawatt hours of hydro electricity every year. The Run-of-River project returns to the grid the equivalent of the annual power consumption of Whistler Blackcomb’s entire ski area including lifts, mountain restaurants, and snowmaking.
Five Per Cent Annual Energy Reduction Target: The company has an annual target of five per cent energy reduction including electricity, natural gas and fuel for vehicles. To date, Whistler Blackcomb has. In 2011, Whistler Blackcomb surpassed the target and saw nearly nine per cent reduction in the company’s overall electrical consumption.
The Whistler Blackcomb Carpool Program: The Whistler Blackcomb staff carpooling program provides transportation for approximately 50 people in five company vehicles every day. The initiative saves 64,155 km of vehicle travel, 86,768 liters of gasoline, and 208,245 tons of carbon emissions annually.
The White Bike Program: In the summer of 2011 Whistler Blackcomb launched the White Bike Program. The white bikes were introduced by Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental team to enable smooth, efficient travel of employees between the company’s various buildings in and around the base areas. The bikes are signed out from each building, and signed in at the next building, enabling staff to get around Whistler quickly for meetings, etc.
Waste Reduction: Whistler Blackcomb has established a protocol in on-mountain restaurants where staff is responsible for sorting all garbage. Whistler Blackcomb recycles over 30 different types of products. In 2009, Whistler Blackcomb reduced its waste by over 42 per cent through large-scale composting initiatives and has continued to improve upon that number ever since. Whistler Blackcomb estimates this initiative saves more than 400,000 sheets of paper annually.
The Symphony Express Chairlift Project: During construction of this lift in 2006, Whistler placed habitat protection at the center of the project. A project team consisting of a ski area planner, lift engineer, biologist, black bear researcher, and professional forester developed a minimalist design that kept wildlife habitat intact and ultimately reduced the project’s footprint from an estimated 40 per cent to less than five per cent.
The resort has also formed the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental fund that raises money to support registered non-profit organizations whose actions benefit the environment. The group has raised and donated over $285,000.00 on 62 projects.
On their website, Whistler attributes a diesel spill in 1992 with being the catalyst for their actions. The spill polluted a mountain stream and caused them to consider the effects of their operation.
Today, Whistler is a greener, cleaner operation, and their sustainability programs return over $750,000.00 in savings to their bottom line.