Whistler’s ongoing transition to a lower carbon resort community took another step forward last year as 11 local companies worked to better understand their specific carbon footprints, and to adapt their operations toward a better way of doing business. During the fall and winter of 2009, a number of Whistler SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) took on the climate change leadership challenge and put their collective shoulders to the greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) grindstone and you know what, they’re quite likely to improve their financial bottom lines while they’re at it.

In 2008, direct carbon emissions from Whistler’s commercial, residential and institutional sectors tallied just more than 126,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). While this represents a two per cent reduction versus 2007, and is more than 10 per cent below 2000 levels, our community still has a long way to go to achieve our shared climate protection goals. To reach these goals — a 33 per cent reduction from 2007 levels by 2020 — there is little doubt that we need leadership across all sectors of our community.

An innovative shared learning program delivered by Climate Smart (a subsidiary of Ecotrust Canada) and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability (WCS) has started to build Whistler’s low carbon leadership. Supported by the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) Climate Action and Innovation Fund and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, this first cohort of climate leaders undertook the process of compiling a full inventory of their respective energy expenditures and carbon emissions. Working with this baseline they learned skills and techniques for setting reduction targets and evaluating the return on investment (ROI) for specific reduction strategies. The first six businesses to finalize their inventories and start into their reduction strategies had a collective carbon footprint of  roughly 2,200 tCO2e with an average individual footprint of approximately 350 tCO2e/year. Evaluating these inventories revealed that the largest sources of emissions were travel-based, followed by space heating, landfilled wastes and electricity.

More importantly, highlights from these businesses’ new reduction strategies include:

  • a workplace social marketing campaign for improving energy conservation at Gone Bakery, Moguls and Zogs;
  • a fuel efficiency based fleet replacement and waste reduction strategy at Canadian Snowmobiles;
  • a tenant communication strategy aimed at reducing building energy use at the Whistler Housing Authority;
  • installation of occupancy sensors and a waste reduction strategy at Nicklaus North Golf Club;
  • fleet efficiency investments for tours and guest transport at Blackcomb Snowmobiles;
  • increased use of biodiesel and an improved ride sharing program at Glacier Creek Contracting;
  • more occupancy sensors, LED lights and expanded in-room recycling bins in guest rooms at the Residence Inn, Coast Whistler; as well as
  • a full climate neutrality commitment from Peak Ventures.

Interested in Getting your Whistler-based Business Involved? The next Whistler-based Climate Smart training cohort is scheduled for May 17 and June 24th. To find out more, contact Dan Wilson at the Whistler Centre for Sustainability at dwilson@whistler.ca

About ClimateSmart: Climate Smart is a Vancouver-based social enterprise launched by Ecotrust Canada in 2009. It is a leading provider of carbon tracking tools, training and technical support to small- and medium-sized businesses. Its online greenhouse gas management tool for SMEs was rated No. 1 in North America by Carbonzero (climatesmartbusiness.com).

About the RMOW’s Climate Action Innovation Fund: In July of 2009, the RMOW became the first municipality in BC to approve a policy that formally directs the local government’s carbon tax rebate (CARIP) to support improved carbon management capacity across the community. For more information: search CARIP on www.whistler.ca.