Low hanging fruit already showing returns
Before Whistler even heard of The Natural Step sustainability framework, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler was a community leader in its environmental initiatives.
In past years hotel staff have attempted to reduce, reuse and recycle materials, and even built a huge worm bin to help compost their kitchen waste. Their golf course was certified by the Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary Program for building log weirs, interpretive signage, and limiting pesticide use to the greens.
When Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt visited Whistler for the first time in March of 2000, explaining The Natural Step program to local businesses, the Chateau, under then general manager David Roberts, became one of the first Whistler businesses to adopt the program.
Other "Early Adopters," as they came to be known, included Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, AWARE, and Whistler One Hour Foto Source.
The Chateau was not idle. In the past two years they have worked economic, social and environmental sustainability into every department and procedure within the hotel, and have already made significant improvements in both their energy consumption and waste stream.
However they are still the first to admit that sustainability is not going to happen overnight.
"Along the way were discovering that its going to be a journey," said Dan Wilson, the sustainability co-ordinator for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
"Were just starting to work towards sustainability. While our environmental programs have always been strong, sustainability sets the mark quite a bit higher."
The corporate culture has adopted a Sustainability Management System that asks management and administrators to consider The Natural Step framework in everything they do. The Chateau has applied this framework to four key areas: Material flows and waste; energy consumption; knowledge and education; and in their commitments to the community at large.
While there are some costs associated with the move to sustainability, the Chateaus investments in reducing waste and energy consumption are already seeing returns.
By applying the TNS framework to material flows, Wilson estimates that they are already saving in the neighbourhood of $30,000 per year.
"Sustainable material flows would involve everything from reducing what we use, to recycling things or purchasing different types of products and then closing the loop by recycling," explains Wilson.
Since he was first hired as the sustainability co-ordinator in June of 2001, Wilsons focus has been on tracking and auditing sustainability programs at the hotel to measure what kind of impact they are having.
"We felt it was important to set up some kind of measurement system from the beginning to track our progress."