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Lofty goals

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"We’ve always been energy efficient out of torture rather than being responsible," said Horn, who said their energy efficiency has turned into a company joke.

While the company may have one of the lowest hydro bills in Whistler, Horn admits it can be a little painful typing on some of the colder days.

Try as they might to do what they can internally, there is one glaring negative aspect in the company that makes it hard to be sustainable, namely the carbon emissions from their four trucks moving supplies around town.

Horn said they have looked into doing a carbon offset program, based on the emissions from their vehicles.

Slope Side could plant 300 trees a year to balance what is going into the air from their trucks. Details still need to be worked out on where they could plant these trees.

This is just a short-term solution said Horn, which needs to be worked out in greater detail with the municipality and other stakeholders in Whistler.

The long-term solution would be switching to natural gas and then ultimately working with hybrid fuel cell vehicles.

But it was the internal audit in the company two years ago that really got them thinking about the bigger picture of sustainability.

This was also around the same time that Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Inc., the world’s largest producer of commercial carpet tiles and flooring, came to town as part of the Whistler Sustainability Initiative and Leadership Through Sustainable Innovation speaker series.

Anderson told Whistler about his goal to make his business completely sustainable, embracing renewable energy and not using any new petroleum materials by 2010.

Horn said this got the wheels turning at Slope Side. They began looking at the cleaners, paper products and garbage bags they sell, and tried to figure out how and where they are manufactured, what their effects are during their life span, and where they eventually end up once they have been used.

Their research showed that the traditional model of product use usually follows a course where the products are extracted from the earth, then some may affect the biosphere through emissions during their life span and eventually end up as waste in the landfill. It’s called the "cradle to the grave" model.

In order to be more sustainable, that model needs to be replaced by the sustainable "cradle to cradle" model in which products come from renewable materials and end up recycled or as natural biodegradable waste.