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Waste, climate change, and carrying capacity

Pique discusses environmental priorities in lead up to Oct. 20 election



With municipal elections just around the corner, it's clear that environmental stewardship is top of mind for a number of candidates running for Whistler's six council seats.

That much was clear after the first all-candidates meeting, said Claire Ruddy of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) in an interview with Pique.

"It was really great to see so many people come out to it and some great questions raised about environment and sustainability issues," said Ruddy of the Sept. 26 event, which was hosted by AWARE along with Arts Whistler and Whistler Community Services Society.

In anticipation of the Oct. 20 election, Pique checked in with Ruddy as well as outgoing, environmentally minded councillor Sue Maxwell to see what they feel Whistler's next council should tackle when it comes to the environmental file.

Ruddy said that there are a number of strong initiatives that are making their way to council for approval, including changes to water-use policy and the implementation of the BC Energy Step Code, which adopts a performance-based approach and allows designers and builders the flexibility to decide how to meet energy-efficiency standards.

"There's a lot that's going to be coming down the pipe that candidates up for election now will get to take action on in the next four years," said Ruddy.

That said, Ruddy feels that when it comes to contributing to the fight against climate change, Whistler has a lot of work to do.

"We have an existing plan that has 140 recommendations in it," said Ruddy, referencing the 2016 Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), which sets out strategic directions and practical actions to reduce Whistler's contribution to climate change.

"We just need to put our foot on the gas on that plan," said Ruddy, adding that that Whistler's environmental performance indicators "have consistently been going in the wrong direction."

While Whistler averaged greenhouse gas reductions of about 3.8 per cent annually from 2008 to 2012, the resort has averaged a 4.7-per-cent increase in total emissions each year since 2014. In 2017, total community emissions rose by four per cent over 2016.

Ruddy would also like to see more effort at the municipal level to reduce waste, especially when it come to single-use items. "I think that there is a growing understanding in the global population that we need to change our relationship with single-use, mass produced items," she said.

Maxwell's comments largely fall in line with Ruddy's.

"We should be implementing (CECAP)," said Maxwell, adding that there may be additional initiatives that can be inserted now that the plan is a couple years old.

She would also like Whistler's new council to take a hard look at the carrying capacity of Whistler—and that includes the carrying capacity of its sensitive alpine environments, trails and parks.

"I think we want to look at how many people can you fit in Rainbow Park (where) it's still an enjoyable experience," said Maxwell.

"How many can you put on trails before the erosion starts to be a problem?"

Maxwell also highlighted the waste issue.

"We still don't have a zero-waste strategy for the community, so ideally (we will) be developing one," she said, noting that council passed a resolution two summers ago to establish a zero waste committee and that it has yet to come to pass.