We all know the old adage "Waste not, want not." Well, folks involved in event production - large and small - in Whistler want not to waste, and there are some great steps being taken.
A fine example happened this fall on a gorgeous sunny day at Meadow Park when a group of community partners, led by Whistler Rotary, worked together to make sure their annual event generated as little "garbage" as possible - with the intention to generate none next year.
"There will be no garbage here today." With those words, the MC at Whistler's Rotary Family Fun Day/B.C. Rivers Day kicked off an afternoon of food, fun and family where the amount of "garbage" generated filled about one-third of a 10-litre pail. Rotary Family Fun Day, Sept. 20, was a "Near Zero Waste Event" through the coordinated efforts of Rotarians, Carney's Waste Systems and Whistler2020. Over 400 Whistler residents participated in the event and immediately noticed the absence of "garbage cans" and the presence of a "Recycling Station." Staffed by members of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and Carney's, fun day participants were asked to sort their waste into recyclables, returnables and compostables.
Rotarians stepped up to the plate by purchasing compostable picnic plates and cutlery made from potato starch. Whistler's realtors gave out ice cream in recyclable cups with compostable wooden spoons - all of which went into three compost bins. Fully two-thirds of the event's waste - paper, food and other organics - around 520 litres, was input into the RMOW's regional composter and will be output next spring as composted soil amendment. A few hundred tetra paks of fruit juice will be returned to the recycling depot and all plastic, aluminum and glass will be recycled. All told, roughly 300 kilograms of material were spared a trip to the landfill through wise purchasing decisions, appropriate infrastructure and a little help from our friends.
According to the Whistler2020 Materials and Solid Waste Strategy indicators, in 2008, 27,870 tonnes of materials (just over one tonne per person) were used then landfilled, reused, composted or recycled in the RMOW. The three-year average amount of materials being used in Whistler has increased (3.65 per cent) on an absolute basis to 2008 and increased slightly on a per capita basis to 2008.
According to a 2008 report titled "Stop Trashing the Climate," produced by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, wise waste management is one of the major factors in adapting and mitigating the effects of global climate change.
"A zero waste approach is one the fastest, cheapest and most effective strategies to protect the climate. Significantly decreasing waste disposed in landfills and incinerators will reduce greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent to closing 21 per cent of U.S. coal-fired power plants. This is comparable to leading climate protection proposals such as improving national vehicle fuel efficiency. Indeed, preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling and composting are essential to put us on the path to climate stability," the report states.
Active, on the ground examples of wise waste decisions can be seen around our resort community: the RMOW invested in a regional composter able to take 20 tonnes per day of compostable input. Whistler Blackcomb initiated an on-mountain composting system last winter and destreamed all organic food waste. Citizens can now compost at the waste transfer stations at Nesters and Function Junction and many Whistler2020 partners and other businesses are realizing real cost savings in their operations through improved waste management practices. Tourism Whistler has created a great set of "Sustainable Event Guidelines" with a section on wise waste management decisions focused around zero waste events.
So, as we move toward our shared community goal of "zero waste," that is, no material being landfilled or incinerated, Whistler can be proud of our efforts to date and continue on our journey together. Remember, "Waste not, want not." That's no garbage.
To learn more about actions that are moving Whistler toward our 2020 vision, or to get involved, go to whistler2020.ca