Advice

from Whistler's sustainability champions

Advice from: Hugh O’Reilly, Mayor, Resort Municipality of Whistler

Having an overall vision is extremely powerful. From that you can generate key directions that people can clearly understand. Everyone has got to have something that they can focus on and use as their point of reference. I think that you have to have that otherwise it’s really easy to derail the program, to have short-term problems supercede long-term solutions and visions. I think sustainability has to be such a high priority that it meets your vision and everything else is secondary.

Advice from: Jim Godfrey, Chief Administrative Officer, Resort Municipality of Whistler

If you follow The Natural Step model, really take the time to plan for it, take the time to envision what you really want to be, and then work back from there. Be strategic. Don’t underestimate the resources required to move forward effectively with a major sustainability initiative. Don’t underestimate the value associated with it. Take the time to build support. Don’t underestimate the power of working with other community partners.

Advice from: Mike Purcell, Director of Planning, Resort Municipality of Whistler

I think what really triggered this community to start working on this issue was the presentation that Dr. Robèrt gave to a group of local business people, the mayor and council members and some senior staff members at municipal hall. When we walked out of that presentation, I think there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind about what we needed to do. I heard a number of people make statements like "it’s brilliant in its simplicity" and "it’s a great tool to help guide us in what we need to do" and there was so much excitement about it that it didn’t stop, it just snowballed from that point onwards. It was amazing. So my advice: do the same thing.

Advice from: Dave Waldron, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Coordinator, Whistler Early Adopter Initiative

Coming from a technical background, I’ve always focused on the technical side, making sure all the pieces are in place, that you’ve really thought it through, it’s intellectually tight, it’s got a solid foundation, and the intellectual appeal. The thing that I learned and the thing that I think is really important is the emotional inspiration; that is so valuable. What inspires people? That’s one thing. Then you need to bring the two together. You need both because if you just inspire people and get them all excited and then there’s confusion and they say ‘What can we do? Who do I talk to?’ Without answers they get frustrated and the inspiration is lost. So bring those two together and manage the relationship between the two.

Advice from: Arthur DeJong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager, Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Resorts

Don’t go on your own initiative or your own intuition first. Go to your community. Find out what matters most to your community because if you don’t you might end up doing things that aren’t going to be supported and it will just fall flat. So find out what really matters in your community or, as I like to say, in your neighbor’s house as well as your own and start from that. From that point you can empower yourself to become part of the solution as opposed to the problem and the people around you that may have questioned you and challenged you, and maybe have said "no" to developing your mountain may turn around and actually look to you for advice and expertise in how to safeguard their interest.

Advice from: Allana Hamm, Environmental Coordinator, Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Resorts

Develop incentives for people to think long-term rather than just the fiscal period. Be strategic so you can be proactive rather than reactive. Although you may be enthusiastic and want to run out and start doing something, remember to create baselines so you really track your progress and tell the story about what you did. You can be very successful with the programs you set out to do, but if you haven’t created the baseline, you aren’t able to tell the story effectively.

Advice from: Jane Wong, Project Manager, Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Resorts

The Natural Step provides a framework, but the people in the organization are the experts, they have to figure out what to do. People look for the list of dos and don’ts. The value of this framework is that you have to figure out what those dos and don’ts are within your own organization, how you operate.

Advice from: Sonya Hwang, Director of Communications, Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Communication is vitally important. For example, communicating to our employees why it is so important to recycle. Why it is important to turn off things, such as lights. Communicating to the guests so they understand why we are doing what we’re doing. Communication is what is really going to drive this forward. You need to focus on communication and building relationships. As a PR person I’m proud to say what I’m doing in this program is really important.

Advice from: Dan Wilson, Sustainability Coordinator, Fairmont Chateau Whistler

When you start a sustainability project in an organization, there are keen people who have high expectations of being able to change everything right away. Unfortunately there are also people who resist change. To keep the keen people from getting too frustrated with the challenges of change, it is important to be strategic and manage their expectations. To help accelerate change, take time and devote resources to share knowledge with managers so they have a better understanding of sustainability and The Natural Step framework before it percolates to the front lines. You really need to get the top people on board.

Advice from: Joey Houssian, Research Associate, Whistler Sustainability Initiative

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is there is no silver bullet. You can’t just do it overnight. How do you get started? There’s not just one thing. Make the commitment, give permission and unleash the creativity. Start with little things, things that you can control and build from there. *

* The comments above are excerpted from the book, DANCING WITH THE TIGER: Learning Sustainability Step by Natural Step, by Nattrass and Altomare, New Society Publishers, 2002.


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