Develop a company-wide approach to sustainability.
Over a decade ago Grouse Mountain Resorts in North Vancouver, British Columbia began a major shift in operations. We recognized that the impacts of Climate Change jeopardized the length and quality of our winter ski season. Consequently we shifted gears from our winter-only ski resort and developed a new four-season strategy that would attract local and international visitors 365 days a year. This change introduced our winter white-season for skiing, snowboarding, snow-shoeing, sleigh-rides and ice-skating and our summer green-season for world-class hiking, wildlife demonstrations, lumberjack shows, scenic chair lift rides and ecological walks. The change also provided year-round access to Grouse Mountain as a sight-seeing and food and beverage destination. This successful adaptation at the Peak of Vancouver resulted in 1.2 million guests annually with 60% of visitation during the “new” green season.
This new focus was a strong reminder that the natural environment is essential to our success as one of Canada’s top attractions. Sustainability has always been an important part of Grouse Mountain’s mindset but we faced the challenge of developing and following a unified and comprehensive approach to sustainability for the entire resort. The approach would need to relate to the many facets of Grouse Mountain including sales, marketing, food and beverage, snow school, our refuge for endangered wildlife, mountain operations and maintenance.
Reflect, brainstorm and start the journey to carbon neutrality.
The strategy began by reflecting on the sustainability efforts that we were already making. We host a refuge for endangered wildlife that houses two orphaned Grizzly Bears and three abandoned Timber Wolves. Our mountain operations rely on a local private water source so we are familiar with the need to conserve and protect this resource. Waste management is a unique challenge due to our access limitations. We run environmental education programs for 20,000 elementary students each year. Recognizing our current efforts, it was time to look for more opportunities to improve and enhance our sustainability practices.
Through many discussions and inspiration the idea of Blue Grouse was born. Blue Grouse is about balance and responsibility, both in ecological and economic terms. We recognized that what is good for the environment can be equally good for business. The Blue Grouse mission is clear. We are committed to embedding the principles of sustainability into every aspect of our life. And our promise is this: every decision we make as a company will pass through the filter of social, environmental and economic responsibility. That what we practice will also educate and inspire others to become a part of the Blue Grouse philosophy.
Blue Grouse would direct our staff towards approaching business decisions and daily operations with environmental, social and economical factors in mind. It also led to one of our ultimate goals – to become a carbon-neutral resort. The aim of carbon neutrality is very personal to Grouse Mountain and is not to be achieved simply by the purchase of carbon credits or otherwise. Instead, the intent is to take full responsibility for the environmental inputs and outputs of our operations.
Blue Grouse in action.
Each department took an inventory of their current activities and identified opportunities for improvement. A list of a few of the Blue Grouse actions that were taken include:
• A biodiesel initiative reduces carbon emissions from the applicable vehicles by over 70%.
• Our public faucets and soap dispensers are hands-free to mitigate waste.
• Auto faucets are thermal mixed i.e. hot and cold to save energy.
• Public toilets are low flow using 6 gallons vs. the standard 13 gallons.
• All bathroom paper towel is 100% recycled and “green sealed” or “green certified”.
• Biodegradable trash bags are used throughout mountain.
• Eco-friendly cleansing products are used.
• “Green sealed” cleaners, soap and paper products are used in all washrooms.
• Altitudes Bistro and The Observatory fine dining restaurant are both members of the Green Table Network, a
group committed to responsible restaurant practices.
• Food & beverage operation is a member of Ocean Wise, a Vancouver Aquarium initiative committed to only
using sustainable seafood.
• Specialty garnish is grown on-site for food & beverage operation.
• Work with responsible suppliers to ensure the products we offer leave the smallest footprint possible.
• Work with M&R Environmental to safely dispose of waste oil, filters, rags, bottles and antifreeze and turn them into biofuel and bio antifreeze.
• Promote the use of re-usable cups for employee beverages and start an environmental fund for those who use disposable cups.
• No-idling zone in parking lot.
• Use low voltage lamping (50 vs. 35 watts) where feasible.
• Use Low VOC paint for renovations where feasible.
• 100% no smoking.
• Investigate renewable energy sources.
Of all the efforts listed above, the reduction of energy consumption is a key part of reducing our ecological footprint. Investigating renewable energy sources was therefore a natural next step. After five years of planning, the most visual element of Blue Grouse was born. The Eye of the Wind is a 1.5 MW wind turbine rooted at the summit of Grouse Mountain. Constructed in September 2009, this 102 metre tall structure will produce 25% of our annual electricity usage with clean renewable wind energy. As a twist, this structure which required wide international collaboration also includes the world’s first elevator-accessible observation deck on a wind turbine. This view POD sits below the hub of the turbine allowing visitors to experience the sheer power of wind energy up close and stimulate further discussion of renewable energy.
It is important to note that this project is privately funded with no financial assistance from any outside party. The addition of the viewPOD makes this wind energy project viable in a province where the industry is still relatively new. The project also benefits business as a new attraction at Grouse Mountain that will help increase the length of stay of the average visitor generating incremental revenue.
The Eye of the Wind is visible from most areas in Vancouver and stands as a visual beacon to sustainability, similar to our refuge for endangered wildlife. The attraction will impress guests with its remarkable stature and technical innovation. Our hope is that the unique experience will inspire guests, employees and Lower Mainland residents to consider how they can contribute to sustainability.
Our commitment to Blue Grouse and The Eye of the Wind is the start of a Quiet Revolution at Grouse Mountain. We will strive to find new and innovative ways to achieve and promote sustainability through our regular business operations.