Mentee Stories: Anitra Paris

Zero-waste in Mountain Towns

By Anitra Paris

 Anitra Paris, left, enjoying Whistler, where her reusable cup program is based this summer.  Photo: Anitra Paris

Anitra Paris, left, enjoying Whistler, where her reusable cup program is based this summer.

Photo: Anitra Paris

Vail Resorts is continuously expanding their ski resort empire and recently acquired Whistler Blackcomb, the reviews from locals haven’t all been positive. In April 2018, Bloomberg even questioned if Vail is killing Whistler’s spirit. On the local radio station, Vail applauded Whistler Blackcomb for their environmental efforts.

With every acquisition, traits and characteristics from the original company will always transfer over. Environmental stewardship is a defining focus of Whistler Blackcomb from a documentary series called “The Big Picture”, shedding light climate change’s impact on ski resorts, to zero-waste efforts at the world’s largest mountain bike festival Crankworx. In 2017, Whistler Blackcomb’s zero-waste stations at Crankworx successfully diverted 81% of waste which weighed in at over 2.5 tonnes! It is clear that Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental initiatives can be used to guide Vail’s 13 other ski resorts, helping Vail meet its Epic Promise world-wide.

Part of Vail’s Epic Promise is to have zero-waste to landfill by 2030.  A section of their strategy to meet their zero-waste goal is by “working with local resort communities to increase options for reuse and diversion”. Which is why, this summer I’m working with Whistler Blackcomb’s Waste Reduction Specialist, Taniell Hamilton, to pilot a reusable coffee cup program for a select group of staff at Whistler Blackcomb at Garbanzo Bike & Bean.

 These will be used to pilot a reusable coffee cup program at Whistler Blackcomb.   Photo: Anitra Patris

These will be used to pilot a reusable coffee cup program at Whistler Blackcomb.  
Photo: Anitra Patris

 Garbanzo Bean & Bike: A one-stop-shops with bikes, gear and a new coffee cup program!  Photo: Whister Blackcomb

Garbanzo Bean & Bike: A one-stop-shops with bikes, gear and a new coffee cup program! 
Photo: Whister Blackcomb

The connection between waste reduction and climate is often not made. In order to understand the impact of our systems, we need to zoom out. The full story of single-use items from extracting resources, transporting to facilities, manufacturing, use and then finally disposal is not always considered. Creating a closed-looped system will greatly help reduce those environmental impacts.

Whistler is a place I have grown to love through playing, living and working as part of the community over the past five years. RMOW has been working towards waste reduction through their “Love this Place, Reduce your Waste” initiative. Local environmental non-profit AWARE is rolling out an anti-straw campaign, “Straw Wars” as well as hosting zero-waste stations for large events and festivals. Sustainability is holistic and I want to help draw the connection between climate change and zero-waste, low-impact living. People often choose to define their values and write their story without realizing how much interplay there is between their segregated identities.

Why Climate Guides and Mentorship?

I applied to Climate Guides because, well—I was looking for guidance. With climate change on the mind, emerging from university can be overwhelming. Topics and subjects are no longer compartmentalized into courses and semesters, instead you face all the problems of the world at once. How do you organize your thoughts and hone in on one focus? How do you create a positive action-based narrative? I’m hoping that by creating a convenient zero-waste system with guidance from my mentor and partnerships across Whistler, I can do just that.  

 The Climate Guides team knew this mentee and mentor were a matchy-match made in heaven!  Photo: Ivan Belko Photography

The Climate Guides team knew this mentee and mentor were a matchy-match made in heaven! 
Photo: Ivan Belko Photography

My mentor is Alison Carr, Buyer & Supplier Relationship Manager at Nada Grocery. The store launched this June—Nada Grocery is a zero-waste grocery store aimed at bringing people just food, no packaging. As a mentor, she is very helpful with offering constructive questions or feedback. Excitement about a project can often lead to scattered thoughts, my mentor has aided me in keeping my direction focused. Something that Nada has done exceptionally well is building a strong community and fostering support through pop-up events, and eventually scaling up.

Mentorship is important in empowering youth because it helps bring their ideas to life. This relationship opens doors to resources that youth may have otherwise thought were inaccessible. In mentorship, working with someone you view as successful shows you what is possible. Mentorship showcases the power of collaboration; when it comes to climate action and sustainability building strong alliances is key. It can be disheartening to look around a table and realize that women in leadership positions take up as little as zero percent of the seats. As a powerhouse female in business, it is inspiring to have Alison as a role model.