UNBC and the 2015 Canada Winter Games have partnered on a sustainable legacy, starting with the hiring of an international expert to further the sustainability work already being done at the university.
Emily Harrison has moved to Prince George from her previous post at the University of Central Asia where she did sustainability programing in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic, on top of work she had done previously in Tanzania.
"This is really a unique position. I'm technically an employee of UNBC and it is about pursuing primary sustainability opportunities within the Canada Winter Games but also to apply that to northern B.C. for long after that Games are gone," she said.
Some of those opportunities include ways and means for recycling as much as possible, waste management innovations, composting initiatives, buy-local procurement processes, wood-first initiatives, and human rights considerations tied to buying goods and services.
For each sustainability check-mark that gets made, there is to be a transparent way of measuring its successes and failures plus communicating it to the public.
"People often associate the term 'sustainability' with environmental protection, and it is, but it is also so much more," Harrison said. "It is about economic growth that will truly be effective in the long term, it is about social longevity built on solid foundations. It's extremely exciting for me and it is so visionary for the Games organizers to conceive of this. They are using the Games as a platform for building the next chapter of northern B.C.'s life, and it is based on a huge volunteer force where everyone can get involved, you don't need any previous experience, and in a short period of time you build a support base for a community to go forward."
The template for the focus on sustainability came largely from Dan Adamson, the City of Prince George's community forest manager and manager of environment, according to officials with UNBC. He also spotted a potential funding ally in Integris Credit Union, a necessary financial underwriter to get the idea moving towards reality.
"We were the first in," said Dan Wingham, spokesman for Integris. "We immediately saw the value in this, it was an idea that we knew was the right one to invest in and expand upon our ongoing partnership with UNBC. We could tell this would be a game-changer for Prince George and be part of that lasting legacy that the Canada Winter Games is enabling to happen. We got to yes very quickly."
Another early supporter was the Fraser Basin Council. Regional manager Terry Robert said "the council believes that social well-being is supported by a healthy economy and a vibrant environment in tandem. We were very attracted to the concept of building collaborations within the community that would reflect back on the sustainability of the community itself, for all of northern B.C."
"If you want to tie that to teaching and research, students and staff in a number of departments have done a number of class projects and field studies that feed into what Emily is doing," said Phil Mullins, on the professorial staff of the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management department at UNBC. "It is already bearing fruit and looking ahead we are very excited about the learning opportunities this will provide, the knowledge base it will build, and the implementations the community will benefit by."
Games CEO Stu Ballantyne said Harrison represented a key benefit from the CWGs to the community that goes beyond sport and beyond the time frame of the competitions.
"With a sustainability manager as part of our team, we know we can make great strides in exemplifying Prince George as a leader in sustainable events management."
With local society's overall buy-in to the sustainability concept - work that was already underway on a number of fronts - the economic engines and quality of life for northern B.C. look exciting, said Harrison, who already hopes to sustain her career in Prince George after the Games are through.