Advancing sustainable business: A conversation with Jill Doucette
In this episode, Paul and Dave talk with Jill Doucette, founder of Synergy Enterprises and Synergy Foundation — two separate organizations with the same mandate: help business leaders reduce their carbon emissions.
Jill highlights some of the ways in which the pandemic has resulted in a mind shift among many business leaders to embrace sustainable development as part of their post-pandemic recovery.
She explains the nuances of each of the three focus areas of her foundation; green business, food security and the circular economy and draws attention to some of Vancouver Island’s leading green businesses.
Lastly, Jill, Paul and Dave chat about how our consumer and business decisions can have a significant environmental impact — in a good way — when we reconsider how we approach everything from small office furnishings to recycling to travel.
Click here for the full transcript
Paul Holmes: Welcome, everybody, to Island Thrive. My name is Paul Holmes, and with me today, as usual, is Dave Monahan, the president of Smart Dolphins IT. How are you, Dave?
Dave Monahan: I’m very good, Paul. Thank you.
PH: Great. And also joining us today, our special guest from Synergy Enterprises is the founder and CEO, Jill Doucette. Jill, how are you today?
Jill Doucette: Good morning. I’m great, thank you.
PH: Awesome. So Synergy Enterprises has been newsworthy of late. We’ve seen lots of things happening with the organization. But before we dive into what you’ve built here and all the incredible stuff you guys are doing, why don’t we talk a little bit about yourself? What’s your background story? What brought you to Victoria?
JD: I think I’ve been in Victoria now for almost 20 years, which sounds wild to say. I came here for university, specifically the Earth and Ocean Sciences program at the University of Victoria, which I did not finish. However, that’s what drew me out here. I’m from the interior of BC, a really small town, and the ocean was a big draw. I was very interested in marine sciences and couldn’t leave. As much as my friends were going and moving to Toronto and Vancouver for big jobs, and I just thought, “I’m going to hold down the fort and you’ll be back, because this is really the place to live.”
PH: So how did the transition happen to forming Synergy in 2008? What led up to that?
JD: Synergy actually started while I was in university. I was working at a coffee shop, and I was very interested in sustainable business and was learning about it through my biology degree and environmental sciences. And so I asked the owner, “Do you want to try to make this business carbon neutral?” And he said, “Not really, I don’t even know what that is. And why don’t you just stick to making lattes?” Long story short, I wore him down, and it was a bit of a pilot project. The business went carbon neutral. We saved a lot of costs. It became a great story for their brand, better staff retention, and then other businesses just started asking me if I could do the same for them. And so Synergy sort of started by accident.
PH: That’s pretty cool. And so that’s what Synergy Enterprise was founded on, but I understand your services have expanded and you’ve got quite an enterprise going there, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about what a typical client looks like and what sort of services you offer.
JD: So we still work with businesses or helping them measure and reduce their emissions, but now we work with businesses all over the world. We’ve got some specialization areas, we work with a lot of airports, transportation companies, we work on development projects, building out communities, working on alternative energy.
So we really have… I’m very grateful we have a really diverse set of projects, and our job is really to find the opportunities to reduce emissions and make that happen, and also work with businesses to find projects that they can support outside of their business operations, if it’s financially or technically not possible to reduce their emissions any further, and that’s how we help businesses become car neutral. So every day is a new challenge around emissions reductions, and it’s been a lot of fun because it’s always different.
Dave: You talked about expanding globally, what percentage would still be local versus off the island?
JD: Are probably still 80% in Canada, local to the island within that, perhaps 50%. 50% in BC, I would say keep. That number keeps changing as we keep doing more international work. We are looking at a project in New Zealand right now, which is exciting, that would be our first project there, and we just finished another in the Caribbean which was our first there. As soon as we think we’ve figured it out, then we’re looking at totally different challenges on a Caribbean island with only one energy supplier and all the things that come with that. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Dave: So when you expand globally, obviously, you’re now competing with other I’m assuming the companies like yours, why would somebody choose the Synergy on an international stage?
JD: That’s a great question, I think for international work, when they see the work we’ve already done in Canada, they want the same sort of thing or to the same level in their country. So for example in New Zealand our experience in sustainable tourism, that’s really a fit for what their needs are. In the Caribbean, there is no one to compete with, so that was… I was a little easier.
Paul: So I’m going to ask a facetious question, Jill, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, why on earth would I care at this moment in time to try to make my business more sustainable. Don’t I have more important things to worry about. If a business owner is thinking that, and I wouldn’t fault them, frankly, if they did, but I think you have a good comeback to that don’t you?
JD: To be honest with the pandemic started, I didn’t know if our business would survive, I mean, we help businesses become better, and when their very nature of their business or the foundation of their business is eroding and they don’t know if they’re going to make it another six months, I thought it’s going to be really hard to make the case that this should be a priority. However, I think there’s been a real mind shift, so I’m maybe a surprise as you are, that businesses are still thinking about this and whole regions are still thinking about this.
We’ve had an economic pause and it’s really tough to do a 90 degree turn in a fast moving train, but when there is a pause, there’s an opportunity to pivot, and I think there’s just enough awareness about the business case for sustainable development that businesses are saying, “I want to make this a part of my recovery, and in fact, I know it’s a critical part of my recovery, I need to be thinking this way more about business resilience, renewable energy, making less waste.” They need to be working on those things in order to survive the next 10 years, so I think there’s just a lot of savvy-ness in the business community. They’ve read a lot about this, they’ve been hearing about it for almost two decades, and it’s a part of how they’re going to build back and be stronger if and when they survive this.
Paul: Well, I think there’s been a sea of change. Investors, consumers, obviously governments and regulators and stuff there. You got to see the writing on the wall, you can’t build a strong foundational future on an unsustainable business. I think it’s become pretty obvious, but I guess there’s still a lot of work to be done there, and I think for a lot of business owners as well, they maybe have no idea where to get started, they’ve been running their business for a long, long time, and I guess that’s where you come in. I know also, you’ve written four books, I Googled them very, very quickly, and I thought yhey all looked great. If you’re a business owner and you’re thinking about just how to take the first steps here, which of your four books would you recommend they pick up?
JD: I’ve only written three books…
Paul: Oh, three books.
JD: But there skinny. If you smoush them all together glue the covers together, it’s like one book. For reading up on sustainability, I think there’s so many resources out there, I am a big fan of Donut Economics, if you’re looking for something from a high level perspective that’s relevant to any industry, it’s a really good framework to think about the future of our economy and our planet and our society. So Donut Economics by Kate Roberts is an incredible book. That’s not one of my books, but if you are looking for something that is more along the lines of “what can I do operationally within my business,” I have three books, one geared more towards tourism and hospitality, one for more office-based businesses and one for generally community-based initiatives. So those are great. They’re available on Amazon. I don’t promote them too much, they were fun to write, but I’m a terrible book promoter. But there’s tons of online resources out there as well. There’s almost always some kind of industry group in your sector working on this, whether you’re in Tech or manufacturing, or you’re in food production or hospitality. So I would say find your group and learn from one another because there’s somebody else there that’s working on this already
Paul: Sounds like great advice. So we talked about Synergy Enterprises, and I know also you have formed Synergy Foundation, and maybe you can explain a little bit about the relationship there, and we can talk about what the foundation does.
JD: Sure, so Synergy Enterprises was started in 2008. And five years in and around 2013, we said, This is great. It’s wonderful to be doing work around the world, and we’re getting pulled further and further away from the island, which we’re grateful for, but we still want to make a difference here. We want to do more community projects and be able to work with small businesses and our First Nations and do things that maybe are a little outside of the box when it comes to just our consulting services. So we started the foundation as a completely separate organization, as independent board of directors, and our mission is really to catalyze a green economy here on Vancouver Island and expanding to BC. So we have a few focus areas, one is green business, so really helping the small businesses implement green practices. The second is food security, really focused on Vancouver Island for that, and the last is the circular economy.
Paul: I think some of us are familiar with some of those terms. The green business I have a good idea of what that means. And food security has obviously been a hot topic here on Vancouver Island for a long time because of course, we live on an island and we don’t produce a lot of food. Circular economy is a brand new term to me as of today, I’m a little embarrassed to say, so maybe why don’t we start with the first two, and you could tell us what those are. And then I will learn from you all about the circular economy. Well, and we can double in. So when you say green business, what do we mean by that?
JD: So when we say a green business, we’re really referring to our Vancouver Island green business collective program, which has been a wonderful way to help small businesses implement those initiatives in their business, so this is as detailed as what kind of paper you buy, what kind of vehicle do you drive? What are your staff commuting practices? What does your energy supply? All of those little things. So we help restaurants, spas and salons, offices, retail businesses and transportation businesses. So those are the five we work with, and each business gets certified for achieving a certain amount of action. So we have a checklist that’s available online, and businesses can kind of work through that and have just a bit of guidance. Because I think it’s hard to just start, you think, “Oh, should I just put solar panels on my roof?” But there’s so many things that a business can do, in fact, each checklist has up to 55 actions of standard things that they can do in their business. So it’s a great guideline. We have free tools, such as waste audit tools, and businesses are really encouraged to just to make a few new actions every year, it’s about continual progress, and the businesses that have been a part of that program now for quite a few years are really leaders in their sector for sustainable practices, and they’ve been able to connect with their customers on that and new staff are attracted to work there, it’s been really fantastic to see them lead the way in our local business community.
Paul: Well, I think there’s definitely…We think about green business in terms of being able to show off and say, “Hey, we’re in green business and you should buy our products and stuff,” I think if you’d ask somebody five, 10 years ago, they weren’t thinking about it from a recruiting standpoint, but I think nowadays, if you want to get great employees that really feel great about where they work, they want to know that the company they work for shares their values, it cares about the environment and the sustainability and that sort of thing as well so. Your thoughts..other than those two things, and maybe have more to say on the recruiting side, but what’s the advantage to a business to get the certification and to work through this process?
JD: Well, I think that you pointed out a great one, which is about employee morale and retention, if you go to work every day and you see that the practices in your workplace are extremely wasteful, and if it just feels like no one really cares. And your practices at home are much better, that’s sort of hard to wrestle with. It’s hard to really get on board with how business is done, and that can become a moral dilemma for some people, they might say, “I want to work somewhere that meets my values more,” and I would totally understand that. Whereas, if your business is going a little bit above and beyond and they say, “Wow, you know, the practice is here…(recycling is an easy one to think about) the way we deal with waste here is way better than I do at home, and it’s inspiring me to do better in my own life.” That’s a completely different dynamic with your organization, if you are somebody with environmental values, and more and more people are integrating environmental values and practices into their life and into how they make decisions about spending their career. So I think that is a huge one.
Paul: I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole, but I think it goes beyond even just recycling. I think there’s been a one recognition in the last little while that recycling isn’t the end all be all it was never supposed to be. It was the reduce, reuse, recycle and we all kind of clung to that last rung, if you will, as the salvation for the planet. We forgot about the reduce and the reuse part right? And I think a lot of people are becoming a lot more mature and they’re thinking about that, they’re recognizing that the reduced side of that in particular is really critical. So can your organization produce less waste in the first place, so that you don’t need to worry, but what to recycle because there’s that much less to recycle. I don’t know, it’s a bit of a weird tangent, but I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that, Jill, just going off in a strange direction…
JD: No, that is a perfect segue into the concept of circular economy, so thank you for that little lead in.
Paul: That sounds good. I meant to do that for sure. Tell us about the circular economy?
JD: Well sure the circular economy is a really exciting framework for how to rethink waste. So at World Economic Forum in 2019, there was a report that came out that said, Our world is 9% circular. And what that means is 9% of all of our materials that we pull out of the earth are recycled at the end of the day. 9%. So these are commodities such as aluminum, which are highly recyclable, copper, highly recyclable, there’s still a lot of those items that end up in the landfill, but even with all of our efforts, all of our blue bin sorting, we are not even crossing the 10% mark globally. So 91% of waste is destined for to end up in the environment or landfills, and that’s a huge problem, it’s also a massive lost economic opportunity, if we don’t circularize our material flows, then we’re going to be constantly extracting and dumping our waste or trying to get rid of it in some way, we incinerate it, bury it in the ocean, we do crazy things to get rid of waste and all of those things are very expensive. If you think about the services to hallways from your home, then take it to a processing facility or put it on a barge and ship it overseas, these are hugely costly processes. And there’s a better way to do it, so I’ll give you one example, because I think it’s a great way to envision the circular economy. So we use plastic every day, everyone has plastics in the blue bin from shopping at a grocery store. Obviously, the first step would be to reduce that as much as possible, and we have grade zero waste grocery stores now here on Vancouver Island. However, if we still have this plastic waste, we need to use it, what if we could locally instead of shipping it away locally, grind it up, turn it into filament for 3D printing and print new goods and keep this plastic in rotation, so we use quality enough input materials that they could be infinitely recycled, we reduce the demands on the natural systems to be constantly extracting and we create new economic opportunities in our community. So plastic is just one example, but you can look at this for everything, recycling textiles, even taking, say, waste heat from a processing facility and capturing that to heat a building nearby – all of those are circular solutions, but it’s really about creating… Eliminating waste, both from an energy and material standpoint and creating new economic opportunities through the conversion of that waste back into a resource.
Dave: Those ideas are really great, and it’s not exciting, one of theirs, just sort of everyday stuff that the average business person or anybody could do without having that opportunity there yes. Is there low-hanging fruit that you can take us from nine to 10% at least, or improve things?
JD: Yes, there is definitely. Even thinking about, say, furnishing your house or furnishing your office, if people still have offices. When we buy something, thinking about how this… What happened to this at the end of its life, what would I do with this is it made of glue and particle would and looks like it’s completely impossible to disassemble the… That item is destined for the landfill at the end of its life, especially if you’re buying low grade products to begin with. So how do we go about consuming is probably the easiest way to start. Consuming less waste a great place to start there is at a grocery store, of course. But then also in those bigger purchases, if you’re buying a filing cabinet, is this made primarily of metal, could it just be recycled at the end of its life? Is it durable enough to last a while, or really, at the end of the day, am I going to be throwing this out? And there’s some fantastic furniture companies that have leaned into this and designed their products for repairability, durability and recyclability at the end of their life.
Dave: We’re actually just moving our host right now, and we’ve been looking for furniture, and I guess there’s a local company, I forgot the name of it, but they’re actually taking pallets and they’re making everyday furniture out of these pallets. It looks amazing and obviously durable, and I would have assumed reusable after the life of it as well, and not to mention the recycling they’re doing already, so I’m not sure if you know the company, I should know it, but…
JD: I do actually Retro Re-purposed.
JD: I actually have one of their they custom-built a cabinetry set for our office.
Dave: Yeah, that’s great.
JD: Yeah, so also supporting those businesses that are taking waste and converting it to new things, we have. One of the businesses that just graduated from our incubator program is taking recycled or spent or dead sails they call them in for the sailing community. So these sails are really durable material and they might not be suited to sail anymore, but it’s a great fabric, and so she is converting these sails into technical backpacks and outdoor gear. So a very local source of waste, it’s surprising how many sails that we have that go into the landfill because there’s nothing else to do with them. And she’s finding a unique way to create some income for herself and start a new business. Her business is called Salt Legacy.
Paul: Like every Christmas, when you open up a gift and you’ve got that crazy hard plastic package you have to cut open with a sword because it’s somebody created the most impossible to open package known to man and you just shake your head and you go, “there’s got to be a better way here” or you see the over-packaging and all that sort of stuff, and that’s got to be still a huge part of our waste. I don’t know if… is there anyone you’re working with and that innovative space, or do you have any thoughts on it?
JD: Well, we’re involved in the recycling stimulus, find from the province actually, which is open right now for applicants. It’s a 5 million fund to help to increase the use of post-consumer content in the kind of packaging that we use. So yes, the packaging needs to be redesigned so that it can a) Be recycled…some packaging can’t even be recycled because it’s this mix of different materials and that makes it impossible, so singular materials is important. But also in that packaging, it’s just packaging, why not use post-consumer recycled content, who cares what the color is a little bit off or it’s got some speckles in it. So really helping manufacturers to integrate post-consumer recycled content is the purpose of this fund, so hopefully we’ll see some movement on that in BC in the next year or so.
Paul: That’s great. So we’re going to get back to the third focus area, food security, but now we’re way down the rabbit hole in the circular economy, and I want you to talk a little bit about the incubator project that you have, as I understand, just recently graduating the second round of new businesses from.
JD: Yes, so we’re on our cohort 2 we call them. So we started this program in 2019 with our first set of seven businesses, so these entrepreneurs or want to be entrepreneurs, they apply to our program and say, I have a great idea in the circular economy to convert waste into a new product. And I need help getting this business off the ground, most of these people in our program, they don’t have any formal business experience, and neither do I when I started Synergy, so we really want to help those people with great ideas, launch their businesses, meet investors just… If these businesses are successful, we live in a better place So we just graduated our last cohort, and I mentioned Megan with Salt legacy, she’s one of our ventures. We’ve also got Basecamp Outdoor Repair. So when your Patagonia jacket reps and you need it repaired, if you take it in for warranty, sometimes there’s no one local to do that warranty job, so this way individuals and local companies will be able to have a local outdoor gear repair place, so that’ll just keep our products in life longer…another example in the circular economy. But we’ve got nine great businesses that have just launched, they’re all on our project zero website. And it’s neat now because Cohort One was graduated in the end of 2019, and they are now pitching on Dragons Den, we had Bin Breeze, one of our ventures, pitch on Dragons Den just this winter, which was really exciting, and another one that has developed a bioluminescent glowstick instead of these toxic plastic glowsticks they’ve developed something that uses 100% biodegradable inputs. And at the end of the day…
Paul: That’s great.
JD: It’s super cool, right? Everyone thinks I love these things, I love glowsticks but I don’t love the fact that they are bad for the environment.
Paul: I own some and I feel horrible every time I use one. It’s just… You know how terrible it is, right. That’s great, that’s exciting. I can’t wait to see that company. I hope they have a huge success.
JD: Yeah, Absolutely, I believe you can buy them now, there are company is called Nyoka and they’re based in Courtney now, in a makerspace up there and… Yeah, I mean, there’s just amazing ideas like this out there, so if anyone’s curious about the circular economy wants to support a business, I recommend checking out the businesses at the project zero website.
Paul: That’s exciting. Yeah, I just found lightbynyoka.com. Wow. Yeah, very exciting. That’s really neat, what’s really awesome about it, Jill, is you’re working with these entrepreneurs, launching new businesses in the middle of a pandemic…Right, and it’s funny actually, my step-brother and his wife started a business in the middle of a pandemic too, and I thought they were crazy and they’re doing great, you just have to have a very different approach and be really methodical about it and really think about how you’re going to succeed. And it’s great to see new business happening, but I think it’s doubly great to see new business happening, that also has the potential to really have a positive impact on our island, on our world, so…That’s exciting, congratulations on that.
Let’s talk about food security. We talked before the show, I said, we live on an island, we don’t grow that much here on the island, and so I’ve heard this as an issue here for a long, long time, in theory, the ferry stopped running and we all starve. Is that the perspective you’re approaching food security on…Is there more to than that and what’s happening around that you went to speak to.
JD: Yeah, absolutely. When the pandemic first hit, we were really concerned about food security and by the grocery shelves stock. I think everybody was. There was no pasta at Save On Foods…People were stacking up, so there was a real fear about food security. And it made us think about World War II when there was the call to do victory gardens, to dig up your grass and plant some food…
Paul: Isn’t that smarter most of the time anyway?
JD: I think so, yes. Yeah, unless you have maybe a putting green in your front yard or something, but no other than that, I have this real pent up disdain for lawns because they use water, they need pesticides to look perfect, which affects our bee population and for so many reasons, lawns are just sort of an environmentally costly activity to maintain. So why not have a native flower garden instead and have something that’s good for pollinators and grow some food and knock a few things off your common grocery list? It’s just so easy here, we have the best weather for growing, you can do in some cases, three crops of lettuces and things like that, so we live in a fantastic place. I think we need to take more advantage of it. With our Food Eco District project, we decided that we were going to help enhance food security to those that were most affected by Covid-19 when it first hit. People were unemployed, seniors were isolated, there was limited access to fresh food, especially if you were quarantined or on lockdown due to health conditions. So we purchased, we crowd-funded and purchased 2500 of these canvas planters that you could easily start your own little home garden in, and we distributed them filled with soil and plants and seeds and everything you need to start your own home garden to 514 homes throughout the region. So it took us all summer to get these things out. It was totally crazy. We said 500 homes, not really thinking about what that’s going to take and how much dirt that is, it was like 16 trucks of soil or something. So that’s a little lesson learned, do the math before you put it out there, but…It was really heart-warming. People wrote us saying, you know that “I’ve never garden before, this is so cool to be able to teach this to my kids.” Or single mothers whose husbands were overseas and couldn’t come home for a while due to the pandemic. And this one woman I remember, she had three kids at home, and this was something that they could focus on together, and it was really special, and we delivered them to a lot of isolated seniors who may be gardened in their younger years, but now they’re in a small place, and this was a way for them to garden even on the balcony, so that was really inspiring to see how many people were starting gardens during the pandemic, that is one little bright spot of all of this, I saw even on my own street, people were ripping up their lawns and putting in planter boxes and people were at home more and wanted to be able to do something productive outside, and it was just fantastic. I mean the garden stores were hit as well. I’ve never seen such a low stock there of some things as well, and I saw a great stat that twice as many people as the normal in Canada gardened this year had home gardens. And one out of four of them were brand new to it, so it’s a massive wave of new people starting to grow with their own food, and I think that’s an important connection to make as well, just to be more connected to the food that you eat.
Paul: That was us actually in our house, really, we have never…Well, it’s been a long, long time. Never in this house that we gardened and we’ve lived here for a decade. And I hate lawns, I’m the guy who makes his neighbor angry because I never water my lawn because I’m like, I’m not wasting water on my lawn… I’m sorry, it rains. That’s fine. So my entire backyard, we’ve ripped up about half of it, we replaced a bunch of it with local plants, like beautiful local plants, which my wife that was her project, and she had garden gnomes and all the great stuff going on there, but then we put two giant planters down as well, and we grew an incredible amount of vegetables, I couldn’t believe how much vegetables we managed to get out of the ground and it’s just, it’s so great, and so there’s a good thing to come out of the pandemic, I think that is huge, and we loved our vegetables. We are eating healthy, and we plan on doing that now next year and every year in the future. Right, that’s great. What a great initiative you guys did, is that something you think you’re going to carry on next year as well?
JD: Yeah, we’re just trying to determine what the need will be in the region to do this again, we thought this would be a one-season thing because of the pandemic, but we found that there’s still a need and the pandemic is still continuing, so we will be relaunching just within the next couple of months and taking in applications for these free garden kits.
Paul: get-fed.ca I see on the website, that looks like you can apply to sponsor that as well, and looking for members and volunteers as well.
JD: Yes, we had, I think, almost 90 volunteers. It really was a feat to get this done. Every Friday, I had my little baby pickup truck and was delivering these garden kits for the whole summer, so it was really a great way to give back, and there was also quite a bit of generosity from the community who said, “I want to sponsor a home or I want to sponsor 10 homes to get these kits” and people really came out to support this, so we’d love to do it again. I’m not sure if we’ll do 500 homes again, maybe…We’ll knock that down a little bit.
Dave: This isn’t viable for everybody but we’ve had chickens for, I don’t know, maybe a decade, so anybody sort of curious in this area in their own life, it’s actually a lot easier than it probably seems…If you have never done it. We had a gazebo in our backyard that we weren’t really using converted to a chicken coop and have had an awesome supply of eggs for a long time.
Paul: I’m super jealous of that Dave, we’re not allowed to have chickens where I live today.
JD: So Dave do you feed your chickens, your compost from your home?
JD: You have a circular economy solution going on right in your backyard.
Dave: Right in my backyard and I got the garden going too, but… Yeah, it’s great.
JD: And do you use the chicken manure for fertilizer?
JD: Well, there you go. That’s a beautiful thing. So you’re not buying fertilizer from the store, growing vegetables and your own eggs.
Dave: Yeah, and it’s all fun. It’s good, get outside.
Paul: Teach the kids some good habits too.
JD: I heard you have to put chickens to bed every night, do you have to tuck them in or…What does that look?
Dave: Special episode.
Paul: Dave sings some songs to chickens.
Dave: We actually bought a little motorized door, so the gazebo itself is enclosed with chicken wire and then a little door opens up, so they have a little backyard, they run around, and they know when it’s getting dark, and we set the timer so it closes after dark, and they get themselves to bed. No tucking in. No singing. It’s very simple.
Paul: Well, shift gears a little bit here. Talk about some big global issues, right, obviously lots of things have changed in the pandemic. Talked a little bit about your business impact, we talked a lot about that, but maybe there’s some macro things I know, Dave, the big one on your mind…
Dave: We’ve done a couple of times a review of our own business and our impact, and one of the trickier ones is travel. And so I’m wondering your thoughts on that. You can do a lot of things, and then I go to a conference and it’s a huge environmental impact. I know you’re doing to work on that, so I got curious what you have to say.
JD: I mean, historically, post SARS and swine flu and other instances where travel was held to due to viral diseases, the year following were the biggest years in travel and tourism. So we can anticipate, I think a really strong comeback in tourism and travel. There’s going to be a pent up demand, so that’s the word on the street, that’s what I’m hearing in the industry. So how do we come back better with that is the big question. We work quite a bit in the airline and airport world, and I can say that airports are doing so much to reduce their impacts, there’s actually quite a bit that airports can do. So there’s a lot of momentum in airports and airlines to reduce their emissions, of course, though, we’re not running on hydrogen fuel cells up there yet, or electric engines, there’s still a huge emission profile to flying and getting a taxi when you land and staying at a hotel. All of those things have an impact. So that’s where we’ve been spending a lot of our time. How do we ensure that what we’re doing over the next…Over the last year and over the next six months is preparing to have a greener travel industry when we come back because we can’t control the demand for travel, that’s on an individual basis, but what we can do is ensure that when they arrive here, the customers have everything they need to be a conscious traveler in our destination.
So that’s the approach that we’re taking. There’s lots of things that you might not see that are being done when you are flying. So for example, if you are defied from Vancouver airport to Toronto, instead of using diesel generators to power the aircraft while you are sitting there, they have converted all to electric and green energy to power that plane when you are still at the terminal. So there’s lots of things that go on behind the scenes and some good leaps and bounds, the little wing tips that you see when you… If you’re in that seat where you’re looking out over the wing and you see the little tip that was put on as a fuel efficiency measure. There’s a significant amount of fuel efficiency that planes gain from that small initiative from that wing tip. So the airline industry is also making massive investments in looking at sustainable biofuel called SAF for powering the future of flights, and I could go on, but there’s some really exciting technical innovations in hydrogen and fuel cell as well. So we have a lot of work to do there, but I think it’s really about as an individual, being a conscious traveler in the areas that you have control over.
Dave: Great related. I’m also a fan of going on cruises, so I’m wondering the future of the future of cruising in your eye, what does that look like? Is that going to improve it all or are we a long road there…What’s the future look like?
JD: I think the future crew is a few key things, so more sustainable fuels that they are using on board these vessels, that is a big transition right now. In addition having shore power, maybe heard this a little bit in the news in Victoria, we did a study on the shore power potential for Ogden Point here in Victoria, our own cruise terminal, and more and more courts are starting to look at investing into shore power so that when the crew, the ships are docked, they can plug into renewable energy there as well. So the cruise, there’s a lot of work to be done there. The challenges is they’re going across all kinds of jurisdictions, and so the rules change, the rules can change by the nautical mile, so it’s a bigger picture question about having more regulation. There’s fantastic small cruise companies that are really leading edge in this. Adventure Canada, they do a smaller ship expedition cruises through the Arctic and around Newfoundland and in Central America. So personally, if I was going on a cruise, I would be looking to an organization that maybe it’s a little bit smaller and has really adapted those practices for sustainability and has that very transparent on their website.
Paul: What are some of the issues that you feel that we should business community in Greater Victoria should be thinking about?
JD: I think we should be thinking about how we can work together as a business community to really push the agenda a little further. I think it individually as businesses a lot are doing everything they can to reduce their impact and we all have further to go, but if we can say, work together to say, “alright, what are our common waste streams, like how can we collectively do something really cool with this or if we all were looking at hydrogen energy from this perspective, what could we do together to get something really going?” So I hope that through all this, we can still stay connected as a business community and find ways to create some sort of one plus one equals three type initiatives over the next year as we build out of this recovery. So I think it’ll be an exciting time, it’s a very reflective time in business, and I think a lot of good will come from it.
Paul: So… safe to say you’re cautiously optimistic Jill.
JD: Yes, we’re always advocating for keeping sustainable development on the forefront, of course, but I’m overwhelmed by the amount of requests that we’re getting just for, “I want to learn about this, or how do I transition my fuel to do something better?” And so I can see that a lot of businesses are thinking about it, I’m not cautiously optimistic, I think I am truly very hopeful. I think it’s going to be… It’s going to be a good transition for us, and hopefully those lovely local businesses, such as our restaurants that we hold so dear, we’ll survive this. And we can support them with gift cards and all kinds of other things right now too, so… Yeah, I’m hopeful for a strong recovery and a greener recovery.
Dave: I love to hear that. We hear so much in the news about the negativity, and it’s a little bit of doomsday she, your perspective that you’re hearing a lot of interest and a lot of passion around this is really important, I think. So I appreciate that optimism. Thank you.
Paul: And I think we think about the environment in very huge ways, we hear about global climate conferences and this sort of thing, countries making big arrangements and that sort of thing, and I don’t think that’s particularly… I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think that’s where all the solutions are going to come from. I think if we think that that’s going to solve the world’s problems, we’re putting too many eggs in that basket, and really… I’ve been saying for a long time that the solution to sustainability in the world is a whole bunch of solutions. And that’s why I’m excited about the stuff I’ve been learning from you today, Jill, so thank you again for your leadership and for educating us. And hopefully everybody on the podcast today has learned something new and exciting and… Yeah. And so thanks again for being part of Island Thrive today.
JD: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a real pleasure.
Paul: Awesome. And Dave signing off.
Dave: Yep, thank you, Paul. Thank you Jill. That’s great.
Paul: Alright, and we’ll see everybody next episode. So thanks again for joining us on Island thrive.