This article was originally published in the Revelstoke TIMES Magazine, available now at your local coffee shop, book store, or any other business in downtown Revelstoke.
Contributed by Greg Hill
I have always loved exploring, heading into the unknown, ideally leaving a nice ski track for others to follow. In the mountains, it has been exciting to inspire others to dig deeper or travel further. Lately, I have been exploring sustainable adventuring and years ago began my desire to prove the reliability of electric vehicles. Since then, it has been a continuous journey into seeing how we can all do better. There is always the question of “Why climb a mountain?” and I think with environmentalism there is also a similar question. “Why make changes?”
Many of us think this constantly when confronted with the environmental crisis. Everything seems very daunting, almost like you have to give everything up and go and live in the woods. Or we feel like hypocrites when on one side we are trying to be better and then on the other side we end up taking the family to Hawaii. Ultimately using up any carbon credits we may have gained by our other actions. Sometimes I wonder if I should just give up and not care?
I was talking with someone the other day and they mentioned how the carbon footprint was invented by a marketing company paid for by big oil. That this term was a way to redirect our focus on ourselves and make us feel guilty, instead of pressuring the real culprits to make changes. When he mentioned this, he used it as a way to allow himself to continue not making changes while blaming the system. I understood his feelings, yet also felt a little differently. There is zero doubt that there needs to be large systematic changes, yet I also see lots of value in individual actions.
My journey into environmentalism was aided by my brother Graham. He runs a carbon footprint reduction course, called the Carbonauts. Although I felt like I knew something, I realized I needed to learn more. So, I took his course to learn how to minimize my household impacts, and then adopted some of his advice. His course works on six main pillars of potential change. Home energy uses, electric transport, food choices, flying, and finally offsets. Some of which worked for me, others didn’t.
The main takeaway for me was that I could make my lifestyle more responsible and draw off the system a little less. Taking advantage of government incentives, provincially and federally, I vastly improved the insulation in my house, changed my windows, and added solar panels. Although the electricity in Revelstoke is 98 per cent renewable hydro, I have enjoyed the feeling of being more responsible with creating my energy. It will take a while to recoup the cost of the solar, yet I did it for my values and not my bank account. These individual changes were fun yet, like everything, they are not for everyone. Nothing is for everyone, luckily, as this allows us all to tackle the problem from different angles.
This summer I worked with See Revelstoke to profile local non-profits and the actions they are doing locally. We interviewed the Local Food Initiative, which works diligently on our food security issues. I talked to the Columbia Shuswap Invasive species society, about their actions on preserving Revelstoke’s natural biodiversity. While also learning about Wildsight and its work on protecting the waterways and wildlife of our Columbia mountains. It quickly became apparent that everyone was interested in doing more and that these people simply felt better, by trying. Throughout these conversations, I started to realize what we, as individuals, can do. We don’t need to do it all but all of our collective actions can have a large effect.
Out of interest, Frank Desrosier and I decided to make a documentary highlighting individuals in our town that are helping move the needle. This film delves into the idea of progression and not perfection. That we can all change and we shouldn’t be worried about being perfect. It is easy to feel so powerless that we pull up a guilt shield and do nothing. Yet these Revelstokians were not doing that. I met Arnoul Mateo who has created a website to enable better shopping, where he has personally vetted companies and given them a ranking. This way when you shop you can be certain that your dollars are enabling companies that deserve them. Chris Rubens and Jesse Johnston pivoted during COVID and have created an amazing local farm that is supplying local food to many families in town. Jaime Cross has created local dyes and has a repurposed clothing company on her property. These people opened my mind to how we all have different strengths and we can all focus on actions that work for us.
Often it feels like being better simply costs more. Shopping local, buying organic, and insulating my house. Yet I am in a position where I can do these actions so I should. Much like the skin tracks, I leave behind I am opening up trails or ideas into what can be done. Much like the question “why climb a mountain?” I think the answer is emotional rewards. By challenging ourselves and the status quo we feel better.