Riding a new high

The Canadian Rockies International Airport is recognized for its environmental, marketing and community outreach efforts

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The Canadian Rockies International Airport is feeling humbled by the recent buzz surrounding its acknowledged success as an airport in the East Kootenay.

On October 25, the staff at the Canadian Rockies International Airport celebrated in style in Vancouver, B.C., as they received the very prestigious William Templeton Award for exceptional achievement in the development of a regional airport.

The biggest event of the year for the British Columbia Aviation Council (BCAC) took place at the Vancouver International Airport and combined its Silver Wings Awards gala and AGM.

The William Templeton Award is given out once a year; last year’s winner was the Abbotsford International Airport. 

Tristan Chernove, managing director of the Canadian Rockies International Airport located just outside Cranbrook, B.C., said although the award’s description is broad, their nomination by the dean of aerospace at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) pointed out the work the airport has done in the three key pillars of sustainability. The initiatives are nothing short of impressive.

The airport was recognized for its work in aviation market development, community outreach and environmental initiatives.

"It feels really fantastic," said Chernove. "What makes the award so special for us is to be recognized by our peers—other airports and airlines and those specifically in the aviation industry—not just a survey of the public. This made it that much more valuable to me. It also feels great because we try to acknowledge what our staff do all the time and this award is really about the accomplishments of the staff."

Going green

The environmental initiatives the airport has taken on are just the beginning, according to Chernove, but the airport's incredible vision and success are already evident.

This year, the Canadian Rockies International Airport activated solar hot water heaters on the roof of the terminal building. Since Cranbrook is one of the sunniest cities in B.C., the staff wanted to take advantage of that. Chernove said it has worked fantastically. The water comes out of the solar heaters at about 140 degrees. The system has had to be activated in several stages and became fully online at the beginning of October.

The Canadian Rockies International Airport has also transitioned its cleaning program to becoming entirely green for the whole building.

"We've virtually eliminated all chemicals from our cleaning program," said Chernove. "The company we have a contract with, Green Mountain Cleaning, is using some fantastic technologies which have a fairly heavy up-front cost but pay themselves back pretty quickly. It uses negative ion technology, so it's essentially negative ion treated water that sterilizes all the surfaces, then they use UV for further sterilization purposes."

Chernove said when they need to use harder cleaning products, the products are generally edible and eliminate all chemicals and harmful odours from the building. The airport wanted to focus on water conservation as well, so they refitted the bathrooms with low-flush toilets and low-water-use fixtures, and put waterless urinals in the men's washroom—which is a first in British Columbia.

The bathrooms were fixed up over a year ago and Chernove said it's fantastic; they are using a lot less water, there is no smell and everything is very clean.

"We also implemented an idle-free zone on the curb to cut down on carbon emissions and cut down on air contamination around the terminal building," said Chernove. "But it's still early for us. It seems that when you have an opportunity to do something sustainable, it's natural to do it and we've done a lot."

But Chernove said even though the airport has come this far, it would like a long-term sustainability plan that would be a resource for airports across B.C. It's still being developed and will most likely take another year to fully establish the published sustainability program.

"But we're not waiting to have that complete before we start taking action wherever we can," he said.

Significant in the community

The Canadian Rockies International Airport was also recognized for its community outreach efforts. This summer, the airport held an artist showcase every week, bringing in a local artist to perform at the restaurant. Chernove said it was fantastic having live entertainment for the travelling public and to integrate and promote the arts community in the area.

The airport also places a strong emphasis on volunteering.

"We volunteer quite a bit between the very few of us that make up the core airport staff, and we really make it a priority for all of us to carve off time to stay connected with the various volunteer groups that we work with," said Chernove.

While Chernove is honoured that he gets to be in the limelight of the William Templeton Award because of his role as managing director, he said the award really belongs to the City of Cranbrook, the owner of the airport.

"It really shows they (the City) share the same values and beliefs that we have and the importance of having a sustainable airport for the long term, which bodes really well for us and the entire community and region," Chernove said. "We feel incredibly supported by the city and if it wasn't for their confidence in our business plan, then stepping up to fund our business plan, none of this would be possible."

Plans for the future

As Chernove stated, a long-term sustainability plan is in the works. The Canadian Rockies International Airport's parent company, Vantage Airport Group, gathered executives from many of its international airports this past year. The executives took part in a workshop at which a contracted facilitator assisted them in their sustainability programs. The whole program involves a three-year initiative to develop a corporate sustainability plan.

"I think of sustainability as more of a mindset than an overall plan, so I think as long as every day we're looking for the best way to do things and are constantly improving, in my mind that's sustainability," said Chernove. "I think it's just going to keep getting better, but I would love to share a published sustainability plan with folks and that's the part that's yet to come. I expect to see a lot more tools become available to us so we can identify some critical paths and key milestones that we want to reach along the way in order to become completely sustainable. But the right outlook and mentality every day is already happening."

Currently, the Canadian Rockies International Airport is on course to have 113,000 people use the airport this year. This shows yet another year of growth over last year.

"I think overarching everything is the reason why we love to work here is because we love where we live so much and want it to endure," said Chernove. "Coming to the airport reminds us every day how precious our surroundings are and what an easy product that is to sell. It's about being inspired by these surroundings and letting that remind us every day why we're so lucky in trying to add capacity for what it is we love about here to endure."

Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen, a writer for Kootenay Business Magazine, has a degree in jounalism. She enjoys finding and reporting the news from the business community. View all of Karen Kornelsen’s articles

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