BILL GIRARD / MARCH 6, 2008 / COURTENAY / The Building Green in a Changing Climate Conference on March 4 and 5 in Courtenay was a clear success. As a member of the conference’s advisory gorup, I’d have to say that it exceeded all my expectations. We were expecting 150 to 200 attendees and received more than 300.

The media coverage was great and the tradeshow was buzzing for two days. The tradeshow exhibitors, which included Ecotrust Canada, five members of our FSC® Certification Group and loan client Energy Alternatives, were impressed with the steady flow of traffic. What was most impressive, however, was to finally see the number of Forest Stewardship Council® or FSC®-certified forestlands, sawmills and value-added manufacturers reach critical mass.

Over the past four years, Ecotrust Canada has played a major role in solidifying FSC®‘s presence in coastal forestry. We’ve helped to certify woodlots, financed FSC®-certified business, currently operate two certification groups for chain-of-custody operators and forestland managers, and are the managers of Iisaak Forest Resources, a native-owned, FSC®-certified forest company in Clayoquot Sound. Mike Vitt, Ecotrust Canada Forestry Manager, gave a presentation on our Iisaak work and Orrin Quinn, our Forestry Project Coordinator, presented on the certification groups.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was a presentation by Steve Roscoe, owner of Comox-based Woodland Flooring. I first got to know Steve when Ecotrust Capital provided him and his wife Teresa with a loan for their FSC®-certified wide-plank flooring business. Steve and Teresa were one of the first to be FSC®-certified in BC. They are the pioneers. This home-grown couple has recently participated in Ecotrust Canada’s Carbon Neutral Workgroup for Small Business, and is now taking their business carbon neutral.

Another highlight was a luncheon talk by Tony Marcil, President and CEO of FSC® Canada. The green building sector and conscientious consumers are clearly driving demand for FSC®-certified wood products which has led to the phenomenal growth of FSC® in Canada. In 2007, the area of forestland certified by FSC® grew by 30 percent and the number of certified chain-of-custody operators grew by 47 percent.

A small example of the impact that Ecotrust Canada has made through this event was revealed a few days later. Over lunch, an architect told me he was attending a meeting in Nanaimo about the LEED green building standard. Someone asked about FSC® wood. “Oh there really isn’t any FSC® timber available in BC,” someone complained. This immediately resulted in several people in the audience, who had just attended the Building Green conference in Courtenay, stating emphatically that in fact FSC® timber products are being produced. They were able to give specific examples. I look forward to more of these types of stories.

We need to make sure that FSC® continues to be on the agenda and perhaps increase the incentives for architects and builders to use FSC®-certified materials in LEED buildings. The forest industry is important to the BC economy; and FSC® and the green building movement represent real opportunities to turn the provincial sector around. The Courtenay conference made me feel like we are at the cusp of a “tipping point,” taking FSC® from niche market to the mainstream.