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From Ponytails to Pantsuits

Victoria, British Columbia, hotelier and environmental activist Trina White wins accolades for her holistic approach to sustainability

By Todd R. Berger

Trina White || Photo by Derek Ford

Born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia, Trina White embraced the wilderness. An avid outdoorsperson, she loved mountaineering and hiking into the mountains. As a young adult, inspired by the writings of environmentalist David Suzuki and her woodsy aunt Dawn, she was drawn to environmental activism, spending months at a time ponytailed and living in a tent.

“Very early in life, I knew I wanted to be an activist,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to protect and find ways to respect the planet more.”

While attending Comosun College in Victoria, she not only fell in love with tourism, but also with business planning, accounting, and marketing. She earned a diploma in business administration and tourism management, and later completed her master’s in tourism management with a focus on sustainable tourism at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

After graduate school, White worked her way up at Delta Hotels, Sandman Hotel Group, and Brentwood Bay Resort. In 2009, one month after the Parkside Hotel & Spa in Victoria opened as the only LEED-platinum-certified building in Canada at the time, White was named the first general manager of the Parkside—and she hasn’t left.

“I applied feeling like I would have the landscape of a building built with purpose,” White says, “and then I could take my skills in how to operate and manage people [and] manage suppliers and all of that in a sustainable way.”

Although no longer LEED-certified, the hotel has maintained a perfect Global Green Key rating of 5 since its opening, became carbon neutral in 2018, and went carbon positive last year, meaning the hotel offset more carbon than it used. The hotel also joined Beyond Green last year, a curated portfolio of the earth’s most sustainable hotels, as the brand’s first urban and Canadian property.

White embraces a broad philosophy of sustainability in the workplace, including a commitment to intercultural competency and a drive to provide an inclusive and welcoming space. The BC Hotel Association recognized her leadership by naming White Hotelier of the Year in May, an honor that left White “shocked and honored and very humbled.”

And even with all her achievements and her steady leadership at the Parkside, White really hasn’t strayed far from her roots. She notes, “I still see myself [as] being able to do what I’m passionate about, which is being respectful of our planet and doing a job I love.”