We Are AWARE: Nature Photo Contest

Every image shared on social media has the ability to shape someone’s perception of the location and the experiences available there. The We Are AWARE: Nature Photo Contest is an opportunity to show off the choices we locals make to live sustainably, in better balance, with satisfaction, joy, and respect, to explain why we make those choices, and to inspire others to follow suit.

Community Benefits

Climbing In The Sky, @blackcombgabu

We at AWARE see two very important sides to this contest,

1-The ability to show off large scale positive stewardship through our daily decisions. Shopping for second hand clothing supports the Amazon rainforest. Travelling on human power instead of fossil fuels supports air quality all around the world. Loving the nature around us could make anyone love and protect the nature around them. This contest is a platform to show what you do to support nature everywhere.

Intensely Calming, @ConnieOliwa

2 – The ability to share appreciation for the inherent value of nature, or just plain find beauty and awe, as people will help protect what they know and care about. We can’t protect a tree we don’t know about, and we won’t fight to protect a waterway we haven’t seen.

Showcasing Sustainable Decision Making

It is often overwhelming and even depressing that every decision you make to reduce your emissions or footprint leads you to be less dependent on our human systems that are killing our planet; but those decisions make you part of the solution!  Whether you are buying second hand, choosing reusables, sorting waste, building with renewable resources, skiing without the use of fossil fuels, growing your own food, or documenting the beauty of the nature we still have, you are helping protect nature, the most renewable yet the most fragile and important resource we have. 

Instead of being overwhelmed by the weight of our decisions, this contest is designed to embrace them; research shows that when we make big decisions with community, the impact is magnified, and the outcome is empowerment instead of apathy. Don’t believe us? Share your story, what better way to share than through art! We have 3 divisions to submit to, so your art will be compared to others of similar artistic experience! We want to amplify good stories, and see if the movements for sustainability grow.

Showcasing Inherent Value of Nature

Beautiful pictures showing biodiversity, tranquil natural scenes, amazing phenomena, and pure simple existence will inspire awe and care. However, this contest is still not just about a pretty picture – Let’s look at #joffreylakes. Over 2,000 images have been submitted. Here are two from facebook;

We want the art submitted to this contest to show humans interacting with nature in a way that supports natural systems, follows leave no trace principles, and doesn’t tag specific locations. We have seen firsthand the impact humans have when we flock through sensitive areas to reach destinations such as Key Hole Hot Springs, Joffrey and Water Sprite Lakes. We also know that people want to strive for experiences like those they see – How great would it be if there was a movement to pick up trash, like the following image demonstrates, instead of feeding wild animals from our hands?


Before moving on, we do want to recognize the implications of advocating for restricting locations in social media use. Not providing locations or instructions is a form of elitism and gatekeeping, restricting usage to those already privileged to know. It also implies that selfies are ruining nature, and pushes aside the fact that large scale industrial processes are causing much more environmental degradation than us individuals.

Recognizing this perspective, the We Are AWARE Nature Photo Contest is in no sense trying to gatekeep or ignore systemic issues. We require all photos to be taken locally so the final exhibition will be all about local stewardship. However, we will not share locations of photos to spread the notion that location is irrelevant; not sharing locations allows reinvigoration of the joy of exploration for explorations sake. We want to encourage people to explore new areas to their level of comfort and backcountry knowledge, enjoy the journeys not just the destinations, and to learn about leave no trace principles passively through simply seeing others act in respectful, beneficial ways.

Leave No Trace Principles

The leave no trace principles have been outlined to guide people in exploring wilderness, but I argue they can be altered to relate to making sustainable decisions as well:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare – create a ‘grab and go’ kit so you always have access to a reusable cup, bowl, spoon, fork, zero waste sunscreen and soap!
  2. Follow others – look for local businesses who have already done the research and are experts in their fields, purchase from them and support them to continue making ethical and sustainable choices
  3. Recycle properly – every bag of waste that is contaminated goes to the land fill, so put your stuff in the correct bin. However,
  4. Reduce, then reuse – Your first choice in sustainability is not to use things that will end up in the waste stream in the first place.
  5. Minimize impacts – travel by human power, walk or bike, whenever possible
  6. Respect – treat all others equally, with respect and dignity, pulling people out of poverty will be an important aspect of transitioning to a sustainable world.
  7. Spread positivity and good stories – be an agent of change!


Yes it is a play on words. We are aware our actions make an impact, and the images we show make others want to feel similar sensations. We are also aware that there is an environmental conservation association in Whistler, they call themselves AWARE, and they believe every person in Whistler should be following environmental news, advocating for environmental wellness, and doing the small things that will make a big impact when we do them together. We are aware that we are dependent on this Earth we call home, physically for fresh air and financially through our tourism based economy. We are aware this Earth has finite resources, and just because we can do or use something doesn’t mean we should.

Just as every step leaves an imprint, every image inspires a sensation, and We Are AWARE we can use imagery to inspire a positive stewardship culture here in Whistler together.

****Share photos on social media to get the momentum to build, use the hashtag #WeAreAWAREWhistler

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