The 2019 Canada Winter Games gives Rick Van Hemmen the opportunity to turn his passion for sustainability into action. (Contributed photo)

2019 Canada Winter Games: Profiling sustainability co-chair Rick Van Hemmen

How do you host the largest event in the history of central Alberta and still be sustainable? It is a challenge that Rick Van Hemmen and the sustainability committee at the 2019 Canada Winter Games is taking head-on.

When creating the roadmap for this event, the 2019 Games made sustainability a value of the organization. To the Games, sustainability is concept of understanding and balancing the social, economic and environmental impacts and opportunities of the decisions we make. We are committed to organizing an environmentally friendly, socially responsible and economically feasible event. With so many moving parts, it takes purposeful direction and reflection to turn this value into a reality.

Our sustainability program is presented by NOVA Chemicals, a Platinum Sponsor of the 2019 Games, and where Rick has worked his entire career.

Rick joined the 2019 Games volunteer team as a member of the legacy committee. This group was tasked with identifying and creating legacies of the Games beyond the event in February 2019. From there, a sustainability subcommittee was created and co-chaired by Rick, with a focus on creating one of the most sustainable Canada Games ever.

For Rick, being involved with the 2019 Games in a sustainability role was the perfect opportunity.

“Somewhere in my early 40s, I was hit with the philanthropic bug,” Rick says. “I just have this compulsion. I need to be engaged in the community and I need to be making a difference.”

Rick is making that difference through volunteering with the 2019 Games. With guidance from the sustainability committee, the organization has taken on several sustainability initiatives. For example, the Gary W. Harris Canada Games is a LEED Silver certified building, meeting global standards as a sustainable building. The Games has also planted 2,019 trees throughout central Alberta. These are just two examples of how the Games is living its sustainability value.

But why did Rick get involved with the 2019 Games specifically? Prior to moving to central Alberta in 2008 to work at the NOVA Chemicals plant in Joffre, Rick called Sarnia, Ontario home. While working and living there, Rick became involved in a local environmental association and started to think more about sustainability.

Even though his location changed, Rick’s interest in sustainability did not. NOVA Chemicals was focusing more on sustainability and he had opportunities through work to live out this passion.

Rick says he gets questions about why he’s involved with the Games if sustainability is such a big passion, but he is always prepared with a quick response.

“It’s about making our community stronger,” Rick explains. “We are getting facilities that will help improve people’s lives and we can bring ideas that are environmentally- and sustainability-related to the Games in a way that perhaps they stick and happen on an ongoing basis in the community.”

The volunteer experience has been full of learning opportunities for Rick. He says that his perspective has been broadened and he has learned that people have personal definitions for what sustainability means to them. To learn more about the 2019 Games sustainability efforts, visit

You can be a part of the 2019 Games and help us create a sustainable and life-shaping Games experience! There is still time to join Team 2019, but it is running out quick. Visit to apply to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

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