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Calgary green report

   
 


The 2008 Assembly was the first time Mennonite Church Canada used compostable dinnerware and implemented composting for food waste. Senior Youth from Home
Street Mennonite Church volunteered at the waste stations to encourage proper waste procedures. Here, Pastor Erin Morash receives guidance from Maxine Wagner.

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Creation Care Network Joint Release
July 15, 2011
-Joanne Moyer

Waterloo, ONT. — In 2007, Mennonite Church Canada delegates passed a resolution to work for more sustainable gatherings. Mennonite Creation Care Network has worked with assembly planners in subsequent years to provide guidelines for greening and to assess events (www.mennocreationcare.org/assets/confgreenguidelines.pdf). The 2010 Mennonite Church Canada Assembly at Ambrose College in Calgary brought successes and illustrated challenges.

Successes:

Facilities: Ambrose College has dual flush toilets and uses 100% recycled toilet paper.
Local transportation: Lodging was available on campus and shuttles were provided for people staying in hotels. Bicycle racks were also available (though use was negligible).
Drinking water: Bulk water was provided (rather than bottled water) and participants were encouraged to bring refillable mugs; many people did.
Paper: Electronic registration and assembly reporting was available. Printed paper was kept to a minimum and printed double-sided on recycled paper.
Seminars: A well-attended creation care themed seminar was presented, focussing on Alberta’s tar sands.

Major challenges:

Food: Meals always present one of the greatest challenges at large gatherings because we must rely on the ability of local facilities to meet our requests. Vegetarian options were available at Assembly 2010 upon request, but non-meat protein options were not included in general meals. Seasonal, local and organic food was not offered, and the coffee and tea were not fair trade.
Reusable china would have cost 40% more than disposable dishes, but since Ambrose College promised that the disposable dishes and cutlery would be compostable, the planners chose the less costly option. However, upon arrival we discovered that most of the dishes were not compostable. For the few that were, no composting facilities were available. Elsie Rempel, one of Mennonite Church Canada’s coordinators for Assembly 2010, investigated. She was informed by the cook that the supplier ran out of compostable dishes and also that composting facilities are lacking in Calgary.
Transportation: Travel to and from assembly locations is another ongoing challenge. To facilitate reflection on this issue, Mennonite Creation Care Network conducted an informal survey at Assembly 2010, inviting assembly participants to indicate their mode of transportation and the distance they travelled by placing coloured stickers on a map of Canada. About two thirds of out-of-town attendees participated in the survey. The majority (72%) travelled by car, with 43% of the vehicles used carrying three or more people. The second largest group (26%) travelled by airplane. Only four people travelled by bus or train. Calculations indicate that we emitted approximately 125,815 kg of carbon dioxide, (about 375 kg per person) to travel to Calgary for this gathering.

Moving Forward

In a seminar about the tar sands, Don Peters of Mennonite Central Committee Canada noted that large scale energy developments pushing the boundaries of environmental safety are ultimately driven by our society’s demand for fuel. As disciples of Christ it is our responsibility to be conscious of the energy we use and to work to reduce it. Mennonite Creation Care Network has attempted to assist in these efforts. Delegates in Calgary affirmed the value of having yearly gatherings but they also reconfirmed our commitment to greening our assemblies, resolving to “commit ourselves to continued efforts that care for the earth which sustains us, in faithfulness to our calling as stewards of God’s good earth.”

Mennonite Creation Care Network encourages reflection on ways in which we can reduce our footprint, noting food and travel as the two areas of greatest concern. Planners for Assembly 2011 anticipated ways to improve food services and other aspects of the gathering in Waterloo. Travel choices rest with individuals.

The map survey provided a striking visual of the geographic concentrations (e.g.  Vancouver/Fraser Valley, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and southern Ontario) from which we travel to reach assembly locations. Efforts are already being made by some to carpool. When we gather in the future, can we increase the number of carpoolers? Will some people come by bicycle? Can we arrange to travel collectively by train?

How can you contribute to greening our future assemblies?