Calgary 2010 Green Report
Submitted by Joanne Moyer, Mennonite Creation Care Network
In 2007, Mennonite Church Canada delegates passed a resolution to work for more sustainable gatherings. Mennonite Creation Care Network has worked with conference planners in subsequent years to provide guidelines for greening and to assess events (https://www.mennocreationcare.org/assets/confgreenguidelines.pdf). We present here some results and reflections from the 2010 MC-Canada Assembly at Ambrose College in Calgary.
- 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).
- Bulk water was provided (rather than bottled water) and participants were encouraged to bring refillable mugs; many people did.
- Paper: electronic registration and conference reporting was available. Printed paper was kept to a minimum and printed double-sided on recycled paper.
- A well-attended creation care themed seminar was presented, focussing on Alberta’s tar sands.
Food is always one of the greatest challenges at events such as these, because we must rely on the ability of local facilities to meet our requests. Vegetarian options were available upon request, but non-meat protein options were not included in general meals. Seasonal, local and organic food was not offered. 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 cheaper option. Upon arrival, we discovered that most of the dishes were not compostable, and even for those that were compostable, no composting facilities were available. Elsie Rempel, of Mennonite Church Canada, investigated and was informed by the cook that the supplier ran out of compostable dishes and that composting facilities are lacking in Calgary.
Transportation to the conference location is also an ongoing challenge. To facilitate reflection on this issue, Mennonite Creation Care Network, conducted an informal survey, asking conference 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 conference attendees from beyond Calgary participated in the survey. The majority (72%) travelled by car, with 43% of these in cars containing three or more people. The second largest group (26%) travelled by airplane. Only four people travelled by bus or train. Approximate calculations indicate that we emitted 136,300 kg of carbon dioxide, (about 375 kg per person) to travel to Calgary for this gathering.
In the tar sands seminar, Don Peters of MCC Canada noted that large scale energy developments of this nature are ultimately driven by our society’s demand for fuel. As disciples of Christ, therefore, 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 doing this. The delegates in Calgary affirmed the value of having yearly gatherings. 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.” We therefore encourage reflection on ways in which we can reduce our footprint, noting food and travel as areas of greatest concern. The conference planners are already anticipating ways to improve food services and other aspects of the gathering in Waterloo next year. 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 conference locations. Efforts are already being made by some to carpool. When we gather in Waterloo, can we increase the number of carpoolers? Will some people come by bicycle? Could we arrange to travel collectively by train? How can you contribute to greening our future assemblies?