Convention 2011 goes green
Planners factor environmental impact into every decisionby Anna Groff
While some may miss the colorful flyers, magnets and other promotional materials found in the convention registration bags of the past, many may not even notice.
In seeking to be as "green" as possible, convention planners decided to eliminate the promotional materials from the registration bags at Mennonite Church USA Convention 2011 in Pittsburgh July 4-9.
"The sad reality is that many people throw the materials away," says Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning for Mennonite Church USA. Or, at best, they may keep one or two items and toss the rest.
"From this point on, we are always asking the question of what’s the greenest option," she says. "That wasn't really on our radar prior to Columbus . Now it is a part of every decision."
While the advertising in the bags helped the convention planning office cover expenses, Swartzendruber Miller says they are "willing to take a hit" as environmental concerns trump the bottom line for the planners.
Instead of the advertising materials, church agencies and colleges pay for ads that will loop as a slide show 10 minutes before adult and youth worship services.
The presentation should function similar to advertisements shown before the previews in a movie theater and will also include quiz questions from the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee—since this year is its centennial—as well as other trivia questions.
The most significant greening initiative is the Pittsburgh convention center space itself. The David L. Lawrence Center was the first LEED-certified convention center in the country.
The following are several of the many ways the convention reduces, reuses and recycles: the convention center supports the Buy Fresh, Buy Local food program in southwestern Pennsylvania, grows some of the food on its own roof, uses bulk water instead of thousands of water bottles, donates leftover food, composts waste food and manages its own on-site reclamation plant.
Regarding materials and promotional pieces for Pittsburgh 2011, convention planners tried to print as few as possible. Deidre Bias, convention communication coordinator, says they take using recycled materials into account as well as contracting with local companies in Goshen, Ind., for items like T-shirts and lanyards.
Convention planners decided to print 2,500 posters and 2,500 registration booklets and forms, but encourage participants to use the online registration, which opened on Jan. 25, instead of printing registration forms. The planners'goal for Phoenix 2013 is to offer registration only online, says Swartzendruber Miller.
"There's really only so much we can do," says Swartzendruber Miller. It’s up to the participant to opt out of room service in the hotels or make environmentally-conscious travel plans. Swartzendruber Miller says the convention planners advocate for participants to carpool or take the train.
Representatives from Mennonite Creation Care Network contacted the convention planners initially, and then the planners asked them for suggestions and for lists of ways for youth groups and adults to make green choices.
Other greening measures include the decision not to print songbooks this year (as was the case in Columbus 2009), and Mennonite Church USA will not have a staff display.
Green ideas for those attending the Pittsburgh 2011 convention:
-Get the meal plan. The convention center's food service is one of the greenest options Mennonite Church USA conventions have ever had—in terms of the food, the dinnerware used and how waste is managed.
-Bring along reusable water bottles and travel mugs instead of disposable ones.
-Carpool or take the train or bus to Pittsburgh. If you live close, consider biking.
-If you make T-shirts for your group, choose organic cotton T-shirts.
-Take along your own cloth napkins to reuse.
-Remember to recycle and compost.
-Participate in a Servant Project that gets you outside and caring for creation. Notice the landscape along the way and try to name the bodies of water at every bridge.
-Hang up and reuse towels and sheets in hotels to reduce water and energy consumption.
-Walk or use public transit to travel within Pittsburgh.
For these ideas and more, go to http://www.mennocreationcare.org/PittsCenterHighlights.php.
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