New green initiative for General Convention

The Episcopal Church has been conducting environmentally responsible conventions for many years and today Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies and Gregory Straub, Secretary of the Convention, announced new initiatives to make the 76th General Convention to be held in Anaheim, California from July 8 – 17, 2009, the greenest convention ever.

Episcopalians have a long history of environmental awareness since they began recycling convention paper in 1991. They have cut the use of paper dramatically over those years and have worked to develop other initiatives such as purchasing electricity from wind farms and encouraging the use of reusable mugs for coffee instead of disposable paper cups.

The Convention Office, the Anaheim Visitors and Convention Bureau and The George Fern Company have agreed to collaboratively work to improve the overall environmental performance and efficiency of the Convention.

These new initiatives will build on that progress and, in a dramatic leap forward, promise to witness to environmental stewardship of Episcopalians everywhere.

In addition to the long-standing practice of serving only Fair Trade coffee and tea in concession areas, the Convention worship will use only Fair Trade organic whole wheat communion wafers.

Anderson says that changes are planned for every facet of the Convention.

“The first thing people will notice,” said Straub, “is the beige color of the parking areas and driveways surrounding and leading into the Convention Center.” Beige will cut down on thermal absorption and is, according to Straub, the middle way color of choice.

More details below:

Movement between the convention center and the hotels will be entirely by foot and will add new meaning to the phrase “hoofing it.” Either people will walk the distance or ride horse driven buggies. Significant portions of the surrounding parking areas have been converted to use by the many Deputies and Bishops expected to arrive on horses, with parking meters fitted with hitching posts and watering troughs.

While Episcopalians have long recycled hymns and liturgies, Convention worship will introduce the use of bio-degradable vestments and low-energy, long-life fluorescent candles.

Straub noted that this year all paper used at convention will be instantly compostable. “Once it’s read it disintegrates into compost in your notebook.”

In an effort to reduce noise pollution, Anderson noted that “Deputies will be reminded to whisper their comments during debate in the HOD.”

Sound systems will have their volume lowered, especially during worship, but they will be powered by wind-powered micro-generators attached to every microphone, with the surplus power generated by some speakers expected to be sold back into the power grid at a profit.

Anderson also noted that “Only solar-powered computers will be allowed on the floor of the HOD and deputies who do not wear leather products and are completely vegetarian (vegan preferred) will be recognized by the president in priority order during the whispered debate.”

Many conventions already cut back or shut-off air-conditioning during the set-up and packing-up stages of large meetings, but this Convention will be notable for the reduction of air-conditioning during the sessions themselves. “The system will basically be turned off,” Straub says, “Except for one big blast of frigid air at some unannounced time in the mid-morning which should carry us through the rest of the day.”

The George Fern Company has rented a large supply of hand held fans from nearly every funeral home and Baptist church across the South to be distributed to registered deputies during each session.

In addition, voting machines in the HOD, commonly known as “doo-hickeys” will be reconfigured to support the preferences indicated by dioceses that have made significant strides in environmental consciousness.

Youth from the Diocese of Los Angeles will roam the floors of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies carrying aspersories and aspergillia to keep members hydrated during sessions. “We plan to use a form of blessed Gatorade,” Straub noted, “which when placed against the skin will absorb instantly without the use of paper or plastic cups.”

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams will also reduce his carbon footprint when he visits General Convention by sailing from England to Los Angeles on board the restored 18th century frigate, HMS Compass Rose. Rumors that Williams plans to walk the entire distance from Canterbury to Anaheim were dismissed by the Anglican Communion Office as “exaggerated” because the Archbishop only walks a mile or two a day.

Finally, the budget for the next Triennium includes an incentive plan for dioceses to upgrade their bishops to more energy efficient models.

Anderson says “these initiatives remind me of the famous quote from our friend and mentor, Kermit the Frog, who said, ‘It’s not easy being green.’”

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