Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.
Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.
These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.
God has created a wonderful world for us and charged us with being stewards of all God created. God cared enough for us, and enough for the other creatures of the world, that all were saved from the Flood to reproduce again. If God cares so much, it is important for us to do what we can to care for each other and for all that God has created. This idea provided the backdrop for our conference on Eco-Sustainability at camp and conference centers.
Food, energy, construction, cleaning agents, and more all go into making camp and conference experiences happen. We all strive to provide a safe environment at the most affordable cost for our guests. Our centers have been great leaders and demonstration “labs” for all sorts of ecologically conscious endeavors from gardening, to solar panels, to recycling, composting and more. Many of us have been asking, “are we doing enough and how can we go to the next level?” That question is what brought us together in Arkansas at Ferncliff camp and conference center.
Thirty individuals, from sixteen different camp & conference centers and organizations, representing four denominations gathered September 19-23, 2011 for the Sustainable Pathways: Eco-Sustainability Conference. We found we gained as much from the leadership, as we did from the time sharing and learning from each other. We all have a place to start and as we learn and share more, our impact can multiply.
Leadership included key staff from Hospitality Green, Shantha Ready Alonzo from the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program, and others. Evadne Giavanni, director of Hospitality Green, shared, “the purpose of our time together is to make you think. There are many things you can be doing, but our task is to share information to help you make choices that are appropriate for you.” It was a good reminder that one size does not fit all.
So what did we learn? There is no way to capture it all or to share each person’s experience but here is one example of my learnings. I learned that I am cleaning my bathroom with poison without even knowing it! Ammonia (the key ingredient in Windex) goes on my mirror and chlorine (the key ingredient in 409) goes into the toilet and surfaces. If I were to mix ammonia and chlorine directly, I know I would be creating ammonium chloride – a deadly combination and a precursor to Mustard Gas! I never took the time to realize that the fumes from the Windex and the fumes from the 409 were creating small levels of Ammonium Chloride each time I cleaned. An important change I can make but one we can have a huge impact by changing at our centers. If we think about our guests’ health, it is a no-brainer to change this. But when we go further and look at housekeepers, they spend a good part of their day in confined spaces cleaning bathrooms with strong cleaners. Their exposure over time can be quite large and we learned that housekeepers have a high number of sick days and a high frequency of turnover. Changing to hydrogen peroxide based cleaners (cheaper and safer) can improve the health at our camps immensely.
“How can we improve our centers as well as intentionally share important healthy and ecologically sustainable practices with more people?” is a question that was shared often. Our centers are flexible classrooms where we can educate through practice as well as information and reach many thousands of individuals each year. The answer to the question is in starting small, involving as many people from staff to participants as you can, and continue to learn and apply those learnings in your operations.
Hospitality Green works with hotels, institutions, schools and other operations. They are a great resource for churches as well as individual camp and conference centers. The participants of this conference are dedicated to continuing to share and spread their learnings. We are working on a plan to host regional Eco-Sustainability conferences. Stay tuned and if you have ideas, comments or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.