One of the stated goals of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is creation care, to the point of MCC Ontario hiring Darren Kropf part-time to spearhead this effort in congregations. But activities like the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, now having completed 45 years, are run by grassroots organizations and are not part of MCC proper.
John Reimer, a member of both the Relief Sale board and its creation care subcommittee, notes that they had been approached by a number of patrons over the years about recycling at the event. This spurred him and others to follow their own desires to improve the ratio of recycled matter to garbage.
While there were still a few vendors depending on Styrofoam dishes and some bottled water being sold, most were using paper plates that could be put into green bins for composting. Even most of the plastic cutlery on site was biodegradable. Water stands using municipal water were scattered around the New Hamburg fair grounds, equipped with degradable paper cups for those who had forgotten to bring their own bottles or mugs.
Although they didn’t get enough volunteers, many of the busiest waste sites were watched over and the materials in the garbage cans, blue bins and green bins were being sorted into the appropriate containers. At the end of the sale, much of the garbage was resorted to ensure as much as possible was diverted from the dump.
In the future, the sale hopes to encourage more patrons to bring their own containers for food like the spring rolls and empanadas, develop greener transportation like shuttle buses from Kitchener/Waterloo, and encourage car pooling and biking.
The information tent at the centre of the fair grounds provided education to those at the sale. This year the Menno Café served beverages in china cups and saucers, which were washed at end of the day. The overwhelming positive response may lead the café to use more washable dishes in the future.
While Bullfrog power—energy from renewable sources—had been used in previous years, it was felt that going with recycling and green bins would make a bigger impact.
After the sale, Reimer said the committee was pleased with the results and had only received positive feedback from patrons, although he acknowledges that this is a multi-year process of learning how to do it and to educate the public.
The sale this year raised around $350,000 for MCC work around the world, an increase of $17,000 over 2010.
Tyler Yantzi, centre, moves compostable paper bowls from a blue box into the green bins as volunteers Scott Bauman, left, and Mark Brubacher, right, look on.
Savang Nay, a volunteer from the Grace Lao Mennonite Church, Kitchener, takes a break from making spring rolls to load up on fries and ketchup, served in a recyclable paper container.