Tim and Donita Wiebe-Neufeld of Edmonton First Mennonite Church own an electric Nissan Leaf car. Tim’s cousin, Arlyn Friesen Epp, owns a Leaf. Another cousin, Kendall Jongejan Harder, owns a Leaf. Tim laughs, “I guess our family cheers for the Leafs!”
Being a Leaf fan is not always well received, especially in Alberta, where oil and gas are king. Tim says he gets the finger on a regular basis while driving around the city. On one occasion he came out of a building and couldn’t get into the driver’s side of his car because a big jacked-up pickup had blocked him in. They were the only two vehicles in the parking lot. Coincidence?
Brenda Tiessen-Wiens, Mennonite Church Alberta’s moderator, and her husband, Trevor Wiens, drive a Chevy Volt. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid. Wiens has been in the oil and gas industry for most of his career. He recognizes that the industry has a large footprint but says that, in his experience, “Environmental impacts were always a high priority. Emission monitoring and reduction were a daily discussion and task. . . . I don’t think the phrase ‘environmental impact’ is heard as much in any other industry.”
He says they have received no pushback in Alberta for driving the Volt. Brenda says it’s the first car she has ever loved.
So why are Mennonites buying electric and hybrid cars?
Wiens says they chose the Volt because they “wanted an environmentally friendly car that addressed the problem of range anxiety.” They often drive it to Manitoba.
Wiebe-Neufeld says the electric car made sense from both economic and faith perspectives. On the economic side, there is a long-range financial benefit—he calculates that they save $5 for every 100 kilometres in the road. With regards to faithful discipleship, he says, “We have a calling to care for the Earth as God would care for it.” He says that reducing the use of fossil fuels is key in caring for the planet and its people. Other benefits include no oil changes, no transmission flushes and no waiting in line at the gas station. And it is fun to drive!
Buying electric or hybrid cars is only one way Albertan families are expressing their care for the planet, and therefore for the vulnerable people who are affected globally by climate change.
Every year the Wiebe-Neufeld family tries to implement a new environmentally friendly practice. These practices have included upgrading the insulation in their walls, installing an on-demand water tank that only heats up water as needed, replacing their gas furnace with a high-efficiency one, and installing solar panels with the help of grants from the city and province.
Marie Moyer and husband Dave Neufeldt of Lethbridge Mennonite Church built their net-zero home through a contractor who specialized in environmentally friendly construction practices and energy-efficient homes. Marie needed a home that was wheelchair-accessible, so it seemed more practical to start from scratch. They used recycled building materials and good insulation, installed solar panels, and heat their home with geothermal energy.
Solar panels can be expensive, so the couple were excited when Moyer’s sister, Joanne Moyer, offered to invest. Joanne lived in an apartment and was unable to make the changes she wanted in her own housing, so she helped pay for the panels and, in return, she receives dividends from the calculated savings each year.
Another factor in building the house was location. To avoid using their Volt vehicle, the Moyers built their home within biking distance of Dave’s work and, on a nice day, within wheeling distance of Marie’s work.
Marie talks about the two main driving forces behind her passion for creation care. “First of all, God has created a beautiful, rich and diverse world for us to live in,” she says. “To show gratitude towards the Giver means to take good care of the gift. Second, the climate chaos we are currently experiencing is disproportionately affecting people in poorer countries. . . . How can I claim to love my neighbours if I don’t care about how my choices contribute to their suffering?”
Tim also talks about the importance of exploring social and economic impacts when looking at environmental sustainability. He hopes the government will consider alternative forms of energy, like geothermal energy. “We know how to drill wells in Alberta,” he says. “We could be leaders in the geothermal energy market if the government was open.”
Many environmentalists see the world as on fire, stating that people have waited too long and need to focus on changing structures, not on recycling and consumption. But Wiebe-Neufeld, who just completed his master’s degree in environment and business from the University of Waterloo, Ont., says that people can also change the trajectory by not only focusing on small token acts but by exponentially increasing substantial changes.
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