Around the world, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partners with organizations that are working to counteract the negative impact of disrupted weather patterns, increased droughts and flooding.
In the U.S., MCC is supporting its global partners by taking practical steps to improve the health of the earth’s environment.
"MCC's purpose statement says we envision communities worldwide in right relationship with God, one another and creation,” said Eric Kurtz, executive director for MCC Great Lakes and a member of MCC’s Acting Sustainably Committee. “These actions are an attempt to live out the biblical call to care for God's creation even as we respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters worldwide."
Photo courtesy of Sam Stoner
MCC U.S., two regional offices and a Virginia MCC Thrift shop are harnessing the sun’s power to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
Using a recent $50,000 grant award from the U.S. Department of Energy as seed money, MCC East Coast will install enough solar panels to provide 100 percent of the electricity used by its material resources center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
This project, which is projected for completion in October 2017, will be followed by installation of solar power systems at three other MCC locations that are yet to be determined over the next 18 months.
The grant also helps to support the second phase of a solar project at Gift & Thrift, an MCC Thrift shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. By the end of May, community members will have installed enough solar panels to supply nearly 50 percent of the store’s electrical usage, saving $14,000 per year.
West Coast MCC’s office in Reedley, California, also installed a solar power system in December 2016 which meets 70 percent of its energy needs. Over 25 years, West Coast MCC will save approximately $150,000, according to Nathan Yoder, executive director.
Other solar projects are growing at MCC Central States’ office and warehouse, North Newton, Kansas, and functioning on guest houses at MCC U.S.’ Welcoming Place in Akron, Pennsylvania.
MCC photo 2013/Silas Crews
MCC Thrift shops across the U.S. are reselling used clothing, instead of adding to the 10.5 million tons of clothing that are dumped in landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Born out of a vision for creative use of local clothing and household surplus, thrift shops do a great service for the planet and MCC, said Deb King, MCC U.S. Thrift Shop development coordinator. All the profits from these shops, which are primarily staffed with volunteers, support MCC’s work around the world.
MCC photo/Elisabeth Kverne
The MCC East Coast Material Resources Center in Ephrata and the MCC Central States Material Resources Center recycle to earn money for MCC’s global work.
From April 2016 to March 2017, volunteers at the East Coast center recycled more than 1,700 tons of newspaper, office paper, magazines, cardboard, books and clothing, which would otherwise have ended up in the garbage.
“It’s important that these things don’t go into the landfill and so we can generate income for MCC,” said Rudi Niessen, who oversees the recycling initiative and packaging of comforters, canned meat and other humanitarian relief supplies. “Last (fiscal) year we made $195,000 for MCC and this year it will be close to $200,000 again.”
Energy efficiency upgrades
Dennis Kready, maintenance manager for MCC U.S. offices in Akron, Pennsylvania, said almost all office lighting has been updated to LED, light-emitting diodes, which reduced the electricity that was needed. West Coast MCC and Central States are updating their lighting too.
Kready said, “We continue to reduce our electricity consumption in general through the installation of LED lighting in our office and in the Welcoming Place and in the guest houses as well as some efficiency upgrades to the HVAC equipment.”
A geothermal loop was installed on the campus of MCC U.S.’ office in Akron in 2013, which saves on electricity and water usage. Kready said that the energy efficient upgrades and the geothermal loop have reduced the office’s energy consumption by 27 percent since 2013.
MCC photo/Cherelle M. Dessus
MCC U.S. Washington Office is working together with other church-based organizations that are part of Creation Justice Ministries. Washington Office staff provided information and worship resources that encourage respect and support of indigenous groups as they advocate for their land and resources (www.creationjustice.org/indigenous.html). The Washington Office also encourage participation in prayer vigils and Christian witness related to the People’s Climate March on April 29 (www.creationjustice.org/climatemarch.html).
Looking toward the future
MCC’s Acting Sustainably Team, with staff members from MCC offices in Canada and the U.S., shares energy-saving information and strategizes ways to implement more environmentally friendly changes on MCC operations in provinces and regions.
In 2016, MCC, Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, founded the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions. The initiative, which is led by EMU and funded by a $1 million gift from Ray Martin, was established to “advance thinking and action in Anabaptist and other faith communities to mitigate climate change,” according to center’s mission statement.
The virtual center will focus on four areas: connecting with a national and global network of like-minded organizations, researching best practices, educating by sharing findings and innovating through new ideas and methods. Development of the center is still underway.