Fighting Climate Change at Camp Kintail

 By Shelagh O’Neill, Director of Outdoor Education, Camp Kintail, Goderich, Ontario and a PCC representative on the KAIROS Ecological Justice Circle.

The most recent annual gathering of the Presbyterian Church Camps and Conference Association (PCCCA) included an exciting opportunity. The 156 PCC and PCUSA affiliated retreat, camp and conference centres had the chance to make a commitment to operating more sustainable organizations within the Church by signing the 2018 Climate Change Declaration for Affirmation. The declaration was created by the PCCCA in response to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on our global environment (IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers), which acknowledges that the average global temperature has risen and will continue to do so, and that this is directly linked to human activity.

Camps are particularly well-placed to witness the effects of our changing climate. Rising global temperatures are altering the earth’s climate system, causing environmental, economic and public health challenges. Recognizing that we are all responsible for caring for the earth to the best of our ability, organizations and individuals who signed the PCCCA’s 2018 Climate Change Declaration for Affirmation committed to the following:

  • Reducing meat consumption. Livestock agriculture accounts for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.1
  • Completely eliminating the use of Styrofoam products and committing to a reduction and/or elimination of single-use plastics in programs, meals and practices. The production of these single-use products creates gases and chemicals that are damaging to the earth.
  • Informing others about the actions that were taken. Empowering others to reduce their environmental impact by sharing and educating.

Camp Kintail, located in Goderich, Ont., was one of the centres that signed the declaration. As a Presbyterian summer camp and year-round retreat centre, Camp Kintail has always recognized its unique role and responsibility to protect God’s creation and maintain places where people can come to experience God. Kintail is committed to actively taking steps to conserve energy and water in as many ways as possible. Other steps that Camp Kintail takes to be more environmentally responsible include recycling, composting waste and promoting the consumption of locally grown food. Prior to the conference, Kintail had already been serving local dairy products and predominantly local meat products.

Since the conference, Camp Kintail is working towards serving three meatless meals a week and continues to supplement with fruits and vegetables grown in the Camp’s own garden. The garden itself is an opportunity for awareness about our environment and how to care well for it, since it is tended by campers and staff. Additionally, Camp Kintail has been working towards creating as little food garbage as possible by eliminating single-use plastics and ordering in bulk. Through nature sessions, garden sessions, Bible studies, signage and announcements, Camp Kintail shares with campers and guests several ways to reduce their carbon footprint with ideas for how sustainability can be practiced at home.

In the book of Genesis, we learn God created Earth and that it is our responsibility as Christians to care for all that is on it. Collectively as humans, our use of natural resources is not fulfilling our responsibility, and instead, we are hurting the earth. PCC churches, retreats, camps, conference centres and other organizations are in a position to embody sustainable practices and educate congregation members and visitors about the ecological benefits of even small changes like:

  • Using public transportation and carpooling when travelling to meetings or events
  • Eating locally produced food
  • Eliminating the use of single-use plastics and foam
  • Switching to energy-saving elements, such as motion-sensor lights and faucets

Together, we can better serve God through caring for creation and changing some of our daily habits in order to support a sustainable future for the earth.