The Kirchentag, Germany's bi-annual ecumenical celebration, is making greater efforts to be environmentally friendly, according to organisers - writes Ruby Russell.
With over 100,000 people attending each year and huge stages for live bands, the Kirchentag's (literally "church congress") energy requirements are enough to make any carbon-conscious soul wince. But as the CEO of the new Hamburg office explains, the organisation has made great efforts to ensure the event's eco-friendly credentials.
"Kirchentag is an event that engages with social responsibility," said Bernd Baucks, who is also the head of finance. "This comes from the Protestant conviction that we believe in keeping the earth alive; that's part of the Christian belief and it's also part of the responsibility we feel as an organisation."
Organisers are settling in at the headquarters office in Hamburg, where the event will be held in 2013. Coincidentally, the north German city was also given the title of European Green Capital 2011. The Kirchentag is held in a different city each time.
The festival has used energy from renewable sources since 2007. Food wrappers, bottles and all the discarded waste that the faithful and the revellers leave behind is sorted for recycling. The hundreds of thousands of miles that visitors collectively travel to reach the event from locations across the globe may be beyond the control of Kirchentag's organisers, but they do actively encourage travel by train over plane and include a pass for local public transport with the event tickets.
"We try to promote environmental behaviour," said Baucks. "It's important for us to set a good example on environmental issues."
This also includes leveraging the organisation's consumer power by insisting on high environmental standards from all its suppliers. But as far as the event's visitors go, Baucks says they wouldn't expect anything less.
"I believe that the absolute majority of people who visit Kirchentag are actually quite conscious about the shape of the world and they wish to improve it," he said. "That's part of their motivation to participate in Kirchentag."
"We do also receive critical feedback if, for example, they receive a publication from Kirchentag that is not on recycled paper they will write to us and complain," he added.
Kirchentag now uses 97 per cent recycled paper. The organisation has also invested in two wind turbines located in the gusty east German state of Thuringia. Along with solar panels installed on the roof of their offices, they generate more energy than Kirchentag consumes, making it a net energy producer.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]