QUEBEC CITY — When journalists and more than 12,000 pilgrims arrived in Quebec City for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, they were given black backpacks filled with the expected programs, booklets, a radio for translation and maps to help them navigate the week of lectures, conferences and liturgies. But they also were given utensils, a water bottle and an 80 percent biodegradable, eco-friendly pen made with cornstarch. Utensils? Cornstarch pen? Um, OK.
This year, congress organizers have taken special steps to care for the environment, including providing the reusable utensils for meals and the reusable water bottle. They also will plant 49 trees to offset the greenhouse gas production of traveling pilgrims, who came from more than 70 countries for the June 15-20 congress.
According to an estimate cited in congress materials, 60,000 trees need to be planted and 80 years will have to pass to totally offset the amount of carbon dioxide produced by pilgrims, who were invited to plant four trees after they return home to help.
And as for recent reports that water bottles emit the hazardous chemical bisphenol A which can cause cancer? Well, congress organizers have that covered, too. They included in the bundle of eco-equipment a notice about the bottles with information about research on the chemical and advice on how to avoid exposure to it.
PHOTO: A priest distributes Communion to a woman at the opening Mass of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City June 15. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)