By Anthony Barich
World Youth Day 2008 was the most environmentally friendly event Sydney has hosted, says chief organiser Bishop Anthony Fisher OP.
Bishop Fisher, an Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, said organisers have been acutely aware that hosting such a big event “has its own ecological challenges”, ever since Pope Benedict XVI declared at the end of WYD05 in Cologne that the Harbour city would host the event.
He said that experts have been advising WYD08 organisers “from the start” on minimising risks to the environment and, “if anything, leave the environment better off at the end”.
It will be more environmentally friendly than any other event Sydney has hosted because pilgrims are mainly walking from venue to venue, and taking public transport. Pilgrims are being encouraged to take a “pilgrimage to St Mary’s Cathedral”, where Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s body is being kept in a wooden casket, via a number of pilgrim routes through the central business district of Sydney. Pilgrims around Australia also have been involved in a huge tree-planting program that will be a carbon-offset for those travelling to Australia by plane.
WYD08 airline partner Qantas also provided carbon offset program for the pilgrims using the national airline.
“We have dedicated cleaning and waste management strategies to maximise the recycling and we have used, throughout, the minimum packaging that can either be kept or re-used,” Bishop Fisher said.
For example, torches in the pilgrim packs have environmentally unfriendly batteries but can be re-used so they “don’t end up being thrown out”.
“Pilgrims spent much of the time walking or on public transport, which means they’re not in cars polluting the environment,” he said.
“On a per capita basis this group will be far and away the lowest-polluting crowd for an event in Sydney.
“They’re using the very minimum of energy and are maximising the use of recyclable and biodegradable products.
Pilgrims have also been given a three-minute timer so they keep their showers brief to minimise water use.