The Pilgrims’ (Carbon) Footprint

The Pilgrims’ (Carbon) Footprint


By Dick Zeller, St. Mary’s, Eugene

St. Mary’s, Eugene, Celebrates the 2019 J2A Pilgrimage on September 24

Themed dinners, “Evenings at St. Mary’s,” are a regular part of the program calendar. The theme of the first “Evening” of this year was the 2019 Journey to Adulthood (J2A) Pilgrimage to England and France. 

The Pilgrimage

J2A is St. Mary’s middle-school through high-school Christian education program.  About every three years, high-school youth plan and organize their pilgrimage.  The Pilgrimage is not a vacation, but a carefully designed journey intended to strengthen the faith of participants.

This year, nine youth and 4 adults participated in the 2019 pilgrimage. They visited four cities: London, Canterbury, Oxford, and Paris. In 12 days, they:

  • went to 9 churches and church ruins;
  • worshipped together daily;
  • attended services in four Cathedrals (Southwark in London, Canterbury Cathedral Crypt, Christ Church in Oxford, and the American Episcopal Cathedral, Paris);
  • walked parts of the Pilgrim’s Paths in Oxford and Canterbury;
  • had a special session with theologian and author Alister McGrath;
  • learned more about Anglican tradition;
  • ate meals together;
  • and bonded as a group of friends in faith.

Managing the Carbon Footprint

A part of the pilgrims’ plan was to respect and experience nature throughout the trip. They recognized that while the pilgrimage would be a wonderful experience, transportation for the trip would also come at a cost to the earth.

Pilgrims planned the trip to maximize walking within each city (over 86 miles walked per pilgrim), as well as use of bus and train during their travel within and between cities. The youth calculated the carbon footprint of using airplanes, trains, buses and cars during the trip. They estimated that the group would be responsible for about 42 tons added atmospheric CO2. 

As a part of fundraising, they set a goal of $420 to contribute to two Lane County nature organizations to help offset this CO2 impact. Their efforts, matched by others in the congregation, raised $1,000.

At the Evenings at St. Mary’s dinner, two J2A participants presented $500 checks each to the Faith Community Fund* of the Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) and the McKenzie River Trust (MRT) to be used for tree planting and restoration of watersheds/wetlands. Both organizations help protect and reclaim nature’s ways of absorbing CO2 and preserving watersheds.

*Within “Earth Keepers,” a local inter-faith group, St. Mary’s has led in setting up the Faith Community Fund. This fund accepts donations for these two local organizations for tree planting and restoration of watersheds/wetlands. The Faith Community Fund urges members of all congregations to consider supporting these organizations as part of their environmental stewardship. (See “Local Partnerships For Addressing Your Carbon Footprint” at: