"Presbyterian camp and conference centers are the perfect places to make connections between our faith and caring for God's earth," said Rebecca Barnes-Davies, associate for Environmental Ministries, in a news release. "Cherokee Retreat Center, in its second year of this certification process, has taken great strides in environmental stewardship. I'm happy to honor and recognize these accomplishments."
Echoing Barnes-Davies' comments, CRC Program Director Jean Howington said being environmentally friendly ties into their venue's overall mission.
"We're striving to do better every year, and that's something that's unique about this award is that every year that you get it you have to increase what you do," Howington said. "You can't just mark down what you did last year and get it again. You have to actually do something different to get it every year.
"We're here to provide a place kind of set apart. We're here to be a little part of God's creation that people can come and experience and get away from the rush of their daily lives. And I think if we don't do that in an environmentally responsible way, then we're not practicing the good stewardship that God wants us to do."
To receive the 2012 Green Leaf Seal, which was presented by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Environmental Ministries and the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association, the camps or conference centers had to meet certain criteria, such as completing five activities or projects connected to environmental stewardship.
Along with its recycling program, the CRC also has replaced its thermostats with more energy-efficient devices and light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. One of its largest efforts was the camp vegetable garden, which also serves as an educational tool for summer campers.
"We collect vegetable scraps and [other items] in the garden and they bring those up and they put them in the compost," Howington said. "And they pick things from the garden and then take those down to the kitchen. So we talk about how far food has to travel to get to their plates. We talk about healthy eating. Depending on the age groups, we talk about food justice and sustainability and things like that.
"... We have kids that come and say, 'But I don't eat things that grow in the dirt.' They're surprisingly disconnected from where their food comes from. They don't understand. So it's good for them to come and see how lettuce grows and to be able to pick a tomato or pick beans and take them down to the kitchen, things like that."
Situated at 370 Wilderness Camp Road in White, the CRC's 100-acre property rests along the Lake Allatoona shoreline. Opened more than 50 years ago, the center is operated by the Presbyterian Churches (USA) of Cherokee Presbytery. In addition to hosting retreats, the CRC also offers summer camps, which serve nearly 400 campers each year. Individuals do not have to be of the Presbyterian faith to participate.
For more information about the CRC and to register for its day or overnight camps, visit www.cherokeeretreatcenter.com or call 1-877-647-8542.