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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home Colleges & Universities 12 Steps toward Sustainability Food and Food Services

    Look for "Locally Grown" labels on produce for a healthy, environmentally-friendly alternative to fruits and vegetables from California and Mexico.
Food and Food Services
Food service is an area of consumption on campus which creates significant environmental impact. In some cases foods are often being transported across oceans and national borders, wasting large amounts of fuel and energy when equivalent products could be purchased from local suppliers. Thus, an important aspect of “Greening” one’s campus, is encouraging the consumption of foodstuffs that are less energy intensive and environmentally degrading. A university's purchasing power can be directed to advance sustainable dietary practices and engender sustainable eating habits in its student body.
    Locally-grown produce, such as that found at this local food co-op, is often a healthier, more environmentally-friendly choice than imported fruits and vegetables.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Buy Locally in Season
    Purchasing food is becoming very expensive. The cost of transporting food is one that is often ignored. Foods transported to distant consumers may waste significant amounts of energy. Gasoline and diesel are needed to transport produce across great distances, and electricity is required for their preservation. These costs are often hidden by government subsidies. Consumers still pay for added costs in tax dollars even though they do not pay as much at the market. Additionally, the further food is transported, the more preservation techniques must be used; thus increasing the likelihood of contamination caused by refrigerants. Most of these long-distance foods, however, have some equivalent that is locally or regionally grown.
  • Eat Low on the Food Chain
    Eating low on the food chain means consuming foods such as grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Provide students with the opportunity to eat low on the food chain by increasing the availability of vegetarian and vegan foods. Make sure that campus dining halls offer such meal options and proactively market them to the student body.
    The benefits to this type of diet are both environmental and health related. Animals raised for meat require a very large amount of food and water. Most of the feed, which is soy and grains, can also be eaten by people instead. The majority of calories and nutrients fed to livestock are lost through the animal’s metabolism and only a small portion is stored in the animals' flesh. This makes raising livestock for meat land-intensive, since much more land is needed to produce food for livestock than could otherwise be used to feed people. A more efficient alternative would for humans to consume the grains and beans directly rather than using these plant foods to raise livestock. In addition, fertilizers that are used to grow plant foods for animals have negative environmental effects. Run-off into streams can poison animals and people by contaminating drinking water. As rivers become laden with extra nutrients, growth of phytoplankton and algae skyrockets, damaging sensitive river ecosystems. Pesticides used to keep insects off plants often do not show their negative side effects for years. Pesticides have also been shown to have negative effects when ingested by humans. The less livestock that must be fed, the less pesticides and fertilizers need to be used to grow food.
    Contrary to popular opinion, protein and other nutrients can be acquired just as easily from plant foods as they can from meat. The only difference in a vegan and vegetarian diet is the added need for increased variety. Make sure that vegetarian and vegan options served on campus contain a wide range of beans, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables from day to day.
    The health benefits to reducing meat consumption are two-fold. First is the protection from consuming bio-accumulated toxins stored in animal flesh. Many of these toxins are stored in body fat, and cause sudden toxicity if released. Secondly, meat has higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which are scientifically linked to negative health effects such as increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Minimize Disposable Trays, Plates and Utensils
    Disposable kitchen materials waste resources that are usually non-renewable. It is best for the campus to promote the use of reusable dishes, utensils, and trays in all food areas. Try to use only reusable products for all campus facilities.
  • Support Organic Food Producers
    Organic food production by definition is food production which prohibits the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers that can pose a health threat to consumers. Organic farmers also typically utilize polycultures and intercropping to boost production without using chemical fertilizers. Organic farming is far more sustainable than large scale monoculture farming methods as it does not utilize pesticides and minimizes soil erosion by properly managing soil. Organic farmers also do not put preservatives into their products.
  • Promote Reusable Mugs
    Reusable mugs are a great way to cut down on waste paper or Styrofoam cups. One effective strategy often used to promote the use of these mugs is to sell them at dining halls or school stores, and offer a small discount on beverage purchases to students to use a mug.
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