By Ali Scheig, Real Food Challenge
A lot of times in the world of environmentalism we can lose sight of the main goal, get burnt out, and lose a lot of the passion we once felt. Especially being a senior Environmental Studies major, I can feel this at times. I focus on the food system in my studies and I am sometimes worried I am going to get burnt out from it, but going to AASHE this October solidified this passion and made me feel renewed in my studies and my work at the Environmental Center.
I think that environmentalism starts with all of us, and that personal decisions are the most feasible tool we all have in order to see the changes we care about making. Listening to hours of presentations, workshops, and participating in discussions about the food system was inspiring for lack of better words. I saw how many people care and are currently starting initiatives, motivating students, and having really important conversations with others about our future and what we can do.
The most impactful presentation I went to was by Ken Botts, who works with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and he worked on a project that created the first all vegan dining hall on a college campus. Being a vegetarian for three years and a vegan for one, I was so amazed that this was a possibility, but also had thoughts that many would not be very excited about a perpetual meatless Monday on their own campus. Ken and others spoke about things that worked and things that don’t in order to decrease the amount of meat while simultaneously increasing sustainability on college campuses. Ken Botts and the HSUS do FREE (!!) two-day trainings with dining hall staff members to teach them how to make really amazing meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free dishes. They also realized through studies that if they didn’t tell students that it was vegan or vegetarian, it increased positive feedback from students because didn’t even notice the lack of meat and animal products in their food. This presentation gave me and other Real Food Challenge team members ideas and inspiration going forward with our movement concerning sustainability, social justice, and animal rights at Fort Lewis.