Making Moves and Taking Names: Real Food Challenge Edition

By Aolani Peiper, Real Food Challenge Team Coordinator

I came to the AASHE conference with an open mind and so much excitement, I could barely contain it. I am very thankful I was able to have the opportunity to be surrounded and connect with so many people that cared about sustainability and were doing things at their institutions and organizations to do something about it. I saw that these organizations and movements they started, didn’t just have connections, funding, and many people to put their heads together to perform tasks. It was a place full of people, passionate about their cause and starting from the grassroots to work their way up!

I thought I was coming to this conference to present on the Real Food Challenge and Vote Real at Fort Lewis. Little did I know that I would be asked to share stories and help our regional representative and calculator coordinator to present on the Real Food challenge and social change as a whole as well. It was a humbling experience and I was able to present and share my story at the Student Summit. It was the perfect platform and space for it. The Real Food challenge team and I put together a presentation and had been working on it every chance we got for weeks. We presented on the last day of the conference and it was a huge success! We were able to connect and network with other participating Real Food Challenge schools as well as organizations that are familiar with the campaign and willing to help us advance.

Some of my favorite moments were lunches where we all got to network and meet new people. I made so many connections with people, especially students. It was a great space to converse and talk sustainability and how intersectional it really is. It was impactful and very empowering to share stories and experiences with people that were promoting sustainability, like we try to at the Environmental Center here on campus. I also have to brag about my amazing team; At AASHE we really put our name on the map for Real Food Challenge schools. It was truly incredible to walk up to an individual or representative of an organization, say our name where we are from, and have them already know us! After an intro it was always answered with “oh you’re from Fort Lewis? I know about your work on the Real Food Challenge team and your commitment and it’s great to meet you.” It was almost like we were famous! Our presentation only made our school and our team that much more impactful and known. It helped us establish relationships and expand our resources. It also reinforced that our work isn’t going unnoticed and we should celebrate our victories. I’m proud to say that I am not just the coordinator but an active member on the Real Food Challenge team trying to make a difference.

“It also reinforced that our work isn’t going unnoticed and we should celebrate our victories.”

 

I did have a major take away from the conference and it is that the Real Food Challenge team and Environmental Center in general is making moves, and I mean it just like that. We have been extremely successful in our initiatives and continue to promote sustainability in ways that campuses are only just starting. It’s been amazing to see over the years how the Real Food Challenge has continued to grow. Our team developed and presented one of the first democratic mechanisms to get students involved in our food system and vote on real food they wanted to see on their plate. After this experience, the team has so much in store and can’t wait for you all to be involved.

What if Meatless Mondays Carried Over to Every Day of the Week?

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.

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling in Your Daily Life

By Tatyana Trujillo, Energy Impact

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” has been one of my mottos, it is branded in my mind and is a part of my daily life now. I haven’t always been this conscious though, my family did the standard recycling, composting, and was conscious on reusing items. But we didn’t fully understand the impact it had. Once I began doing my own research on these issues, I started to understand how important it is to continue these habits on my own. I found many benefits on reducing and reusing and how they can help towards making the planet healthier. Being a college student, money is always a huge issue. Well, little did we know, reusing and reducing material in our life will save us money. It will help with reducing the amount of waste that could be sent to landfills and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. Also, it saves a lot of energy needed to make the product. These issues can be solved by just simply recycling the right materials, reusing, and reducing on the amount of materials you use.

Being a college student is already stressful and on top of that stress I had to worry about what I was going to do to be conscious and contribute to this sustainable lifestyle. I started finding simple ways I could continue reducing, reusing, and recycling. I got rid of clothes I no longer needed, donating them either to the thrift store or the Campus Free Store. I continued recycling and composting, I was more conscious of the number of items I would throw away each day. I began sharing items with my friends giving us the opportunity to reduce the items we had and save money.

A huge factor in my environment copiousness on these issues is because of the Environmental Center. The Environmental Center has been working on many ways to get students more engaged on how to become more sustainably aware. Our Zero-Waste Team is very passionate on getting the student body involved in reusing, recycling, and reducing. The Campus Free Store is one of the most popular things on campus revolving around these issues. We are able to get students involved in reusing clothes and other items. We are also working on issues regarding the amount of waste from to-go coffee cups. We want to get Animas Perks involved in reducing the amount of waste by simply offering reusable coffee cups for students that are not on-the-go and would like to sit down and enjoy some coffee. Or having students bring their own coffee cup. We can defiantly make a huge impact toward reducing our waste, it just takes developing new habits.

Moloch Comes

By Dylan Hamilton, Aesthetic Activist

Let’s be honest. Things are getting weird.

It’s hard to remain calm at times. Everything about our society and our lifestyles is designed to maximize our various anxieties and to produce revenue from advertising. I don’t mean to suggest that this is the product of some multinational conspiracy; the truth is probably that this is all happening on accident.

Any smart manufacturer knows that this is the state of the system. And so, they become generalists, producing cheap lifestyle accessories for whatever you fancy your self-image to be, and for whatever demographic group you happen to be in.

Behold! The vacation piggybank for the early twenties, in a relationship, aspirational adventurous demographic. The fonts are specifically chosen for a mix of whimsy and non-threateningness. The arrow decal in the center is a symbol of questing and dynamism. The square frame and transparent sides of the piggybank are right out of postmodern design. $18.99 on Amazon.

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It’s hard to remain calm. It’s especially difficult to remain untainted by cynicism.

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There are two major schools of Christian belief; Catholic and Calvinist (well, and orthodoxy, but we’ll exclude them for a minute). I won’t get into a super complicated argument here, but the gist of these two sects is that Catholics, in general, believe humans and human nature to be weak. Calvinists, who include Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, and almost every American Christian sect, believe humans and human nature to be evil.

Don’t understand what that difference means? I’ll explain. It has to do with the way we deal with those we consider our opponents and enemies.

Someone who considers their adversary subject to human weaknesses will recognize a bit of themselves in their foe. They will look at an opponent and realize: “She and I disagree because she is uninformed and ignorant. I have been ignorant before. I should treat her with generosity and understanding.” A person who empathizes with their enemy can make that enemy a friend, given the time, drive, and persistence.

Someone who considers an opponent to be evil will do none of these things. Such a person will look at their foe and say: “A wicked man. The world would be better if he were dead.”

A person who believes in the innate evil of humanity will not know mercy, will not be able to recognize justice, and will be able to injure and kill other humans without hesitation or consequence.

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I once heard someone say: “We are living in the dreamtime.”

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I believe this. I know it in my heart. The dreamtime is a bastardized word for a Native Australian concept which represents the time before time, the mythological era when demons and monsters ruled the world. They were not necessarily evil, but they were so powerful that they had the means to make and unmake the very substance of the earth.

They roamed about, building, destroying, and forming the world which we now inhabit today. The Forgotten Beast, Yeiitsoh Nagaii; The Titan, Uranus; Moloch, the incarnation of mindless hunger; Changing Woman, the first leader of the Navajos; Elijah, the Jewish magi; The Rainbow Serpent, creator of all of the Glorious Cosmos; and many others.

My thesis is that we are now in the unenviable position of being those beasts. In a way, we are the monsters of immense power which dominate the world, and what we have done as an industrialised society and what we continue to do will define the character of the world for a long time. Our societies know such power and security, like no other human culture has known in the history of our species, that we have gained the influence of gods. We do not, however, have the ability to undo our largest mistakes.

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What do we do? So many powerful forces in the modern world seem to conspire against us. Against the concepts of justice and freedom; against the hopes and dreams for peace and equality and fraternity. Lords of War and Robber Barons strut about in defiance. Moloch directs our fury and our rage onto the weak, those least deserving of it. Always, the innocent suffer.

I cannot tell you with certainty that we will escape these times with the things we hope for. Stability, prosperity, equity, sanity; even our very lives may be lost to some of us. I hope not, but I feel that times of great turmoil are coming, as always, caused by the greed, pride, and wrath of weak and petty men. There is nearly no way to physically prepare for such things. There is no amount of theory, training, skill, or rationality which will save us.

And even now, as I write, I must conclude that life is not too bad. But my life is rich beyond measure. My garbage, my consumption, is all borne on the bodies and spirits of slaves and poor bastards whom I will never have to meet. This borrowed luxury, this borrowed life bought with the suffering of other people, causes me to think that a reckoning will come.

Personally, all I have is faith. A weird faith, in the ability of humans to be good in times of crisis, to hope for beauty and kindness in their lives despite our violent histories. A faith that perhaps some higher power is guiding us, and that it means for us not to all perish meaninglessly. I am always driven to a saying which provides, in my opinion, the only reasonable prescription for existential despair. The saying is: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.

Honestly, there is no better advice I can give you.

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Yippee! We went to AASHE!

By Kaidee Akullo, Real Food Challenge

Hello world, I would like to start out by saying: the Real Food Challenge Team at Fort Lewis College is amazing! Last semester I had the distinct opportunity and pleasure to attempt to cohesively summarize all of the work that our team of powerful women does in relation to the Real Food Challenge. This summary took the form of a proposal: a 200 word snapshot of our Vote Real initiative for a chance at presenting at the annual conference by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Seven months after submitting our proposal, myself and three of my Real Food Challenge teammates were walking up the steps of the Marriott Hotel to present A Journey to Real Food: Growing an Intersectional Food Movement through Student Involvement and Empowerment.

While at the conference I had several revelations. One, community is essential. In any movement the people who make the most change are a coalition of intersectional individuals who can utilize their respective resources as tools for success. That got me thinking, how am I being intersectional in my goals and aspirations? Am I actively using my connections between Black Student Union, the Environmental Center and relationships on campus to create collective change? Two, it is okay to be a little controversial? It is too easy for people to get caught up in their own lives and ignore what is happening around them. If you need to be radical in order for people to start talking about issues, then do it! We will not bring about growth and prosperity by waiting for change to happen, we have to create it ourselves. Three, take a look around. The pride I felt for my team after our presentation was echoed and amplified as I think of all the other amazing initiatives being put in place around the country and world. We came home with ideas on sustainable eating, collaboration, social justice, and diversity, all of which we are eager to engage in. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have experienced part of the social and environmental sustainability work that people are doing if you just look around.

As our discussion on the intersectionality of the food movement ended with a challenge, I will leave you all with a new challenge: Go out and think about how you interact with the world, check your privilege and your connections, and take action to make sustainable change.

Drops in the Bucket

By Carsyn Randolph, Zero Waste Team

Giving people hope ables them to work towards the future. As a staff member at the Environmental Center on the Fort Lewis College campus, I am driven by hope. Hope allows me to be optimistic about the future of the environment, while also igniting a fire within students to practice more sustainable actions. I was reminded that having hope is essential to make positive change from Nicholas Kristof, who spoke at Fort Lewis College in October.

I attended Nicholas Kristof’s speech with the intention to learn something new. Kristof is an accomplished journalist, an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. His columns are centered on global health, poverty, and gender issues within developing countries.

After his speech I felt pleasantly overwhelmed with new information and astounding facts, but most importantly I learned to take chances. Kristof shared stories from his life and experiences of traveling in over 140 countries which all have a common key characteristic: taking chances. He said that we must take risks on people and take a chance. By taking chances we are putting drops into a bucket, and drops in a bucket are how we change the world, he said.

Each time an individual walks into the Environmental Center, the EC is putting a drop in the bucket. We share our passion to create a more sustainable world with individuals and hope the ripple effect will occur. Each inspired individual will contribute a drop of water to the bucket and once the bucket if full the over goal is accomplished.

I am hopeful that every time I take a chance and share my passions and aspirations about creating a sustainable planet, I will have inspired just one more individual. If people in the world work together and inspire others, there is no doubt a positive change will be created.

EC Impacts: Personal Growth, Professionalism and Connection

By Charlie Shew, Energy Impact Team Coordinator

As a senior preparing to graduate this April, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on my days spent at Fort Lewis College and how my involvement with the school has prepared me for my next steps after college. Working at the Environmental Center has been my most professionally, personally and socially fulfilling experience at FLC. I’ve had the opportunity to be a Real Food Challenge team member and coordinator as well as this year’s Energy Impact team coordinator.

I have gained so many professional skills while working with the EC in various capacities. It’s no coincidence that I’ve been fortunate enough to bookend my college career as student coordinator at the EC. My professional skills gained include creating project management documents, leading meetings, developing educational materials, tabling, canvasing, taking meeting minutes, working in a diverse office space, and much, much more.

It is an honor to be a ‘leader amongst leaders’ because these folks push me to stay educated and savvy regarding the work we are doing. Personally, the EC showed me the caliber of community needed to effectively work on today’s environmental and social needs. To continue this work, I want to impress on anyone who knows about this unique and superb community called the EC that it’s up to us to keep it that way.

For those reading this that are already involved, please, continue to embrace its resources, and don’t let up — the benefits of this place will continue to help you grow. For those not yet involved, you have a community waiting for you that will support you and challenge you in whatever you choose to pursue, and the EC will give you the tools necessary to make the impact you want.

Socially, I can’t thank the EC enough for the connections this place opened up for me. My first experience with the EC encapsulates the potential networking benefits this place can bring to anyone who walks through its doors or comes across its work.

When I first arrived in Durango, the EC gave me the opportunity to assume the role of FLC representative and campaign mascot, or ‘Bag Monster’, for the Durango bag tax campaign in 2013. The relationships I developed with city officials and active Durango citizens are entirely accredited to this opportunity the EC provided.

I have since become a familiar face recognized by many in the Durango community which is largely due to my continued involvement in the work the EC does. I could not have asked for a better introduction to a new community, both on and off campus.

The skills I gained, the work I did, and the people I connected with each positively impacted me and contributed to many of the values I hold today. The EC helped prepare me to successfully create the change I want to see in the world. I feel confident in bringing my
experience working at the EC as a value-add to my post-college work and communities.

Welcome to Fort Lewis: One Student’s Testimonial

By Mahdi Adittya, Zero Waste Team

My freshman year at Fort Lewis was incredibly unnerving, but the Environmental Center helped me get used to campus life right away. Going to a Local Garden workshop hosted by the EC the first week of school was one of the best decisions I ever made. Working with the campus garden project gave me a sense of belonging. I enjoyed being outdoors, and getting to work with my hands felt amazing. This experience solidified FLC’s uniqueness in my mind.

I immediately jumped at the chance to work with the EC as soon as possible, and I got the awesome opportunity to work with the Zero Waste Team. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge at the EC that will help me in all aspects of life. From office work to getting your hands dirty with ink or compost, you will learn to do everything here. In my opinion, there is a great balance between doing office work and working in the field. Each team contributes to the greater picture of environmental justice, and we all work well together.

I’ve improved on an immensely personal level while working here, and I’ve learned to confidently express my ideas more than ever before. I feel comfortable bringing up my ideas for new initiatives, and I believe I can help improve the campus as a whole with the help of my teammates. That’s one of the best things about the EC. Anyone can present a great idea, and the EC will try to make it happen.

From the start it’s been a very welcoming and fun place to work! Everyone involved is extremely friendly, and we are a very close knit community. I love spending my time at the EC, and it almost feels like a second home. Anyone can feel welcome here and make positive changes around campus. I hope to continue contributing to the EC in the upcoming years, and I want to continue making an impact for my school and my community.

Reaching Out: The Joy of Serving Your Community

By Paula Pletnikoff, Local Food Fellow

“When your dreams include service to others – accomplishing something that contributes to others – it also accelerates the accomplishment of that goal.” – Jack Canfield

The words above, so intentionally structured by Jack Canfield, speak to me all that much more after my experience at the Environmental Center. I knew that I wanted to spend my time in college undertaking as much as I could, challenging myself to learn and grow, creating positive change, and connecting with others. However, I never would have thought that when I read about the EC on the Fort Lewis College website, it would have made such an impact on me and raise me up to accomplish more than I ever imagined was possible. Not only have the EC’s initiatives challenged me to rise up to the occasion, but the support of the EC community has nurtured and encouraged me to take on great tasks to advance the lives of not only myself and my co-workers, but the public at large. I am confident that after I graduate I’ll have the skills and experience I need to go on and make positive changes wherever I go.

Recently, the rest of the incredible Local Food Security Team and I have launched a program on campus that provides participants with the skills, tools, and resources they need to take weekly action to increase their own local food security. The Local Food Hunger Force, as the program is so called, has been so positively received by community members that it has again opened my eyes to what an enriching community we live in, and how important the opportunities to support each other are. There’s truth behind the idea that working for the greater good and wanting to help the people around you is a wonderful part of being human. I believe that as social creatures it’s what we’ve evolved to do and that it’s crucial to our survival and happiness. When I started as a freshman it was a little intimidating putting myself out there. I felt vulnerable to objection and dismissal, but seeing our community’s support for our local food system and their excitement to advance the lives of themselves and their neighbors has motivated me to keep going and find more opportunities to assist those around me.

My advice to anyone that desires to better themselves, help others and make a positive change in the world: Go for it! Take those opportunities, and don’t let fear or anxiety hold you back. People are more responsive than you might think, and you never have to do any of it alone. Reach out, get involved in what you care about and stand strong in the face of challenge. Amazing things happen when we work for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Real Food, Real Life, Real Change

Katrina Rachwitz, Real Food Challenge Team

I considered myself to be a passionate environmentalist when I started at Fort Lewis College. As my time here has progressed I believe my passion has grown significantly. I am an environmental studies major, and of course, my education has solidified environmental consciousness for me, but I have grown mostly because of the time I spend at the Environmental Center with the amazing EC’ers.

I am a part of the Real Food Challenge team, working to get ecologically sound, humane, fair and/or local foods in the dining hall. This has brought all different aspects of environmentalism into one neatly packaged project. Food is this amazing knot that connects people to the earth, and it connects all beings to each other no matter if they are a different ethnicity, religion or species. We all need to eat, right?

Through my work at the EC I get to learn about the impact of our food system on the world around us and not just the impact of food on ourselves. I’ve learned about how food transportation causes an increased dependence on fossil fuels, about the torturous lives that livestock live, and how our current food system perpetuates great human rights violations. The Real Food Challenge is changing the food system to benefit, instead of harm, the earth, workers, biodiversity, livestock, and our own health.

The EC has this amazing energy whenever I walk through the doors. It’s always full of passionate people excited to make their impact in the world. All the employees and volunteers at the EC are learning how to live sustainably and how to bring the values and tactics we learn into the world beyond Fort Lewis.

We do some amazing work for sustainability on and off campus, but that is not what makes the EC so amazing, it is the people there. I have made some of my best friends and done some of the most inspiring things because of the EC. The world is in a tough spot environmentally and socially, and whenever I start to feel down about our current political predicament, I just go to the EC. I see wonderful people working to make the world a better place, and they give me hope for the future!