Earth Day is coming up on Monday, April 22, and with an experimental bike share program launching on campus, we’re giving some serious thought to other ways BU can show the Earth some love.
Binghamton is often labeled as a very environmentally friendly campus. We pride ourselves on it. But recycled napkins and automated Newing lights notwithstanding, we could be doing a lot more to reduce our environmental impact. In particular, the dining halls could make some fairly simple improvements that would make a big impact.
Meatless Mondays have become a popular practice on college campuses — after a successful trial run at one dining hall, UC San Diego introduced its own Meatless Monday program this past January — and while providing vegetarian options tends to have more ethical justifications, reducing meat consumption is good for the environment, too.
The meat industry is notoriously wasteful and unsustainable, and the higher the demand, the more the environment —and the quality of what you’re eating — suffers. Limiting the meat offered on campus just a little, or encouraging students to try more vegetarian options, could make a huge difference.
Think about it. It takes between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water to deliver every single pound of beef to your plate. Eating meat, in other words, is more environmentally taxing than leaving your sink faucet on for 25 consecutive hours. And the meat industry has a greater environmental impact than transportation. It creates pollution and decimates forests in order to create grazing space for the increasing number of animals raised for slaughter.
Dining halls could seamlessly incorporate Meatless Mondays into their menus. In fact, Sodexo has already experimented with it. The effects would far outweigh the temporary inconveniences and sacrifices.
Another popular college campus program that we think might be feasible at BU is reusable take-out containers. Literally thousands of those plastic and semi-recyclable paper take-out containers get thrown out in the dining halls here every week. The amount of waste is incredible. But at University at Buffalo, students who want to take food out of the dining halls are provided with plastic containers, and since students aren’t allowed to take out a new container until they return the old one, there’s a huge incentive to adhere to the program and keep using the containers properly.
We understand this might be more difficult at BU than Buffalo; Buffalo has an all-you-can-eat dining plan program which makes it easier to track when containers are used and returned. But we’re sure the University and Sodexo can work together to come up with a reasonable adaptation.
Even if these changes can’t be made right away on an institutional level, students can do things on their own to be more environmentally conscious. IDEAS has a Meatless Mealdays campaign to encourage individuals to go meatless once a week. Challenge yourself to choose a meal without meat next time you’re in CIW — they even have a vegan station, so it’s easy. Bring your own tupperware to the dining hall. Start toting a reusable water bottle.
Binghamton’s environmental record is well regarded. If we want to live up to that reputation and take seriously our commitment to sustainability, we ought to weigh heavily the environmental costs of the food on our plates.