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What does “eating sustainably” mean? To put it simply, it means to eat food that gives us adequate nutrition and energy, with the least amount of negative impact, or footprint, on our earth. This includes being mindful of the safety and quality of our air, soil, water, and people. From the moment a seed is planted and grown to the time it is harvested, delivered, and purchased, creating a meal involves more than what you see on your plate. Your food does more than satiate you; it impacts the health of farmers and workers, local and global agricultural land, the food industry, and the climate. It is important to be be aware of the story of our food since it is the thing that nourishes us and connects us to the earth.
When selecting food to purchase and eat, there are several factors to consider:
- Sustainable Farming & Welfare. How was it naturally grown in season or out-of-season with excessive pesticides? How was the animal raised? In a cage or roaming free? Humanely with proper feed?
- Transportation. How did the food travel to you--by truck, train, plane? Is it local (located within a 150-mile radius) or from another continent?
- Workers' Rights. Do the farmworkers receive a fair, living wage? Do these people have safe working conditions?
- Habitat and Environment Protection. What does the environment (from which your food originated) look like now? Is the land still arable? Were trees chopped down? Was that part of the ocean degraded or overfished?
- Waste and Packaging Reduction. How was your food packaged? Minimal plastic and reusable packaging? What will become of your leftover food? Will you save, donate, or compost it?
It may be difficult to always know the answers to these questions or to make sure you have a completely sustainable meal that is fresh, low-carbon, and fair trade, but the important fact is that you are striving to make knowledgeable and mindful decisions about your food. To learn more about sustainable food, you can read The Kindling Trust definition or this SF Gate Home Guide that lists multiple definitions.
Eating on or near campus already lessens your footprint: Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) provides SCU’s Dining Services and is a pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies. You can also start eating more sustainably by purchasing produce from Santa Clara’s Franklin Square Farmers’ Market or through the Center for Sustainability’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) produce delivery with Catalán Farms in Hollister, CA. During the 2013-2014 academic year, 367 boxes of CSA produce were delivered to SCU community members. Buying from the CSA or the Farmer's Market can guarantee that the food is in season and local (as it brings together farmers in the area), and lessen your chance of major pesticides or chemicals on your fruits and vegetables.
Responsible consumerism is more than being conscious about what we buy--it's about deciding if we need to buy new things in the first place. SCU is taking the lead in utilizing reusable products and reducing single-use items.
Makena Wong and Paloma Sisneros-Lobato were inspired to establish the Food Recovery Network at SCU after researching the organization for a project for their upper-division SLURP class.
Shopping for fresh food multiple times a week allows for all food to be eaten and enjoyed. Become a responsible food consumer: buy only what you need and share when you have too much.