The W&M Sustainability EcoReps are a cohort of students who work to promote sustainability-related topics on campus. Throughout Fall 2019, the EcoReps had the opportunity to learn about sustainable food and educate their peers on how to eat more sustainably. EcoReps took part in a tour of Commons Dining Hall, posted sustainable food tips on the W&M Sustainability Instagram, presented at Sustainabite, and organized a farmers market cooking demonstration.
The Office of Sustainability asked EcoRep Neel Simpson what he learned in his semester learning about sustainable food.
Question: What is sustainable food to you?
Neel Simpson: Sustainable food means food that comes from a system that promotes human, environmental, and animal well-being in a way that can last for generations. Large-scale agriculture in our industrial society leads to pollution, environmental degradation, and profits off of the abuse of both animals and agricultural laborers. Promoting environmental thought in food production is crucial because our agricultural industry is part of a larger global ecosystem and cannot last if we continue to abuse natural resources such as nutrient-rich soil, clean water, and diverse animal and plant species. We need to acknowledge the impact of agriculture on the environment in order to create a durable food supply to feed our growing population.
Sustainable food also means farms that treat animals with kindness and acknowledges that farm animals are sentient beings. As we move forward in the animal right's movement, it becomes even more important that we cannot continue to support an agricultural system that profits off of animal abuse. Finally, a sustainable food system must treat agricultural laborers fairly and ensure a livable wage. Industrial agriculture's mistreatment of workers is a huge reason for wealth and gender inequality both in the United States and abroad.
NS: I learned about the small changes that consumers can make in their daily lives as well as the large-scale systems that make our food supply unsustainable. I learned about opportunities in and around campus such as the farmer's market, the green box initiative, and locally grown ingredients added to the menus of our dining halls.
NS: I participated in the October EcoChallenge, in which we promoted different ways to change our dining habits to become more sustainable. I spread information about organic eating through an instagram takeover, describing the health benefits of eating organically and the ways to incorporate organic dining into a college lifestyle.
NS: I think the most meaningful part for me was the positive feedback I received from friends and instagram followers about my posts. I tried to post a mix on information on why eating organic is beneficial as well as how we can eat more organically. It was really fulfilling to know that others appreciated what I shared and felt like they wanted to make similar lifestyle changes.
NS: I'd like to say that we are all part of a larger system and community that relies on all of our participation in order to make a change. As a campus community, we claim that environmental issues and social justice are things that we'd like to work on- yet we make decisions everyday that contradict these values. Individuals can't create this type of large-scale change, so we need to acknowledge that as a campus and community, we must all try to do better to stand up for what we believe in.