To promote the sustainability program on campus, Dinner with a Prof partnered with Residence Life Sustainability to host the 6th Annual Fall Sustainability Dinner and Awards on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Commons 109.
According to graduate assistant sustainability coordinator Kristianna Bowles, the goal of the dinner was to help get students in touch with other like-minded individuals and learn from them.
“The event is meant as a way to connect students, faculty and staff who share a passion for sustainability,” Bowles said. “Often students are learning what the possibilities are for working in sustainability as a career, and this dinner provides an opportunity to network with faculty from all academic disciplines.”
For this year’s meal, the sustainability department challenged the Chartwells chefs to create a locally-sourced, completely vegan meal to help set the mood for the evening.
“Locally-sourced meals are not only fresher, but they have a lower carbon footprint due to the small shipping distance from the farm where it is produced to your table,” Bowles said. “By having a vegan dinner, we are not only accommodating the dietary preferences and needs of a few, but also showing that a meal can be filling and delicious, while requiring less energy and resources to produce.”
At the conclusion of the dinner, awards were presented to four individuals who have made an impact in their community by being sustainable. This year’s Waste Reduction Award went to renewable natural resources junior James Anderson, who has worked to increase sustainability habits both among his friends and in his hometown.
“On any camping or beach trip, you can find him picking up trash to throw away or recycle, even if it means climbing on rocks to pull out tangled nets and fishing wire,” Bowles said. “Even for Christmas, this individual has bought friends reusable bags to use at the grocery store and encourages them to reuse items whenever possible.”
Environmental geosciences sophomore Virginia Hinds received the Creative Innovator Award for educating her peers about energy conservation on campus. English sophomore Laura Gunn won the Friend of Sustainability Award for her promotion of recycling in her dorm.
“It was cool to see how sustainability, as hard as it is, is fairly practical, and you can be sustainable and it’s not impossible,” Gunn said. “I think it's very important, and I think people don’t always do enough to promote it because we just have one planet so let’s do something about it.”
The Green Tradition Award winner and mechanical engineering senior Shelby Warrington has been active in sustainability while at A&M as a member of EcoReps, using her position as education vice president to encourage others to take small steps to be sustainable.
“Basic stuff like recycling or using a refillable water bottle is a good way to get started, and then once people do that much, they might get more interested and want to do more,” Warrington said. “The easiest things to do are just recycle, and every dorm has the refillable water bottle stations, so those are super easy because all of the stuff is already there. Just be open to learning more because there’s resources everywhere.”
However, sustainability efforts don’t end after the dinner. Aggie EcoReps president and environmental studies senior Dezarae Harden said the EcoReps will host the Clean Plate Challenge from Oct. 27 to 29 in Sbisa Dining Hall, where they gather and weigh food scraps that students throw away to increase awareness about food waste on campus.
“[Last year,] we put the total food waste weights on a chalkboard and we actually saw the next day, the food waste went down significantly, by at least 30-40 pounds because people saw that and were like ‘Oh my gosh’ and so that was one of the first times we saw reduction immediately the next day,” Harden said. “It’s very positive in Sbisa, so we’d really like to implement it in the other dining halls and maybe try to do a contest to see who can reduce the most food waste.”
According to Harden, students do not have to take a huge leap to start being sustainable and making an impact.
“A lot of people, when they see people using reusable bags and they don’t have bags, they tend to feel bad,” Harden said. “But sustainability is about a path. Everybody goes on their own path, so don’t feel bad about it because sustainability is progress, and it’s a life achievement.”