Two years ago I made one of the biggest decisions of my life, to attend Northeastern University. After officially becoming a Husky in the class of 2013, I thought the stressful decision-making process was over. Little did I know, it was only the very beginning. Entering my freshman year I was unsure and indecisive about what I wanted to study, a decision I thought would outline the rest of my life. Although I didn't have a career plan or a set path to follow, the one thing I have always known is my passion for sustainability and desire to better the environment. I explored the different fields of sustainability and going "green" through my coursework. What really captivated me was the film King Corn, a documentary about two young men from Boston who move to Iowa and plant an acre of corn. The film reveals many controversies and issues surrounding our food and agriculture system, and I began to pursue ways to get involved with my own food system.
Right on my own campus, passionate and dedicated students and organizations have initiated healthy and eco-friendly programs and sustainable food initiatives. Take a look and see what committed students are doing at Northeastern University:
The Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT), a group I am actively involved in acknowledging the effects our food and eating have on our environment. Three years ago, we initiated composting in every dining hall on campus and the program has continued to grow as a result of the positive reaction from the student body. As new faces arrive each semester, HEAT members and volunteers actively engage in "peer composting" and educating people on the importance of sustainability. HEAT members also purchased a garden plot in the Fens, a neighboring park, and each year they grow fresh produce for anyone interested in getting involved. This February, HEAT live streamed the TEDx convention, Changing the Way We Eat, to members and other students. The reception screening was overwhelmingly positive and almost everyone brought a home-cooked, healthy dish to share. You can find recipes from HEAT's event in this PDF.
Along with HEAT, there have been many other steps taken by other student groups and activists on campus. Northeastern University Vegetarians United (NUVU) lobbied for more vegan and vegetarian options available in the dining halls. On a larger scale, the Student Government Association (SGA) has been working on bringing a farmers market to campus for the past year. The market will feature local vendors with a variety of produce and run weekly throughout the months of June-November. The market is expected to begin this June and will be a very exciting and unique opportunity for members of the Northeastern community.
Students have made major improvements by showcasing the desire of the student body to be part of a greener campus, which has allowed for very positive change. Due to dedication of students and the community, Dining Services has made sustainability one of their main priorities. They have formed a partnership with Northeast Family Farms and put a lot of emphasis on buying and serving local produce as much as possible. All dining halls now serve pasture-raised ground beef, cage free eggs, reduced antibiotic meats, rBST free milk and fair trade bananas, coffee and tea. Northeastern's Dining Services also earned an "A" for food and recycling on The College Sustainability Report Card and is listed as a Campus Sustainability Leader. The newest dining hall on campus has been LEED Certified as a 3-Star Green Restaurant.
I am proud of my decision to be part of an active and sustainable campus that has created a model to build upon for not only other colleges, but other communities. Thanks to student demand, we have reduced our carbon footprint and become a more environmentally conscious campus. When students initiated composting, dining services began purchasing compostable disposables. When students wanted healthy and fresh produce, Northeastern's dining halls began serving an average of 125,000 pounds of local food annually.
If members are passionate for change and come together to create a demand for food sustainability in their communities, I believe it will happen. I have seen it on my campus and I watch it improve each and every semester. I hope the students and faculty at Northeastern are inspirations for sustainable food movements because their hard work has truly paid off.
Stay tuned next week for an update on Northeastern's newest addition, Slow Food NU, to hear about their mission on campus and upcoming events!