Sustainability at Tufts

sustainability.tufts.edu

Month: October 2013 (page 1 of 3)

What I Learned from Planning Dairy Day

The information which I found most striking while researching for Dairy Day were the extent of the power of dairy lobbies, the adverse environmental effects of industrial dairy farming, and how so much of our country’s dairy is owned by so few companies. I knew that lobbies held a lot of power in our food system, but I had always heard of this in terms of beef and agricultural giants. As a staple of the food system, dairy is no exception to that trend.

Pasteurization of milk in the United States began at the industrial level in 1895, and was mandated by 1917. The first milk marketing orders were put into place 20 years later, in 1937. Milk advertising was subsidized by the government in the 1940s, and in 1946, milk became a staple of the new National School Lunch Act, currently the NSLP. Nutritional labeling of milk began in 1974, and in 1992, the first food pyramid was released by the USDA, giving dairy a prominent position near the top of the pyramid.

All the while, dairy lobbies have been pushing lawmakers to emphasize the nutritious benefits of milk and milk products. Dairy lobbyists push for initiatives relating to school programs, farm bills, and other programs in which dairy plays an important role. Milk is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, protein as well as amino acids, which is why it is partially why it is emphasized in nutrition programs. However, the dairy industries are also huge stakeholders in national programs such as the NSLP, which is why it is essential to them to lobby their interests to the USDA.

Currently, dairy lobbies are trying to remove the special labels needed for milk with artificial sweeteners. The dairy industries are trying to establish flavored milk as a healthy alternative to sweet soft drinks. These industries believe that sales would improve significantly if their products were labeled, for example, as “strawberry milk” rather than the “low calorie strawberry milk” labels which we would see today. There is much opposition to this because it involves deregulation of a controversial chemical, aspartame, in order to increase milk consumption among our country’s children.

When we stress the negative environmental impacts of factory farming, large scale operations like pork and beef production come to mind before processes such as dairy farming. Dairy cows produce large amounts of methane and manure which contribute to environmental and health issues. Water pollution is a huge concern with dairy farming, as manure and nutrients can spread to and contaminate water supplies. These cows also require a large amount of feed, which is typically genetically modified except in organic operations. In addition to modified feed, many dairy cows, just like other animals raised for consumption, are fed or injected with antibiotics and hormones. There is little transparency in these issues, and much is still unknown about the effects of these drugs.

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Another controversial aspect of the dairy industry is the ownership. While dairy farms exist in every state, and local, organic options are available for some consumers, many of our nation’s dairy farms remain under the ownership of a handful of powerful companies. When researching Garelick Farms, where tufts gets their milk, I was surprised to learn that this family farming business is actually owned by Dean Foods, a Texas based food and beverage company. Dean Foods is by far the largest dairy processor in the United States. Dean Foods had been criticized for holding a monopoly on the US dairy industry.

The figures on dairy usage were interesting as well – and some were far more surprising than others. For example, research by the International Dairy Foods Association reported that 20.3 gallons of milk were consumed, on average, per person in 2011. For comparison, in 2011 Americans consumed 44 gallons of soda in and 2.68 gallons (13 bottles) of wine. I live in a house with 8 other “dairy consumers” and we go through about 2.5 gallons of milk per week, so between the all of us that would be about 14 gallons of milk per person, per year. Few of us use milk for reasons other than cereal or baking. I assume that our cohort differs from the rest of the nation because we are not typically consuming milk as a beverage.

Some other statistics we gathered were that Americans consume 46 slices of pizza year, and 48 quarts of ice cream. Considering the amount of pizza I see consumed on this college campus, I’m less surprised by this fact than I am by the ice cream figures. Overall, I found planning Dairy Day to be an incredibly educational and rewarding experience. The idea behind Campus Food Day is to get students to think critically about where their food comes from, and what processes are involved as it makes it’s way from farm to table. I hope that students who attended the event were inspired, or provoked by the information posted throughout the dining halls, and that the event served as a catalyst for change in food related behaviors at Tufts.

-Sofie

Communications Team Member

65 Jumbos Did Not Get Wasted for ZWW!

Zero Waste Week finished this past Wednesday! Over 200 bags were distributed, and 65 brave and wonderful jumbos (and professors) did a fantastic job at keeping their waste at a minimum and brought their bags to Jumbo Mountains. Jumbo Mountains was set up on the Academic Quad this year, due to logistical considerations, and many passer-bys’ interests proved this to be a great location with great visibility. Participants were rewarded with some PHENOMENAL Cider Donuts and cider from Wilson Farm in Lexington, and the satisfaction of tallying and knowing they made a huge difference in comparison to normal trash-producing colleagues.

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In addition to students, some professors stopped by, and even Senior Provost David Harris conversed with the Eco-Rep team about the successes and room for improvement in the Zero Waste Week challenge.

Some of the greatest challenges expressed were the individually packaged treats such as candy, cookies, etc., and the fact that when you leave the Tufts Campus and travel to greater Boston or the larger community, recycling and composting is nowhere near as accessible. However, many participants also expressed their surprise at the ease of recycling and composting here on campus-shoutout to Dawn and Tufts Recycles!

Three lucky participants won awesome bags made out of recycled materials from terracycle.com, and they definitely deserve it for their participation.

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Thank you to everyone who participated in Zero Waste Week. You truly made a difference in our fight to prevent excess waste and reduce our consumption of resources. Green Love!

 

 

Tufts Celebrates Food Day with Dairy Themed Dinner

Yesterday was Food Day at Tufts, and the Dining and Sustainability teams paired up to put together an educational, dairy-themed dinner.

The event took place at both Carmichael and Dewick-Macphie dining halls. The dinners included special foods such as a mountainous tray of brie cheese, and an ice cream sundae bar. Scattered generously across the dining halls were signs containing information on dairy production, dairy products, and the dairy industry. Be it butter, cream, whey, or milk fat, dairy products are found in nearly everything.

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The first crossword puzzle is complete!

The interactive component of the Dewick dinner took place in the form of a crossword puzzle. Students took the puzzle and found the answers posted on the informational signs throughout the dining hall. The signs contained some pretty mind blowing facts and figures about dairy! For example, did you know that the average American eats 46 slices of pizza, and 48 pints of ice cream a year?!

The signs also had information about milk’s nutritional content. Milk contains 9 amino acids, and 1 cup contains 16 percent of our daily value of calcium, making it an excellent nutritional source when consumed in moderation. The posters also informed students about some of the more controversial aspects of the dairy industry such as negative environmental impacts and the deceptive, yet influential role played by by the dairy lobbies.

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Dairy Day Event staff help Tufts students with crossword puzzles.

Do you want to test your knowledge of dairy production and consumption? Here are the questions from last night’s crossword puzzle. Students who completed the puzzle are eligible to win an ice cream sundae party brought to their room, or an inflatable cow.

Americans most commonly consume which type of milk?

  • What is the most popular cheese in America?

  • What is the most popular flavor of ice cream

  • How many gallons of milk to americans consume, on average, per year?

  • Vitamin D is added to milk to aid in the absorption of which mineral?

  • Methane contributes to which process?

 

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to check the answers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • ɯıʞs

  • ɐןןǝɹɐzzoɯ

  • ɐןןıuɐʌ

  • ʎʇuǝʍʇ

  • ɯnıɔןɐɔ

  • ǝbuɐɥɔ ǝʇɐɯıןɔ

 

 

-Sofie

Communications Team

Zero Waste Week Is Over!

It’s mid-October, which means that the leaves are changing, apples are everywhere, and Zero Waste Week has now come and gone! Thank you to all of the students, faculty, and staff that took part in the challenge this week!

Zero Waste Week has really been eye-opening for me. It reminded me of how much I could actually compost, recycle, and terraCycle (I’ve saved a lot of things from my bag because of terraCycle!), but also how much trash I use. On the very first day of the Zero Waste Challenge, I started cleaning up things around my dorm, only to realize that the paper towels and cleaning supplies I’d used were just trash. On the whole the Eco-Reps really happy with how the week went, and we definitely won’t forget the lessons we learned over the course of this challenge. Thank you to everyone that participated! Check back next week for a recap of the week and hear about Wednesday’s Jumbo Mountains event.

In other news, Eco-Reps are getting even more involved in their dorms. Most dorms have a shiny, new board decorated with helpful environmental tips and recycled paper. Check out what our very creative Eco-Reps have been putting up for their residents!

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Campaigns are also starting up for the semester. Make sure you talk to your Eco-Rep to see what they’re doing through December! More events are coming up, too, so get excited to see what your hall has planned.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading, staying green, and participating in Zero Waste Week!

 

Zero Waste Challenge, The Penultimate Day

We’ve reached the last full day of the Zero Waste Challenge. How’s everyone feeling?? Is your bag still empty, or have you had to snag a second Ziploc to handle all your coffee cups?

So I have a bit of a confession to make. I haven’t been totally honest about following the Challenge. I chose not to put in the moldy Gouda that I tossed this weekend – you can’t put dairy in the compost, unfortunately. I also told myself that if I knew that it could be composted if a compost were available, it didn’t count – like the apple I threw into the trash at my internship in Boston or the paper towels I tossed aside in Eaton. I also composted one of those food containers from Hodgdon even though I wasn’t totally sure whether it was compostable… It looked like it! And it was only the second day of the challenge, and I would have had that smelly thing in my bag all week…

I promise I really have been trying, though. I ate a pear between classes one day and carried it around in a bundle of paper towels for hours until I could get back to my dorm and put it in the compost.

Something we’ve discussed around the office was that “Zero Waste Challenge” is kind of a misnomer. We’re not actually asking you to go waste-free for the week: we hope that you’ll be more observant of your own habits and aware of how carrying around your waste – taking the “away” out of throwing trash away – changes how you feel about it. When your waste sticks around, you start thinking about how you can reduce it, right? How could we produce similar results on a large scale? Establish a cap-and-trade system for waste? Set a per capita limit for waste and charge heavy fees beyond that? Require individual landfills in every apartment or backyard so that we all share equally in waste disposal? That would never happen, but you get the idea.

Many of the realizations I’ve had so far have been about our system of consumption and disposal and how it can trap us in or free us from vicious cycles. Like that time I carried a pear around for hours: wouldn’t it have been nice if there were compost bins available on campus besides just in dorms and the dining hall? Same thing with those paper towels in Eaton. Tufts uses mostly unbleached napkins and paper towels, and they can be composted, which is awesome, except that we generally use paper towels in bathrooms where no compost bin is available. Sure, we could carry our used towels around with us – but I think we’d be more likely to see more positive change in individual habits if we were enabled by the system, e.g. if compost bins were available in academic buildings and bathrooms around campus. What’s more, in many dorm bathrooms there aren’t even paper towels but those little tissues that get all peely if you try to dry your hands with them. Why can’t we install some hand dryers, simultaneously saving trees and the hands of poor students in cold and windy winters?

But I realize I haven’t even given you the breakdown of what’s in my bag. Let’s take a look:

  • Gum. So. Much. Gum. I knew this was going to be a problem going into the Challenge – I tend to go through about 4 pieces of gum a day. Most gum wrappers are definitely not compostable, and the internet is divided over whether gum is. I have no idea what my gum is made of – trust me, I tried to read the ingredients and left more mystified than before – so I don’t know how much of it is natural and biodegradable. (Then I start thinking, if it’s not safe to put back into the earth, why am I putting it in me? But it’s an addiction.)
  • Plastic bags – Many plastic bags can be reused or recycled in grocery stores, but then there are those super-thin crinkly ones that you bag your vegetables in at Stop and Shop or Whole Foods or what have you. I try to reuse them but they’re such a low-grade plastic that even washing it feels useless. I HAD a big bag from pretzels in there, but I learned I could Terracycle it! Who knew??
  • Lint. I wish I could have avoided this by hanging my laundry outside – it would have smelled like sunshine! – but such is college. The jury also seems to be out on lint. Tufts Recycles! actually wrote about this issue last year – they would not support composting lint. From the little reading I did online, I think I have to agree with them. If you know for certain that your clothes do not contain synthetic materials, that’s one thing – but most of us, if not all, can’t say that for sure. And any chemicals that end up in your compost will end up in the earth and back in your food or somebody else’s.
  • The plastic wrapper that held my two boxes of soap together.
  • Two hand wipes – I try to avoid these in general (these are the first ones I’ve used in at least a year) because water does the job just fine. Plus, with all the chemicals on them, they’re definitely not going in the compost – so they end up in the trash.

Let’s look at my progression over the week:

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For me, the big idea that comes out of this challenge – and something that has already been a huge part of my life, affecting the decisions I make about what I eat, wear, etc. – is that as individuals and as a culture we aren’t cognizant of nor willing to take responsibility for the consequences of our consumption. And not even just environmental either: Earlier this week we posted a Ted Talk by Van Jones, covering the complexities of the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. When we throw away our trash – or even when we recycle – it leaves our little corner of reality but it goes and pollutes someone else’s backyard or fills someone else’s lungs with fumes.  How about that nice blouse you bought from H&M? Do you know where it was made? Do you know how the people who made it live, or how much they earned? If you wear it three or four times and then throw it out because you get tired of it or it gets too ratty, is that doing any justice to the handiwork and materials that went towards its production and distribution? Or the chocolate in the cookies you just ate – was it produced through slave labor in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)?

I know this is overwhelming, but we as individuals need to acknowledge that our standard of living has consequences, usually not for us directly but for those without political voice or influence, for future generations, etc. I definitely have a problem with the environmental and social repercussions of my lifestyle, and I try to minimize them as much as possible. I hope our Zero Waste Challenge can move you towards doing the same – and together, I hope we can work for systemic change, because whatever we do as individuals, it will have so much more impact if we do it together.

~~Stina Stannik

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