Food For Thought

  

Written by Pace student Sarah Aires ’14

Dyson Professor of Environmental Studies Marley Bauce and Lubin senior AliReza Vaziri are prime examples of how professors and students have come together to make a difference. In this case, the duo has undertaken an innovative new research project on environmental sustainability—and how Pace can adopt a leadership role in the movement.

Recycling, purchasing energy saving appliances, and whizzing around in a Prius are stylish ways to show your support for environment sustainability, but they aren’t necessarily making the impact you think they are.  According to a 2006 meta-analysis conducted by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, industrial agriculture releases 33% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Of this 33%, beef production claims half the responsibility. Forget the Prius: It may be time to confront the steak.

So what can Pace do to help minimize environmental damage? Professor Bauce and Vaziri have teamed up in the Division of Student Success’ Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Initiative to gauge the environmental sustainability measures of Pace’s Dining Halls and identify what Pace can do to improve.

Professor Bauce and Vaziri believe that Pace could implement three primary changes in order to remain on the cusp of environmental sustainability awareness.

“Pace can lead the initiative by offering more ecologically-friendly options for students,” Professor Bauce said.  As of now, the café does offer some vegetarian options. We have met with representatives of Chartwell’s to discuss our research.”

Another suggestion the research partners have proposed is to implement a “Meatless Monday” campaign across campus, an idea that has already been implemented at the Pace Law School on the White Plains campus. Through this campaign, a wider variety of meat-free food alternatives are offered to students on Mondays, along with educational programs designed to encourage students to eat less meat… both for their health, and for the health of the planet.

NYU and Columbia have also implemented “Meatless Monday” campaigns in order to encourage students to refrain from eating meat on Mondays, thereby reducing their carbon footprints as well as reducing health risk factors.

In a survey that Professor Bauce and Vaziri distributed to 3,000 Pace students and faculty members, the Pace community expressed their desire for an advanced administrative position on environmental consciousness, citing sustainable living as a clear social value.

“The survey asked if [students] would alter their eating habits in order to promote ecological sustainability, and the consensus was that they would not want to change their eating habits out right on their own,” Professor Bauce said. “However, when asked whether they felt that Pace should offer more options for students to eat less meat, the response was overwhelming: The same survey subjects believe that  Pace should launch an initiative to provide students with the option to eat more responsibly if they choose. This is a fascinating dynamic between consumer and corporate environmental responsibilities, right here in the heart of New York City.”

Finally, Vaziri, who founded the campus organization A Dollar’s Difference and was recently awarded Pace’s Jefferson Award for Public Service, suggests that Pace use its influence and power to not only help the environment, but also to help less fortunate individuals within our community. “We would like to see Pace limit food waste, and donate its left over, unused foods to food banks in the area,” Vaziri explained, “We are currently in talks with several to try and set it up.” Americans currently throw away approximately 50% of the food they purchase; this food accumulates in landfills and emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. This is but one more way in that what we eat has a profound effect on the local and global environment.

Says Professor Bauce, “Our next steps are to meet with Provost Sukhatme to discuss options; distribute another survey to students; and prepare a document for distribution around the university, which outlines various ways in which the Pace Community can use food as an important means of expressing an environmental identity.”

The findings of their research will be presented via a poster panel at the Division of Student Success’ Showcase Event on April 29 from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Student Union. Admission to this event is free and open to the public; for more information, please contact Sue Maxam, EdD, at smaxam@pace.edu.

For updates on his developing research, follow AliReza’s blog at here.

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