It is time to turn over a new page. It is Monday, Nov. 21. The afterglow faded gradually into the darkness, the light in the distance flickered. With the rustling of the tree, we crossed the winding path and arrived the destination—Ohio Ecohouse. The sound of laughing and talking passed from the house, the aroma of food permeated in the air.
The Sustainable Thanksgiving Dinner was held here, at the Ohio Ecohouse, by the Office of Sustainability of Ohio University, which included teaching people making a low-carbon menu by using locally-grown, in-season produce.
During a time when Americans generally waste $277 million dollars worth of uneaten food, the Office of Sustainability gave eco-friendly eaters something to be thankful for.
Vicky Kent, a graduate student, majoring in recreation studies, was engaged in the dinner from stem to stern, preparing the dishes, co-hosting the dinner, teaching the crowd, and spreading the idea.
Kent has been a graduate assistant in the Office of Sustainability since the beginning of this semester.
In the first eyes, Kent is a quiet, mature and steady young woman. It seems like she is introverted. But with the talking, one may find she is an amazing and inspiring person with an obsessive desire for sustainability.
For Kent, her interests and experience on environment issue makes her think that it is important to rationally and reasonably use resources. “It is about personal sustainability,” she said.
During the time working for the Office of Sustainability, Kent finds herself realizing such an enormous subjects with the time past and learning how to use small technology to develop and build the big campus to make it more eco-friendly.
An irregular and meaningful dinner
Kent said she was trying to teach people on this dinner about some sustainable things and give them skills that they can take to their families. Making people know more about sustainability by cooking is the most crucial thing for her. To achieve this goal, she and the office of sustainability had prepared the dinner for one month. They even went to another town to prepare everything they need for this dinner.
Annie Laurie Cadmus, director of Office of Sustainability who co-hosted the dinner with Kent, was a kind woman but sobered down immediately when talking anything about environment and sustainability.
Cadmus said it was important to use local organic and sustainable food items for the dinner.
“All of the dishes we made tonight, all of the diary was local, almost all of the produce was local, in fact, local to campus — we got them from food studies organic gardens managed by students,” Cadmus said.
She said the office considers the carbon footprint and energy consumption of each item, not by the ingredients, but by the process of cooking with gas stoves and ovens.
Adisa Azapagic, professor at the University of Manchester, said, food production and processing causes three-quarters of the total carbon footprint, 60% of it is related to the life cycle of the turkey.
The vegetable dinner included sweet potato casserole, vegetarian stuffing, mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy, salad and pumpkin and butternut squash pie.
Things you should know for sustainable diet
“We intentionally chose vegetarian dishes, because meat has a high carbon footprint,” Cadmus said. “We chose traditional Thanksgiving dishes that did not include meats, so that where we got the best idea for the menu for tonight.”
According to the study “Dietary Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Meat-eaters, Fish-eaters, Vegetarians and Vegans in The UK,” conducted by University of Oxford scientists, the vegan diets produced greenhouse gas only 2.89kg, which is about twice as less as those in self-selected meat-eaters. The research analyzed the food eaten by 29,589 meat eaters, 15,751 vegetarians, 2,041 vegans and 8,123 fish-eaters.
While turkey is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, it was intentionally left out of the meal on Monday.
“Meat is one of the most unsustainable things to eat. So we were trying to teach people the easy things to change the cook softly,” Kent said. “Because we have seen cook a whole turkey for many people, we could reteach everyone to do that. We tried to make everyone was included and taught them the simplest side dishes.”
Why suggesting people be sustainable
Maeve Kroeger, a junior studying media and social change in OU, is a resident of Ohio Ecohouse.
Kroger is the most popular person at the dinner table. She wore a fine black nose ring and a wine-colored scarf, clothed in a black floral coat, and told various vivid stories and jokes.
It is hard to believe that a funny girl who dressed herself chic is keen on sustainable life, a simple way to live. Kroger even had unique insights on sustainability.
“I attracted to the idea of sustainable lifestyle because I feel that is the only way we should live,” Kroeger said. “Sustainability is not a hard thing as it looks, it is just slowly change your lifestyle that causes you to use the waste resources every time you consume.”
She said eating seasonal food is one of the most significant things that people can do for the sustainable diet.
When talking about what is the inspiration for the Sustainable Thanksgiving Dinner, Kent said that people only use a third of total food resources.
“We throw away some of the turkeys, so much food goes to waste,” Kent said. “The dinner is a way that can help people to realize we are very wasteful to join this celebration. And how they can change a small thing that can make their life becomes more sustainable.”
Kent believes people who joined this dinner will realize if everyone can save a little, then the concept of sustainability would eventually spread around the world.
Cadmus pointed out food waste is a problem year-round, not just during Thanksgiving. It also exists on campus — for instance, diners will take more than they need at the dining halls for single meals.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of United States indicated the worldwide volume of food wastage is approximately at 1.6 billion tons. The edible part of the total amount is up to 1.3 billion tons.
“What we need to do is that educate diners on the day to day based only take what they need to know their abundant desire to make them take more that they required,” Cadmus said.
She hoped the dinner could educate and influence people. She said, for tonight dinner, the office chose not to peel the potato such as mashed potato, because the office wants to transfer these peelings not just made it go to the compost heap but kept it in the meal.
Kroeger said living in the Ecohouse has helped her learn how to be more sustainable and how to use waste resources regarding cooking like whether she use the stove or the oven what will contribute more greenhouse gasses in the earth, whether she wants a compost rather than throw away the garbage. She said she would convince her family to be more sustainable after she comes back to home.
Kent said she looks forward to the funny and opening dinner can help people to think and discuss the ways that can make the life more sustainable, or urge people to talk about the ways could promote sustainability.
“I think one people realize it can save their money as much as possible, more people will believe it is valuable,” Kent said.