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Monday: Do We Really Make a Difference?

 

Growing up in a sustainable household, I have been fortunate enough to know the feeling of driving our family’s electric car, living under our solar-paneled roof, recycling daily, and enjoying the taste of organic foods from the local farmer’s market. Naturally, when I found out that Boston University’s dining services had implemented “Make a Difference Monday,” I was ecstatic. Being vegetarian, I saw the perks of being able to have more options available, as well as having one day a week to encourage other students to explore those alternatives and perhaps learn a bit more about the impact our eating habits have on our environment.

Yet I quickly felt alone in my support of MADM. On Mondays, my twitter is bombarded with negative feelings about “missing meat,” and Facebook’s BU confessions page has been flooded with similar vibes. Even some of my close friends have complained, one voicing that “it is just a giant initiative to save BU money and make people think they’re doing something to benefit the community,” and another expressing that “some people feel like the dining hall makes less quality food on MADM so they just get frustrated.”

This frustration is felt and can be quite real. However, checking out the dining service’s options for Monday, I was surprised to find the abundance of meaty choices, including appetizing buffalo chicken pizza, mussels Provençale, turkey bacon strips, BBQ chicken sandwiches, chopped shrimp salad, and mesquite grilled turkey tenderloin among many other protein-filled options. And for those who do not feel that this is a worthwhile way to spend their dining plan money, Rhett’s, Breadwinner’s, Dominos, Extreme Pita, Papa John’s, Raising Canes, Subway, Panda Express, Cranberry Farm, and other retail dining services all take our dining points and remain available for any craving.

But I’m not hoping to persuade you to dip out of the d-hall. Make a Difference Monday is a time when we should realize that we can and do make a difference. Our university has over 4,000 faculty members and over 31,000 students, thus making our incredible school one of Boston’s largest employers. With about 76% of students living on campus and therefore requiring a meal plan, thousands of us every Monday have the opportunity to support local farming and sustainable food thus making a smaller carbon footprint.

How you might ask? Well, our carbon footprint is the measure of land required for our patterns of resource use and waste production. As the population increases, so does the global footprint. Did you know that, if everyone lived the way the average citizen does in America, we would need the resource equivalent of five earths to sustain the current population? If we support small and organic farms rather than industrialized farms, we are no longer supporting the enlarged mechanized agricultural industry, which relies on machinery and fossil fuels. The irrigation systems used to uphold these larger farms do increase crop yields dramatically, but also drawn down aquifers and lead to soil degradation. The fertilizers used increase crop yields but they also run off into surface waters, damaging ecosystems. Pesticides cause human health concerns, surface water contamination, and loss of beneficial non-target organisms such as birds.

In contrast, smaller farms are less likely to have these huge negative environmental impacts. In fact, most utilize organic styles of farming such as organic manure, which is composed of the waste from crop plants and animals, thus recycling back into the system rather than allowing for run-off of waste into water systems. Small farms also do not confine their animals as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) do. For instance, the free-range chickens and eggs that our dining services endorse were taken from a farm, which must use more land per animal. These animals were treated more humanely and are less likely to carry diseases due to the injection of hormones, antibiotics, and nutrient supplements which are used in industrial farming.

Supporting small organic agriculture may be taxing on one’s wallet (think about it: why is the McDonald’s dollar menu so cheap? Because the protein was mass-produced rather than humanely raised), but we are lucky enough to have dining halls that are willing to make that investment, helping us make our difference in the world. In 1968 ecologist Garrett Hardin shared his description of the “tragedy of the commons,” explaining that humans have a tendency to act in self-interest for short term gain, and with our earth’s limited resources, one day all will be depleted. But there is hope! For one day a week, please don’t act in self-interest: try Monday’s in-season fruits and vegetables or the humanely raised chicken lo mein. And then, with our large university’s support, perhaps small farming will increase, our carbon footprint will decrease, then we—along with many generations to come—can enjoy our beautiful earth sustainably. 

Shannon Stocks is a Junior at Boston University in the Sargent School for Health Sciences, majoring in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences. She has always loved to write and focuses this passion on her poetry. In her free time, you can find her at spin class on Newbury Street, working on a project in the community service center, or at the Hillel House. She loves being a part of the Her Campus Team!
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