Kristen Jamieson: Finding Passion and Success in Sustainability

HCHI is very excited to introduce Kristen Jamieson as this week's Campus Celeb! Kristen is a vocal and passionate advocate for sustainability on all fronts. In addition to running a vegan food blog, "Unwealthy and Healthy,"  she is involved in the following: weekly vegan feasts, Sustainable UH leader, Earth Day coordinator, Compost Pilot Project planner, HI Sustainability Summit assistant planner and horticulture society assistant. Enough programs and activities to make an enviable resume! However, as you'll see in this interview, she's clearly involved in these activities because she is passionate about what she does. 

Kristen is a junior and very fittingly a Natural Resource Environmental Management and Tropical Soil Sciences major.

How long have you been a vegan and what led you to make that choice?

I have been on a journey towards a plant-based diet ever since I stopped eating at the school cafeteria. As a young college student, I am just now learning how to cook for myself. I distinctly remember the first time that I tried to cook chicken;  I had a pretty traumatic experience when I saw so much similarity between the flesh in the pan and my own muscles. That was a big turning point for me.

I choose to live a life of most good and least harm. Choosing to not eat meat or animal products is in line with my values of environmental stewardship and compassion.  It takes 100x more water to produce meat protein as it does to produce the same amount of grain protein. We produce enough grain to feed 10 billion people, but instead of feeding the worlds 1 in 9 who are hungry, we feed it to animals. In an era of climate change, I do not want to support the livestock industry- a bigger contributor to global warming than the entire transportation sector. When I started asking questions about what impact my actions have on others, I realized how big of a difference I could make in my environmental footprint by replacing meat with more healthful and mindful foods.

What are some of your favorite recipes that you talk about on your blog?

Unwealthy and Healthy”, the blog I co-create with my roommates, is a new side hobby of mine. We wanted to have a place to keep track of our adventures in the kitchen as amateur vegan cooks. It’s had the positive side effect of getting me in the kitchen more often too. The Spicy Sweet Potato Quinoa Black Bean burger has to be the best veggie patty I have had, it was made by my lovely roommates Brook and Georgia. The versatile Ground "Beef" Filling is one I really enjoy as well because it came about organically, with inspiration from the ingredients in my fridge.

Cooking is my passion, it is so fun to play with vibrant ingredients! I created a space for friends of mine to convene each week to enjoy a vegan feast. We all have different food philosophies, but it is nice to get together one night a week to share healthy, delicious and ethical vegan food over laughter. This week was pizza night!

You are also a leader for Sustainable UH. Tell me about the organization and the role you play. 

Sustainable UH is an organization that empowers students by bringing them together to engage their community and pursue environmental initiatives. What makes us successful are our values and culture of community. My favorite value is ‘Pull not Push’- “you should feel drawn in and have more energy after you engage, rather than less.” Everyone is collaborating on projects we decide to work on, learning powerful skills and building meaningful relationships doing projects that invigorate us. I am the Food Waste Coordinator, promoting and using compost as a solution to waste in the university. I also help to write the weekly newsletter, assist in coordinating the annual UH Manoa Earth Day Festival, and support various other projects like Divest UH, the annual Hawaii Sustainability in Higher Education Summit, and the creation of a UH Office of Sustainability.

Student involvement is incredibly empowering. These organizations have catalyzed a life of student involvement that has colored my world with meaning, professional development and lifelong friends. This work has filled me with hope, love and boundless joy. With the guidance of many mentors, I have begun to learn the art of facilitation, leadership, testifying to decision makers, and have finally started to win the battle with my email inbox.

Now that my day to day activities are aligned with my passions, work is play. This movement has instilled in me self-reliance and the realization that we are in the driver’s seats of our own lives and our collective future. Alongside independence, I have learned collaboration and the wealth in human capital. Love for your colleagues and your service is the most powerful motivational force that I know. Ecological instability is the most pressing challenge of our time, but cast in a light of positivity, this universal challenge offers the opportunity to unite people from all walks of life.

There are many aspects of sustainability and clean living you follow and advocate for. What are some issues that you are most passionate about and why?

Sustainability is very broad, and there are many solutions to our food, waste, energy, water and social systems. As a soil science student, my focus lies in the beautiful art of composting. My biggest passion is sustainable local agriculture and building community resilience and engagement through food. I would love to start a community garden one day that is a gathering place for people and a space of peace.

At the university, my highest priority is to create a framework for sustainability that can allow our institution to adapt to a changing world by establishing permanent paid administrative and student positions in sustainability. With the transient nature of universities, where student efforts towards sustainability wax and wane over the years, permanent student and administrative positions are vital to maintaining momentum in the university system. We cannot put the weight of a sustainable future on the backs of a few dedicated volunteers. Passionate change agents are spread too thin trying to juggle classes and work with their environmental service. If we create opportunities in sustainability, the University of Hawaii System will see lower utility bills and waste fees, higher enrollment, all while fostering professional development, student engagement and innovation.

I see sustainability as statement of hope, choice and innovation. This movement offers us the chance to design our most preferred future. My greatest desire is for my peers to see their role in co-creating our future, and taking action to make the world just a little bit better. It is empowering to see how much we are each capable of when we align our lives with our passions.

You are a very active and political student on campus. Do you see yourself carrying that desire to advocate for change at a larger school in your adult life?

I am in such a period of rapid transformation, that I am certain whatever my thoughts are for the future will be way off- they always have been! Regardless of my path, I will always be an agent of change- engaging my community and democracy. We have been gifted the power of logic, love, voice and agency; it is our duty to use them as a force for good.

What advice or ideas do you have for students/young people to contribute to a sustainable way of living on a small scale?

Everyone should carry a reusable water bottle, bag, utensils and container with them. You know when you walk out the door that you will want to drink water and eat food, so think ahead to avoid creating unnecessary trash throughout the day. Cut back on meat- you can take a military shower to save 5 gallons of water, or opt for a plant-based meal to save 50 gallons of water. There are lots of ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. When you start considering where things come from and where things go, it becomes very clear over time what habits ought to be changed to live in harmony with the planet.  I encourage people to think about their place in this vast and interconnected universe, gifted to share this abundant, yet finite, earth with others who are capable of both loving and suffering.

Kristen is a perfect example of the importance of aligning your passions and core values with your work and school. Doing what you love will bring you much success. It's been said over and over, but we have just given you substantial proof.

Be sure to check out her blog, Unwealthy and Healthy to get some great recipes to ignite your inner chef and reduce your footprint on Earth!