Choose action for our environment!

Feb. 24, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

Mina Shah’s “Save the whales” piece inspired me to write more on the topic of environmental protection. While I sincerely hope that the increased frequency of beached animals is a result of population recovery rather than global warming, the reach of global warming is far and wide, and likely extends beyond that which we are currently aware. It is important that, like Mina, we all recognize and consider the reality of global warming’s effects. However, it even more important — vital, in fact — that we are aware of the main causes and contributors. For example — which are the most environmentally damaging industries? What actions within our abilities can help combat, reduce or slow down the harm being done?

Surprisingly, it is not “gas-guzzling” SUVs, jets and multi-car households that are producing the most carbon emissions. The transportation industry is in second place. Ten years ago, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization estimated that the largest contributing industry was, in fact, animal agriculture: raising livestock for meat, dairy and eggs. The associated land, water, fuel and other resource costs in producing animal products are colossal.  But beyond education and the integration of lower-impact meals and the renowned Meatless Monday campaign, what can we be doing at Stanford?

Villanova, Harvard and Yale, along with hundreds of other universities, have adopted innovative methods of reducing the dining hall carbon footprint. These schools have made a simple alteration in their choice of manufacturers of just one or two widely-utilized food items. Specifically, they have implemented a partnership with Hampton Creek, a food technology startup based in the heart of Silicon Valley. This company was featured frequently in the media last year and produces delicious versions of conventional mayonnaise, cookies and salad dressings but with an important difference. Their products do not contain eggs or any other product of animal agriculture. Inherently, this minimizes the environmental impact of their food and also makes the food’s nutritional content superior. While it would be misleading to label their products Just Mayo and Just Cookies as “healthy,” they have no cholesterol and less saturated fat and sodium than their conventional counterparts. Furthermore, Hampton Creek’s products cost the same or less than other mainstream brands of mayonnaise and cookies.

Collectively, the schools listed above have prevented hundreds of tons of carbon emissions and saved hundreds of thousands of square feet of land. With so many great sustainability initiatives having been started at Stanford, especially in food services, the nearly undetectable switch to different products seems to align perfectly with our values. I urge fellow Daily readers to join me in asking our in-house dining services teams to buy more products from environmentally sustainable organizations. With the future of the planet in our hands, students, staff and faculty at Stanford must choose what we want to do with the huge issue we are facing. I choose action. I choose Hampton Creek.

— Yelena Mandelshtam

Contact Yelena Mandelshtam at yelena13 ‘at’

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