Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors in First-Year Students

Author: Skyler Brown

A More Conscious Thanksgiving

I am always excited when Thanksgiving approaches – a break from school, time with family, and delicious meals that are only eaten once a year (or every week in Ross). But since learning more about the impact our food has on the environment, the traditional Thanksgiving meal doesn’t hold the same appeal. As highlighted by the Our World In Data graphic below, meat and other animal products lead to some of the greatest carbon emissions within the food industry. One of our sustainability coordinators, Evelyn Lane, also wrote a great blog post about food and the impact of veganism. 

This Thanksgiving I’ve decided to swap some of my family’s typical Thanksgiving dishes with vegan alternatives. In this post, I will be highlighting some of the recipes I plan on trying and encourage you all to try a vegan swap too! I know this is a hard sell. As much as I understand the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan, I have found it difficult to make the commitment. If I am being honest, I don’t think I would ever be able to completely give up bulgogi or ice cream. But I have found that making easy swaps and limiting my overall consumption of meat and other animal products is extremely doable. And this Thanksgiving I won’t be eliminating all animal products from the dinner table, but rather swapping out what I can. Even replacing one traditional dish with a vegan one makes an impact!

Vegan Recipes

All some recipes require is an easy swap! I will be following this stuffing recipe, which skips the butter and uses vegetable stock. Veggies are another easy side dish. These green beans look great!

Image courtesy of Delish

These mashed potatoes use vegan butter instead of regular butter. Try out this mushroom gravy with vegetable broth along with it! Instead of mashed potatoes, you could also try out mashed butternut squash.

Image courtesy of Love and Lemons

Replacing turkey is a bit harder, but one easy swap is a pre-made tofurkey. EcoDorm’s recommendation is Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast. I might also try to make a vegan ‘meatloaf,’ or perhaps go an alternative route and try Middlebury’s favorite – black pepper tofu

Can’t forget dessert! This pumpkin pie with coconut milk looks delicious!

I hope this blog post gave you some inspiration! If you try any of these – or any other vegan recipes – please send us a picture so we can feature you on our instagram @midd_ecodorms! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Sources:

“Food: greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain,” Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local. 

The Carbon Footprint of Air Travel

It’s no secret that air travel leaves a negative impact on the environment, but its carbon footprint is still shocking. As of 2020, aviation was responsible for more than 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually. To put it into perspective, aviation accounts for 4.8% of total carbon dioxide emissions within the U.S. and over 2% of all human-induced emissions globally (Ansell & Haran, 2020). 

There have been some efforts to regulate and decrease air travel-related pollution. In 2017, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set forth standards for international airplane carbon dioxide emissions. And in 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set forth airplane standards to match those of the ICAO. However, the greenhouse gas standards for new type design and in-production airplanes will not come into effect until January of 2028. Once in effect, the new regulations will hopefully decrease 10% of U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions and 3% of total U.S. emissions (EPA).

The unfortunate reality of air travel is that it remains largely unavoidable, at least for many Middlebury students. Between various school breaks, many out-of-state students take around eight flights to and from Vermont annually. While there are limited opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, there are two factors to keep in mind as you book your flights. For one, non-stop flights create less pollution than flights with layovers. Also, newer airplanes generally create less pollution due to improved fuel efficiency. While these statements are not universally applicable due to variations among plane models, they remain useful characteristics to look for when traveling (Baumeister 2017). 

This post is not shared with the intention to incite frustration. I know this information initially caused frustration and guilt within myself as I faced the unavoidable reality of air travel. And while flights to and from Middlebury often feel unavoidable, there are opportunities to decrease annual flights. Instead of flying across the country during spring break, consider filling a car with your friends and driving to a regional destination. Or you can do what I did and invite yourself to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving.

Sources

Ansell, P. J., & Haran, K. S. (2020). Electrified airplanes: A path to zero-emission air travel. IEEE Electrification Magazine, 8(2), 18–26. https://doi.org/10.1109/mele.2020.2985482 

Baumeister, S. (2017). Each flight is different: Carbon emissions of selected flights in three geographical markets. Transportation Research. Part D: Transport & Environment, 57, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2017.08.020.

Environmental Protection Agency. Control of Air Pollution from Airplanes and Airplane Engines: GHG Emission Standards and Test Procedures – Final Rulemaking. EPA. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/control-air-pollution-airplanes-and-airplane-engines-ghg. 

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