It is no secret that Colorado College has a large number of environmentally-minded students. Environmental policy and environmental science are two of the most popular majors on campus, and campus organizations like Climate Reality and EnAct have significant student involvement.
Once a block “The Crunchy Grind,” an environmental newsletter that covers current environmental issues, is posted around campus. Additionally, the Outdoor Education Center and involvement in outdoor recreation are integral parts of our campus culture. The list of environmental interests goes on.
However, despite the conspicuousness of the environmentally-minded culture, there is another part of CC’s relationship to the environment that the CC administration and a lot of students don’t talk about enough: how the practices of CC as an institution, and its students come into conflict with environmentalism.
CC’s fossil fuel investment tops the list, but another issue is the lack of representation and discussion of vegetarianism and veganism. Over a decade after the initial Food and Agriculture Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” was published—which stated that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined—it is almost common knowledge that changing one’s diet is one of the single most beneficial actions that an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Taking this into consideration, it’s strange that there is not more support and encouragement for plant-based diets at CC.
Meatless Mondays, for example, are presented as an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of students, but that effort is limited to one meal in one dining hall—dinner at Rastall. Even during Meatless Mondays, it’s common to see one meat option in the soup section.
It’s pretty easy to find students on campus who have tried to start or maintain plant-based diets at school, but have given up because of the lack of options. Bradley Bollag-Miller ’21, falls into this category. “Benji’s rarely has a vegetarian option, and when they do it’s like, literally a slab of tofu,” he explained. He specifically mentioned a recent meal, the chicken makhani, and how he observed that they don’t add sauce to the vegetarian option, which makes the meal “literally rice with tofu on top.” If someone is a highly committed vegetarian or vegan, this is unlikely to dissuade them, but for people who are on the fence about a plant-based diet, unappealing vegetarian options from Bon Appétit often push them towards the meat options.
Sometimes, not only taste, but also health comes into question. For example, Rastall always has a vegan option through its market section. This is aimed at people trying to maintain a vegan diet, but it’s discouraging when the option only includes grilled vegetables and rice or vegetable curry. Both of these options have no main source of protein, and, as Bollag-Miller points out, they are often soaked in oil. For people who are trying to follow a plant-based diet but are concerned about their nutrition, the less-than-satisfactory options make vegetarianism or veganism more difficult.
Anne Daley ’20, is currently in the process of creating a survey about this topic for her final paper in an Introduction to Global Climate Change class. “I decided to do my project on this issue because I feel like it’s a largely unexplored issue on a campus that seems to be so dedicated to sustainability,” she said. Noting that scientists have now shown the environmental repercussions of meat consumption, Daley said that “too many [CC students] are either ignorant of this fact or value convenience over sustainability.” This, of course, is not a problem unique to CC. Our specific problem is that, as an outwardly environmentally-focused, elite liberal arts institution, we should be doing better.