Institutions Making Change

Institutions Making Change
22/10/2015 Green Common

What do University of Hong Kong and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have in common? They’re both promoting sustainable food choices!

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A coalition of environmental and animal welfare student groups at UCLA has been working with Green Monday to encourage university dining services to promote sustainable vegetarian meals. Highlighting veg meals on Mondays is one of the easiest and most effective ways for both individuals and institutions to shrink their carbon and water footprints, and raise awareness about the critical connection between food and sustainability.

Concern about climate change is steadily growing, as California faces a devastating drought and dramatic temperature records and weather pattern shifts are recorded around the world. Yet even in the face of growing evidence, people are often prevented from taking action because they do not know what individual changes will be effective. That’s why Green Monday is so critical; it provides a tangible action that can be taken to make change on a daily basis. Not only is choosing veg easy and healthy, it’s also effective. Eating one plant-based meal, without any meat or dairy, saves 133 gallons of water, 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 24 square feet of land.

Since switching to plant-based meals offers such powerful environmental benefits, some might wonder why more institutions aren’t joining the movement. One of the biggest hurdles is concern about how the initiative will be perceived by customers. After all, dining service is a business, so they must consider their bottom line. UCLA was concerned that students would complain, or eat at restaurants instead of the dining hall on Mondays. In order to address this concern, the sustainability student group surveyed students in the dorms about whether they supported Green Monday. The result was an overwhelming yes!

Once the university was reassured that students supported the initiative, they agreed to host a 5-week pilot program. Rather than featuring veg specials at each dining hall, as is the standard procedure for Green Monday, UCLA decided to go a step further and make one dining hall completely vegetarian every Monday. Each week, over 1,200 students are eating a fully vegetarian dinner!

The impacts of this initiative are huge. Over the course of the 5-week pilot, UCLA will have saved roughly 798,000 gallons of water, 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 144,000 square feet of land. This is equivalent to over 300 years’ worth of showers, and over 18,000 miles of driving!

Better yet, UCLA is helping to cultivate a culture of sustainability. As more and more people learn that they can help themselves and the planet by eating delicious food, plant-based eating is becoming a powerful social movement. Food service providers, restaurants, and institutions, such as UCLA and Chinese University, are teaching consumers that the power to stop climate change lies on our plates.

Former Los Angeles Laker, NBA Champion, and long-time vegan John Salley came out to celebrate the launch of Green Monday at UCLA!