To many, responsible product sourcing and the “green” status of goods have weighed on the minds of consumers more than in past years. Whether or not sustainable living will be the future or just another fading fad will be decided in years to come.
For college students, the desire as well as the ability to be eco-friendly can sometimes be cut short, as access to reusable products is different than what students may be accustomed to at home.
From dining halls to marketplaces, sustainability isn’t always kept in mind for students at Ohio University. While dining halls offer reusable containers to take food to go, the varieties of foods often lack eco-friendly options. Vegetarian and vegan foods may go days without an appearance in the dining halls, excluding the salad bars, ultimately limiting what certain students are able to eat.
Hadass Galili, a freshman studying Adolescent to Young Adult Integrated Language Arts, has been a vegan for two and a half years, noticing the difficulties in keeping a greener diet.
“It’s harder to be vegan in college,” Galili said. “Back home, I had more time to cook for myself and also wasn’t paying for my own groceries. I feel restricted at the dining halls because there isn’t much variety in vegan options.”
Vegetarianism and veganism have gained speed over the last decade due to the research about the cattle industry and its relation to climate change. Beef production alone contributed to about 41% of total animal emissions from agriculture in 2013, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to the OU Sustainability Plan, between 2012 and 2016, OU was able to reduce total carbon emissions by 25% due to several steps taken in order to switch to carbon-neutral energy sources. These sources include natural gas rather than coal, using renewable energy certificates for 50% of electricity used.
In the updated version of Ohio University’s sustainability benchmarks, the Sustainability Council emphasized several key points. Of those listed, reducing institutional greenhouse gasses and campus and building energy intensity while also increasing renewable energy generation and sourcing ranked at the highest levels.
While people may think that society is doing a better job at keeping a low carbon footprint than in years past, the opposite may be true. Geoffrey Buckley, director of environmental studies, wonders if the products that claim to be eco-friendly are true to their advertising.
“I’m sure (sustainable products) will stick around because it’s profitable, somebody is making money,” Buckley said. “However, you have to ask yourself if these ‘sustainable and environmentally-friendly’ products are, in fact, actually environmentally-friendly.”
To Buckley, the economy is directly influenced by consumer feedback. Products can rise and fall in terms of popularity as social trends fluctuate. If a popular product has a sticker saying it’s environmentally-friendly, it’s possibly pushing the success of the eco-friendly trend even further. Whether it’s the free stainless-steel straws advertised on social media or the accounts offering each like and share equaling to another tree being planted, being environmentally friendly has been commercialized.
Andy Mayse, a junior studying mechanical engineering, collects information for OU’s Office of Sustainability. Since he began his job, he has taken steps to adjust certain aspects of his everyday life in order to be more environmentally aware.
“I started composting when I moved off campus,” Mayse said. “I make a conscious effort to keep money in the local economy by buying produce from local farms and local stores. I cut down on my consumption of meat, and I limit single-use plastics.”
For many, taking conscious steps to lead a greener life can range from biking to class or cutting out all animal-based products. Choosing to become a vegetarian because it’s the current trend while also choosing single-use plastics might not reduce one’s carbon footprint as much as one would think.
Switching to an eco-friendlier lifestyle doesn’t have to be drastic. Choosing reusable and renewable products or even going a day without eating meat can be the first steps.