Did you know that the way we live our lives now is threatening our life support system here on Earth? How about the fact that 1/3 of the waste on the University of Washington’s campus is food waste? As of 2012, we are using 156% of the biodiversity on our planet, according to speaker Kristi Straus. We were lucky enough to have Dr. Kristi Straus come and talk to us this last Tuesday, May 9th, about her passion for sustainability sustainable habits.
Sustainability is a very broad term that essentially means to meet your present needs without it affecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs or run out of resources. The premise behind sustainable eating is finding “What needs to change so we can live sustainably… it also includes economic and social components…socially just and economically manageable for those who live in those systems,” according to Dr. Straus. Everyone consumes food, but few people know how to do so in a sustainable manner. Sustainable food habits include food that is ecologically responsible, fair and accessible, produces no waste, is healthy, and is local. While the idea of “Local” is up to your discretion, the concept your “food-print” comes into play when you think about the distance food travels to get to your plate. Your food-print tells you the environmental impact of your food consumption, which is most commonly measured in the miles it takes for food to travel from the point of production to the point of consumption. Currently, the average distance food travels to get to us is around 1,500 miles; just think of the carbon dioxide implications involved in that much travel!
The most important thing you can do to reduce your food-print is to eat locally – within reason. Eating local doesn’t just reduce the food-print, but it also provides fresher food and benefits the immediate economy of your community. Buying local could mean participating in a community sponsored agriculture program or buying at a farmer’s market. To get the most out of this, look for organic certified products: they’re not only better for the environment, but they’re better for you too!
Kristi Straus grew up in California and went to school in Maine as a Biology Major. She then took time off to travel and went to Morocco to participate for the Peace Corps for two years, where she worked with health and clean water and witnessed how sustainable living works in other countries. Dr. Straus said that it “made her think about resources and happiness in a new way.” She now has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and focuses on how conservation, science, and policy all play into one another.
(For UW Students) To find out more about the fight for sustainability and our planet, Dr. Straus recommends taking ENVIR 239, ENVIR 439, ENVIR 240, or ENVIR 495. Or visit one of these sites:
- Ask Umbra
- Ecological Footprint Calculator