Meatless Mondays: Students’ Vision for Sustainability

From left to right: Isabel O'Connor ('19), Ruby Berryman ('19), Payton Bell ('19), and Brooklynn Dyson ('19).

As the 2018-2019 school year comes to a close, many of us look back on the year’s challenges, successes, growth, and overall outcomes. As for the class of 2019’s Earth and Environmental science students, they had one last duty to fulfill before throwing their caps: Meatless Mondays. With the support of Casady’s administration, faculty, and SAGE dining team, students took action to create and implement a new environmentally sustainable meal plan for the Casady community. To date, Casady’s SAGE staff has made this transition smoothly, with “no complaints to speak of,” according to Kevin Schoenhoff, Casady’s food service director.

Seniors Payton Bell, Ruby Berryman, Brooklynn Dyson, and Isabel O’Connor presented the initial idea to the upper and middle division student bodies on March 8th, including a student-survey. The seniors began with a clip from Racing Extinction, a film that inspired them to take this “great first step towards sustainability,” in the words of Janine Perry, their Environmental science teacher. After awakening their peers, they pressed the facts, linking the meat industry’s production, transportation, storage, and cooking requirements to a massive amount of greenhouse gases emitted daily into our atmosphere. Their solution: limit Casady’s weekly meat consumption, inspire other schools to follow in our carbon-reducing footsteps, and make a collective difference in the Earth’s environment for the better.

The student-survey recorded 396 responses and concluded that 33% of middle and upper division students did not support Meatless Mondays, 15.7% of which felt indifferent, and 67% of students supported the idea. The survey revealed a number of students’ concerns with losing meat as a source of protein for their lunch. Fortunately, for students who do not wish to comply with Meatless Mondays, the sandwich and salad bar meat servings will remain available, as an item of SAGE protocol. However, Monday’s entree will remain vegetarian, despite that the SAGE team’s “biggest challenge will be making sure [they] are meeting the protein needs of a daily diet,” according to Schoenhoff. Nonetheless, the entire dining team will continue to accommodate Meatless Mondays, “so long as [they] have the support of the student community.” In fact, he also offered the idea of extending Meatless Mondays into the soup station and commented, “We are thrilled when the students can become as involved in our program as [their] endeavor allows.”

Bell (‘19), Berryman (‘19), Dyson (‘19), and O’Connor (‘19) hope to see this meal plan continue into Casady’s future with SAGE dining, and also have discussed motivating other SPC schools to make this change in their communities. Senior environmental science students will work to prepare information for our dining staff to present at SAGE regional conferences. Schoenhoff admitted that “it might be a tough sell, being that the SPC runs through cattle country, but it is a possibility,” adding, “we are more than willing to pass the idea to the Food Service Directors and chefs at the other SPC schools that use SAGE.” The senior students have expressed much gratitude to the dining staff, who have gone out of their way to implement these sustainable changes, and can only hope to continue their collaboration. Schoenhoff agreed, urging Casady students to “keep coming up with more ideas.”

Ms. Perry also has several plans she hopes to integrate into Casady’s future, like starting a community garden and composting system. She also mentioned a desire to design posters that promote sustainability to hang around campus, which could also progressively reduce the stigma around vegetarianism. Perry explained that students felt reluctant to act on their will for change in the past, for fear that others might ridicule them. Perry contemplated, “I think when people hear someone is a vegetarian, they just think they eat a lot of salads and broccoli. Or, they may think they just don’t want to hurt animals.” Perry concluded that, although this may be true to an extent, many vegetarians feel compelled to commit to this lifestyle for the planet’s and their own health. She added, “No matter what the reason, it is a very real way that each person can use their power of choice to make a difference.” The class of 2019’s Environmental Science students share this drive, and hope to serve as examples for individual commitment and action towards sustainability.