Earth Day, while overlooked by many, is an important holiday that comes around every April with the same goals in mind: celebrating the wonders of our planet, and protecting and preserving it for future generations. April 22 was indoctrinated as Earth Day in 1970, and the holiday has grown worldwide since then. To celebrate such an important occasion, Michigan Tech’s Sustainability Demonstration House (SDH) and Dining Services have joined together for a special, one-night event in the McNair Dining Hall: Michigan Tech’s First-Ever Earth Day Dinner!
“Environmental issues are some of the most pressing, if not the most pressing, issues facing society at the moment,” says Kendra Lachcik, a SDH tenant and the main organizer of the Earth Day Dinner project. You may be wondering how an Earth Day dinner could be beneficial to promoting sustainability and environmentalism. According to data provided by the SDH team from a University of Michigan study, plant-based foods have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and require less water than meat-based foods. For example, the production of 400 beef patties creates 1480 kg CO2 eq of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the same production of veggie patties at 160 kg CO2 eq. Those same 400 beef patties also require 87,360 liters of water for their cultivation and production, compared to 440 liters for veggie patties.
While many people might be wary about eating a meal that is 90% plant-based, trust me when I say that there will be numerous delicious options! Trade in your traditional beef burger for a black bean or portobello mushroom option. Ditch the normal and bland marinara and alfredo sauces for a homemade marinara and a rich cauliflower cream sauce. Vegan pizzas will replace the greasy dining hall options. Buddha bowls, packed with delicious and nutritious couscous and quinoa, offer a healthy and filling meal that one could easily make on their own. International cuisine will also be offered in the form of red lentil curry and palak paneer. Of course, one can’t forget about dessert, and the SDH certainly did not! Try a slice of vegan cookie cake or a bowl of chia seed pudding. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, something healthier, something more environmentally friendly, and, not to mention, something absolutely delicious!
Even though this project is a great way to introduce Dining Services and on-campus students to environmentally conscious dining practices, there is still a lot of work that could be done in Michigan Tech’s dining halls, according to Lachcik. “Right now, virtually all food waste from the dining halls ends up in a landfill. It would be ideal if some or all of this waste could be composted instead, either on campus, in the community, or at a commercial facility.” Other problem areas include the disposable utensils and containers provided to students that take their meals outside of the dining hall, due to the COVID pandemic. Most of this is not recyclable, so it ends up being thrown away and ending up in landfills. Plastic bags used to carry these items are also an unnecessary waste, according to Lachcik.
Beyond the sustainable food options, compostable utensils will be available to students during this special meal. The utensils are alternatives to the plastic options offered by the dining halls that must be thrown away and sent to the landfill. These single-use utensils (like these) are often made of plant-based materials, meaning that they can be composted, unlike their plastic counterparts.
If you are interested in attending the SDH’s Earth Day Dinner, head over to the McNair Dining Hall from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. Everyone is encouraged to attend, and if you do not live on-campus or have a meal plan through the university, individual meal passes can be purchased at the McNair Hall front desk for $12.95. For more information, you can contact the SDH at email@example.com. See the full menu and additional details below on the event flyer.
“The least we can do is celebrate Earth Day and raise awareness about environmental causes and do our best to educate others on how to be better stewards of the earth,” Lachcik says. “But really, every day is Earth Day.”