College students have an opportunity to shape the world they want to live in — by using their voices to advocate for change today and as the future generation of policymakers, activists, farmers, food workers and community leaders.
Students can start right on their own campus. For example, knowing meat-heavy diets are a key driver of climate change, Harvard’s Office of Sustainability requires all events to be plant-based. And a college student created that university’s plant-based eating guide to help their peers explore different paths to finding affordable, satisfying meals on campus that are also healthy for them and for the planet.
Since many students rely on campus dining halls, changing dining hall menus is an important way to make Earth-friendly food more accessible and reduce a college’s food-related emissions. Programs like DefaultVeg can help campuses shift toward sustainable, climate-compatible menu options that are popular with students, staff and faculty. Having conversations about menu changes between students, clubs, sustainability departments, dining hall supervisors and campus administrations can produce better meals, increase student satisfaction, and advance college sustainability goals.
The way the United States produces and consumes food has an outsized impact on global trends and markets. Americans eat more meat per capita than nearly anyone else on the planet — 4 times as much beef and 3 times as much meat as the rest of the world. If we’re going to change the world and save wildlife, we need to start at home and on campus, and start now.
When it comes to the way we eat, we can make choices that align with our values every day. From climate change and pollution to deforestation and pesticide use, animal agriculture is driving the extinction crisis. Eating less meat and dairy can help drive meaningful change to protect the planet by influencing what foods are available and how they’re grown.
Whether encouraging friends to eat an Earth-friendly diet or advocating for campus-wide change, college students can help build momentum for a better, more just way of living on this planet. Download our free guides to get involved.
Hosting a movie or game night about the environment, food and wildlife can be a fun way to save money, hang out with good friends, eat good snacks and see great films.
Using the following trivia lists to inspire your questions. (With all that brainpower going toward the game, don’t forget to provide meat-free snacks.)
The Center for Biological Diversity’s first annual Food Justice Film Festival explored many of the interconnected issues in U.S. food, including equity of access to healthy, sustainable food, food sovereignty and cultural diets, corporate consolidation, and harms to marginalized communities and the people who produce our food. Check out the 2021 Food Justice Film Festival at FoodJusticeFilmFestival.com.
Other ways to combine movie nights with your student life include hosting a screening for a club or a larger group. Make sure to have lots of meatless snacks on hand. Most traditional movie night snacks (like pretzels, popcorn, chips and veggie pizza) are already meat-free, but you can also explore recipes on our Choose Wild Pinterest board of easy, Earth-friendly snacks.
Watch “Meatstinction”— a fun, minute-long film from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Extra Credit: Don’t forget to check out The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers, a short and shareable animated film that shows the impact the beef industry has on the environment, from the thousands of gallons of water and many acres of land it takes to produce one pound of beef, to the 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows raised and slaughtered for beef.
What does an Earth-friendly diet actually look like? The possibilities are endlessly delicious. Exploring the world of meat-free cuisine is even more fun when you invite friends. Host a meat-free dinner or potluck for a dorm, club or friends.
Give your dinner a theme, like a meatless BBQ or international meat-free cuisine. If you want to add some good-natured rivalry, make it a sustainable cooking competition in the style of Chopped or Iron Chef. No matter what you do with your meat-free dinner party, the goal is to fill up on an extinction-free meal and add to your arsenal of meatless recipes.
College campuses often have environmentally-focused clubs — green clubs, sustainability clubs or climate action groups — or you can ask existing clubs to look at the important environmental issue of meat production and wildlife protection. Not finding the right club for you? Start your own.
1. Learn more about starting a club at your school. Many colleges have a student government that approves new organizations on campus. Check their webpage or ask a friend who is in an existing club. Some schools have deadlines for applying to start a new club, so check if this applies on your campus.
2. Find other students with similar interests. Hold a preliminary meeting on campus or reserve a table at a campus event or job fair to find out who’s interested in the same things you are and what ideas they have for your club.
3. Recruit a faculty advisor (doesn’t have to be in an environmentally related department).
4. Consider meetings, goals and activities for your club. Who will be your leaders? How often will you meet? What kinds of projects will you take on? Involve others who are excited about your club in the conversation to share ideas.
5. Once you have an official club you’ll want to host events and start some campus-initiatives. See our Top 5 Ways to Make Your Campus Extinction-free for ideas of where to start.
1. Decide on a short, catchy, wildlife-friendly name for your club, along with a mission statement, symbol, slogan or motto and a theme.
2. Choose a regular meeting time and place for your club. Don’t be shy about sending out meeting reminders to club members and new recruits. If there’s food, students will come. Check out our Cheap & Easy Guide for great ideas on ways to keep your club fed and feeling good about protecting wildlife, too.
3. Recruit club members: Put a notice about your club in the school newspaper, post flyers and ask teachers to let you mention your club at the beginning of classes.
4. Start a social media page for your new group. Ask campus newsletters (such as for your dorm, your class year, your major, etc.) to include a statement about your new club in their next email.
5. Decide on goals. Be realistic and think about goals that are relevant to students, your campus and wildlife. What can you achieve in one semester? One year? Don’t forget to celebrate your victories, whether it’s a successful cookoff, a well-attended event or new meatless options in dining halls.
6. Combine fun activities with events that are academically, professionally and personally helpful for club members to build up their resumes and experiences. Consider cook-offs and other fundraisers, organizing a campus-improvement initiative, or a community-focused activity. Reach out to community members, host a speaker, organize a workshop, or just hold a pizza and movie night.
7. Pick strong leaders from different classes who will listen to all club members, be fair, and add energy and direction. Vote on “officer” positions like president, vice-president and secretary. Pick someone different to be a note-taker each meeting. Other roles might include promotional officer (in charge of advertising, flyers and getting the word out), event manager and treasurer (in charge of fundraising, expenditures and bookkeeping). Some schools have rules about official officer positions, so make sure to read all the guidelines for your school.
8. Stay in touch with your faculty advisor and ask them for help. Often your faculty advisor can help you plan a calendar of events in connection with campus events, make connections where needed, and resolve disputes when necessary.
9. With new schedules, classes, homework, sports and everything else that makes up the college experience, many students hit a mid-semester fatigue. Make sure your club stays on track by hosting fun, supportive events that everyone wants to join in, like study nights, study breaks and movie nights.
10. Partnering with campus and community members, local farmers and food co-ops will also help spread the message that taking meat off your plate is the best way to take extinction of your plate.
Writing a letter to the editor of your local or campus newspaper can be an effective way to make your voice heard and let community members know about the issues students care about.
Before you write
Before you write, think about why you’re writing the letter, what you’re responding to, and why the paper might be interested in printing it. Letters the editor are most successful when they’re responding to recent news and/or have a clear, concise and strong viewpoint.
Search online for your school or local paper and find the “submit a letter to the editor” option (it’s often under “opinion” or “letters”). Read the guidelines for tips or restrictions, including word count.
Getting ready to write
Letters to the editor can have different purposes, such as to:
Here’s a letter about meat production that was published by the Chicago Tribune::
There's been a lot of recent discussion about the rising costs of beef and pork, and yet one thing keeps getting left off the table: The price of meat hasn't reflected the true cost of meat production in years.
If you factor in the subsidies for feed crops and grazing permits, more people would start to realize that meat is a steal. And meat production has been stealing from the public for a long time. In addition to taxpayer-funded subsidies, cattle are allowed to degrade our public lands, and our wildlife are killed to protect industry profits. Meat production consumes incredible amounts of natural resources, from the land and water required to raise livestock to the devastating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions left behind.
What if meat prices reflected the true cost of production? How much longer can we, and the environment, afford it? Even with subsidies, prices will continue to rise as climate change and drought make it harder to feed livestock, and a growing population demands more and more meat.
Instead of ignoring the true cost of meat production by raising prices or losing profits, restaurants and retailers should offer their customers more meatless options. It's better for our wallets, our health and our planet.
Stephanie Feldstein, Director, Population and Sustainability,
Center for Biological Diversity · Ann Arbor, Mich.
Notice the strategy:
Need more tips?
If you submit a letter and/or your letter is published, let us know at EarthFriendlyDiet@biologicaldiversity.org.
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