Cowspiricy, A Sustainability Awareness Project

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From Fall 2018 Scholarship Student, Zach Kenndy, from The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

I came to London to make some changes; large strides professionally and personally. When I was awarded the Sharif Rahman Memorial Scholarship for Environmental Responsibility (Sustainability), I was told I would get to create a project regarding sustainability in London. It is a topic that I am passionate about. I’ve always wanted to make an impact, and I was given the framework to do so. When I arrived in London and sat down with my scholarship mentor, Andrew Francalanza (Diversity and Social Responsibility Officer), I let all the ideas spill out. “We could utilize composting in all flats… oh, or we could create refillable glass shampoo bottles…” While my ideas were great, these were all time and resource heavy, that made little sense when looking at a three-month time period. I was a little crushed when reality hit, how was I going to make an impact if I couldn’t pursue these grandiose projects?

It took a little soul searching to overcome this hump. How can someone make an impact? I want to create a long-lasting impact on the FIE community, which values sustainability. I was in my flat, watching Netflix when Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret popped up on my watch list. I spent the evening diving into the powerful documentary about the meat industry. My jaw went slack, how have people not heard about the atrocities presented in this documentary?  How have I not? That’s when it hit me, I could present this as my project! I could share this video with others so that some change could be made. I was also aware that FIE promotes Meat Free Mondays, an international campaign that raises awareness of the impact eating meat has on the environment and encourages people to help slow climate change by having at least one meat-free day a week.

In addition to my project, I was also going to take the role as the Student Switch Off Student Lead for FIE. My role oversaw communicating with faculty and students, promoting the campaign and ensure that the events organized were going to be successful throughout the semester. We had social media competitions, giveaways, residence hall visits, a climate change quiz, and a Halloween event that helped students take part in conserving energy! Andrew and I met a number of times to discuss my involvement in Student Switch Off and my project progression and soon transpired into us finalizing the event for Cowspiracy and aligning it with Meat Free Mondays.

I was going to premiere Cowspiracy with Andrew assisting me in planning out the logistics. I wanted to have food for the event so we approached Dr. Julie Andreshak-Behman, FIE’s Cheif Academic Officer and Le Cordon blue certified chef, regarding possible recipes. We cooked and served freshly made granola bars, hummus, and flatbread accompanied by hot drinks and gave students meat-free recipes for inspiration. The food was all vegan and utilized ingredients that were often left behind by students when the semester was over. With the assistance of Julie, Andrew, Dara Fleming-Farrell (Residence Life Manager), and Natalia Okeke (Acting Assistant Director of Student Life), everything went smoothly. We started trivia at 6:30pm, where students teamed up against each other to battle wits over animal agriculture’s effect on the planet. We promptly moved into the film, after I gave a few words regarding the film. Food and drink were grazed upon as the film began. Students and staff alike sat in silence as the film resonated within them. Once the lights flicked back on, I noticed a difference in the attitude of the room. I wanted to know how people could change their lifestyle, even if by a bit. “I never knew how much this affected climate change,” said one student, and another mentioned, “I think I am going to cut back on red meat for sure”. This is what I wanted to hear.

Change can be small. It doesn’t need to be large sweeping reforms for it to make a difference. I think I left a lasting impact on twelve students who were willing to sit down and learn. Maybe they will share this with others or cut back on their meat intake. This is what FIE Sustainability does, it makes changes, sometimes small, in the daily lives of students. I know now that I can make a difference by doing the little things. It’s a really empowering feeling.

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