The meat industry is responsible for almost 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Boston University students were encouraged to pledge to go vegetarian or vegan for one week called #1WeekBU. The Earth Week challenge was hosted by Food Equality, Accountability, Sustainability and Transparency, a BU Student Government Standing Senate committee.
“If BU students went vegan for 1 week, we would save 50 million gallons of water and sequester as much carbon as 650,000 trees in one year,” the committee’s site said.
Over 30 people officially pledged to partake in #1WeekBU, some of which aren’t even BU students. Students who pledged can also win prizes and other giveaways.
Co-chair of FEAST Shirin Bakre, a senior in the College of Engineering, said #1WeekBU began alongside the inception of FEAST in 2019.
“The idea was to expand on Dining Services’ ability to give us vegetarian and vegan meals, as well as combat carbon emissions for meat consumption and cooking meat,” Bakre said.
Since then, #1WeekBU has been a way for usually meat-eating students to dip their feet in plant-based diets, she said.
“It was meant to allow people to have a space to explore vegetarian and vegan options and allow people on campus that are vegetarian (or) vegan to finally be able to get a larger variety of food available to them, and it just started conversations,” Bakre said.
BU Dining Services Sustainability Director Lexie Raczka said this week’s menu was curated with sustainability in mind.
“The menu includes foods with sustainability attributes, including vegan, vegetarian, and other Climate Friendly menu options,” Raczka wrote in an email interview. “For Earth Week, we are also highlighting a number of our regular local partners in the dining halls, including Foley Fish, Penobscot McCrum, and Sid Wainer.”
There was a significant increase in interest in #1WeekBU and FEAST, especially after the committee’s appearance at the Sustainability Festival Thursday Charlotte Stant, co-chair of FEAST and freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“There’s been a lot of people who want to get involved, and we have a really great team set up for next semester,” Stant said. “So I’m super excited to do more larger events, beyond just #1WeekBU.”
In order to help their audience FEAST also posts regularly about recipes, facts and restaurant recommendations that promote sustainability and vegetarian and vegan diets, according to their Instagram.
FEAST also does other challenges such as “Water Bottle Wednesdays,” where students send in photos of them with their reusable water bottles. Randomly selected students can be featured on the committee’s Instagram account.
“That’s probably our most successful initiative so far,” Stant said.
Amelia Sturbois, a sophomore in the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, said she transitioned to a vegetarian diet due to ethical and health reasons. She said she believed the challenge was a positive idea but not effective enough to make people become long-term vegetarians.
“I think it’s a cool idea to get people to be more conscious about their meat intake, but I really think it’s gonna be hard for people,” Sturbois said. “I don’t think it’s going to cause anyone to transition.”
FEAST hopes to continue educating people on the positive effects of vegetarianism and veganism, Bakre said.
“I think the point of this challenge is to just allow people to take that step to trying something new, and basically just reduce the fear that being a vegetarian or being a vegan is difficult,” Bakre said. “At least one meal in a day, or just once in a while, try the vegetarian option.”