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Get ready for Earth day

Zoom screenshot Kendra Lachcik (left) and Rose Turner (right) discuss the Earth Day dinner coming to the McNair Dining Hall on Apr. 22.

HOUGHTON — On Apr. 22, the Michigan Tech Sustainability Demonstration House (SDH) will be hosting a special Earth Day Dinner at the McNair Dining Hall on Tech’s Campus.

This event open only to MTU students and faculty will focus on plant-based diets, healthy composting habits such as diverting food waste from landfills, and using compostable utensils and food containers.

“90% of the dinner’s components are plant-based, so we will still have a couple meat options,” Kendra Lachcik, an MTU student with the Sustainability Demonstration House explained,

For the most part, the meal options will have “no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no fish, nothing like that.”

“The dining halls, they do have plant-based and vegan options every day, but it’s always special things or things you have to request,” said Rose Turner, a graduate student in environmental engineering and member of the SDH. “So this is something brand new for Tech, having a near completely plant-based dinner.”

Lachcik discussed vegan options.

“Even some of the foods on the main line, you can ‘veganize,'” she said. “There’ll be pastas or something that won’t always have meat. Some things are more sustaining, beyond just a salad bar.”

An objective of the dinner is to educate students on plant-based options beyond general conceptions.

“People always ask, ‘You’re vegan, so what do you eat? Just salads or something?’ We barely ever eat salads. We actually eat so good because there are so many other things,” Turner said.

Lachcik agreed.

“Most of the stuff I eat doesn’t have meat or anything like that in it. A lot of it is eating plants in vegetables in ways most people don’t normally do,” Lachcik said. “In addition to the food, though, we’ll have compostable silverware, none of the food waste will be going to a landfill. The food waste will be going to a local farm.”

Beyond just a plant-based meal, the dinner will be a lesson and enactment of healthy waste disposal practice.

Hosting such an event during the COVID-19 pandemic could have made things difficult or impossible, but the SDH put together a plan for this as well.

“We’re diverting all of the waste from the landfill, so the food waste is going to a local farm. We’re going to stack the paper. There’s paper clamshells since everything has to be disposable due to COVID, so we’re sorting out the silverware and putting the napkins in the compost or trying to find a use for everything. The plastic bags that go around sort of work with them. It has to be prewrapped for sending off to a company called Tracks, that turns it into decking boards. So trying to find a place for each of the items to go rather than landfill,” Lachcik said.

The majority of silverware will be sustainable products like corn-based, bamboo, and some wood.

“I guess more sustainable wood and bamboo, since bamboo trees grow so quickly, it’s more sustainable than other trees, because it really grows a lot faster,” Turner said

The Earth Day dinner is designed to be an informational event about not only preparing food, but how changing diets can affect ecosystems.

“So initially, we were planning or there was talk about trying to calculate diet impacts on resources like water,” Lachcik said. “Generally speaking, plant-based food takes a lot less energy to grow,”

And a lot less water, she added.

“Your growing plants, whereas with animal products, you have to grow plants that you feed to the animals, and the animals need food, and the land that they take up along with the land for the feed. It just takes a lot more resources to produce animal products, but that’s the basic basics of it. So plants take way less; way less energy, way less water, there’s less greenhouse gas emissions, less energy in general,” Turner said.

Further information will be available at booths outside of the dining hall during the event. The information, as well as the dinner itself, while being open to all Tech students and faculty, is to engage with dietarily curious students.

“So I guess something I’ve noticed is, there’s a lot of students on this campus, who have heard about plant-based diets. You know, because there are quite a few of us on this campus, Lachcik said. “They’ve heard about it from family or friends. They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it on their social media, and they’re curious about it. But, there’s always so many meat options available, that they just take what’s in front of them, right? Because, why, as a college student who has a meal plan, why would you go seek out this little tiny fridge of vegan options when there’s so many just like meat options readily available?”

The dinner and information to be presented looks to clear up misconceptions and to answer common questions students commonly have about plant-based diets.

“They always show such curiosity in plant-based diets and ask a bunch of questions like, ‘how do you get protein’ or like, ‘Well, what about eggs? Why don’t you eat eggs?’ and stuff like that. So I know, people are curious. So I think through this dinner, we’re also just trying to give everyone vegan options that are readily available, where at the dinner, you’ll have to seek out the meat options,” Turner said.

Outside of knowing what can be done with plant-based food, impact lessened by a change to plant-based is important for Turner.

“So as an environmental engineer, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my impact. I was thinking oh, yeah, if I take shorter showers, if I try to go zero waste, if I bike to campus when I’m driving, I was thinking, yeah, I’m gonna, reduce my impact. But if you want to have the biggest, positive impact on the environment, change your diet. It doesn’t matter how many short showers you take, because if you stop getting that burger, you’re saving 400 gallons of water as opposed to the 140 it takes for a vegan burger. Yeah, so, a lot of people, they don’t realize how big of an impact our diets have,” Turner said.

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