Students go sustainable
How many times have you said “no” to an organic, local-based diet only because you thought it was out of your student budget? Students are probably the most determined to fight for a sustainable world and to tackle the environmental crisis at all costs. But when it comes to food, student budget seems unavoidably linked to a cheap, low quality and not sustainable diet.
Lisa Fingleton, Irish artist and organic grower, does not agree with that. Her annual “30 Day Local Food Challenge” is taking place this month, and she believes students can set up an organic and local-based diet with no fear of exceeding their budget.
According to Ms Fingleton, buying basic staples from local growers and farmers, like oat in bulk, is a good start. Having porridge or porridge bread for breakfast, instead of non-Irish cereals, would already get students through the first day of the Challenge.
As well as this, volunteer work in local farms, community gardens or old orchards in exchange for food is another great option, and to get even more familiar with the work everybody could start growing their own products. In this regard, Galway students are in good hands. The “Organic Gardening Society” of the University of Galway is the first society of its kind on an Irish Campus, and offers students a space to learn how to grow sustainable vegetables. It is now allocated at the rear of Distillery Road.
Preferring seasonal products is another crucial step: in September, students should look for tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, but at every time of the year a simple Google research or a ‘follow’ on specific Instagram pages will do to catch up with what’s seasonal. After that, compare this with what supermarkets and restaurants offer. Kieran Cooney, Executive Chef at the University of Galway main restaurant ‘An Bhialann,’ guarantees what comes out of their kitchen is “mostly Irish”, except what it can’t be.
Speaking to SIN, he said “Our beef and vegetables come from local suppliers we want to support, our non-Irish items like chicken are processed in Ireland anyway.” Although being under the general guidelines of a multi-national catering company like Sodexo, Mr Cooney ensures An Bhialann pledges to provide students with good quality and sustainable food, referring to important authorities like Teagasc and always keeping in mind what’s seasonal.
Lastly, sustainable food goes along with sustainable behaviour: to save on energy, electricity costs and water, cooking meals together and organising picnics and potlucks is suggested, and it is good habit to double-check labels even when buying something presumably Irish.
These techniques can be put into practice during the “30 Day Local Food Challenge” which takes place this month. Ms Fingleton chose this time of year because September is the most “luscious” month in the Irish gardening calendar. After six years of the project, she has gained significant experience in the area, and invites people to use ingredients grown only “on the island of Ireland” through the whole month. On the dedicated Facebook page, people engaging with the challenge share their recipes and feedback on how they are dealing with it.
Featuring in an interview with Moncrieff on Newstalk, Ms Fingleton summed up her aims by reminding listeners that “every euro you spend tells the world how you want it to be” and that “there’s no such thing as cheap food, as there’s always someone or something paying for it”. Budget aside, giving up the international delights we are used to can be a difficult, radical turning point. As Fingleton reminds us though, “it is a simple climate action students can take”.