To the next four years: an update

I’m really, really excited for the next four years. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll be attending Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, starting this September, and I really just can’t be more excited.

Just earlier this month, I was actually in the midst of a really tough decision between Stanford University and Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, but in the end, I picked Stanford for a few reasons… and some of those reasons actually do impact this blog!

Over the past year, I’ve been growing increasingly concerned about environmental and sustainability issues. Climate change is a real and growing problem that threatens world food supplies and even the very existence of island nations (including my birth country, the Philippines), which could displace between 50 million to 200 million people by 2050; the fracking boom has been causing earthquakes in my home city Dallas, yet the Texas state government refuses to let the Dallas suburbs ban the practice; developed and developing countries alike continue to pollute the air with more carbon emissions; and while one likely U.S. presidential candidate rates miles ahead of her presumed opponent on environmental protection, her proposals—even assuming they get passed by Congress—don’t seem to be enough to rapidly switch to renewable energy and protect the planet from 2 degree warming.

It was because of these concerns that I found myself completely in love with the Bay Area. At the very end of April, I flew out to California with my mom to attend Stanford’s Admit Weekend. But before that, we visited a friend who works at Facebook’s main campus at Menlo Park. Needless to say, it was completely and utterly beautiful!

While it lived up to its name for looking like a mini-Disneyland, what really got me were the amazing food options and the sustainability practices.

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This is Harvest, Facebook’s sustainable, organic, and locally-sourced campus café

Just take one look at the photo above—that’s Harvest, a campus café at Facebook that offers sustainable, organic, and locally-sourced food, free for Facebook employees (and their guests). Unfortunately it was only around 10am so it wasn’t open, but all that means is that I’m gonna need to make a friend at Stanford who’ll intern at Facebook and can invite me for lunch. (Now that I think about it, that actually doesn’t seem like such a far off or even very difficult thing to do…)

But aside from just this one campus café—and a different campus café I had breakfast at that served fresh fruit smoothies—another really amazing thing at Facebook was that it was hard to even find a trash can! Everything is either recyclable or compostable, so even your plates, napkins, and silverware could be composted.

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Speaking of Stanford dining halls, look at this great waffle from brunch there!

Stanford’s dining halls are also quite similar, touting big bins for composting and recycling. It was a little bit confusing for those of us who aren’t from areas where composting is even a thing, but thankfully they have a lot of big signs explaining what to put in each bin.

As a whole, Stanford is quite great for when it comes to sustainable practices, and because of things like the California drought, students are also on board and pushing the university to do even more. When I was there, there was an inter-dorm competition to see who could save the most water by shortening showers—it helped that the winning dorm got some money to spend on decorations, equipment, etc.! Stanford also has its own nature preserve (used primarily for academic research, ecological conservation, and restoration), campus sustainability (paid) internships for students, a primarily biking campus that discourages car usage, organic gardens next to every dining hall and residence, and incredibly active student organizations like Sustainable Stanford.

By now, you’ve probably seen a common theme when I talk about sustainability—it’s intricately linked with the food we eat! While this is another post for another time, choosing to reduce or eliminate our meat intake is a great way to make an impact on an individual level, considering that the meat and dairy industries are huge contributors to global climate change.

Luckily, Stanford makes it easy to eat vegetarian or vegan—whether for one meal or for every meal—offering at least one vegan entree and nondairy milk at every meal, labeling what food is vegetarian/vegan, and having an all-vegan station in dining halls. And those vegan and vegetarian options also include a variety of “ethnic” food options so you’re never just confined to the same boring salads every meal. That’s why we’re the most vegan friendly college campus in the country!

There are of course still ways for Stanford to do better, and these are things I’d like to actively work on during the four years I’m there. Off the top of my head, there’s still no vegan/vegetarian dining hall (although some students have been wanting one) and a lack of official participation in Meatless Monday programs, unlike some of our peer institutions (including Brown, Columbia, and Dartmouth).

Long story short, Bok Choy and Broccoli will be coming with me along for the four-year ride! While this blog has maintained being mostly vegetarian—I’m pretty sure the only non-vegetarian recipe on here is the spaghetti—it’ll have another focus as well: sustainability and the environment. And as someone who also wants to study anthropology as a minor or possible second major, I still want to continue sharing personal history and stories, since food, culture, and life itself are all connected. So the only real change going into the future will be doubling down on this blog’s Meatless Monday convictions and being more vocal about the biggest reason I continue transitioning toward a meatless diet: its environmental impact.

Thanks for being here the last three years, and I’m excited to see what the next four years hold!

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