Living in the Residence Halls, you have probably heard the term “sustainability” thrown around more than once. If you’ve guessed that it has something to do with being green, you are on the right track. But, do you know what exactly your university is doing in favor of sustainability and why Housing and Food Services takes its efforts to heart? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know!
What is sustainability?
Let’s simplify the concept: sustainability is about co-existing with nature and maintaining a balanced relationship to prolong natural resources for future generations. So, when you hear about sustainability, it can mean everything from recycling, to reducing the energy you use, to buying locally grown foods.
What would you do?
Imagine this scenario: You, as a farmer, try to ensure humane treatment for the animals you raise and try to use as few chemicals as you can. When it’s time to sell, however, you can’t find customers from the surrounding area. After spending money on things like transportation, processing, packaging and refrigeration, you end up earning 20 cents on the dollar. Imagine trying to maintain a farm when you put in 100 percent, and end up with only 20 percent of what you know your product is worth. How would you keep your farm afloat?
Now imagine this scenario: You are a farmer working with institutions one or two towns over. Doing business with them decreases the amount of fuel burned in transportation and energy used in storage. It also means your product will be fresher because you’re able to use fewer chemicals for preservation. You actually receive a dollar for each dollar spent.
Buying local products increases the financial impact you can make in surrounding communities while also reducing your ecological footprint.
Our sustainability efforts: local vendors
In 2015, the University of Oklahoma signed the Real Food Challenge, a commitment to “exercise leadership in our communities and throughout society by modeling ways to support ecologically sustainable, humane and socially equitable food systems.”
Since then, Housing and Food Services has adopted sustainable practices in its facilities, like recycling, hydration stations and introducing eco-friendly appliances in the dining locations. More importantly, however, our number of made in Oklahoma, Real Food Challenge and local economic products has increased to roughly 50 percent of total food purchases. Some of these vendors include Bedre Chocolate, Billy Goat Ice Cream, Field’s Pies, Head Country BBQ, J-M Farms, Ivy Acres, Kize, La Baguette, Vineyard Fruit, Shawnee Mills, Watonga Cheese Factory, Mountain View Meats, VAP and so many more.
The newest addition to this growing list is 1907 Meat Co., an independent meat market founded and based in Oklahoma.
The impact that hits close to home
Remember that first farmer scenario? For many local farmers, it’s not a hypothetical situation, it’s their day-to-day reality. When trying to work with big institutions, one of the biggest challenges small family farms face is delivering a consistent and increasing demand of product. To address this challenge, 1907 Meat Co. is bridging the gap between customer and vendor by sourcing animals from different family-owned Oklahoma farms to its team of professional butchers and chefs. It then handles the logistics of selling and distributing the necessary quantities to different institutions. Through this model, 1907 Meat Co. is attempting to help the industry shift toward more accessible farm-to-table practices.
You can find out more about 1907 Meat Co., including current and future farms, here.
Now that you know what we do, what can you do to help? Start by sharing the knowledge! It’s the little steps that can make the biggest change.
Find us on Twitter and Facebook @OUCampusDining for fun facts on our local vendors and updates for the 2017 Made in Oklahoma events!