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Thanksgiving is coming up; how do I make sure that mine is green?

Lucy Hummer

I sit here writing this post on my last day in the office before the short holiday break. Thanksgiving is just two days away, and so is all of the food and family that comes along with it. Whether or not you stand behind the cultural message and tradition of the holiday, you likely still sit and break bread with relatives back in your hometown. Just like Halloween, this serves as an opportunity to spread sustainable practice to those around you!

Last year I made a vegan casserole for my family and literally no one ate it. While this was a bummer, I found it kind of funny and I ultimately used it to learn a bit of a lesson. First, the idea that Thanksgiving is so rooted in tradition makes it harder to break the ties regarding the types of food that you should eat that day. A whole roasted bird, I am sorry to tell you, is not necessarily the most sustainable choice you can make. The thought of having this day without a turkey, however, can sound completely ridiculous. A lot of the “fun” surrounds getting up early, checking on the oven every hour and somehow being surprised by how long a twenty-pound animal takes to cook. Second, I think that if I didn’t tell my family that it was vegan, they would have tried it. For people that have no experience with or exposure to animal product-free dishes, there is certainly a stigma regarding the flavor/texture/appearance of the food. What I made was really good, if I do say so myself. Their loss!

I am simply speaking from my own experience, and I am sure that there are more open-minded families out there when it comes to trying less traditional Thanksgiving choices. It does not have to be a huge ordeal to be more sustainable! There are some dishes such as gravy or biscuits that can be made without dairy and no one would even be able to tell. But, is vegan synonymous with sustainable? Not necessarily. It IS possible to have meat and dairy products at your table without feeling guilty. If you go for farmers who responsibly raise their animals, you can (usually expensively) find a turkey with a minimal impact on the Earth. It’s super easy to make so many yummy foods that you don’t even miss a turkey, though! And everybody agrees that turkey really isn’t that great anyway, right?

Plus, there are other indicators of sustainability beyond the list of ingredients. Choosing items that are locally grown makes a huge difference. Much of the impact that food has on our environment comes from the shipping and trucking that comes with buying from around the globe. If you buy a good that comes from right outside your city, this massively reduces its footprint. It also always feels really great to know that you are supporting local farmers.

This goes hand in hand with the concept of buying in-season as well. The US grocery marketplace has created the expectation that we should be able to purchase all types of food all throughout the year. If you think about it for just a second, though, does this really make any sense? Strawberries can only be grown for a few months a year, so how come you can buy them all year long? Advanced refrigeration, storing and preserving techniques make the supermarket look fully stocked and colorful at all times. For the best taste and minimum waste of time, energy and food, choose fruits and veggies that are actually harvested in November. (If you’re wondering, this is produce like apples, squash, root vegetables, etc).

Ultimately, the idea of reducing animal products and choosing ingredients that are local and in-season may seem pretty common sense. That being said, why don’t more people actually do it? A lot of families have done their Thanksgiving day in the same way for years. Changing this may seem unappealing, but think of the impact Americans could make via this one minor cultural tradition. According to Google, almost fifty million turkeys are eaten on this day alone each year. If eliminating the bird seems like too far of a stretch, small changes are positive, too! Think of one or two dishes that you could alter just slightly to make them more sustainable. That sounds like a win to me.

Cool People Doing Cool Things: DC Climathon 2018

Lucy Hummer

GW hosted the DC Climathon over this last weekend. I had the opportunity to watch and admire the teams as they developed their ideas throughout the 24-hour event. From 3pm on November 9th to 3pm on November 10th, dozens of community members from throughout the DMV came together to make change regarding issues both within the city and across the globe.

So, what is Climathon? Climathon is a variation on the hack-a-thon. This type of event brings people together from various different fields, areas of study and general interests to “hack” a climate issue. Ideas are brainstormed, teams are formed, and business plans are developed very quickly during a fast-paced, overnight model. Each year, the Climathon has a different theme. This year, the content was centered around food access. Therefore, all of the finalists came up with unique ideas for innovating solutions and supplements geared towards dealing with food insecurity in our urban setting.

This year, there were six finalists in the competition. All of these teams, in my opinion, quality as really cool people doing really cool things. It is clear that when bringing together a large group of people in an inspiring environment like this, positive things will come. The two winning teams, District Connect and Last Call (both pictured below), radiate positive energy and a fresh perspective on issues in DC, including food.

The best part is that Climathon connects GW to the broader DC area. Many of the individuals who participated did not have an affiliation with the university. The school largely operated as a medium in which the community could engage with one another more simply.

It is clear to me that everyone who participated in the event is going to make an impact on our city, especially District Connect and Last Call. I know that anyone who is willing to spend the night working in MSPH must be ready and excited to make change!

While the participants in the Climathon have of course manifested many interesting ideas for “hacking” food access, there are many, many more people in DC who are working on this as well. Organizations throughout the DMV and beyond are working every day to solve issues such as the food deserts and inequitable access to cheap and healthy food throughout the 8 Wards of the city. DC Climaton 2018 was a way to see these initiatives, recognize their successes and view how the community can help as well.

Pictured above: The teams of District Connect (left) and Last Call (right) pose with coordinators of the event after learning that they have won.

Interested in hearing the final pitches that earned them the prize? You'll be able to watch them on our Facebook Page coming soon!

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