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Earth Month celebration at ASU continues with webinars on sustainability

Staff, faculty experts talk about Earth-friendly eating, recycling and gardening

March 31, 2020

Many activities are upended during the COVID-19 pandemic as people stay home, but one thing that is not changing is grocery shopping, cooking and eating. An Arizona State University expert gave tips on Tuesday during a webinar titled, “Do I Really Have to Give Up Cheese? Sustainable Cooking and Eating to Fit Your Lifestyle.”

The webinar is part of the Earth Month Learning Series, a sequence of online discussions that are part of ASU’s recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The learning series was created by Siobhan Lyon and Emmery Ledin, who are both on the sustainability committee of the ASU Staff Council. They surveyed the ASU community on which topics they were interested in and then curated the most popular into the series. All of the talks are led by ASU faculty and staff experts.

“So many people at ASU are sustainability champions, so it was cool to tap into that and learn about how smart the people we have are,” said Lyon, a coordinator at the Memorial Union.

“It’s impressive that we can source this information from people who are passionate about sustainability and have become subject-matter experts in home gardening or eating sustainably,” said Ledin, a program coordinator with University Sustainability Practices.

All of the webinars, held via Zoom, run from noon to 1 p.m. and will be archived on the Staff Council sustainability page. Previous topics were “How and Where to Recycle X, Y, and Z,” “Produce Rescue — A Deliciously Ugly Truth,” and “The Amazing, All New ASU Arboretum Plants Tour.”

Upcoming talks are: “Backyard Gardening — 5 Steps to Growing Your Own Food” on April 1; “Fair Trade at ASU: Making Every Day Ethical” on April 8; “Sustainable Food Systems” on April 13; “Dress, Eat and Rest Sustainably” on April 17; “The ASU Locust Project” on April 28, and “Environmental Policy in Your Backyard: A Snapshot of Maricopa County” on April 30.  

Tuesday’s webinar was given by Lesley Forst Michalegko, project coordinator for the Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies in the School of Public Affairs. She became interested in sustainable eating when she worked in University Sustainability Practices on ASU’s food system’s goals.

“I love cooking and eating, and I feel like food is something that’s so personal and it’s an easy way for people to make changes that can have a big impact,” she said.

“When I talk about it, I always want to come from a place of sensitivity and respect because you’re asking people to change something that’s cultural and comforting and that they do with their family.”

In her webinar, she talked about how people can incorporate small sustainability changes no matter what their diet is like.

“I want it to be inclusive and recognize that we all have own thing going on,” she said. “I’m not going to say, ‘You only be vegan,’ or ‘You have to shop at the farmer’s market’ or ‘Go organic.’ ”

One tip she shared is about food preparation.

“To make sure you eat the produce you buy, as soon as you bring it home wash it, cut it up and store it,” she said.

“Then when you’re getting ready to cook or want a snack, you don’t have to overcome that hurdle of, ‘Now I have to wash this salad and chop everything up.’ Remove those barriers and make it easy to use your produce.”

Using up your produce reduces food waste, which is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The American method of producing beef uses a lot of resources in land, water and energy, so incorporating more plant-based foods is one way of eating more sustainably.

"The thing I want to emphasize is that it’s a sliding scale," Michalegko said. "You can reduce your amount of food-related emissions by 13 percent if you replace a third of your beef consumption with lower-impact proteins like pork, poulty or legumes. If you want to get a bang for your buck, that’s where you can do it."

The title of her talk came from a common response from people who want to be more sustainable but can’t give up cheese.

“I too have that feeling of ‘Oh man, I can do without red meat but cheese is a sticking point,’ ” she said. "You don’t have to give it up, but you can incorporate it in better ways.”

With everyone in the ASU community studying and working remotely, some Earth Month events have been canceled, but others will also be held online. A talk by ASU scientist Ralf Halden on how our daily lifestyle decisions are impacting the places we occupy, our health and humanity’s prospect of survival, will be held via Zoom at 1 p.m. April 22.

Top image by Pixabay

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