Everywhere you looked Thursday afternoon at the Student Life Pavilion’s Plaza Mayor, the message was clear. For every bit of consumable food or beverage product, the visibly large bottle recycling display or seeing several electronic items that have long since lost their “in” status, change is here.
The desire for healthier food and drink intake, the need to reduce, reuse and recycle is overwhelmingly acceptable and, for those still trying to make sense of it all, it means there’s a need to get on board to this greater-good revolution.
“Awareness and knowledge are the first steps to creating change,” according to the parting message in a video by University of San Diego senior sociology majors Janice Johnson and Crystal Walter, is true, but what that does is provide a foundation. Many in attendance Thursday, especially the 10 finalists for the 2013-14 “Food for Life” themed Changemaker Challenge, are ready for the next steps.
The annual Earth Day celebration at USD, held two days after the worldwide homage to the environment and sustainable practices and living, offered free samples of organic foods, farm-fresh fruit, garden burgers, tofu, healthy snack chips, hummus, teas and more.
The Office of Sustainability, led by USD double alumnus Michael Catanzaro (pictured), shared the latest successes, including ways in which more people and places are spreading a message of working toward a major campus goal.
“A year ago, we focused on the theme of wasteful consumption and production,” he said. “Out of that we launched the Zero Waste Initiative. Since then, Missions Cafe has become the first dining area on campus to start composting food waste through a local farm. SOLES (School of Leadership and Education Sciences) announced its intention of becoming the first zero-waste building.”
Other highlights include the launch of a green move-out and move-in program for USD residential students; USD’s Electronic Recycling Center on the lower west side of campus has diverted more than 750,000 pounds of electronic waste from landfills; and USD continues to earn awards, such as being a bike-friendly university, having sustainable transportation programs and, recently, USD earned a gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Catanzaro transitioned to introducing Juan Carlos Rivas, assistant director of the USD Changemaker Hub, to announce the top 10 Changemaker Challenge video finalists. He gave a $2,000 Judges’ Award to Johnson and Walter for their idea to provide USD students ways to make healthier food choices on campus and to learn how to cook. The top two video vote-getters were revealed and received the bulk of the $5,000 prize money in the People’s Choice category.
Ryan Abray, a junior Business Administration major, teamed with second-year USD School of Law student Jacob Duh to spotlight and propose an initiative that requires California’s factory farms to produce basic information reporting.
“I wanted to support his idea and the research (Jacob) was doing in law school,” Abray said. “We took field trips to organic farms in Riverside and Lake Elsinore to choose the best one. Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 to 11, we’d meet to brainstorm and write up everything we needed to know (for the video).”
The duo earned $2,200 for their video, a narrative by Duh. Abray, who is a station manager for USDtv and routinely does a food segment, handled the production and marketing aspects. Abray thanked members of USD’s Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization (FUSO) for their support in helping them secure the most votes, 1,238, for the video on the Changemaker Hub Facebook page.
Runner-up Gabriella Russo, a sophomore sociology major and Italian and psychology minor, received 885 votes. She earned $1,580 for her video idea that proposes having USD students help collect and distribute food to those who are hungry and most in need in the Linda Vista community.
“I had seen reports on the news about how much food is being thrown away and it sparked my interest,” Russo said. “Specifically, I thought about the Linda Vista community and how it doesn’t have a wide range of supermarkets. I thought it would be beneficial to help those who are living in the community closest to USD. Having organizations at USD pick up food from local businesses and adding this program to community service-learning courses lets USD make a difference in the Linda Vista community.”
All finalists provided a solution for the impact that food has on our daily lives. One video project, “Rice Pollution Solution,” examined China’s rice production and how 10 percent of domestic rice is contaminated with heavy metals and polluted by soil, water and air. In some villages, China’s factories are to blame and as there has been a rise in serious health issues, including cancer.
The video submitted by students who are in multiple USD engineering disciplines — Chase McQuarrie and Clay Mosilino (mechanical), Miluska Garcia (electrical) and Abdalla Almulla (industrial and systems) — provided a feasible solution that emerged in a sustainability course taught by Industrial and Systems Engineering Assistant Professor Truc Ngo, PhD.
McQuarrie said her participation in the Changemaker Challenge and the idea that her group submitted “gave me confidence that I can make a difference; it fed the knowledge that we really can do something that can change the way people live their lives.”
— Ryan T. Blystone