On the Menu: Georgia Tech Students Serve Sustainable Solutions with Campus Dining
By Selena Langner
June 30, 2022
Five Georgia Tech students are highlighting opportunities for campus sustainability, creating a plan to prevent up to 120,000lbs of CO2 from being emitted annually, and saving $24,000 each year in the process. The idea? Working with campus dining to reduce beef consumption, even just one day a week. Students Meredith Boswell, Ziyu Huang, Elana Lerner, Faiz Syed, and Sophia Sparks were inspired to pursue the project during the annual Classroom Carbon Reduction Challenge.
The class, EAS 3110: Energy, Environment and Society, is taught by Dr. Kim Cobb (Georgia Power Chair, ADVANCE Professor, Director of the GT Global Change Program, and UrbanHeatATL co-lead), and Dr. Jairo Garcia (Lecturer, School of City and Regional Planning). The class incorporates the Carbon Reduction Challenge as an opportunity for students to propose energy-saving solutions. During the Challenge, students work with a diverse set of organizational partners to help create a business case for sustainability. Student teams ideate, select, and drive an original project to yield effective solutions to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while saving money.
The Challenge underscores that even small, simple changes can make a lasting impact, and encourages student teams to research a project that resonates with them. “We really wanted to choose a project that would benefit Georgia Tech and the community of students,” the team said. “During our research period, we were shocked by the degree to which beef is carbon intensive, so we decided to pursue a project that would lower beef consumption.”
The student team proposed two solutions: a large-scale solution that could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 120,000 lbs. CO2 and save $24,000, and a moderate-scale solution that could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 30,000 lbs, saving $6,000 in the process. The team emphasized additional co-benefits of the project, spanning increased cardiac health, to more inclusivity for vegetarian and vegan students
To arrive at the solutions, the team worked closely with Georgia Tech dining and students to ensure that solutions were implementable and in-line with community needs. “The biggest challenge for us was determining the dietary needs and wants of Georgia Tech students,” they said. “We worked with Jordan and Dr. Cobb to create a campus-wide survey with targeted questions to ensure that our proposal reflected the needs of the student body.”
The team highlighted “the overwhelming support received through the survey” as a testament to the Georgia Tech student body as a whole- after conducting the student survey, the team reported that 87% of surveyed students were in favor of instituting “beefless Mondays” in Institute dining halls, and that 60% of students favored an even larger reduction, to four beefless days each week.
“The project showed us the power of students wanting to make tangible change,” said the Battle for the Cattle team. Using this feedback, the team drafted their Moderate and Large-Scale Solutions plans, with the Moderate plan suggesting one beef-free day per week in dining halls, and the Large-Scale plan scaling to four beef-free days in the dining hall.
The work will serve as a guiding document for Georgia Tech Dining moving forward. “It was such a pleasure teaming up with Jordan Barron, the Sustainability Specialist, who guided us throughout the semester,” the team reflected. “It was so great to learn that our project made a difference and will be a guiding force for Georgia Tech Dining going forward.”
The summer Carbon Reduction Challenge is now underway, and over 40 students statewide will work with major organizations to save carbon and money. Learn more about the Carbon Reduction Challenge at carbonreductionchallenge.org.