Hannah Delea ’23 on Why Offering Locally Sourced Food Matters on a College Campus

Photo by Lynn Cody

During my time at Holy Cross, I have never seen nor heard students talking about where the food in Kimball originates while waiting in line for food. Rather, overwhelmed with various studies and focused on getting our degrees, I tend to hear my classmates chatter about upcoming work or events. Moreover, I have observed that my generation often forgets to consciously take efforts to live sustainably. As shown in this current semester, Holy Cross Dining Services had to recall the reusable containers because over 1,200 were lost (assumed to have been thrown away). Despite this unfortunate incident that could indicate that the student body is indifferent to the efforts taken by Dining to make Kimball more sustainable, I am confident that every student at Holy Cross has a general knowledge about environmental problems. For instance, my class of 2023 read The Uninhabitable Earth before entering our freshman year, which explored various environmental issues. However, I believe that the problem in making our campus more sustainable arises from a discrepancy between the knowledge the student body has about the environment and a misconception of how their individual actions ultimately affect sustainability on campus.

As a current sophomore at Holy Cross who is interested in environmental studies, I have been exploring our local food system and ways to better integrate our school into it. During my internship with the Office of Sustainability, I have observed many of my student peers lack knowledge about the effect of their actions on our food system. However, I believe that promoting more awareness of the origins of food would encourage my peers to take action. While working with the Office of Sustainability, I have focused my efforts on bringing awareness to local food at Kimball. I aim to show my fellow classmates that the food we eat impacts the local food system.

Close up of tomato and white cheese salad
Photo by Lynn Cody

Dining Services sources at least 20% of its food and beverage products from local sources. Yet, do students think about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it was made, or how it even got to Holy Cross? I do not blame students for this oversight, but rather see this as an opportunity to expand conversations around food sourcing. I am blessed to live in a time of convenience where I can avoid thinking about sourcing, but this luxury does not come unscathed. The increased carbon footprint that comes with the transportation of food itself, being one major negative consequence of sourcing food from distant areas. For example, Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews (2008) estimate that roughly 11% of food’s lifecycle carbon emissions comes from its transportation. Recognizing the negative environmental impact of food transportation, I have begun collaborating with Dining Services to expand awareness around local sourcing at Holy Cross. Did you know that we buy from the Worcester Food Hub and had community members involved in its formation? Buying from this local source reduces the amount of mileage that our food travels from the farm to our plates, consequently reducing Holy Cross’s carbon footprint.

There are so many more ways in which Holy Cross as an institution can become more sustainable, and it is these small steps that eventually add up and lead to a wave of change. With my work, I hope to inspire a change in my fellow classmates to understand their individual effects on the environment and to act in ways that are more sustainable. A simple first step you can take is to make efforts to consume locally sourced food. Whether on or off campus, I challenge you to find out where your ingredients come from. If you are on campus, Dining can share this information to help guide your efforts. If you are at home, you can quickly check the produce label at grocery stores. After all, our generation is the future, and we will have to find a way to adapt to modernization in a way that simultaneously protects the quickly changing environment, and eating local food is one easy way to help.

Monica Martinez ’21 on the Logic of Externalities

The first topic of my Political Economy course, taught by Professor Justin Svec, explored the logic behind externalities. An externality occurs when one agent’s action affects the welfare or profit of another agent. There are both positive and negative externalities where positive externalities raise some other agent’s welfare (or profit) and negative externalities lower them. The problem with externalities is that the acting agents do not internalize the full costs or benefits of their actions leading to the socially inefficient equilibrium. More specifically, positive externalities are under produced while negative externalities are over produced.

Thinking in terms of sustainability and our life at Holy Cross, this simplified example of a student bringing a reusable thermos to Cool Beans will show how a positive externality is under-produced.

Benefits Costs
Reduce your consumption of single use cups, lids, and straws Having to carry the thermos around campus
Reduces the waste Holy Cross produces Having to rinse out the thermos after each use

Individuals behave optimally by setting their private benefit equal to their private cost. In this case, the student would fail to internalize the benefit of the reduction in waste for Holy Cross. Thus, the student’s cost of bringing a reusable thermos outweighs the benefits leading the student to choose not to bring a reusable beverage container to Cool Beans.

Shifting gears to negative externalities, I have outlined a simplified example of a student choosing to litter to show how a negative externality leads to overproduction. In this example, the student fails to internalize the cost to the greater Holy Cross community. That being said, the student’s private benefit is equal to their private cost leading the student to choose to litter instead of walking to a trash can.

Benefits Costs
Easier than walking to a trash can You see a dirtier campus
Every other student sees a dirtier campus

There are multiple interventions that college campuses can implement to help the community reach the socially optimal equilibrium. These interventions include command and control and Pigouvian tax/subsidy. Command and control can occur when the college administration mandates a certain level of production. One example of this is if the college were to limit the take out containers that the cafes on campus were allowed to use. In doing so, students might be nudged to bring their own reusable containers. College administration can implement Pigouvian taxes or subsidies that match the size of the negative or positive externality. Similar to Pigouvian subsidies, our very own Cool Beans has implemented various efforts to incentivize students to bring their own reusable thermos. These efforts include discounting drinks when students bring their own beverage container and selling reusable thermoses for students to use.

Recognizing the added benefits of a positive externality and the extra costs of a negative externality, I hope that we can make the conscious effort to produce more of the good and lessen the costs we impose on our environment. Let us work together to reduce our waste, reuse our beverage containers, and recycle our clean bottles, plastics, paper, and cardboard.

Raphaella Mascia ’21 on ‘Complications of the Climate Change Narrative within the Lives of Climate Refugees’

What motivated you to explore the narrative around climate refugees?
I had a seminar about refugees and narratives through the Honors College. Our final paper was focused on connecting refugee narratives with our majors, and because I am an Environmental Studies major, climate refugees seemed the most relevant way of connecting the seminar topic with my major. In general, I am passionate about climate change communication and had recently read papers about climate change as a narrative so I had that in the back of my mind when trying to decide on the focus of my final paper.

Why should individuals working in and studying sustainable development consider the narrative surrounding climate refugees?
A key idea I found in my research is the difference between the dominant climate change narrative and other climate change narratives. And, by narratives I mean the ways in which climate change is widely discussed and thought about. The dominant climate change narrative is espoused by, for lack of a better word, the elite (highly educated, wealthy, etc.). Because this is the dominant narrative, we often consider this dominant narrative as ubiquitous, as if this dominant discourse is the only one that exists. Sustainable development is a field led by NGO’s, governments, researchers, etc. and these groups often fall within this “elite” category. They tend to have money and are led by highly educated people. They also often adhere to this “dominant narrative” and their policies can mirror this dominant narrative. However, this way of understanding climate change and its effects is not how all communities perceive climate change. By considering other narratives outside of the dominant climate change narrative, sustainable development leaders acknowledge that this “dominant” perception of “reality” is not the only perception and then can act accordingly. The goals of sustainable development largely work with communities most impacted by climate change, therefore, when establishing sustainable policies and practices, sustainability leaders must not only consider the perspective of those who create the policies, but also the perspective of those the policies and practices are supposed to serve. By considering other narratives outside of the dominant climate change narrative, sustainable development leaders acknowledge that this “dominant” perception of “reality” is not the only perception and then can act accordingly. For instance, sustainable development policies could then be more tailored or fine-tuned to better serve a specific community’s needs.

Do you have any advice for students looking to publish an article?
Look to your professors for help. My professors from the seminar, Professor Sweeney (English) and Professor Rodgers (Anthropology), were extremely encouraging about my efforts to publish the paper. They gave further edits to my article and detailed the first steps towards publishing such as how to find the right journal at which to submit my article.

Aside from working with the Professor, if you want to publish an article create an action plan. Think about what are the concrete steps you need to follow to get an article published and do your best to follow them.

Mascia, R. (2020). Complications of the Climate Change Narrative within the Lives of Climate Refugees: Slow Causality and Apocalyptic Themes. Consilience, (22), 31-38. https://doi.org/10.7916/consilience.vi22.6741