Sustainability?! The heck is that?

Sustainability?! What the heck is that?

The first time I heard the word was the summer before college. I got a summer job at a “green” school at a local preschool in Santa Clara called Neighborhood Christian Center. I just assumed they called it a green preschool because the school curriculum was very focused on gardening. As I started working at the preschool, little did I know I would hear the word sustainability thrown around every single day.

From age two, the toddlers learn how to collect grey water and use it to water the plants. Children at the preschool are not allowed to bring “trash in their lunches. This means that they cannot bring food in any containers that can be thrown away such as plastic bags. Children were taught the benefits of eating fruits and vegetable but meat products were allowed at lunchtime. Children were able to grow their own foods and learn different ways to enjoy the fruits and vegetables they harvested.  This environment was the first time I was ever exposed to an environment that emphasized vegetarianism.
I walked into my Critical Thinking and Writing class the first Monday of college. I saw the topic “Food Porn” and learned a little bit of what we are going to learn over the course of the two quarters. I thought to myself, “I definitely got this down, my summer job has definitely prepared me for this class.” I had planned so many events during the summer related to sustainability at my summer job. I was so sure that I knew all I needed to know  about sustainability because I had planned the World Green School Web Seminar, a web conference where different sustainability organizations come together to discuss and talk about better ways to make the world around them “greener”. Little did I know that I would learn so much that I didn’t know.

Never once at my summer job did I ever hear anything about how eating meat affects the environment around us. Day after day, I was shocked after discovering the many harmful effects it has on our health and sustainability. There are so many costs to eating meat, it affects the world around us. Coming to Santa Clara University, I realized that sustainability is a subject that is greatly overhyped. SCU’s school’s sustainability web page states, “Santa Clara University understands sustainability as finding the balance and illustrating the connections among a vibrant economy, a just society, and a healthy environment that meets all fundamental needs currently and in the future, especially those of the global poor.” (“Sustainability for SCU”). Our school strives to educate their students about sustainability by implementing sweat powered machines in Malley, but does not inform students that eating meat may not be the best option to keep our environment healthy.

Watching Cowspiracy has taught me that eating meat negatively affects the sustainability of the world around us. Eighty percent of antibiotics produced in the United States are given to farm animals, which leads to harmful effects on our environment. These farm animals produce about seven million pounds of waste per minute (Cowspiracy). Any antibiotics that have not been digested typically end up in the two trillion tons of waste that are produced from these farm animals.  The antibiotics in the waste eventually result in damaging effects, managing to enter plants, animals, and human bodies by contaminating surface water and groundwater (“Antibiotics in your meat”). There are such large amounts of  harmful antibiotics that enhance the chickens found in the seven million pounds of waste excreted per minute going into the water that we drink.

Apart from contamination, the current drought has become a major issue in California. People are advised to conserve water in ways such as taking shorter showers and making use of grey water. However, environmentalists are forgetting the big issue that growing feed for livestock uses about 55% of the water in the United States (Cowspiracy). Only five percent of the water that is consumed in the United States is used in private homes. However, fifty-five percent of the water is used for the meat industry (Cowspiracy). We are only approaching the surface of the problem by conserving the water we use at home.

I feel like Critical Thinking and Writing has truly taught me that there is so much more to sustainability than what has been taught on the surface. Many prominent figures in the world of sustainability are unaware that meat plays a huge factor in contamination of the world around us. I’m going back to the same job this summer and I cannot wait to implement and bring awareness to the topics I learned this year for the future events I plan.


Works Cited

Antibiotics in Your Meat: What’s the Big Deal? (n.d.): n. pag. Princeton University. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Andersen, Kip. “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.” RSS. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

“Sustainability at SCU.” – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Teaparty0_005. Digital image. N.p., 21 Jun. 2015. Web. 7 Jun. 2016.


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