A Sustainable Thanks-gif-ing

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope y’all are enjoying the bounty of everything for which you can be thankful– friends, food, no classes.  As you all know, my goal this year was to have a sustainable Thanksgiving.  I stayed on campus, so transportation wasn’t really a big deal, allowing me to focus on making sustainable food choices.  I decided to try something radically new and make my own tofurkey.

Confession: I didn’t really know what I was doing.  Not a clue.  So I just threw some things together because making things up as you go along is great and never, ever ends poorly.  Nope.

funny (14571) Animated Gif on Giphy

The whole time it cooked, I was watching nervously.

My mom actually called while I was cooking to wish me a happy Thanksgiving.  She asked how I was celebrating, and I explained that my day consists of staring at the oven as if my observation will somehow affect the cooking process, and obsessively turning the oven light on every five minutes to check the progress.  “You could have just bought a pre-made one,” my mother pointed out.

How it turned out:

Phil Dunphy

I also mentioned I’d be sharing, to help prevent any waste.  When I told my friend Brandon that he, being the lucky, lucky man that he is, got to enjoy some lip-smacking tofu turkey, he wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect.  But he, being the really, really good friend that he is, agreed to try it anyway


For a self-professed carnivore, he actually thought it was pretty okay.  (The fact that he ate a whole slice means he doesn’t get to knock it.)

Of course, the roasted squash, which I stuffed with barley, and the baked butternut slices turned out delicious (and even my omnivorous friend agreed with me here).

So in the end, Thanksgiving dinner turned out just fine.

Bill Cosby Hoagie

…And tofu totally turns into pumpkin pie!

Mind Blown

Hope your day was as exciting (and sustainable) as mine!

Ice Cube Good Day

all images from reactiongifs.com, excepting the first, from giphy.com


Author: Charlotte Humes


Butternut Chips and Thanksgiving Internet Surfing

Since we don’t have to worry about three problem sets, two exams, a CS project, a presentation, a research paper, and the other eight million things we do each week, I present for your viewing pleasure– cool Thanksgiving-related sustainability things online!  We’re all going to spend the next five days on the internet anyway, might as well learn something while we’re at it.

  1. On the note of not throwing away plastic cups/plates/utensils this year: http://www.upworthy.com/i-think-i-m-supposed-to-be-turned-on-by-this-but-i-m-super-grossed-out-instead
  2. Thanksgiving could be better: http://www.upworthy.com/take-this-advice-to-feel-more-grateful-and-less-gross-on-thanksgiving
  3. Traveling by plane to get home? Farmers’ Markets may be a new airport fast food option: http://www.sustainableamerica.org/blog/new-meaning-for-airplane-food/

As for actual Thanksgiving preparations:  Wegman’s does a pretty good job of staying local when possible so I decided to pick up my fixings there, and Sunday I hopped on the University of Rochester Green Line and rode over to Pittsford Plaza.  Sticking with the theme of “food that makes sense” I saw some delicious looking apples and organic butternut squash, and decided to build my dinner around them.  I’ll be trying baked butternut “chips”:

Slice the neck of a butternut squash into 1/8″ pieces, place in boiling water and let sit for 2 min.  Drain the water, spread on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and brush with olive oil (you can add salt, herbs, or parmesan cheese if you’d like).  Bake at 375 degrees until brown and crispy, roughly 15-20 min.  (I’ll slice the rest of the squash in half and roast it, because as we all know, waste is bad!)

Safe travels to everyone headed home today!


Author: Charlotte Humes


Waste Not, Want Not

It’s a little ironic: Thanksgiving, according to the nice tale we tell this time of year, started after our nearly-starved-to-death forefathers (and foremothers) made it through winter.  It was a celebration that they had enough food to survive, food which would have been incredibly precious to them.  Today, to celebrate, we gorge ourselves on food one day and the next, throw half of it away.

I tried really hard to find good statistics on Thanksgiving specific waste, but estimates varied widely.  In general, 40% of food produced in America never even reaches consumers and of the food which does, an additional 25% goes to waste.  And almost everyone agrees that this number is higher on Thanksgiving.

Beyond the questionable morals of such waste (the food wasted each day is enough to feed 80 million people, according to the New York Times), there’s an obvious environmental impact.

  1. Agricultural expansion is the largest threat to forests and is responsible for 70% of deforestation.  We can minimize this expansion by minimizing waste.
  2. Food in landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
  3. Over 80% of the water used in the US goes to food production.  Food waste is water waste–throwing away half a hamburger, for example, wastes the same amount of water as you would’ve used showering for over an hour.

See if you can prepare enough food without being excessive, and find good ways to use your leftovers.  Send them home with guests.  Eat them for lunch the next day (and the day after that, and the day after that…).  Feed your pet dragon (dragons love cranberry sauce).  If you do have to get rid of food, try composting it!  I’ll be halving all my recipes and feeding anyone else on campus, so hopefully that keeps me from having to throw anything out.  Regardless of what you’re serving for Thanksgiving, one of the best things you can do is try to waste less.  And really, what could be more in the spirit of Thanksgiving than being thankful enough for the food to not throw it away?


Author: Charlotte Humes

Let’s Just All Eat Pie

Everyone has a different way to finish the sentence: Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without _______.  Feel free to share your own answers in the comments section below!

To me, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without family, a fireplace, and pie… and also food that makes sense, given that it’s November and I’m in New York.  Thankfully, despite the fact that it’s already snowing and about negative five thousand degrees, there’s a cornucopia of produce still in season.  Some great choices are:

  1. Pumpkins and other winter squashes (say yes to pumpkin pie!)
  2. Broccoli and cauliflower, as well as pretty much all root vegetables (like in sweet potato pie)
  3. Pears, cranberries, and apples (mmm, apple pie)

Have I mentioned I like pie?

Fruits and veggies taste their best when consumed in season, and it means you can look for food with minimal transportation required to reach you.  Many of the classics (like cranberry sauce) are still really good choices!

Unsurprisingly, I’m baking pie.  I’ll be trying out vegan pumpkin pie:

Mix up 2 c. canned or pureed pumpkin with 3/4 c. silken tofu, add 1/2 c. sugar and season with your favorite blend of pumpkin pie spices (about 3 tsp. total).  Stir vigorously until smooth and creamy and place in your favorite crust (I’ll be honest, as a broke college student, this will be the cheapest pre-prepared graham cracker crust I can find).  Bake 40-45 min. at 350 degrees, cool before serving.

I’m pretty sure making pie is my new favorite form of environmental activism.  Good luck finding other fun ways to incorporate seasonal food into your Thanksgiving dinner!


PS: If you want to see a more comprehensive list of seasonal produce, a lovely visual guide for New York can be found at http://foodstalk.org/pdf/Growing_Season_Chart_download.pdf , and a more general list for North America is available at http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month .


Author: Charlotte Huumes

Turkey Day?

I’ve gotta say, as a vegetarian, “Turkey Day” is probably my least favorite nickname for the rapidly approaching holiday.  I’m not anti-meat– I understand the decision to eat meat and have no problem being around it.  But this zen attitude about dietary choices only works until “Turkey Day”.  Yeah, I get it, the whole day is about something I choose not to do, but do you really have to rub it in?  Maybe you should just call it “MEEEEEEAT FOR ALL TURKEY SO DELISH OMG Day!”

According to National Geographic, 736 million pounds of turkey will be basted, roasted, or fried, and served up on Thanksgiving Day.  To give a little perspective, that’s approximately the weight of the Empire State Building.

That’s a lot of turkey.

“Turkey Day” comes by its nickname honestly enough.  If only it came by its turkeys through equally honest means– today’s twenty pound turkeys aren’t natural, and meeting the demand for the concentrated, excessive meat consumption causes a lot of environmental harm.  But Turkey Day just wouldn’t be Turkey Day without the turkey, or so I hear, and thankfully you can still do a lot to be more sustainable:

  1. Over the next month, per person turkey consumption in the US will total 6 pounds.  Try cutting back a little– a smaller turkey serving will hardly be noticed at a Thanksgiving feast, especially with lots of delicious side dishes!
  2. Look for a turkey labeled “organic” and “pasture-raised”.
  3. The best thing you can do is try to get your turkey from a local farmer’s market or a store stocking local produce.  Added bonus: it’ll be fresher!

This way you can have your turkey and eat it too.  I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving next week, and in the meantime I’ll be finding and sharing recipes for a delicious, sustainable Turkey Day.


Empire State Building photocredit: http://www.beckermanphoto.com/wp-content/uploads2/empire-state-building-1136-beckermanphoto1.jpg
Statistics on Canada’s population and building masses: WolframAlpha.com
Author: Charlotte Humes

Local Foods Week: Day Five

Local Foods Week has ended, and I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed it (to quote one Rochester student on Local Foods dinner in Douglass, “Loving the food in Dougie. These mashed potatoes. THIS BUTTER.”).  It’s been a good run, with some perennial favorites (didja try the pumpkin ice cream?) and some new events (like the photo booth in Danforth).

My favorite LFW moment (narrowly beating out that Douglass butter– can we name that butter?  It deserves a name.  Jesus Butter?  Cocaine Butter?  How about Sexy Butter?) happened at tonight’s photo booth.  For those who couldn’t make it, students wrote down on a whiteboard what local food means to them or why they love it, and let us snap a photo of them with their statement ( https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.675162935835454.1073741826.394377440580673&type=1&l=19190ad1ac ).  I asked one student if he’d participate, to which he initially replied, “Sorry, but I don’t actually… well, I’ve never thought about it.  I don’t know anything about local food.  I don’t know if I’ve even had any.”  I pointed to his plate, which was full of locally produced items.  “Your dinner’s totally local!  Take a bite and you’ll be an expert.”  He ended up agreeing and wrote down for his picture that local food is delicious.  (Another favorite moment, asking someone I met during photo booth if they were a freshman, to which they said with great distress, “Oh man, is it that obvious?  You can tell because I’m still friendly, right?”  I don’t know whether to be amused or worried that apparently all upperclassmen are fated to a life of sad unfriendliness.)

Just as a reminder, LFW doesn’t really end.  Dining will continue serving local food whenever possible, and hopefully you take advantage of the opportunities to get local produce in Rochester.  And maybe if you ask nicely, Douglass will bring back more Sexy Cocaine Jesus Butter.


Author: Charlotte Humes

NYS Local Food Facts

Happy Thursday of Local Foods week! Today, my blog post is going to be on the little known facts around local food, especially here in lovely New York state.

So here are some numbers:

23%: of the state of New York is dedicated to farm land (that’s about 700 million acres).

$332 million: Estimated valued worth of the grape vines in this state.

New York State is the third biggest producer of wine after California and Washington State.

1,500: the average number of miles traveled by the food for an average dinner.

It is estimated that we release 10kcal of energy into the air from car/truck exhaust for each 1kcal we receive.

Just a few number facts to rock your world today as we continue to explore the range of local food options available to us at UR and in the city of Rochester.


Author: Rachel Sanguinetti


LFW Day 3–Where in the WORLD can I find local food in Rochester?

Since it started snowing yesterday and temperatures have dropped like a stone in a pond, I thought it was time to write about where in the world we are supposed to get local food in this city. Rochester is a lovely place but it can be quite difficult to find local food during the winter. Luckily, I have a few ideas.

Our own dining center


Yes, that’s right. You can get local food right here at U of R in ten of our dining centers. Almost 40% of the food served on campus is from local farmers and distributors and that percentage is still growing. As members of Team Green, we are always trying to find new ways to get local food for campus.

Public Market and other farmers markets: Green Line


Rochester is home to many fantastic farmers markets. These markets are open in the summer and fall when produce is most readily available. The public market is open all year long, though the amount of produce is significantly less in the winter months. Check out their website for more information: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589936780

Wegmans: Green Line

Ah, Wegmans. No other grocery store is quite like it. As a business started in Rochester, they are committed to providing local food as often as possible. Their calendar for when local food is available in their stores is linked below. It’s an option for at least part of the year.


Local Bakeries: Great Harvest Bread Company, Park Ave

Though not all of their ingredients are local, the bread is baked fresh daily in the bakery. The smell that greets you when you step through the door is worth the walk in the cold to the shop. Try their round loaves or some of their delicious pastries.

Local Cheese: Little Blu Cheese Shop, 684 South Ave, Rochester

A little farther out of the way but still fairly close, this local cheese shop carries cheese made in New York State. Yum!


Pride of New York:


For more information, check back to this blog or our Green Food blog:



Author: Rachel Sanguinetti


Local Foods Week: Day Two

Hey y’all!

Today is the second day of LFW and you should stop by Danforth from 5-8pm for a classy local foods dinner. Just say’in.

I’m sure you’ve probably been told a million and one times that you should buy locally grown.  Yesterday, we talked about what is local foods and how our the U of R defines local foods? But why should you buy local? Why should you even care? What’s the benefit to you, your community and the environment?

1. Support the Local Economy

When you buy local produce, you are directly supporting the local economy (‘local’ meaning your country, your state, your region, your town, or yourself). You’re pumping cash straight into the pockets of your local neighbors or citizens of your region; and they, in turn, are able to pump that cash back into the local economy.

2. Taste

The closer it’s grown to you, the fresher it is. And of course, the fresher the produce, the better it tastes. Since farmers often harvest their crops before they’re fully ripe, and then refrigerate them so that they don’t go bad during transportation, such produce often does not fully ripen to its full flavor as it would if it had ripened naturally. Produce loses it’s flavor and freshness at each step: during refrigeration, during shipping, and while held in warehouses along the distribution chain.

3. Nutrition

Produce loses nutritional value for the same reasons it loses its full flavor. When farmers harvest early, then those vegetables or fruits don’t have as many nutrients as they would if they had been allowed to fully ripen naturally. Plus, the further your produce has to travel to get to you, the more likely the farmers will have used irradiation, preservatives, and other chemicals to kill germs and bacteria growth, or to just make the produce look nicer, such as wax coatings.

4. Lower Cost

You can save money if you do choose to buy in-season, locally grown produce. In season produce is often being harvested in abundance at the same time in your nearby region. This means there’s a surplus, and thus, the cost goes down. Many people buy in season produce and then freeze it or can it for a later date, as well.

5. Variety

If you decide to just eat produce that’s in-season, you can anticipate a different set of foods being in season at any given time. And you will always be pleasantly excited when the harvesting season for your favorite berry or legume comes along. You may not always get to eat any food you want at any time of year, but you’ll always have a wide variety of produce throughout the year…and you may appreciate those fruits and vegetables all the more when they do come into season. This is true even if you freeze local produce during it’s peak, because not all produce can be frozen, or can’t stay frozen for too many months.

6. Smaller Carbon Footprint

The farther away your food is grown from you, the more CO2  spewed into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels in the vehicles used to carry your food to you. CO2 is one of the most significant greenhouse gases contributing to global warming and climate change–a problem which we are all a part of.

Buying local fruits and vegetables, which isn’t really even a major action, but a choice, will help the Earth tremendously. You don’t have to do anything… just make the choice to buy local produce while you’re out shopping for fruits and vegetables. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see it takes little to no effort–only thought, really.

But buying and eating local produce doesn’t require an all or nothing attitude. Being green is about being practical, not being perfect. You don’t have to buy only local produce religiously, all the time. Buy whatever amount or variety of local produce fits your lifestyle, and makes sense for you and your family. Go ahead and indulge in that favorite meal you’ve been craving, even if the ingredients are out of season. But do take the leap and start to buy local produce on an occasional, if not a semi-regular basis.

Not only will buying local produce greatly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into our atmosphere, but it will also let you feel good about yourself because you’re part of the solution, and not a part of the problem. This one, simple decision is a huge step in the right direction–and that’s something your great-great-grandchildren or grand-nieces and -nephews can write home about.


Source: sustainabletable.org


Author: Nicky Aimcharoen

Local Foods Week: Day One

Hey y’all!

Hopefully everyone on UR’s campus has already heard about Local Foods Week (LFW)!  Of course, I understand that with the bombardment of flyers, painted tunnels/rocks, chalked sidewalks, and listserve emails, it can be pretty easy to forget one of the umpteen million things advertised to you each week.  So just in case it somehow slipped your mind, here’s the dish on LFW:

Local Foods Week is held once per semester.  It showcases the commitment of Dining Services to making ethical, low-impact choices about what they purchase and serve to students, and also celebrates the delicious food produced right here in NY!  Dining purchases locally throughout the entire year, with 40% of Dining Service’s annual expenditure devoted to locally produced items; but LFW gives everyone a chance to really go all out with events like the Local Foods dinner tonight in Douglass (5-8 PM, come check it out!), where every single station will serve a dish centered around local goods.

So what is “local food”?  Campus defines “local” as anything coming from within a 200 mile radius of the University.  To help us find and obtain such things, the University of Rochester has joined with Pride of New York, a program started to encourage the use of locally grown and processed items.  Pride of New York helps connect purchasers (like us) to nearby farms and food manufacturing centers.  We were actually the first college to join in the Pride of New York program!  (If you’re interested, you can learn more about the program here, http://www.prideofny.com/PONY/consumer/viewHome.do .)

LFW, in addition to sharing delicious food, is also intended to help answer the question, “Why local?”  So why do you think local food is important?  I’m sure you can come up with a few answers of your own.  (We’ll be talking about this in tomorrow’s post, too!)  Hopefully this week helps us all remember to be conscious of what we’re eating and why we’re eating it.

Whatever reasons you found for choosing local, LFW is Dining Service’s way of saying, “Yeah, all that, we support it,” and cooking up some amazing dishes to prove it.  And now that you’re all LFW experts, you can keep checking back here for updates on how it’s going.  Here’s wishing you a delicious (and sustainable) Local Foods Week!


Author: Charlotte Humes