Environmental Leadership Luncheon 2016

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This past Friday (April 22nd) was Earth Day! To celebrate, we hosted our yearly Environmental Leadership Luncheon at the UT Gardens. We presented our Environmental Impact Report, which can be found online here. We also unveiled the winners of this year’s Environmental Leadership Awards.

We recognized faculty member, Dr. Jiangang Chen; community member, Patience Melnik; staff member, Holly Jones; and student, Andrew Frantz. (Pictured above, left to right).

Dr. Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health here at UT Knoxville, and in addition to that, he serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and a faculty member in the interdisciplinary program of Comparative and Experimental Medicine. In the past, Dr. Chen worked with Facilities Services to help move the campus away from animal-based hand soaps to a synthetic and more sustainable option. More recently, he works closely with UT Recycling to incorporate Zero Waste ideals into his teachings.

Patience Melnik serves as the executive director of Keep Knoxville Beautiful, whose mission is to promote litter eradication, recycling, and beautification in Knox County communities – which obviously encompasses UT. She has worked with numerous UT organizations to promote these things and engage the UT Knoxville community in volunteer opportunities like litter pick-ups, trash runs, and beautification mobs. Patience truly demonstrates environmental stewardship and leads UT Knoxville toward better, more sustainable practices.

Holly Jones is the UT Gardens Kitchen Manager. She oversees the sustainable production, maintenance, and display of perennial fruit, begetable, herb, and cut flower crops. She works closely with faculty at UT to involve students in hands on experiential learning to inspire, educate, and cultivate an appreciation of plants through educational programs and research.

Andrew Frantz is a senior, expected to graduate this coming May. During his time here at UT Knoxville, he has gone above and beyond to promote sustainability on campus. As Co-Director of the SGA Environment & Sustainability Committee, he provides ideas, optimism, and energy. He is reliable, always accomplishing what he says he’s going to do. He also serves on the SGA’s Communications Committee, and used that position to raise awareness about UT environmental initiatives. He is a wonderful asset to campus, and we will be sad to see him move on!

This year we featured an all vegetarian meal. We didn’t choose to do this because a lot of our friends and sustainability champions who were in attendance are vegetarian and vegan – rather we did it for one of the many reasons environmentally conscious individuals often move to a plant-based diet: it’s one of the best ways to reduce our impact on our environment.

You can and should take shorter showers – but you should also be aware that it takes approximately 660 gallons of water to produce one quarter-pound hamburger (which equates to two months of showers). You can and should use more sustainable forms of transportation, but you should also be aware that raising livestock creates more greenhouse emissions than cars, boats, planes, and trains combined. You can and should donate and volunteer with awesome programs like the Food Recovery Network or Second Harvest, but you should also know that we could easily feed the billion of people on the planet who go hungry by collectively changing up our diets to one based more on plant-based proteins. For more information on the impact of animal agriculture, check out Cowspiracy, a documentary we screened earlier this month (currently streaming on Netflix). You can also browse their website for statistics and sources.

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