Conscious consumers: Oxford College focuses on sustainability of food, water

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

OXFORD -- Students and staff at Oxford College have expanded their focus on sustainability this month.

Oxford College already has implemented environmental features like high-efficient lighting, solar panels, rain barrels and other "green" features with the help of the college's Office of Sustainability Initiatives that was formed in the fall of 2006.

"Any sense of moral urgency in a world of 6.9 billion people demands that we think and act in the context of sustainability," Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen said. "Awareness of sustainability influences everything we do in Oxford College, from the curriculum to building maintenance to the food service."

This month, events are being held on campus to focus on water and fish sustainability, or the depletion of these resources from overuse.

"We want our students to become conscious consumers and know that their food choices do have an impact on the environment," said Julie Shaffer, sustainable food service education coordinator at Oxford College. "A lot of times they don't have any idea and take food for granted."

On Tuesday, students were served sushi made with sustainable seafood supplied courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Company, which was on hand to provide information about its food. Student chefs also demonstrated sushi making techniques for students.

"All fish from Alaska are sustainable," said Jann Dickerson of the company.

In Alaska, the state constitution has built into it limitations on fishing that allow for this -- there are limitations on boat sizes, when fishing is allowed and how much fishermen can take, she said.

The company often visits college campuses all over the nation to increase awareness of sustainable seafood, like certain species of salmon and crab, halibut, wild Alaskan cod and pollock and some scallops and shrimp, she said.

"It's important to reach out to students at this time in their lives," Dickerson said. "We are aiming to raise more awareness and an understanding so they will be more conscious of their decisions."

Earlier this month, the college showed a Sundance Film Festival documentary, "The End of the Line," that exposes overfishing. Bowen, a biologist whose expertise is ichthyology and fisheries management, answered student questions after the event.

On Feb. 21, the college will show the film "Trapped," a documentary that focuses on environmental and human costs of bottled water. It is sponsored by CORE, or Conservation of Oxford's Resources and Environment, a student group concentrating on environmental and sustainability issues.