I was given the chance to have talk to Shiva Das. Here is what she had to say…
How did you become interested in sustainability?
I stopped eating meat when I was 11 and became more involved with environmental activism and sustainability communities. One of my biggest interests in sustainability is the impact that easily incorporated lifestyle choices can have on our individual environmental footprints. As college students or younger people, it can be difficult to implement some of the changes more commonly associated with sustainable living – electric cars, solar panels, going zero-waste, and the like. However, nearly all of us are able to make a significant positive impact in our lifestyles by making “smaller” changes such as reducing our consumption of animal products and single-use plastics. I have always been interested in helping people to live more sustainably without sacrificing the comforts or convenience in their lives!
Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?
The main organization I am involved with at UCSD is the Food Cooperative (located in the Old Student Center in Muir). The Food Cooperative is a non-profit, non-hierarchical, student-run, and student-owned cooperative (one of four on campus – the others being Groundwork Books, The Che Cafe, and The G-Store). Our main goal is to provide healthy, low-cost vegan food to UCSD! Within this we also work towards combating food insecurity on campus and in the surrounding community through our donation-based free meal program.
We work towards sustainable business practices in a number of ways. By serving vegan food (and especially locally sourced products, which we aim for), we try to make it easier for people to reduce the water use and emissions associated with their food production. We use reusable dishes and encourage people to bring their own – but we also offer compostable options for on-the-go! In addition to this, we work with the folks over at Roger’s Garden to both buy produce and to compost our food waste.
Could you talk about your projects at The Food Cooperative? What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences?
My main project at the Food Cooperative is facilitating our basic needs program. I manage the operation and finances of our Pay-It-Forward fund, which allows those in need to obtain free meals, no questions asked. It is largely funded by customer donations in addition to various in-store item sales – for example, 100% of our coffee sales go towards the fund.
The most valuable thing I have gained from facilitating this program is the knowledge of available resources on campus as well as the opportunity to communicate directly with community members who may be food or housing insecure. The Hub, The Triton Food Pantry, and the Food Cooperative are all resources that I believe not enough people on campus are aware of.
Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?
Sustainability projects are important to me because while most of us agree that we have reached a critical point with environmental issues, not enough of us know what we can do to help combat them. It is easy to feel as though any positive impact of our individual choices will be drowned out by the damaging choices of large corporations – but this is not the case. Sustainability projects help remind us that environmentalism should not be about placing blame, but about doing what we can to improve our situation.
How have you been adapting to COVID-19?
Adapting to COVID-19 has been difficult between the social isolation and online classes. Thankfully, I live with roommates so I am never without company. As a silver lining, it makes sustainable choices easier since restaurant closures mean less single-use packaging and utensils. I am fortunate not to be in a high risk population or have my life severely impacted by this situation, and I truly feel for those who do. I think the most important thing to do right now is make sure to check in on each other (especially if you know someone who is quarantined alone), and if we are able, to donate to organizations like Feeding America which are helping people through this difficult time.