Anything but CulinArt

Last week, while reading an article in The Echo about potential dining services presenting to Colby, I was shocked to read that a representative of CulinArt, when asked about company-wide sustainability initiatives, “claimed that they are [sustainably] agnostic, and will meet that metrics that the college wants them to meet, even if they are not universally applied standards for the company.” This means that the company does not have any concrete, company-wide environmental and sustainability initiatives. Climate change is one of the most pressing international issues. Agnosticism is not an option. If Colby were to select CulinArt as the new dining service, we would compromise our commitment to the environment by supporting a company that does not hold itself to the same level of morally responsible environmental stewardship.

On March 22, 2016, The New York Times released an article stating that drastic climate change will occur in decades, not centuries. Such drastic climate change will result in killer storms and the drowning of most of the world’s coastal cities. “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control,” one climate scientist said. The scale and the pace of the climate problem is too large to practice agnostic behavior. Action is essential.

In selecting a new dining service, we, as a college, have the opportunity to lead by example. Food production and sourcing plays a major role in global warming. Mass meat-production has proven to be one of the major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, and modern practices of crop and meat-raisng contribute directly to water and air pollution. Additionally, the shipment of food across the country also increases fuel expenditure. Eating locally-sourced and organic food (food made without chemicals that are harmful to the environment) are key steps in working towards a more sustainable, environmental culture. By selecting a dining service fully committed to organic and locally-sourced food, Colby would powerfully underscore is commitment to sustainability by financially backing a company that mirrors that commitment. Inversely, if we choose CulinArt as our next dining service, we financially back a company that contributes to global warming through inaction on our generation’s most pressing issue.

Bon Appétit, if selected, plans to source 20% of food locally. Sodexo’s presentation to the college included a segment by Barton Seaver, the Director of Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Harvard School of Public Health. If selected, Sodexo plans to source 30% of food locally by 2020. Additionally, the webpages of both dining services feature concrete sustainable initiatives.

In contrast, CulinArt’s sustainability page reads, “while we understand that preparing delicious food that delights the senses is the core of our business, we also need to be financially, environmentally, and socially responsible…we recognize and work with the different needs, capabilities, and resources across different geographies and clients.” The language utilized emphasizes the flexibility of the company, and their openness to sustainable initiatives. However, this is not enough. Bill McKibben, in an address to the College two weeks ago, discussed how traditionally, the best method of change is actually through the education and evolution idea modeled on CulinArt’s webpage. “However,” he continued, “our problem is we had to start 25 years ago if we were going to get ahead of this curve.” In the fight against global warming, we lost valuable time and cannot afford slow evolution. To combat global warming, we need an immediate, strong commitment to environmentalism.

Colby is a national environmental leader among colleges. In 2013, we became the fourth college in the entire country to achieve carbon neutrality. 14 of our buildings have achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications. The Environmental Studies Program is one of the most popular majors. This year, our humanities theme, Human/Nature, culminated in a three day conference that brought together influential scholars, writers, performers, and politicians to discuss and ultimately find solutions to economic and conservation challenges faced by the world. We have shown our commitment to do everything within our power to fight against global warming, and we need a dining service provider that is a leader in sustainability and 100% partnered with us in fighting, to borrow Bill McKibben’s words, “this epic battle.” Unfortunately, CulinArt will not fit the bill.