By Taylor Morain
University of Georgia students Claudia Miklosik and Avery Lumsden eat food produced more sustainably, but it comes at a cost.
Money, time, and access to sustainable products are barriers to eating with a small carbon footprint, they said. But they still both focus on eating more sustainable to reduce their waste.
Miklosik, a fourth-year psychology and geology double major said she always asks herself, “how is my dollar and my actions indirectly affecting other people.”
Because it is harder for them to eat more sustainably at restaurants, the students opt out of eating out.
“I don’t eat out very often, and when I do it’s with businesses that are supporting things that I believe in,” said Lumsden, a third-year environmental economics major. “That’s a very big personal choice that is not a feasible option for a lot of people.”
Eating out sustainably tends to be more expensive, so Lumsden and Miklosik said they choose to cook most of their meals because it is a more cost-effective option.
“Cooking all your meals is cheaper but these products that are more sustainable, better for the planet, and overall, better for humans, are oftentimes more expensive,” said Miklosik, who spends $60 to $70 a week on groceries.
Lumsden said that because of her diet, she doesn’t have to spend as much on food.
“I am not buying meat, because of that I spend the majority of my money on vegetables and grains,” Lumsden said. “Meat is very expensive.”
Both said they purchase food from grocery stores, but also go to farmers markets and have tried other sustainable options.
Lumsden said she tried Collective Harvest, a community supported agricultural initiative, but $16 a week for 3 pounds of produce was more than she was willing to spend.
Bailey Norwood, a professor of agribusiness at Oklahoma State University, advises students to eat cheap, because they shouldn’t assume anything from a smaller local farm is more sustainable.
“Usually a smaller farm is going to be less efficient and less efficient not only means it costs more, but it usually means there’s going to be higher carbon emissions,” Norwood said. “Usually the price of food reflects the amount of inputs that we use to produce the food, and the more inputs in general, the more carbon emissions.”
He said if people were still worried about being sustainable, they can offset their carbon footprint.
“And if you are just spending less on food, just take those savings that you are saving from buying less expensive food and use them to buy carbon offsets,” Norwood said.
He also recommends that students who wish to eat more sustainably and are worried about costs should check out local food pantries.
“There’s no shame in it, because we have a food system where companies get a tax deduction for sending food pantries food,” Norwood said. “Tons of food gets thrown away, especially fruits and vegetables, because people don’t like to eat it.”
UGA has a food pantry which confidentially supplies students with non-perishable items and a garden, called the UGarden, where students can pick up sustainably grown food.
Taylor Morain is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. The reporting for this article was completed before the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.