Downer goes green with gardening help from SLUG

Ben Levine

This academic year, the Lawrence administration has declared “sustainability” the overarching theme. This means that as a campus community our goal is to increase efficiency and reduce our impact on the environment.
One of the most enjoyable ways to engage in sustainable behavior is by consuming locally-grown, organic food.
This year and in years past, Lawrence Dining Services has made a concerted effort to increase their offerings of local, organic food at all Lawrence dining facilities.
One of their main goals when looking for sources of food is to operate within what Director of Dining Services Patrick Niles referred to as “a circle of sustainability.”
What Niles meant by “circle of sustainability” is that LU Dining Services will prioritize their food sources based on location. First, they will look for sources within the Fox River Valley. Then, they will move on to the greater North-Eastern Wisconsin region and then on to Wisconsin as a whole. If they find a cost-effective and quality source of food within these prioritized circles, they will use it.
One of the most cost-effective sources of food has been the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden located right on the LU campus. SLUG is a student-operated, organic garden that provides produce directly to LU Dining Services at premium prices.
Since the first delivery May 21, 2008, SLUG has provided the Lawrence campus with over 2,360 pounds of organic produce. SLUG provides a wide variety of goods including beans, radishes, tomatoes, green peppers, acorn and butternut squash and a variety of herbs.
In addition to providing quality, cost-effective food for the campus, SLUG also encourages students to get involved.
Megan Bjella, a representative of SLUG, said, “It gives students the opportunity to learn first-hand how to grow their own food sustainably. I think it is of great importance that all people start to think about where it is their food comes from and the true cost of [that] food.”
Although not everyone has time to get directly involved with an organization such as SLUG, there are still opportunities to help increase the use of local, organic products on our campus.
According to Niles, one of the simplest ways to do this is to cut down on food waste when eating at LU dining facilities.
Said Niles, “If we can reduce the cost of feeding the students, we’re not going to pocket the extra money or give it back to the administration. We’re going to reinvest it in the food quality at our dining facilities.”
Bjella also encourages students to talk to the administration and LUCC about expanding the use of organic foods on our campus.
With all the work being done by Dining Services and SLUG, the year’s theme of “sustainability” may be several steps closer to becoming a reality.