Monday, February 8, 2010

The Big One I Never Caught

This is my inaugural blog with the purpose of discussing issues of dining at universities. I want to start off by saying that sustainability is something that we cherish and work hard to achieve continuously. For the last ten years, at the very minimum, every conference and symposium I have attended featured some sort of sustainability initiative or guide. Let me say this, “I get it” and so do other universities. The primary challenge is that we don’t often have middle ground with these issues when cost and availability are of concern. One is either doing it well or not at all.

I would like to commend one initiative that seems to have understood this challenge. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch sets the standard by which all sustainability initiatives should endeavor to achieve. Seafood has exploded in popularity on university menus due to the nutritional value and endless ways to prepare it. Universities are battling obesity, poor diets, and allergies at a higher rate than seen in the past as well. The Seafood Guide enables the operator to choose which seafood to serve based first on region then availability. For example, my guide in the South will differ from the Pacific Coast region. The method uses a simple green, yellow, and red light system. The preferable seafood is in the green and the red is considered unsustainable. The brilliance of the program is the yellow column. The Guide understands that we can’t always be in the green so if you have to purchase in the yellow that’s acceptable too. Just stay out of the red if you please!

My university has been engaging this initiative since the onset of 2009 and has been able to achieve 95% compliance. Without that middle (yellow) ground, we would be somewhere in the 80% range of compliance.

As a little boy growing up in Northern California, I fished with my Dad and Grandfather remembering even now the nostalgic effect it had upon my life. Even 30 years ago they talked about how it was getting harder to find a good fishing hole. It is time we all accept this guide as a “best practice” to ensure that we can fish with our children and be able to tell them about the “big one that got away” rather than the “one we never caught.” Good job Monterey Bay Aquarium.


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