Story by Harrison Dover, WVU Dining Services Communications Intern
Earth Week at West Virginia University represents many different efforts and ideals that go into making the WVU community more sustainable. From the environmental upside to the personal health benefits and more, making the choice to go vegan can have a positive residual impact on Morgantown and the surrounding community.
Going vegan is not the same as going vegetarian however, and the differentiation matters. Vegetarians’ main focus is to not consume meat; vegans don’t consume any animal products, including milk and eggs.
Animal products use a considerable amount of energy, and with just one person making the switch, that choice can save approximately 1.3 million gallons of water per year, according to vegan.org. Meat production is also one of the largest contributors toward global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the site.
Amaya Jernigan is the president-elect for West Virginia University’s Student Government Association. Jernigan hasn’t been vegan all her life, but she recently made the change in light of what worked for her body and her eating habits, as well as the impact she’d have on her community.
“For me and my process, I just feel overall better,” Jernigan said. “I started this journey a year and some change ago, so I’m pretty new to the game, but I would say that my body feels a lot better.”
Sina King, WVU campus dietitian, stressed the importance of being educated with the change one would be making going vegan, reflecting on why you should always do research to make the best informed decision.
It is important that students subscribing to a vegan or vegetarian diet are informed about these practices and seek guidance from a registered dietitian to insure they are meeting their nutritional needs. Sina King, WVU Dining Services Dietitian
“For example, meeting individual protein needs is absolutely possible while practicing veganism or vegetarianism through consuming various plant based protein options. The bioavailability (or at what rate plant based proteins are absorbed and how much) of plant protein options varies and having knowledge on how to pair complementary proteins together is important.”
Jernigan’s umbrella of responsibility in her new position runs wide, with some of her responsibilities revolving around certain sustainability measures that need to be taken in order to have an impact on our campus and community as a whole.
“We have people who are super passionate about making our campus greener and healthy and I have no doubt that they will continue these efforts throughout my entire administration.” Jernigan said.
Jernigan has already started coming up with sustainability ideas that have the potential to encourage environmental change for the better when her SGA term kicks off.
“One of the things we're talking about right now is maybe getting a reusable cup out there, for incoming freshmen and other people on campus to have so that way they can use the water stations around campus. Little efforts like this to get rid of unnecessary waste on campus,” Jernigan said.
Environmental benefits are a major factor, with plant-based food being much less energy-based. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while it only takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat, according to peta.org.
If you dine on campus, there are plenty of options that are vegan or vegetarian available, with WVU Dining Services keeping in mind all preferences that students may have.
“Students might choose to subscribe to a variety of nutrition practices such as veganism and vegetarianism which could include a ovo-vegetarian diet, lacto-vegetarian diet, lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and the pescatarian diet,” King said. “While there are different nutrition considerations for each, my goal is to ensure that students are following these particular diets in a healthful way.”
Menus posted in the dining halls help those who dine vegan and vegetarian with symbols that identify if the referenced food is safe for their diet. Dining vegan or vegetarian, even for just a meal or two, could help make the environment a better place, one small step at a time.