The SCoPE 2035 Rally for Affordable Housing: There is No Sustainable Stanford without Affordable Housing and Sustainable Transportation Efforts
By Spencer Robinson
Let’s get to the point directly – what does affordable housing have to do with sustainability? Indeed, when Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable (SCoPE) 2035 spearheaded their rally of 100+ of us Stanford students in front of City Hall to demand Stanford be held accountable to build the maximal amount of affordable housing – sustainability was not part of the rhetoric of the speakers (Stanford Daily) . Though the Conditions of Approval for the General Use Permit also included specifications for protections of the foothills, traffic mitigations and environmentally sustainable transportation options, singling out those as the sustainability issues instead of focusing on housing issues would reinforce the harmful binary that divides those who advocate for environmental issues and social justice issues. I’m writing to articulate my view that housing justice, particularly in the Bay Area, should be a focus of those also committed to environmental justice.
In the world of the UN, non-profits and international development, the definition of sustainability has repeatedly been cited from the Brundtland Report: “"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without –“ wait a second (Our Common Future). Let’s stop there. Often it appears that mainstream environmentalists focus solely on future impacts of climate change, air pollution, ecosystem destruction without consideration of equity now. Let’s do a realty check now and focus on current inequities – needs of the present – that will only worsen with climate change and further urbanization.
Anyone will tell you that the Bay Area is the most expensive housing market in the country. With 5.4 new jobs added for every new unit of housing from 2011 to 2017 its easy to see how the dreamy economic growth of the Silicon Valley tech has translated into nightmarish problems of an affordable housing shortage. And with Stanford as a jobs producing research institution as well as a major place of recruiting for these tech companies we are right in the thick of this.
Though Stanford’s efforts to go 100% solar by 2021 and zero waste by 2030, show commitment to environmental sustainability, these metrics-oriented efforts which rely on huge investment in infrastructure and behavior change don’t absolve the university of responsibility for other aspects of its impact. If we consider the environment as where we “live, work, play and eat” (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/env.2009.0001# ) we need to consider how Stanford has chosen to think about its impact in terms of working, transportation and housing options for workers.
SCoPE 2035 has worked extensively with SEIU 2007 (the labor union for workers campus), who have many members that have to commute several hours from where they can afford to live to where they work at Stanford. They have done several teach-ins to engage the student population with current issues with Stanford’s unwillingness to mitigate its impact on the ways in which it is exacerbating the housing crisis. With affordability at such a crisis, Stanford’s plans of expansion, bringing in more scholars, graduate students, and workers of all pay grades, we will continue to drive up demand for housing in the area fueling gentrification sometimes even by graduate students who can’t afford to live anywhere but lower priced housing nearby. This means that graduate students by lack of choice and lack of on-campus housing end up renting lower cost housing and competing with workers on campus. Stanford has challenged affordable housing ordinances (https://www.stanforddaily.com/2018/12/20/stanford-sues-santa-clara-county-for-targeted-housing-ordinance/) and most recently withdrew from the general use permit which would’ve required Stanford to build more affordable housing with its plan to add 2.275 million more square feet of buildings.
Though some may separate housing justice and labor rights from environmental issues these issues are all inextricably linked. Thinking simply in terms of carbon emissions from employee travel. Long commutes for workers not only takes away from time they’re able to spend with their families but also contributes to the greenhouse gases Stanford is responsible for. Additionally, workers that are hired as contract laborers without full benefits on’t get access to Caltrain passes that subsidize lower carbon transportation. Additionally, if we think about Stanford and the Dish and surrounding areas as areas with great access to natural outdoor spaces, keeping Stanford housing expensive and exclusive to students, faculty and higher paid staff contributes to the inequities around access to outdoor space.
On a broader scale, from my personal perspective we have to think about weighing our priorities. How can we think about fighting the global problem of climate change for the “future of mankind” if we don’t even care about “present struggles of people in our own community”? How can we envision a sustainable world without envisioning a sustainable community in our own locality? Knowing that communities of color, low-income communities, women, the developing world, the elderly and people with disabilities will be most effected by climatic change, how can we pretend to decouple environmental sustainability from pervasive issues of income-inequality, racism, classism, etc.
All I’m trying to say, is that if the guiding principles in the Stanford vision are to “ promote public welfare by exercising influence on behalf of humanity” we need to think about our own backyard first.
By Charlie Hoffs
No one shows up at Arrillaga Late Night to save the world. Still—our choices at the buffet line have an impact on the planet.
Trying to eat less meat is one of the most powerful individual actions we can take for the planet. You don’t have to go vegan to make a difference; every step counts. There are many levels of impact:
Cutting out beef:
Forgoing just one hamburger saves as much water as a three hour shower  , as much carbon-dioxide equivalent as a 90 mile drive  , and enough calories of grain to feed someone for 15 days  .
When you swap beef for pork and poultry, you reduces your diet’s GHG emissions by 14% and land use by 14% .
Going vegetarian reduces your food-related GHG emissions by 49% , water use by 36% , and land use by 48% .
A vegan diet releases 61-73% fewer GHGs and uses 76% less land than a diet including meat and dairy .
As students, our choices have a multiplier effect. Consistent trends in student preferences signal to dining hall staff that demand is shifting. R&DE (Residential and Dining Enterprises) is closely attuned to what students are and are not eating. If 100 more students choose falafel over chicken this month, they’ll order less chicken next month. As students, we have the unique opportunity to drive demand for more sustainable, plant-based food on campus. Every time we fill up our plates, we can choose to make a positive impact on the planet.
Stanford is one of the easiest places to experiment with flexitarianism, vegetarianism, and even veganism. Dining hall menus are about 80% vegetarian, and 50% vegan . Still, our food habits can be some of the most difficult to change. The key is going step by step. Take it slow and enjoy the process: going vegan at Stanford is fun and delicious!
Here are some tips to send you off on your plant-based college journey:
Before taking anything off the menu, start by adding new vegan dishes you love. Try something new at the dining hall—kimchi tofu stir fry, chipotle black bean chili, chickpea curry, falafel, hummus, pita, a bean and rice burrito, or some classic roasted sweet potatoes. Check the Stanford Dining Facebook page to find out when you can look forward to your favorite meals (https://www.facebook.com/stanforddining).
If you’re craving a juicy plant-based burger, grab an Impossible Burger at TAP. In fact—you can find Impossible Burgers at 9 different restaurants within a 2 mile radius of campus!
My personal faves are vegan Cookies and Cream from Salt and Straw or Soy Mint Chocolate Chip at CREAM.
Merely cutting out beef has a huge impact. Swapping for chicken or fish slashes your environmental footprint and can help ease the transition off red meat. Or, if you find yourself at the hamburger bar, try a quinoa burger. Beef entrees usually don’t take center-stage in Stanford dining halls for sustainability reasons, so you might be surprised how easily you forget this craving.
Many of your favorite breakfast foods might be vegan—by accident! A bowl of oatmeal with some brown sugar and nuts. Toast with peanut butter and heaping bowl of fruit. Hash browns. Potatoes. A bowl of cereal with almond milk. A green smoothie. It’s easy to switch over to vegan breakfasts; you might be doing it already.
Give it a test run and see how you feel. Let go of any commitment anxiety and treat it like a self-experiment. During your test run, ask yourself what you like and how it makes you feel.
(P.S. The only supplement you need to take is B12; it’s the only vitamin that’s difficult to find in plant-based foods. Other than that, a vegan diet gives you all the nutrition you need!)
Four years ago, I tried what I thought would be one month of pescetarianism. One thing led to another and now I’ll be vegan for my whole life.
Good luck—you’ve got this! Your plant-based choices will have a far-reaching impact on campus sustainability and the planet. You are doing your health a tremendous favor. You are saving animal lives. You are part of a movement.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think about veganism? Eating plant-based in college? Do you have any tips for eating green at Stanford? Please email email@example.com with your follow-up questions or comments.
Here is a graphic which exemplifies how much water is used in the production of beef:
By Ryan Treves
At the end of summer, I moved out of my apartment in Monterey. Carrying a backpack, pillow, and an ancient, fraying suitcase, I hailed an Uber to the airport. My driver, Will, and I began talking about his salmon fishing experience and the runs in Alaska. When I described my desire to fight climate change and find solutions for a more sustainable future, he responded, “You know it’s not going to happen, right?” I took a breath, mentally reeling. I wanted to tell Will why I was hopeful, what sustainability meant to me, and how he could make a difference. Yet I experienced a familiar wave of agitation as I realized we had maybe half a minute to talk before parting ways forever. The opportunity to share my thinking felt at once exciting (“what an impact I could have!”), and nearly hopeless (“what impact could I have?”). I was forced to leave my vision of a sustainable future and how we could cooperate to get there with Will, half-formed and hastily described.
Later, as I moved to the TSA rhythm of laden footsteps and whirring machines, I thought about where I might have started if I hadn’t felt the pressure of time. A simple approach to defining a sustainable future is to brainstorm the characteristics of such a future: I believe decision-making in a perfectly sustainable system is conscious, collaborative and equitable; is focused on both short- and long-term goals; and leads directly to implementation of change. Decisions are informed by interdisciplinary science, minimize waste and economic inequality, and acknowledge the sustainability of land relationships and coexistences fostered by First peoples. In a sustainable future, natural areas serve two purposes: to increase the chances of survival for imperiled species and ecosystems, and to enhance the connections felt between people and their natural environment (the latter accomplished in concert with an expansion of urban ecology education and interaction initiatives). As a result, current trends of biodiversity loss, climate change, and broader injustice abate. Such a future would be marvelous.
However, this visionary approach invites criticism: does it, under the guise of ‘futurism,’ merely collect ideals too vague to foster action and too lofty to inspire reflection on our imperfect present? Perhaps a better strategy to defining a sustainable future is to list, instead, its preclusive factors all-too-real in our current system. I would argue that a sustainable future means the substantial reduction of, in no particular order: political partisanship, corporate lobbying power, and political polarization; poverty and violence; a growth-obsessed, extractive macroeconomic system; lasting wounds of past social injustice; ongoing hegemonic systems of racial and patriarchal oppression; and a codified preference for the status quo. “If academics ceased filling books and lecture halls with romantic ideas of a utopian sustainable future and focused instead on reversing these roadblocks,” an activist might say, “we might find ourselves much closer to understanding said future.” Yet this alternate approach has its drawbacks: hearing only the many protracted challenges we face in pursuing sustainability can be overwhelming. It can breed cynicism and despair, and cloud one’s view of the incredible potential humans have to collectively pursue change. Beyond personal effects, statements like “In a sustainable future, politicians would stop subsidizing the oil and coal industries” can serve more to drive people apart than to galvanize cooperation.
To further complicate things, neither of the two approaches – defining sustainability by what it could be, or defining it by the obstacles we’ve created to achieving it – will succeed if they do not address the pervasive misconceptions attached to the modern environmental movement. Three key misunderstandings, created intentionally and inadvertently in our society, prevent listeners from considering a sustainable future. First, sustainability is often misunderstood as a philosophy of spartan minimalism. While transitions toward more sustainable practices often involve cutting excess consumption, sustainability isn’t about asceticism: its proponents are not suggesting, say, eating the least amount of food possible and traveling only when absolutely necessary. Rather, they suggest swapping some foods and some modes of transportation for others. Second, sustainability is misunderstood as an approach that is unreconcilable with the goal of economic growth. This is untrue: while sustainable systems will never prioritize profits above all else (unlike current capitalist frameworks), their solutions regularly offer profound opportunities for economic growth. One has to look no further than the jobs created from a burgeoning solar power industry or the increased crop yields from agroforestry to glimpse the potential of sustainable business. In fact, examples of growth-enhancing sustainability opportunities abound: retrofitting, wind power, intercropping, biogas stoves, ecotourism, urban ‘greenification,’ and public transit have all been shown to bring economic advantage. Perhaps most pernicious, however, is the idea that pursuing a sustainable future means embracing draconian governmental regulation. Since the baseless association between communism and the environmental movement in the mid-20th century, special interests have peddled the notion that environmental regulations designed to protect the ecosystems that we rely on are really a slippery slope to totalitarianism. While this inflammatory way of thinking isn’t pervasive today, its influence persists when climate scientists endure ad-hominem attacks or an endangered species is hunted to the brink in the name of defending individual freedoms. Unless we proactively fight misunderstandings about the substance, logistics and roots of sustainability, our ideas about a sustainable future will fall largely on deaf ears.
Put together, the tasks of describing a sustainable future and ensuring your language isn’t misconstrued comprise a communication challenge. This challenge presents itself at every scale, from hallway conversations with friends to banquet hall addresses at the United Nations. It is why “What does sustainability mean to you?” is a question I answer differently every time, and a question I routinely ask others. Despite this challenge, we must grapple with the intricacy of communicating sustainability because we all need to be able to talk with others about why we care. I don’t know if Will held any misconceptions about the philosophy or potential of pursuing sustainability. I don’t know if he would have listened more to a dream-like description of a sustainable future or one mired in the issues of today – or even if he would have listened at all. What I do know is that I want to prepare for next time.
By Richard Coca
“Hey hey ho ho fossil fuels have got to go.”
As I walked down to Palo Alto’s City Hall, I heard a familiar chant that made my ears perk up at first listen. The day was September 20, but more importantly, it was the day of the Global Climate Strike. A culmination of multiple climate justice movements, the Global Climate Strike sought to show to the world that climate justice advocates come in many sizes, ages, cultures, and from almost every place on our collective planet.
Kids from toddlers to high school students were among the crowd and quite frankly, they were the ones who really made me smile and gave me hope. One young student was also given the microphone during the event and made a passionate argument for the adoption of the Green New Deal. While opponents of the Green New Deal might have you believe that such a policy would be too difficult for a child to understand, this student made it clear: our planet can’t afford inaction.
Among the crowd were also student activists working with Sunrise Movement. Many of them brought with them megaphones that allowed them to lead chants. Others brought signs expressing their support for the Green New Deal.
As I heard one of them lead a “fossil fuels have got to go chant,” I was reminded that organizing for climate action extended beyond just the global strike. That chant reminded of when Fossil Free Stanford lead a protest and rally in order to get Stanford to divest from fossil fuels. It reminded me that there are many organizations on campus working to make sure Stanford does its part.
To make it clear, organizing for climate justice is a long-term commitment. It means not only centering the environment and ways to mitigate the climate crisis. It means centering indigenous voices, Black voices, the voices of people and color, and the voices of most marginalized who have been and will continue to be disproportionally affected by the climate crisis.
By Julia Simon
In your first few weeks at Stanford, there is already so much to take in. Between figuring out classes to take, navigating which clubs to join or what programs to get involved in, and managing life at Stanford, there’s a lot to learn quickly and lots of avenues to explore, especially when it comes to sustainability on campus. Stanford aims to lead college campuses in efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, including becoming 80% carbon free by 2025 and achieving zero waste by 2030 among other goals for greater energy, water, and resource conservation. This blog post details many of the ways we can support these goals as students, engage in the process of making Stanford an even more sustainable place, and learn how to lead sustainable lives in the future. While this is not a comprehensive list of all the ways to support sustainability on campus, it’s a great place to start!
The easiest ways to engage in sustainability on campus involves practices in your dorm. Every room is equipped with recycling bins, and each dorm has some central location. It’s essential to learn how to properly sort your paper, plastic, and other wastes to help minimize the amount of waste Stanford sends to landfills. The Stanford Recycling Center uses this great graphic to detail what trash goes in which bin. Generating less waste helps meet that goal, too. Buying Tupperware and reusable cups and dishes to store food or secondhand books or clothes and donating any surplus you can help to reduce how much waste we landfill.
There are a number of little things you can do to conserve energy and water. Unplug cords and appliances when you’re not using them. Try just to wash clothes when you have a full load and use cold water. Think before you print and try to use the backs of old papers when you can. Not only do all of these small actions help reduce your footprint, but you can even get rewarded for many of them on My Cardinal Green. My Cardinal Green is a platform created as a part of the Sustainable Stanford effort to promote ways to participate in Stanford’s sustainability efforts. You can sign into the site, take a survey that will help determine which sustainability actions best align with your lifestyle on campus, and then you can begin completing suggested actions. Once you complete the actions and submit them with any relevant documentation, you can earn points, and for every 100 points you gain, you can redeem your choice of $75, a sustainability-related item or experience, or an equivalent charitable donation. So it pays to live sustainably on campus, too.
RD&E has published a great guide for sustainable living that is also worth checking out, as it lists ways to engage in sustainability in your room, around campus, and beyond:
Besides day-to-day sustainable actions, there are clubs, programs, and events you can participate in to learn more about sustainability and promote it on campus and beyond. Here are some sustainability-related clubs:
• Students for Sustainability: We are one of the largest sustainability-related groups on campus that aims to strives for long-lasting sustainable practices on and off the Stanford campus through discussion, engagement, and direct action.
• Engineers for a Sustainable World: ESW strives to improve the quality of life in underserved communities through building partnerships with those who share their vision and developing the necessary perspectives and skillsets.
• Stanford Farmers: Stanford Farmers aims to increase community involvement in the campus farm to connect people to their food and food system, particularly through experiential learning.
• Stanford Gleaning Project: At the intersection of food equity and sustainability, the Stanford Gleaning Project harvests excess fruit from the Stanford campus for donation to underserved populations in the Bay Area.
• Stanford Oceans Society: Stanford Ocean Society is a community of students wishing to support interests in oceans related issues through social events, networking, arts projects, and other extracurricular activities.
• Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS): SEEDS is dedicated to ecological education. They teach local high school students about ecology, bring students to Jasper Ridge, and hold an annual Bio Blitz at Lake Lagunita.
Sustainability in the Classroom
Over the years, SSS has compiled some of our members’ favorite sustainability classes. Since sustainability is a multi-disciplinary topic, these classes span several departments and cover a wide variety of sustainability topics. Whether you’re new to the sustainability world or not, classes from this list are well worth squeezing in to your four-year plan.
• CHEMENG/ENGR 25E: Energy: Chemical Transformations for Production, Storage, and Use
• CS 325B: Data for Sustainable Development (EARTHSYS 162, EARTHSYS 262)
• GSBGEN 335: Clean Energy Project Development and Finance
• EARTHSYS 160: Sustainability Cities (URBANST 164)
• PWR 194EP: Topics in Writing & Rhetoric: Introduction to Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Gender and Place (CSRE 132E, EARTHSYS 194, URBANST 155EP)
• EARTHSYS 114: Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Diseases (EARTHSYS 214, ESS 213, HUMBIO 114)
• CS 50: Using Tech for Good
• HISTORY 203C: History of Ignorance
• EARTHSYS 243: Environmental Advocacy and Policy Communication
• CEE 107A: Understanding Energy (CEE 207A, EARTHSYS 103)
• BIO 105A/B: Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (EARTHSYS 105A/B)
• BIO 30: Ecology for Everyone
• AFRICAAM 241A: Gentrification (CSRE 141, URBANST 141)
Whether you decide to participate in My Cardinal Green, join a sustainability-focused club, or take a class on a new topic, you’ll be well on your way to learning how to balance sustainability in your own life and career. We hope you’ll share all you learn with us over the years!
Welcome to our blog!
This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.