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:
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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.