Cowspiracy Local Style: Veganizing the University of Hawaii’s Sustainability Summit

What if you could be a positive leader in your community just by sharing your enthusiasm for the plant-based vegan solution within your immediate sphere of influence?  Each of us has the power to inspire change, and everyday heroes are doing just that in our local community, including Doorae Shin, a vegan and recent University of Hawaii graduate.

It’s been 70 years since the word “vegan” got coined, but suddenly there is momentum like never before. Restaurants scramble to accommodate meatless options, there’s an explosion of vegan products – even in mainstream grocery stores. And let’s face it, the media overflows with articles about ethical, healthy and sustainable food — and the consequences of what will happen if we continue to have a global food system largely built around producing cheap meat.

All this makes a perfect environment for change makers like you!

While enrolled at college, Doorae recognized that as a student, her sphere of influence directly included the University of Hawaii, one of the largest consumers in the state using island resources.  She involved herself in the sustainability movement on campus and eventually became the Student Sustainability Coordinator.  One of her position’s main priorities was to co-organize the annual Hawaii Sustainability in Higher Education Summit, an multi-day event that gathers almost 300 sustainability leaders from more than ten college campuses around our islands.

Doorae Shin used her influence as a student to persuade the University of Hawaii to serve all plant-based vegan meals at a large conference event they hosted dedicated to sustainability.

Doorae Shin used her influence as a student to persuade the University of Hawaii to serve all plant-based vegan meals at a large conference event they hosted dedicated to sustainability.

Doorae Shin Resolves to Make a Positive Difference

Doorae says, “I remember the meals served at the first annual Summit. Participants got a plate with a slab of meat and white rice.  If you were vegan, you got a special ticket and were served separately a piece of tofu over white rice. The fruits were conventionally-grown and imported: bananas from Ecuador and apples, which are heavily sprayed with pesticides. For an event touting sustainability in its name, I knew there was a better way to connect with local caterers and farmers to offer sustainable and ethical food.”

Photo Doorae Matt

Matt Lynch (holding certificate) and Doorae Shin (to his right) receiving the Hawaii Green Event Award from Governor David Ige for the 3rd University of Hawaii Sustainability Summit.

When first presented with the idea of a vegan UH Sustainability Summit, her supervisor, Matt Lynch, the Sustainability Coordinator, admits, “I fought her for awhile on her decision to go fully plant-based. It’s an interesting balance between continuing to push that leading edge but still engaging with people who are new to sustainability. My concern was that we don’t alienate that trailing edge because their favorite foods aren’t there.  But, because of the passion, knowledge and attention to detail that Doorae displayed, and once I saw who she was bringing to the table as chefs, I relaxed. The menu we experienced was highly engaging, and the chefs were able to transcend those barriers through the quality, taste and flavors that they brought.” *

The Chefs Behind the Food

Doorae formed a team of talented local chefs to cater a delicious vegan menu for the more than 1200 meals served at this three day conference, consisting of: Jennifer Hee from Juicy Brew, Thanh Bidwell from former Bodhi Cafe,  Madana Sundari a private vegan Chef, plus contributions from Peace Cafe and Kokua Market.

More than 1200 plant-based vegan meals were made for the University of Hawaii Sustainability Summit 2015.

More than 1200 plant-based vegan meals were served at the University of Hawaii Sustainability Summit 2015. Photo by Kara Gifford.

The Spectacular Menu

The chefs worked carefully with local farmers to source the ingredients, making every dish an educational opportunity.  Breakfasts were fare like Banana-Ulu Bread, Oatmeal Taro Power Bar, Papaya Coconut Granola Bowl, Tofu Scramble, and Local Root Vegetable Hash.

Those who didn't want the hot breakfast option of Tofu Scramble and Local Root Vegetable Hash, got to help themselves to this Oatmeal Granola Bar with local fruit and Taro.

Those who didn’t want the hot breakfast option of Tofu Scramble and Local Root Vegetable Hash, got to help themselves to this Oatmeal Granola Bar with local fruit and Taro. Photo by Kara Gifford.

Lunchtime served up Zucchini Basil Lasagna with Mac Nut Cheese, Epic Local Greens salad, Long Rice Salad with Luau Stew and Lomi Tomato.  Desserts were treats like Cassava Tapioca with Chia or Mochi Cake.  All day snacks included SKY Kombucha on tap, local fruit and Just Cookies.

Summit Food3

Lunchtime options included vegan versions of Hawaii local favorites like Long Rice Salad with Luau Stew and Lomi Tomato. Photo by Kara Gifford.

 More Environmental Groups in Hawaii Serving Vegan Food

The movement towards serving plant-based food at local community events continues to grow. The table graphic below shows four recent large-scale events on Oahu, Hawaii that fed their participants 100% vegan or vegetarian food.

There were four large Honolulu community events in the first half of 2015 that fed its participants vegetarian or vegan food exclusively.  This translates into a huge savings in water, energy and land resources for food production along with a prevention of unnecessary cruelty to animals and detrimental effects to health. These groups  are expressing their  commitment to environmentalism and health of the people and the planet.

There were four large Honolulu community events in the first half of 2015 that fed its participants vegetarian or vegan food exclusively. This translates into a huge savings in water, energy and land resources for food production along with a prevention of unnecessary cruelty to animals and detrimental effects to health. These groups are expressing their commitment to environmentalism and health of the people and the planet.

The local grassroots group, Transition Oʻahu, which has been active on Oahu for several years helping to build a sustainable community, has recently committed to making their community potlucks plant-based.

Social media analysis shows that there are more people talking about vegan and vegetarian content as they are about Cocoa-Cola (4.3 million references compared to 4.1 million respectively in the same 90 days).

Social media analysis shows that there are more people talking about vegan and vegetarian content as they are about Cocoa-Cola (4.3 million references compared to 4.1 million respectively in the same 90 days).

Now Is The Perfect Time!

The food we provide at community events has great potential to inspire those around us and now is the perfect time to consider what groups are in our sphere of influence and how we can use the food served at these events to spark conversations and create an educational experience about the benefits of plant-based eating.

* (excerpted from video interview, full story coming soon).

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a documentary by Kip Anderson. You can watch the trailer here:

Posted in Green Solutions, In The Good News

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