While a full day of activities and events Saturday helped ring in Earth Day early in Northfield, St. Olaf College kept things rolling on the actual holiday Monday with "Low Carbon Diet Day."
Bon Appetit, the college's food provider, took the day to give out free earth-friendly smoothies and educate students about their ongoing push for sustainable food practices.
"We're constantly [educating]," executive chef Matthew Fogarty said. "It pushes us, and the students are very receptive. They get it … and they're interested."
In this, its sixth year putting on the Low Carbon day, Bon Appetit shifted from educating on how food choices contribute to environmental changes to how food choices have changed based on existing environmental changes. It's all part of the company's ongoing effort to promote sustainability throughout its 400-plus cafeterias.
"This isn't something we do on just one day," board manager Randy Clay said. "This is part of what we try to do year round."
For St. Olaf's chefs, Monday was an opportunity to step outside the kitchen and directly discuss with students the choices they make in the campus' food preparation.
"It's a great chance to be out here in front of everybody … and voice this entire sustainability effort we're trying to push," sous chef Lee Strand said. "Being able to physically stand here is nice."
There is plenty for employees to tell students about, too: St. Olaf's Bon Appetit has worked on creating partnerships with local food providers and being as sustainable as possible for years, Fogarty said.
"We're not just doing it because it's the right thing," he added. "It's so easy here in Northfield. It's easy to keep that connection going on."
Examples of those local connections include a partnership with Ferndale Market, and Thousand Hills Cattle Co., both of in Cannon Falls. While students got to talk with chefs more directly about those things on Earth Day, the food service's efforts online make the information accessible all the time: their website includes entire sections dedicated to sustainability education; nutrition advice; an interactive tour of the kitchens; and connections to social media platforms.
"We've been using [those platforms] as long as I've been here, which is now going into my fifth year," Fogarty said. "That connection with talking to students has always been there."
It's getting noticed, too.
"I love being able to get online and see what the menu is and what's going on," student Daniel Bynum said. "They're really trying to make a move toward being more sustainable."