A Greener Cup Challenge

Like “non-sibi,” Green Cup Challenge and a few other campus-wide concepts that have been pedagogically championed by both faculty and students, this month’s Green Data Challenge surfaces as a competition sent straight to mother Phillips from the divine heavens. In theory, the Green Data Challenge aims to confront the formidable and seemingly unbeatable foe of climate change: an admirable target, to say the least. In practice, it invests tremendous resources into campus awareness, statistical analysis and, of course, prizes for the “winners.” Aside from the undeniable positive aspects of the competition, there is one major problem with this year’s Green Data Challenge—it will catalyze a movement to help ruin our environment. To conceptualize the extent of the toxic impact that our aggregate of students and teachers will have on our ecosystem, consider the Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Operations.” The report shows that the livestock industry, especially that of ruminants, contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions than the worldwide transportation sector. But what does all this have to do with the Green Data Challenge? The cluster that shows the highest reduction in energy consumption, will be awarded a munch from Chipotle Mexican Grill, and chances are, this will entail significant beef consumption. Contrary to the fine intention of rallying students for a pertinent cause, the incentive will eerily encourage eating habits that harm the enviroment. It may be hard to find a more environmentally friendly meat source than Chipotle, especially among fast food vendors. It is worth remembering, however, that any meat consumption takes a toll as it produces significant greenhouse gases. Granted, one could argue against the premise that the GDC seeks not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to educate our students about the environment. Unfortunately, this stance unquestionably falls short of “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” The goal of the GDC is to educate Andover students about environmental issues. If this were true, educational material would be widely circulated about the negative effects the Chipotle munch will have on our environment. With this educational material, the Andover community might not subscribe to the GDC and its irony. One might conclude that we can easily fix this problem by changing the prize to something other than Chipotle burritos. True, such a solution offsets many of the problems previously enumerated. However, other problems remain hidden in this conundrum. People love Chipotle and its scrumptious, albeit environmentally harmful, meat burritos, and the loss of this incentive would likely inhibit optimal energy reduction and unfairly compromise students’ trust in Andover’s ability to fulfill its promises and effectuate its commitments. In other words, Chipotle should be kept as the award for the GDC winning cluster because many dorms have already rallied behind efforts to reduce energy output with that incentive in mind. Ultimately, we should acknowledge this paradox as a mishap and use it as a lesson to ensure that we are more cognizant about the impact of our prizes in future eco-friendly campaigns. Specifically, we should strive not to exacerbate the challenges of sustainability that we currently endure. After all, many people have worked arduously to make this GDC fun and worthwhile, and their efforts should not be in vain. Best of luck to everyone competing in the Green Data Challenge, and to those students of the winning cluster, savor Chipotle’s meat burritos reflectively. Zach Sturman is a three-year Senior from Plantation, FL.