Opinion: Dining, sustainability can go together in Oxford

Posted on Aug 30 2017 - 8:00am by Francisco Hernandez

Five friends walk into a bar. They have driven separately, and now they’re ordering glass-bottled drinks and tasty dishes packed with meat and cheese.

This is not the setup for a joke, but rather a common scene in our dining and entertainment practices. It’s also a scene that shows how little attention we pay to the implications and consequences of our entertainment, however well-deserved it may be.

After all, it makes sense to let go and have fun when we just want to enjoy ourselves. We want to see our friends, have good food and do something fun – something to feel both liberated from the stress of the week and connected to those whose company we enjoy.

The freedom of going out and enjoying a nice meal or a few drinks is something we should cherish, but there are many ways we can make our leisure time healthier and more sustainable.

Thinking about transportation is a good starting point, keeping safety and sustainability in mind when making decisions about where to go and how to get there. Sharing rides is the most obvious and practical choice if we go out in big groups. Taxis or ride-hauling services can also help with that.

Riding a bicycle could also be a smart choice, but weather conditions and safety concerns on busy roads can be too much to bear if our goal is to go out to a restaurant or bar. Perhaps a local tax on gas could reduce our traffic and improve our bike lanes and bus service while we wait for electric self-driving cars to take over.

Making more sensible decisions about what we consume when we go out would also improve sustainability. Glass bottles are not recyclable locally, so remembering that at the store, restaurants and bars would help.

Also, if you don’t know about the environmental effects of mass-produced animal products, I suggest you find that information and decide for yourself what to do about it. The same applies if you are concerned about the treatment of animals or about your health. I’m not trying to make everyone go
vegan, but at least reducing our meat consumption would make everyone better off.

Finally, let’s not forget that a home-cooked meal can always beat what you’re served at most restaurants. Try to replicate the meals you enjoyed as a kid or find new, exciting ones on many of the available websites or food blogs. Home-cooked meals bring people together like few other things, and they allow you to have a great time with friends without being rushed out the door when you’re done eating. And, of course, you will also save money.

Don’t be discouraged if you have never cooked much or if you don’t think you’ll be good at it. Some of the most enjoyable meals are some of the easiest to make, too. And learning how to cook, like most things that require some time and practice, rewards you with great satisfaction.

To quote the movie “Ratatouille”: “Anyone can cook!” And anyone can be more sustainable, too.

Francisco Hernandez is a senior international studies major from Valencia, Spain.