dining tables from above at the University of Sydney

Sustainable and ethical food on campus: creating a roadmap

13 September 2023
Masters of Sustainability graduate Costanza Chittaro discusses her roadmap to increase the accessibility of sustainable and ethical food at the University.
Can you please describe your Masters of Sustainability capstone project?

For my Capstone Project I worked within the Sustainability Team at the University of Sydney to design a roadmap to increase the accessibility and availability of sustainable and ethical food. This roadmap explored ways in which different initiatives could remove barriers to sustainable food uptake on campus by the University Community. This project was designed to meet part of the University of Sydney Sustainability Strategy 2020. It focuses on the first target of Strategy 12 which is to ethically and sustainably source 100 percent of food and beverages sold in campus outlets by 2025 and increase vegetarian and vegan options.

I came to realise that I had to first understand what makes up the food system at the University, then create the space for different stakeholders in the system to come together, exchange ideas and design sustainable solutions. The roadmap focused on collaboration, to get stakeholders talking and working together so that sustainable and ethical food options were increasingly available across the University Campus.

The roadmap I designed looked at ways that the University could engage with its community through forums, events, community gardens, and more, to increase awareness and the availability of sustainable and ethical food. The project was about balancing the needs of the University, as a competitive entity within the tertiary education sector, and the needs of the individuals that show up every day on campus. 

Can you outline the key findings of your project?

The final output of the project was a report that aimed to provide the Sustainability Team with key insights on what was happening across the tertiary education sector within the sustainable and ethical food space. This includes an analysis of the current state of the food system across the University's campus and a strategic and actionable roadmap that identifies a series of initiatives and time frames for the University to implement to transform the food system and create a new food culture. 

The report identifies a total of 12 universities across Europe, America, and Australia and analyses the initiatives and practices they have in place. The analysis reveals there are a series of opportunities for the University of Sydney to explore, namely: a university-wide food policy, community gardens, and social awareness and educational campaigns such as Meatless Mondays. 

Throughout a series of stakeholder meetings and research analysis, what emerged as the biggest opportunity for the University of Sydney was a potential forum to enable collaboration and transparency across the project, so that initiatives can be rolled out throughout the University whilst being endorsed by different teams. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

This project was designed by the Sustainability Team in partnership with the Sydney Environment Institute after a series of engagements with the University community that highlighted the need to transform the University’s food system. I was the first person to work on this project, which was exhilarating because I could set the direction of the strategy.

It was an up-and-down journey to produce this roadmap, but halfway through I realised that the most enriching aspect of the project was getting to speak to different people about sustainable and ethical food. Those conversations were extremely generative and were the source of my inspiration. They pushed me to think outside the box. 

I came to realise that the success of the University in achieving its Sustainability Strategy target was making use of the brilliant minds and ideas of the people that live and breathe the University rather than imposing a direction onto the stakeholders. Sustainability is about living within the means of the Earth, and this roadmap had to do the same: it had to live within the University’s system.

What do you hope this project will contribute to society?

I have two hopes for this project. My greatest hope is that my work serves as inspiration for future sustainability work that recognises that celebrating community and the environment is what leads to results and collective success. 

My second hope is that it creates pathways that support everyone within the University community to make more sustainable and ethical food choices. Sustainability, as a concept, is gaining momentum. However, it’s often hard to start an initiative as we don’t know what to do, how to do it, and if what we do will actually help. 

I hope this project supports people to feel more confident that their choices can create a better tomorrow and that each individual choice, in this case related to food, is helping fight for the planet. I hope that because of this project, students, staff, and suppliers feel empowered to choose sustainable and ethical food options. I hope this project not only increases the availability of, and reduces the barriers to, the supply and uptake of sustainable and ethical food, but also empowers and educates people to transform the way we eat. 

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