Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
On November 6, 2020, Tzu Chi Collegiate Association volunteers – known as Tzu Ching – at the University of Maryland and the University of California, San Diego, hosted a collaborative event to highlight the importance of ethical eating and vegetarianism.
The virtual event invited all attendees to learn more about the ethical, moral, and environmental consequences of everyday food choices and challenged them to take steps to practice ethical eating in their daily lives. The show concluded with a wonderful cooking demonstration by Pi-Yu Kuo, who led participants in making vegetarian radish cake.
Why Ethical Eating and Vegetarianism?
For the past year, Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi’s founder, has emphasized the importance and need to adopt ethical eating and shift to a plant-based diet. Therefore, several Tzu Ching members shared their research on the impact of ethical eating and vegetarianism during the virtual event.
Christine Wan and Jacob Wagner, Co-Presidents of the University of Maryland Tzu Ching chapter, lectured on the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism and reduced meat consumption. Nearly 30% of all land on Earth and 20% of all greenhouse gases produced each year can be attributed to livestock production. By practicing vegetarianism, we can take meaningful steps to protect Mother Earth.
Similarly, Danny Lu, President of the University of California San Diego chapter, shared considerations on eating locally and ethically grown food. He noted that many workers involved in agriculture and food production work long hours under less than desirable conditions. Our food choices can help to send a message of what priorities we value.
Ethical Eating on College Campuses
The three Tzu Ching chapter presidents then challenged their members to think about how they could practice ethical eating as college students and ways they could reduce food waste. Then, several participants shared their thoughts and experiences.
Tzu Ching alumni Kathy Sheng shared about the importance of accountability and having friends remind each other of their commitment to ethical eating and sustainability. She recounted how two years ago, she and other collegiate volunteers committed to stop using disposable utensils and to adopt a plant-based diet once a week. Thanks to mutual encouragement within the group, she successfully incorporated these sustainable lifestyle practices into her daily life.
Siqing Liu highlighted Tzu Chi’s Ethical Eating Day, which asks people to pledge and choose vegetarian meals and locally produced food for a day on January 11 each year. She encouraged everyone to take the pledge in advance to join the upcoming Ethical Eating Day on January 11, 2021. And for those who have participated before, she hoped they would expand and deepen their existing resolve beyond the initial single day commitment. Siqing also shared some tips, which others appreciated.
Katherine Luo drew inspiration from Siqing’s tip that encouraged everyone to “Keep track of the food you have. Rather than going to the grocery store and buying whatever is in your mind, take inventory of what is in your fridge and use it all before going back to the store.” Katherine confided that she often does go grocery shopping before consuming all the food in her fridge, leading to the spoilage and waste of some food. She now aims to change this habit.
A Cooking Demonstration
The event concluded with a live cooking demonstration by Pi-Yu Kuo. She expertly mentored all attendees on making a delectable vegetarian radish cake – from preparing the ingredients, combining them, and finally presenting the finished dish spectacularly. Many participants had tasted the cake before at a previous event and looked forward to learning how to make it.
Attendees had to overcome various challenges to recreate the recipe. A few were unfamiliar with some of the ingredients and didn’t know how to handle them. Others didn’t have all the typical cookware used to make radish cake – like a box grater or steamer – and had to improvise with what they had. However, with Pi-Yu Kuo’s guidance, they were all able to successfully make delicious radish cake.
As for the chef herself, this experience allowed Pi-Yu Kuo to share a favorite vegetarian dish and pass on a recipe to the broader Tzu Chi family. “I am very grateful to have the chance to teach [our collegiate volunteers] my specialty, and I hope they can make it at home in the future and share it with their friends too.”
Commitments Going Forward
Many Tzu Ching members who attended the event made commitments to adopt – or continue to practice – an ethical eating lifestyle.
Kathy Sheng currently resolves to eat one vegetarian meal a day and believed that this inspiring event helped deepen her commitment to that goal. “[The event] was unlike anything we did before … We have talked about vegetarianism for a long time, but this is the first time [we gathered together to make] one of [my] favorite dishes.” She hoped this dish would inspire others in her family after tasting how delicious vegetarian dining can be.
Similarly, Katherine Luo will now strive to buy more local produce to reduce her carbon footprint. “It is very easy to buy produce from large grocery stores that spend a lot of energy shipping produce from all over the country. I know around my area, there is a farmer’s market every Sunday morning that I [will try to go to more often].”
Their commitments highlight the event’s success in engaging and inspiring individuals to take steps to practice ethical eating in their daily lives.
Promoting vegetarianism as a permanent lifestyle choice is among Tzu Chi’s educational missions and supports our global environmental protection programs and products.
We invite you to pledge and participate in Ethical Eating Day 2021 on January 11, and to spread the word about our Very Veggie Movement (VVM), which we launched in 2020, and you can sign up to join too!