When Caitlin Lundquist (BA ’14, Environmental and Sustainability Studies) enrolled at George Mason University, she had no idea where her studies would lead. On her first day of her first class, however, her world shifted. In a classroom discussion of the environmental challenges facing the world, Lundquist found her passion, and now, five years later, has launched her career as Sodexo’s Sustainability and Marketing Coordinator at Mason.
Remembering that first class, Lundquist said, “Professor Kim Largen gave an overview of the different global environmental problems and my jaw dropped…Eventually I learned about the Environmental and Sustainability Studies degree and I joined the program. I felt like I belonged.”
As part of her NCLC 210: Sustainable World class with Associate Professor Andrew Wingfield, Lundquist began volunteering and interning with different organizations including Fairfax County Park Authority, the Sweet Virginia Foundation and Whole Foods and learned more about the farm-to-table movement and people’s relationship to the food system. Lundquist realized the significance that seemingly insignificant choices can make.
Lundquist said, “There is a tangible impact that our food consumption has on our environment. Everyone has a connection with the earth. Our breakfast, our lunch and our dinner are decisions about how the land is used somewhere…In my internships, I learned so much more about how our choices impact the environment.”
Her internship with Sodexo eventually led to Caitlin’s full-time job managing Sodexo’s sustainability and resident dining marketing initiatives for the Mason community. Every day, Lundquist noted, Mason community members contribute to Sodexo’s efforts to provide more sustainably-sourced food and reduce their environmental footprint.
Lundquist said, “Sodexo serves about 17,000 meals per day at Mason. Mason Dining is a big enough buyer that our requests can make a difference in what suppliers offer…so I encourage students to voice their opinions.”
As part of her work with Sodexo, Lundquist has promoted more plant-based meal options, the purchase and labelling of more locally-grown and fair trade ingredients and the modification of food preparation and consumption practices to reduce waste.
Lundquist has also supported the President’s Park greenhouse on campus that supplies salad greens and fresh herbs such as basil and cilantro for use in dining halls. She said, “You cannot get more local than the greenhouse on campus…as availability increases, we would love to continue highlighting the foods made with items from the greenhouse.”
Looking back on her undergraduate experience, Lundquist appreciates the learning opportunities presented through her internships and the Alternative Break trips she took to Florida, where she helped with ecosystem restoration.
She said, “Internships allowed me to engage in my field in real work situations and my NCC classes helped me to think about the full circle of how our decisions are related to our environmental impact…With Alternative Break, I was making a difference in this beautiful place with a great group of students. It allowed me to reconnect with nature while I reconnected with my values.”