The Daily Gamecock

Student organizations put sustainable twist on Thanksgiving

University Housing and partner organizations hosted USC's second annual "Thanksliving" event, a seminar to teach students about sustainability during the holidays, on Tuesday at the Green Quad Learning Center.

Alongside University Housing, EcoReps and Care-olina Animal Advocates hosted the event, which offered students the chance to enjoy live music and free food while learning about campus sustainability. Other clubs that joined in the event planning included the Food Appreciation Club and Plant-Based Pals. Vegan Outreach, a group in Columbia, also worked on the event.

One of the students running the event was second-year environmental science and marine science student Maggie Gavin, who has been a vegan for three years. Through her work on the executive board of the Care-olina Animal Advocates, she advocates for having more plant-based options on campus.

“There are a lot of numerous delicious options that are vegan and cruelty-free and more sustainable than traditional Thanksgiving food," Gavin said.

Food for the event varied from traditional dishes such as mashed potatoes to “tofurky,” a tofu-based dish made to mimic the taste and appearance of turkey. The dish was donated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but prepared by USC students.

“[We have] a lot of traditional Thanksgiving foods with a plant-based spin,” Gavin said.

The food at the event came from local establishments with vegan and vegetarian options. The caterers included A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen, Rosewood Market, Aramark Dining and Good Life Café.

“Peace of Soul is an entirely plant-based establishment,” Gavin said. “Rosewood Market also has some really good vegan options.”

Second-year undecided student Samantha Greenaway struggled to find plant-based vegan options upon her move to South Carolina but now frequents the Good Life Café and other vegan institutions in Columbia.

“Up north, they have more vegan options for my family and I, and I remember during Christmas break, during Christmas Day, we have tofu turkey,” Greenaway said.

Aside from traditional Thanksgiving food, students also had the option to craft their own fruit smoothie with a sustainable twist. The blender was mounted onto the rear tire of a bike frame found by Green Quad business manager Audrey Jones.

“So someone discarded this bike, we got it out of the dumpster, cleaned it up and took it to Outspokin' Bicycles on Devine,” Jones said. “And students can fill the blender with ice and frozen fruit and juice, and in about 45 seconds pedal their way to a tasty, tasty treat.”

Jones noted that the students have been planning for the event since the beginning of the semester, working specifically to market the event and build relationships with local vegan establishments.

“It’s been a constant wave of eager volunteers,” Jones said. “They had an explosion of sign up which was terrific — over 40 volunteers signed up."

Aside from the Thanksgiving feast theme, the event also offered students a chance to repurpose their old t-shirts. 

“We’re making grocery bags out of old t-shirts,” Gavin said. “That’s more sustainable than using plastic every time you go.”

Gavin said she wants the "Thanksliving" celebration to have brought students together from different sustainable and vegan organizations to share a meal in honor of the holiday while catering to a particular niche of students. 

“Hopefully it’ll be maybe eye-opening for some people, so they can see that foods that are plant-based aren’t necessarily just vegetables or ... what you would typically assume,” she said.