Last week after completing the Chicago Triathlon, my focus shifted back to my academic career as I am currently also a full-time student. Monday morning while I was enjoying my recovery breakfast, I came upon an article in the Daily Nebraskan, UNL‘s campus newspaper, about my sustainable message and endeavors. As a Junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln I am pursuing a supply chain management degree. My goal to focus on sustainable consultation and collaboration for businesses within food and energy systems after I graduate.
Here is the article courtesy of Annie Himes of the Daily Nebraskan :
For Tom Clutter, food is more than a necessity. Food is an art form, a creative outlet, a deceptively innocuous fact of life with potential for great significance in a world where it’s often easier to buy fast food than fresh fruit.
Clutter, a junior University of Nebraska-Lincoln supply chain management major, developed an appreciation for sustainable living early in life.
“I was born in Iowa,” Clutter said. “Both my parents grew up in a small farm town. My dad was a geneticist; so, I had that angle on science and farming as well.”
Clutter’s appreciation of the science behind food, and the logistics of growing it informed his decision early on in his undergraduate career to take time away from school and train to become a chef.
“I had always enjoyed cooking, but then I decided to pursue that pretty seriously,” Clutter said. “I did some cooking with a couple friends who did catering for music festivals for bigger artists. So, they had to work with some pretty strict dietary restrictions, cooking for a lot of people with gluten allergies but also trying to locally source, so trying to cook as sustainabley as possible, using every piece of everything.”
Gaining kitchen experience working and living in Lawrence, Kansas, Clutter then decided to transition to Lincoln to manage Dempsey’s Burger Pub and pursue a degree in supply chain management at UNL.
In Lincoln, Clutter found a like-minded community devoted to sustainable and balanced living. An avid cyclist, Clutter first found his place with the Great Plains Bicycle Club. He then connected with local farmers and the Lincoln startup community, becoming a brand ambassador and creating recipes for Bugeater Foods, a local company making sustainable protein solutions out of cricket.
“They create cricket protein,” Clutter said. “It’s local; so, you’re supporting something that is not taking a lot of resources to create, but you’re also sustaining the local economy.”
He also mentioned the benefits of local organizations such as Community Crops that have allowed him to locally source food in the Lincoln area.
Kirsten Bailey, manager of Community Crops’ Growing Farmers Program, said the organization’s “goal is to have people grow food where they live.” Established in 2003, Community Crops has evolved from a single community garden. The nonprofit now supports 12 community gardens around Lincoln, classes for gardeners on seasonal topics, youth programming in local schools, farming workshops and a training farm.
Lincoln’s resources have been integral to the effectiveness and ease with which Clutter can live his sustainable lifestyle. His increased participation in the Lincoln community and his love of writing inspired Clutter to begin a blog called “Sustainable Cyclist” to share his unique perspective on questions of sustainability.
“I think the real driving force was to put information out there that is accessible to people who maybe have no knowledge base,” Clutter said. “Maybe they just hear ‘GMO’ or ‘conventional farming.’ And even in Nebraska there are people who don’t necessarily fall on one side or another, but it’s not an easy conversation to get into. So, what I’ve tried to do is to create a balance of covering those broader topics and making them accessible and also covering food too.”
On his blog, Clutter defines himself as a “triathlete, chef and student,” and his content reflects as such. He creates his own recipes, reviews local restaurants that make an effort to locally source, profiles local sustainable farming efforts and describes his intense triathlon training regimen.
More than anything, Clutter said he hopes to create a dialogue through his blog, using social media to engage people in conversations surrounding sustainability.
“I would just say getting involved is the biggest thing,” Clutter said. “I’ve seen it’s easy to create a community if you go out and engage other people.”
And Clutter is doing just that. By consistently attending lecture series on agriculture, buying food from local farmers whenever possible and organizing monthly “Enviroruns” on UNL’s new Innovation Campus, Clutter has created a place for himself among Lincoln’s most sustainable.
Looking to the future, Clutter said he hopes to transfer his personal commitment to sustainability to larger communities, especially urban communities and schools.
“I would like to work with nonprofits to engage the community,” Clutter said. “A lot of schools have seen service learning, whether it be political or urban gardens in their schools. That’s a great way to teach, and a lot of times, scholastic performance improves. [Urban gardening is] an art. It gives people ownership over something.”
Clutter has taken ownership of his own consumption, and now through open dialogue, he is encouraging others to do the same.