"I wanted the cookbook to appeal to people who aren't really into sustainability, because I feel like a lot of times when you brand something as 'sustainable' or 'vegan,' people won't think it's for them," says co-author Gracie Wong, a fourth-year Earth system science major. Steve Zylius / UCI

For busy UCI students, having to prepare healthy meals can be the last thing on their minds. But now they have a handy guide. The College Sustainability Cookbook shows them how to make easy, nutritious and affordable dishes using sustainable ingredients and environmentally friendly techniques.

The College Sustainability Cookbook includes responsible recipes for pizza, spaghetti, fried rice, chili, spring rolls, cookies, hummus and more, along with information on the true cost of food, stocking the pantry and kitchen skills.
Steve Zylius / UCI

Created by UCI undergraduates and available on the UCI Housing Sustainability website, it aims to ease the transition to living away from home by helping out in the kitchen, providing more than 30 recipes covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks.

The cookbook also addresses the impact of dietary choices on the environment, teaches readers how to reduce their food “footprint,” and offers tips on how and where to buy sustainable groceries.

One of its authors is fourth-year Earth system science major Gracie Wong, a 2017 fellow of the University of California Global Food Initiative, which aims to expand research and share best practices to improve the food system. GFI fellows receive a $4,000 stipend to complete a project in their field of interest that engages the campus.

Wong’s project was to produce the culinary guide, in collaboration with Dhruti Khetani, Stephanie Silva and Vanida Ngeam ’16. She hopes to reach students who wouldn’t normally be interested in supporting the long-term ecological balance.

“I wanted the cookbook to appeal to people who aren’t really into sustainability, because I feel like a lot of times when you brand something as ‘sustainable’ or ‘vegan,’ people won’t think it’s for them,” Wong says. “So I made a point of including easy, tasty recipes that anyone might try.”

She took inspiration from food that she loves to prepare, dishes that she learned from her mother, and generally popular meals that she tweaked to suit a small apartment or dorm kitchen – such as enchiladas and popcorn chicken (with a side note to vegetarians to switch out the poultry for cauliflower).

“Almost all people are connected to food and cooking, emotionally and culturally,” says Rachel Harvey, manager of UCI’s housing sustainability program and Wong’s project adviser. “And UCI students are very interested in simple solutions for learning how to live independently and sustainably. Wong and the others involved in this project are smartly tapping into a creative, multifaceted way to meet that need through experiential education and peer-to-peer outreach.”

The cookbook was released and distributed during the move-in period. Students in the Arroyo Vista and Campus Village housing communities received copies of the guide with their move-in packets, and it’s available in every kitchen in Mesa Court and Middle Earth.

Wong promoted the cookbook with instructional videos and live demos in residence halls.

Also selected as a 2018 GFI fellow, she will be working on a second version of the publication as part of this year’s project, updating it to be more UCI-specific and include more plant-based dishes.

Here are two of Wong’s favorite recipes from the College Sustainability Cookbook.

Udon: Your new ramen replacement

Servings: 1

Preparation time: 30 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 9 ounces frozen udon (noodles)
  • 8 ounces firm tofu, diced
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • baby bok choy, cabbage or spinach as desired
  • ½ package enoki mushrooms
  • chopped green onions (optional)
  • shredded seaweed (optional)
  1. Bring two cups of water to a boil.
  2. Heat pan with oil and stir-fry tofu for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Dissolve miso paste in a small bowl with warm water and mix. Stir into boiling water.
  4. Add 1 serving of frozen udon to the soup.
  5. Add vegetables, mushrooms and tofu. Let sit for 1 minute for vegetables and mushrooms to cook.
  6. Transfer to a bowl. Garnish with green onions and seaweed and serve.

Soba salad: A light, refreshing dinner that you can save for lunch

Servings: 2

Preparation time: 30 minutes


  • 4 ounces soba (noodles)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • ½ head of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced


  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  1. Bring 2 pots of water to a boil.
  2. Cook soba according to time on the package, usually 7-8 minutes.
  3. Boil eggs in second pot of boiling water for 10-12 minutes, then peel and slice them.
  4. Stir together the miso paste, soy sauce, garlic and apple cider vinegar for sauce.
  5. Strain noodles and transfer to a serving bowl.
  6. Mix sauce in with noodles and top noodles off with romaine, carrot, radishes, chicken and eggs.