Wednesday, August 16, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with JL Fields

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How many ways do I love
JL Fields? Let me count the ways…

1. I love her passionate vegan foodie ways.
1. I love that she is a passionate vegan foodie who manages to create recipes that are accessible to the average home cook who doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen with each meal but still have delicious food regardless.
3. I love that she’s funny, snarky, engaged,
fierce and talented. (Follow her personal page on Facebook to see ample evidence of this and professional page for lots of foodie inspiration.)
4. I love how prolific she is! Look at all these fabulous
books she’s written and co-authored.
5. She also has a radio show, when she’s not coaching people and creating meal plans. Are you even kidding me?! I was lucky enough to be a guest. I could have talked to JL for seven hours straight.
6. I think I need to take a nap now.
7. I feel like a failure.
8. But I can’t hate JL because she’s far too awesome.
9. And I get to see her at
Chicago VeganMania on September 23 (as do you!) with the release of her most recent cookbook, The Vegan Air Fryer. Join us!

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I’d love to tell you that I had an inkling at a young age that vegan was the way to go but I just didn’t. Yes, I loved my cats and dog and yes, I loved eating meat. When I was in my late thirties I was in Kenya for a work event and a male elder led a got into the ceremony. The goat was slaughtered, stewed, and served for dinner. I became a vegetarian on the spot. It was eight years later, when, far less dramatically, I had concluded a 16-day detox with my yoga instructor and realized I hadn’t had animal products during that time. Huh, I guess I’m vegan, I thought. And so I was.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I consider myself a seeking spirit – something I attribute to my Buddhism – and I tend to be more convinced when I have an experience and allow myself to be moved by it. But I can tell you that if the year I was 40 someone said go vegan to lose weight or go healthy I would have said, “not necessary!” I was a size 4 and running marathons and my blood work was top notch.

If someone at 40 had said, “It’s great that you’re vegetarian, but do you know how hens and cows are treated for your eggs and dairy?” I just didn’t know. It’s actually one of the reasons that when meat eaters ask me how to start, and they know they aren’t ready to go all in, that I encourage them to give up eggs and dairy before meat. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the cruelty in terms of logic. An animal farmed for meat will die a violent death in a matter of months. Dairy cows and chickens experience utter hell for months and years on end. I think once you lay out the simple truth of a farmed animals life, it’s hard not to want to end all of the cruelty.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I’m an enthusiastic foodie. I get so excited by vegan food, how to make it quickly and deliciously, and I think my utter delight in creating vegan food rubs off on people. I’m on a book tour right now and no matter how daunting a day of travel can be, the minute I’m in front of people demonstrating fun vegan recipes, well, I’m perked up and ready to roll. Anyway who’s taken one of classes knows that humor is an integral part of what I do. We need to have fun. This is very serious stuff we’re talking about – saving animals and the planet – but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh and smile while we’re doing it.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

We have some compassionate leaders who are emerging and changing the face of the movement. Though there’s still a lot of bowing down to the feet of the white male plant-based doctors, there are exciting entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are making delicious food, creating gorgeous clothing, pushing forth a social justice message and taking up space in the environmental movement. Their leadership is inviting in a broader audience.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I think every single activist should know their audience and be willing to meet them where they are. Being kind and inviting others in, at their pace, just might have a more profound impact that treating people like nails and your message is the hammer. You know, I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 15 years and vegan close to eight years. My husband didn’t follow the same path. And I never tried to hammer veganism into him. I did invite him to vegan events, draw the line on what I could tolerate (I never purchased animal products or prepared them once I went vegan), model a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle, and he ultimately did make a decision to live a vegan life. On his terms.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

I was on a morning news show in Denver show last month and the anchor asked me why I didn’t want to eat animals or animal products,

“I don’t need to eat them, so why harm them?”

Obviously I’m only going up one floor on the elevator (oops, should have walked).

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

I have many mentors and there are leaders I admire from afar but I have to say that Ginny Messina, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, and Andy Tabar are three people who really inspire me. They are consistent in their vegan message. They speak truth to power. They are vegan for the animals.

When I want to passively share vegan information on my personal social media, knowing many of my non-vegan friends and family will see it, I lean toward Vegan Outreach and Mercy for Animals. And of course I share Vegan Street memes! [Ed. note: Interrupting this interview to pass the hat and remind you, gentle reader, that you can support the memes and other work we create by signing on as Patreons of Vegan Street.]

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

Before transitioning my career to that of culinary instructor and food writer, I worked in the nonprofit sector. My clients were victims of hate crimes, sexual assault survivors, and women around the globe who experienced all types of violence. I learned early in my career that carving out time for quiet reflection or reckless and loud fun was essential to cope and come back refreshed. I still carve out meditative and raucous time.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

I want every single chubby/curvy/fat vegan to know I see you and I love you and you are as important, if not more important, in this movement. Please do not let the loud, highly visible people who judge and shame food choices and body size silence you. 

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

…meeting my highest self.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Finding Amelia Earhart



Lately I’ve been thinking about what Amelia Earhart’s second-to-last thought might have been. Her last thought was likely along the lines of "Well, I guess this is it.” But her second-to-last thought? Perhaps it was “I failed.” It’s the idea of Amelia Earhart’s second-to-last thought that makes me unsettled in the middle of the night.

From what I understand about Amelia Earhart, she was not only preternaturally ambitious but she was also uncommon in that she used her celebrity status to help elevate other female pilots, would-be competitors of hers, through her work with the Ninety-Nines, an organization she co-founded to advance women in aviation. Despite her many accomplishments as an aviator – she was the first solo pilot to fly from Hawai’i to California as well as the first to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City to Newark – feats that were impressive regardless of gender and access, in those final moments, I wonder if she was consumed with the heavy, heartsick burden of failure of a nature few of us will ever experience. The weight of it is hard to comprehend. When Amelia Earhart was last recorded trying to land on the very tiny Howland Island on a cloudy day in the mid-Pacific Ocean, she had 22,000 miles of her 29,000-mile flight around the world behind her. With a last report, “We are running north and south,” Amelia and her navigator weren’t heard from or seen again. They had just 7,000 miles to go.

Did she feel regret? Was she angry with herself?

Who knows what those last few minutes were like but I wonder if when Amelia Earhart's plane went down, she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Maybe she was heartsick about how the news might be spun, how she was letting down her sister aviators and all the other women who were desperately trying to achieve in fields long denied them.

If so, it may have felt worse than knowing she would soon die.

Like most people, I have failed before, many times, in many different spheres, sometimes with barely a peep, sometimes flaming out spectacularly, though nothing that approaches the grand scale of Amelia Earhart, of course.

Socially, I've had more than a few failures: there was the time my freshman year of high school that I thought I looked so snappy in my navy blue turtleneck and leg warmers that I walked straight into a door frame with such a force that I have a permanent bald spot on my right eyebrow. A classroom full of my fellow freshmen turned from their teacher’s lecture to open-mouth gape out the door at the dazed me and the rivulet of blood now running down my face. “Those face wounds, they can really bleed,” the school nurse nonchalantly remarked as I sat in her office as she squinted and dabbed at my wound. There were more failures, many more, before and after the Eyebrow Incident. Actually, in ruminating on this topic, I am revisiting a tragically embarrassing memory lane I'd rather not skip down so suffice it to say, big, embarrassing social failures are no stranger to me and I am no stranger to them.

Let us continue on the broader topic of failure: I failed my driving test three times, which meant that after that last road test examiner bolted out of the car clutching his clipboard to his chest with white knuckles, I had to wait six months to take the test again. (After this interminable probationary period, I learned how to deep breathe and I finally succeeded with getting my license but I still felt like I had to dash out of the DMV before they revoked it on me.) I failed at my first four jobs in food service, letting me know that I definitely did not possess the skill set and/or temperament for being a passable or even, let’s face it, safe, waitress. There was no fifth restaurant job. The winter of 2015, I took a part-time job - not in food service, I learned that lesson while still in my teens - that I thought would be a great fit for me but it was a pretty miserable experience. On paper, it was great; in reality, it was kind of a nightmare. After a couple of kind of yucky months, I was let go. Mercy can act in unexpected ways.

These are all failures on paper, but you know what? Today, I am a great driver if I do say so myself. It’s been at least 20 years since I got a traffic ticket and, knock on wood, my driving career is pretty unblemished. During my short and less than illustrious career as a server, I spilled many trays of food and I am pretty sure there’s a party of four from 1983 still sitting at a corner booth at Baker’s Square (then Poppin' Fresh) in Wilmette, waiting for their order, but the experience left me with a lifelong respect and understanding of how hard it is to be a good server in a personal, empathy-expanding way that I wouldn't have had otherwise. (Seriously, waiting tables is hard work or at least it was for me: I still have very vivid stress dreams about being a waitress all these years later.) My pride was hurt when the “dream job” in 2015 fizzled but that unhappy experience was the impetus to get really clear on how I do and do not want to spend my time. Thus Vegan Street Media was born.

My failures are not really comparable to Amelia Earhart’s, though. I bruised my ego, she fell from the sky or starved on an island with a mountain of hopes and expectations on her shoulders.

Maybe, though, when this thought consumes me in the dead of the night, I am thinking about this all wrong. Maybe instead of thinking, “I failed,” Amelia thought, “I tried.” Maybe she thought, “Yeah, well, this is pretty lousy but I’d like to see anyone else do what I did.” Maybe that last minute of her life, she was damn proud of what she’d done, defiantly pleased with herself. To fail spectacularly as Amelia Earhart, you have to live spectacularly. For us mere mortals, though, living a full life means failure as well and at times, it may feel like we’re also falling from the sky.

You have not failed unless you’ve not tried. With time and distance, there is always learning to take away, always growth to be had, and all those other platitudes that are painfully hackneyed to write but still true. There is so much in the world that petty people would love for us to feel ashamed and embarrassed about. Trying and not succeeding as we’d hoped we would just isn’t worth it.

Let's allow ourselves to fail. Not only that, really let’s all try to embrace failure. Court it. Own it. Bathe in it. Be proud of it. Welcome it. Dance with it. When we do that, we’ll know we're flying with the giants.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Wendy Werneth

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One of the biggest areas of intimidation for vegans is world travel: how do you maintain your veganism as you travel? How do you do this without starving to death or causing an international incident due to your dietary requirements? Enter Wendy Werneth, The Nomadic Vegan. Wendy has explored the globe, stepping down on all seven continents and visiting 100 countries, and visitors to her website all benefit (and get to live vicariously) from the wisdom and experience she has gained as an intrepid world traveler. Vegan since 2014 and a globetrotter long before that, Wendy originally was concerned that being vegan would limit her peregrinations but, after an eye-opening experiment with Greece convinced her that there was vegan food under her nose all the time, she has since dedicated her time to becoming one of the leading voices in world travel as a joyful, not-at-all-starving herbivore who is spreading the vegan goodwill hither and yon.

Wendy’s newest adventure comes in the form of an e-book (and soon-to-be paperback) where she shares so much of her wisdom and many of her tips, specifically focusing on 11 cultures and world cuisines but, most valuably, giving guidance for the mindset and approach that will keep vegan travelers happily trotting the globe, Veggie Planet: Uncover the Vegan Treasures Hiding in Your Favorite World Cuisines (International Travel Guide and Food Guide for Beginner Vegans, Veterans of the Vegan Lifestyle, and Vegan Travelers). You can download her free e-book, Nine Steps for Easy Vegan Travel, for a little taste of Wendy’s wisdom but as good a resource as it is, I can promise you, it will only begin to whet your appetite for what awaits in Veggie Planet. Thorough, generous, highly readable and replete with great guidance throughout, Wendy’s book leaves no stone unturned in her passion for unearthing how to eat vegan with grace and ease across the globe and her enthusiasm for teaching others how to do the same is infectious. Even if you can’t or don’t expect to travel, there is so much within that can help people find great vegan world cuisines no matter where they live. I am honored that Wendy Werneth is this week’s Vegan Rock Star. Please check out her book!

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I always loved animals, and as a child I grew up with cats and dogs as part of my family. Our first cat was a stray who wandered into our backyard while I was playing. I ran into the house and said, “Momma, there’s a cat outside, and he’s talking to me!” Well, “he” turned out to be a “she”, and so Thomasina remained a part of our family for many years.

Later on, I dabbled in vegetarianism, beginning in my first year of college. I would stick with it for a few months, and then go back to eating animals. I hadn’t really made the connection yet, and I still had no idea about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries.

It wasn’t until May 2014 that my vegan journey truly began. I listened to the Food Revolution Summit hosted by John and Ocean Robbins, and for the first time I heard health experts talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet. The interview I remember the most, though, is the one with Alicia Silverstone, who talked more about the animals and about showing kindness and compassion towards them.

A few days later I picked up her book, The Kind Diet, at a used book sale, and over the next few months I gradually transitioned towards a vegan lifestyle. My final hurdle to overcome was my fear that being vegan was going to ruin travel.

I decided to give vegan travel a trial run during a 3-week trip to Greece. On that trip, I discovered all the delicious vegan dishes that are part of traditional Greek cuisine, and I never looked back! I count my veganniversary from September 10, 2014, which is the day my flight touched down in Athens at the start of that trip.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

If someone had shown me footage from factory farms and slaughterhouses, I would have been horrified. I think that would have woken me up and forced me to take an honest look at what I was contributing to.

But maybe graphic images wouldn’t have been necessary. If someone had just said to me, “If you love animals, why do you eat them?” then that probably would have made me stop and think.

It’s hard for me to understand now how I could have eaten animals for so many years without realizing what I was doing. I’d like to think that I would have been open to the vegan message much earlier if it had been presented to me in a way that could make me see that I wasn’t living in alignment with my own values. Unfortunately, I never met a vegan until after I became vegan myself. If I had had a role model to show me that there was a better way, then I think I would have started down this path at a younger age.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

Passion. My desire to help animals is the driving force behind everything I do, and I believe that the passion I bring to my work is what people respond to. Of course, there are many ways to channel that passion.

Our passion for a cause we believe in so deeply can sometimes lead to anger when we are faced with injustice and apathy. But I try instead to bring a positive, welcoming and non-judgmental attitude to everything I put out into the world. No one likes to be called a murderer, and people are unlikely to respond well to it.

When speaking to non-vegans, I remind myself that I used to be one of them, and that I was still a good person at heart back then, even though I was doing bad things. My goal is to make veganism approachable and to show that a vegan lifestyle can be fun, healthy, and extremely rewarding.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

The vegan movement is built on the values of compassion and non-violence, and those values are its greatest strength.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

When we fail to apply those values in our interactions with humans. In order to be effective, we need to show compassion to non-vegans. Confronting them in anger is never going to convince them to join our side.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

If you think it’s wrong to hurt an animal for your own pleasure, then you’re already vegan at heart. You’re just not yet living in alignment with the vegan values that you already hold. Living a vegan life is the single best thing you can do for yourself, the planet, and the animals you share this planet with.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

The two people who made it possible for me successfully transition to a vegan lifestyle are:
(1) Alicia Silverstone and her book, The Kind Diet, and
(2) Colleen Patrick Goudreau and her podcast, Food for Thought.

I owe so much to them and am incredibly grateful for their work. Apart from those two women, there are so many other authors, podcasters, filmmakers, YouTubers and activists who have educated me and continue to do so. I’ll try to limit this list to just my top recommendation in each category.

Book: The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle
Film: Earthlings
YouTube channel: Bite Size Vegan

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I get out into nature, and/or a go for a walk or a run. If I can combine both nature and physical activity in the form of a hike, that’s when I feel the most recharged. I named my website The Nomadic Vegan because I really do feel like nomadism is in my blood.

This is true not only in the sense that I love to travel and explore new places, but also in the sense that I feel most at peace when I am walking. I recently walked 800 kilometers across Spain on the medieval pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago. The daily routine of waking up and walking for several hours felt very natural to me, and part of me wanted to just keep going and never stop walking.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

The suffering of mother cows and their calves in the dairy industry. While walking the Camino de Santiago last month, I walked through several small dairy farms. The veal calves were locked up in cages right next to the walking trail. I knew about these cages and had seen them in videos, but never in real life.

I reached out my hand to one of the calves to see if he would let me pet him, and he immediately took my fingers into his mouth and startling suckling them. He was desperate for his mother’s milk. Coming face to face with these innocent babies who are victims of this completely unnecessary industry broke my heart.

If people only knew how cow’s milk is produced, they would no longer want to consume it. Especially when there are so many healthier and tastier plant-based milks available.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

To me, being vegan is simply doing my best to cause the least harm.

 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Anna Ferguson

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With everything going on in the world, if we ever needed reasons to have hope, we do now. If you’re like me, you’ll find plenty of reason to have hope with this interview with
Anna Ferguson of the soon-to-open Heärt Montessori School in Cincinnati, OH. Founded by Montessori-trained educators, longtime vegans, yoga enthusiasts and peacemakers, Heärt states on their website that Our goal is to provide children with the skills necessary to make the world more beautiful than they found it.” Isn’t that lovely? With a commitment to providing vegan meals, a nearby animal sanctuary, and a project-based education that honors the uniqueness of the students, Heärt is starting out with pre-k through kindergarten and hopes to increase grades as the school matures. Can I go back to school? It is such an exciting thing happening right in the Heartland. Created by the people behind World Peace Yoga and the Jubilee Peace Fest, the only downside is there is not a Heärt Montessori School in every city…yet. I am honored to feature Anna Ferguson as this week’s Vegan Rock Star.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

In high school I had some friends that dabbled in vegetarianism, but I did not give it much thought at the time. Eating cows, pigs, and chickens was “normal” for me growing up and I didn’t question it as a child from what I’m able to remember. In college, I was introduced both to vegetarianism and yoga practice. One of my roommates and friends in school decided to experiment with eating a vegetarian diet. I began to observe some positive changes in my roommate, as she devoted herself to a vegetarian diet, so I decided to give it a try—mainly for health and self-care. As I deepened my yoga practice I noticed certain things fall away from my lifestyle, such as eating chicken eggs and cow’s milk and cheese. At the time, I thought these products were vegetarian, though—from both a technical and ethical perspective—they were not. This change in my diet came directly from my yoga practice. I did not have any teachers who spoke of diet in relationship to yoga practice, but—due to the increased awareness within my body—I tuned into what I ate and how it affected me. So, certain foods fell away and I continued feeling vibrant.

After about a year of a steady yoga asana (posture) practice, and the adoption of a pure, vegetarian, plant-sourced diet, I attended a workshop with
Doug Swenson in which the practice of yoga was presented as a lifestyle. Doug incorporated yoga philosophy into his asana classes, which often included the teaching of ahimsa—nonviolence—and its connection to food and a yogic lifestyle. Through continued study, my yoga practice deepened and my choices became less self- and more other-centered, through the practice of ahimsa. Having these other-centered reasons as a motivation for choosing what to eat, wear, and purchase (the vegan lifestyle) became as natural to me as breathing is to life.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

My introduction to veganism was quite gentle and involved a lot of personal introspection as well as compassion and encouragement from established vegans. I don’t believe that I might have been resonated with the vegan lifestyle if someone were to tell me I was bad or wrong for eating fellow animals or publicly criticized me, while attempting to convince me to change. Having someone connect with me on a personal level and approaching the vegan lifestyle from a place of empathy and compassion is what I think resonates with me most.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

To be the most effective in how we communicate the message of veganism, I believe we must combine a spiritual practice of some kind that is as simple as something like self-care that is rooted in empathy and compassion with education, activism, and innovation. An “empathy innovator” is an individual who uses creativity to share new methods, ideas, or products that assist modern culture in grasping the interconnectedness of all life. This, in turn, promotes the expansion of kindness to every creature on the planet. As a vegan educator or activist we wholeheartedly believe in compassionate causes. We endorse, encourage, and guide efforts to bring justice, equality, freedom, and peace to all genders, all skin colors, all people, and indeed, all beings.

More specifically, I like to communicate the vegan lifestyle by sharing delicious food or posting on social media what I eat, through the teachings of yoga, and through various products, such as the
World Peace Yoga book I have coming out this fall. Opening vegan-centric businesses I also feel is a vital part of communicating a compassionate message.  What I like about vegan restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and so on is that people come to you—on their own terms.

It is my belief that the choices made by vegans, and other compassionate people of the world, have prevented this planet from completely imploding. Increasing, improving, promoting, and assisting compassionate, “all-vegan” endeavors—including people, products, services, programs, businesses, institutions, and organizations—expands this message of peace. Change becomes a reality. When we make conscious efforts to grow vegan-centric businesses—in the fields of travel, education, real estate, music, jewelry-making, art, food, yoga, healthcare, photography, design, publishing, and so on—all of the related money, time, and energy exponentially spreads peace. This practice assists those who share our core values.

Utilizing a web designer who practices a compassionate lifestyle, for example, builds a sustainable and compassionate economy. When we trade money for services, based on our shared values, the funds ultimately contribute to more of the same caring actions. This also allows vegan businesses to flourish, paving the way for their growth.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
When people in the movement are coming from a practical and spiritual place focusing on empathy and compassion for one’s self, all beings, and the planet resulting in an authentic, powerful, and truly collaborative effort.  

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I feel one of the biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively is a lack of empathy and compassion for each other, particularly fellow vegans as well as pre-vegans resulting in reluctance to collaborate.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

This is probably a bit longer than what I might say in an elevator, but here it goes (what is in bold sums it up)…Through war after war after war, we are discovering the necessary steps for creating a peaceful world, both inside and out. No more marching, fasting, legislating, or fighting for peace. Now, there is a relatively simple—practical—process in which anyone may participate. It is a one-two-three, step-by-step, connect-the-dots, color-by-number way to realize world peace: adopt a vegan lifestyle.
In other words, understand the consequences of your choices. Be kind and gentle to yourself, be kind and gentle to all beings, and be kind and gentle to the earth. Realize, too, that this process takes time. It requires each of us to connect with our intuitive, empathetic, and compassionate nature, while performing kind and peaceful acts (over and over), and working together toward a common goal. As simple as this process seems, it is also complex and exponential—both individual and cooperative.
While there is confusion and delusion in the world as to how to interact with one another and many have forgotten their intuitive power, are numb to empathy, and have no desire to take compassionate action, change is happening. There are humans are waking up to their “moral hypocrisy.” This moral hypocrisy is deeply rooted, and it is the reason our society accepts poverty, starvation, homelessness, war, various forms of discrimination, and animal genocide as the norm. Adopting an authentic vegan lifestyle, which includes kindness, gentleness, empathy and compassion for all is the key and we all have this innate power within us.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

My business partner Mark Stroud and I have had a long-time collaboration with Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet.  For five years Mark and I hosted the Jubilee Peace Fest—three days of vegan food, yoga, music, and inspiring speakers.  Each year Will Tuttle offered his World Peace Diet Facilitator Training. In 2011 Kip Andersen participated in that training and left inspired to then create what we know to be the documentary Cowspiracy. Now, Kip is inspiring me through his films, including his latest, What The Health. This is an example of a synergistic collaborative relationship where we are inspiring and uplifting each other.

Some vegan yogis I deeply appreciate include Doug Swenson, Kali Ray, Julie Kirkpatrick, David Life, Sharon Gannon, and Julia Butterfly Hill. Stic of Dead Prez and the album Information Age is totally amazing and his wife Afya Ibomu is a vegan chef and such a sweet soul.  I love the work of James LaVeck and Jenny Stein, in particular their film Peaceable Kingdom.  Ralph Smart and his inspiring YouTube videos are a joy.  I also deeply appreciate the work of Breeze Harper in relationship to both veganism and diversity. DJ Cavem and the work he does through his music and educating the youth is fabulous. 

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

Things I do to prevent burn-out include a consistent yoga/meditation practice, get outside and enjoy nature, swim, play with my son, drink green juice, fuel up on healthy eats, share food with fellow vegans, and the list goes on.  I have found that activists who do not have some kind of spiritual practice that focuses on self-care often experience burnout and frustration. They may take out their anger on others, which perpetuates the very issues they seek to resolve.  Some yoga practitioners and spiritual seekers, on the other hand, immerse themselves in practices, such as meditation, for their own personal growth and healing, while disconnecting from worldly matters. Spiritual practices that remove us from global issues of justice, equality, liberation, and radical inclusion are not authentic in their quest to realize the interconnectedness of life. When a deep spiritual practice fuses with a call to action, it awakens a great force and instigates powerful change.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

Education for today’s youth is near and dear to my heart at this time as I have a 3-year-old that will be starting school soon. As more people are becoming sensitive and aware of their own health and well-being, as well as the health of each other and the planet we are seeing a growing number of vegan restaurants, products, and services. What remains is a huge gap in our education system. Vegan-centric practices of empathy and compassion are not being taught as part of core academics. After I had my son Noah, I started working with a team of fellow vegans to fill that gap and open Heärt Montessori. This is a model school where kids grow up learning self-reliance, sustainability, permaculture, meditation, mindfulness, conflict-resolution, and compassion for all beings and the earth as a part of core academics. We plan to open in January of 2018. Learn more, get involved, and lend a hand by clicking here.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

To me being a vegan is living a lifestyle connected to empathy and extending compassion to myself, all beings, and the planet.