Activist Spotlight: Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach held a Food Sampling stall at their local Earth Day festival in April, reaching 50 environmentally-concerned people with lots of wonderful vegan food and educational literature! Activists served Daiya and Field Roast products as well as choc chip cookies, and they distributed Compassion Over Killing’s ‘Eating Sustainably’ and Vegan Outreach’s ‘Compassionate Choices’ literature.

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach -  Earth Day Festival 2016

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach
Earth Day Festival 2016

VegFund spoke with group founder, Lauren to find out more…

VegFund: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach: Going vegan itself inspired me to be involved in spreading the message. Once educated on the issues, I felt compelled to share the information, to advance the movement. I credit the Sonoma County vegan community for initially engaging that desire. From there, I felt empowered to strike out on my own and keep it up.

VF: What other activism and/or vegan events have you been involved in?

LVCO: I have enjoyed tabling and leafleting on a semi-regular basis. When I last moved to an area with no vegan groups, I decided to start one, Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach.

VF: What were some of the common responses and/or discussions you had during this event?

LVCO: On the occasion of Earth Day, I often opened up discussions referencing the environmental impacts of food choices. Since all attendees had just participated in a river and neighborhood clean-up, I figured (correctly) that they were more open to vegan food than the overall local population. Many women presented a casual interest, but it was men especially who exclaimed with pleasant surprise upon tasting the samples.

VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

LVCO: The highlight was being swarmed by a group of middle-schoolers, all of whom loved the samples and readily took the informational brochures and one of whom explained that when she’s done “growing up” and allowed (by her parents or of an independent age), she plans on becoming vegan. She spoke eloquently about dairy milk being for the calves, so I have faith in her, but she was running off when I wanted to explain away any nutritional concerns; so my husband yelled out, “keep influencing your friends!”

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

LVCO: The only limiting factor was the attendance, but it was expected for a town of its population, but capitalizing on a community event that attracted eco-conscious people was a great opportunity nonetheless.

VF: Do you have any quotes/paraphrases from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

LVCO: My advice is to work with your situation. As I currently live in a relatively sparse and sprawling area, I still can make a difference in the local communities. One can plant seeds, reach out, and create change anywhere.

There are many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you! Please read our Grant Programs Overview for information on the types of grants available and how to apply.

 

An Environmental Argument to Help Animals

Many, if not most, environmental arguments tend to focus on the serious impacts of beef. Although we  see a vegan diet as optimal, most people instead see chicken as being vastly superior to beef (and increasingly cheaper than beef). Any time someone replaces beef with chicken, many many more animals suffer.

Here is a great argument that actually helps chicken, from New Scientist (March 21, 2015, p. 44):

Such a switch [from chickens to plant-based substitutes] could make a difference to the environment: if we all swapped chicken for beans, for example, greenhouse gas emissions would be much lower. Chicken is responsible for 6.9 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of meat, compared with 2 kg for bean protein.

girl-hugging-chicken

 

 

VegFund Sees Green as the New Black for Microfinance

Moving clients to plant-based diets to enhance institutional profitability and leading a more comprehensive practice of responsible finance

By Leslie Barcus, VegFund Executive Director

Microfinance conference

The Microfinance Centre of Poland (MFC) invited VegFund to serve on two panels, one on Pushing the Boundaries of Responsible Finance: Lean, Green and Mean(ingful) and another on The Impact of Animal Agriculture Microfinance on Customers’ Health and Well-being as a part of the MFC 2014 Annual Microfinance Conference held recently in Istanbul.

Sponsored by VegFund, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Founder of Inspiring Awareness Now and a noted author on promoting plant-based foods, addressed the ills and negative externalities resulting worldwide from animal agriculture. He spoke about the attribution of animal agriculture to global soil depletion, water overuse, land scarcity, pollution and the devastation to human communities of climate change.

Microfinance clients represent some of those people most deprived of clean and adequate water and access to land and are at risk of the loss of their homes and assets resulting from natural emergencies driven by climate change. They equally represent the estimated 800 million people who go hungry each and every day.

Jakub Sobiecki, a nutritionist and dietician from Poland and a second panelist sponsored by VegFund, noted the link between the increased consumption of animal fats in the developing world and the rise of chronic disease and related deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The global microfinance community is dedicated to closing the financial inclusion gap across the developing world where the increase in the current global demand for meat and dairy is anticipated to rise by 80 percent in the coming years. The irony is that the developing world may effectively eat its financial and economic advances into yet greater problems of climate change, pollution, flooding, fresh water shortages, greater food insecurity and income vulnerability owing to poor diets.

Grappling with these challenges will bring greater financial and personal vulnerability to microfinance households. That, in turn, spells problems for risk management and financial performance for microfinance institutions. The potential for these scenarios suggests that the notion of responsible finance should include the care of the microfinance community for the well-being of clients and the environment as microfinance institutions reach for financial sustainability.

Aspiring to serve millions of low-income households around the world, those professionals working for financial inclusion have a unique opportunity to lead in the development of responsible and ethical finance through the redirection of feeding the planet with plant-based foods.

A healthier client base will translate into a lower rate incidence of illness, less vulnerability to household loss of income and less risk of loss for microfinance institutions.

The microfinance community can boost clients’ assets by helping people feed themselves more food with the input of fewer already scarce resources. Plant-based foods produce tens of pounds more food using less water and less land compared to non-vegan foods, and plants are significantly less polluting.

Promoting health, abundance and environmental sustainability for the world’s vulnerable poor is the essence of true sustainability and responsible finance.

March/April 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Bruno Azambuja

Bruno, an activist in Brazil, describes how he became vegan and his work as an animal advocate.

BrunoMy first contact with vegetarianism was through a vegetarian friend who questioned my eating habits for the animals’ sake. I ignored his arguments for about three months until one day a bell finally rang after reading a few articles and watching a few videos. I realized that I was being selfish and inconsistent in my concerns for the environment and the lives of animals. I became a vegan on that same day. It didn’t make sense to continue using animals for any purpose whatsoever.

I went on to further study the subject and started disseminating all the information I could. A few months later, I learned about VEDDAS, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing awareness and educating the public about animal rights and veganism.  In 2010, I started actively participating in the group’s activities on a weekly basis. I am currently head of the VEDDAS-MÓVEL Pelo Brasil project which shows videos in the streets of several cities in Brazil, and I also take part in the volunteer training workshops. VEDDAS is currently present with regular weekly activities in five Brazilian cities and also holds monthly activities in 10 other cities. The activities range from protests to movie screenings to showing footage of animal exploitation in public spaces. By participating with VEDDAS on its multimedia projects, I have had the opportunity to reach hundreds of people–calling on their empathy and being able to provoke a deep reflection in many of them.

Since November 2012, I have also volunteered for VegFund, helping to manage a Portuguese language online social media campaign. In this capacity, I share information on the topic of animal rights and veganism. I also answer the questions brought by thousands of visitors every month, and help people transition to a vegan lifestyle.

For me, being vegan isn’t enough. We must educate others about veganism and share our experiences so that people can rethink their relationship with animals and, as a consequence of that, come to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It is a privilege to be able to take part in actions that favor this change.

Vegan Outreach in the Yoga Community

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Hilda in Yoga Pose; Photo by RayAngelo

Photo by: Ray Angelo

People who do yoga are generally a conscious and caring group. They tend to be open to new ideas, and they are growing in number. Vegan advocates, especially those already involved in yoga in some way, would likely find a good audience in people who do or teach yoga. Advocates can bring up the ethical, health and environmental implications of a diet that includes animals raised for food, in the terms of the yogic philosophy.

Ethics

Patanjali, the great yogi who was able to conceptualize and write down what yoga is, described the eight limbs of yogic practice. The limb that stands out for the issue of eating animals is Yama, or “choosing to practice moral restraint in external interactions” (p.44, The Aquarian Teacher). Yama is then broken into five subsets, which include non-hurting (ahimsa) and non-stealing (asteya). Clearly, all the horrors inflicted on animals raised for food from birth to slaughter would violate the former. Diverting milk intended for a mother’s child, and diverting that child away from his or her mother, would be considered a violation of the latter, stealing. Those who practice yoga are working their way toward being more and more compassionate. If they can see that every meal is an opportunity for a caring act of nonviolence, it may turn some minds toward veganism.

Health

Considering health, the following is the perspective of eating meat from yogic philosophy:

“Meat is among the most acid-producing foods. It leaves a residue of uric acid in the bloodstream. Acidic blood is an ideal environment for the development of cancer. Uric acid is a toxin that makes it harder to reach the higher, clearer meditative states because it is an irritant in the bloodstream.

Meat is also among the greatest sources of cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and senility. Most animals which are raised for their meat today are fed a variety of chemicals and hormones to make them grow faster and bigger.

Meat takes three days to pass through the human system. For optimum health, men need to digest food within 24 hours; women 18 hours” (p. 253 The Aquarian Teacher).

Yogis tend to be concerned with their health and would likely find all the health benefits of a plant-based diet compelling.

Environment

Refraining from eating animals also corresponds to the yogic principles of taking care of the Earth.

Andrea Kowalski wrote in a 2012 feature for VegNews magazine how the yama (moral restraint) aparigraha, or greedlessness, supports a vegan diet. Specifically, she writes about how much more land, water and energy are used to raise animals for food in comparison to how much would be needed to feed a human with a vegan diet. Also, the yama asteya, mentioned earlier as non-stealing, can also be interpreted as “right use of resources” (p 44, The Aquarian Teacher), which would support this viewpoint.

Jivamukti Yoga co-founder and vegan, Sharon Gannon, answers the question “Can someone be a meat-eating environmentalist?” on her website:

“If that someone is a human being, then in my opinion, no; it is a contradiction in terms. To be an environmentalist is to care about the environment and care about life on planet Earth. The raising of animals for food and all that it entails is the single most destructive force impacting our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Our planet simply cannot sustain the greed of billions of human beings who are eating other animals.”

Reaching Out

Nikki in yoga pose

Nikki in yoga pose

A great way to reach out to the yogic community is to provide them with delicious samples of vegan food. In so doing, an activist can introduce people to the vegan diet, showing how it is normal and good, and also how it connects to yogic practice. Sampling out food is a very positive way to engage people and is an excellent conversation starter–anything from where the ingredients were bought, to how it is prepared, to why people choose to be vegan.

Educational literature to reinforce the vegan food and your message is also important. A Life Connected, by NonViolence United, is a beautiful piece and would be great for placement in a yoga studio. Vegan Outreach’s Compassionate Choices emphasizes the compassionate angle, while the Eating Sustainably brochure from Compassion Over Killing illustrates the ripple effect of eating on the rest of the world. Farm Sanctuary’s Recipes for Life Booklet would likely be appreciated by healthy yogis who enjoy cooking.

If you’re thinking of reaching out to the yogic community and are in need of funding to support your outreach, be sure to check out VegFund’s Food Sampling grant program.

In sum, people who practice yoga often have a deep understanding of how everything is connected into one web of life. Helping this demographic see how veganism is in line with their beliefs can have a big impact. If the yoga community is asked to look deeply at the roots of yoga and its connection to veganism, they can create real social change and greatly reduce the amount of suffering by fellow sentient beings on the planet today.

References:

Bhajan, Yogi. (2003). The Aquarian Teacher

Kowalski, Andrea. (2012). VegNews magazine. “Karmavores?”

 

Everybody’s Doing It: How the Psychology of Social Norms Affects Advocacy

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

As animal advocates, we have the challenging task of encouraging people to make lifestyle changes that most of society has yet to adopt. So, it’s critical for us to understand how societal pressures play into people’s decision-making processes. Otherwise, our message might fall on deaf ears, or worse, it may reinforce the negative behavior we are trying to get people to stop (namely, eating animals). In this AR Trends article, we’ll explore how the psychology of social norms affects advocacy and provide some concrete tips for making sure we don’t accidentally send the wrong message!

Everyone is subject to the pressures of society, or social norms. These social norms influence a person’s actions in two fundamental ways: by what s/he sees others actually doing, known as descriptive norms, and by what a person believes s/he ought to do, known as injunctive norms (Cialdini, 2003)

An example of the way these two psychological factors can conflict is illustrated by a 1971 TV commercial dubbed “the Iron Eyes Cody spot,” which was the trademark of a campaign to reduce littering. Although the ad was effective in eliciting sentiment, the PSA might have had the opposite of its intended effect.

To paint the picture (or even better, check it out on YouTube), in the ad a Native American man is seen paddling through the water only to eddy out onto a shore filled with trash. To top it off, he sees a motorist on the highway throw trash out his window. The viewer watches as the camera gets a close-up of the Native American’s face with a single tear running down his cheek.

The problem here is that the ad actually has two messages. One is obvious: Don’t litter; it makes people who care about the environment cry. The second is more subtle but equally persuasive: People litter, and they litter a lot (Cialdini. 2003).

The studies suggest that these two factors–what people see others doing, and what they believe they should do–need to be in alignment for effective advocacy. If a person detects that most people are doing something, they reasonably believe that it is acceptable and maybe even the right thing to do, even if they are being told to do the opposite.

A recent study by a group of researchers in Irvine, CA (Misra, Stokols, & Marino, 2011) illustrates the power of social norms. The researchers were interested in finding out if they could increase survey participation rates using descriptive social norms (i.e., “everyone is doing it”). In one group, potential survey takers were told that most people in the past who were asked to take the survey did so. In the control group, that part was left out. The findings showed that using the “everyone is doing it” (descriptive social norm) appeal significantly increased the number of responses to the surveys (Misra et al., 2011).

Another study looked at the concept of descriptive and injunctive norms in the context of selling eco-friendly apparel. However, the researchers took it a step further and also examined how social cues, which they dubbed “extrinsic” forms of marketing, and personal values, or what they called “intrinsic” marketing, affected consumers.

They found that those who didn’t have a commitment to the environment were more likely to be influenced by an argument that used social cues. In other words, if these consumers saw that purchasing a product would go toward a large campaign that helped the environment, they were more likely to buy. People who already believed in the importance of eco-friendly goods were more persuaded by claims that related to the product itself.

In short, as animal advocates, we need to be aware of the messages we are sending, both directly and indirectly. According to the studies, it’s best to steer clear of anything that reinforces the notion that most people eat meat and animal products. For example, it might be tempting to say something like, “Every year, billions of animals are slaughtered for food,” in order to convey the vast amount of unnecessary suffering that takes place. But, in doing so, we may inadvertently be promoting eating animals as a social norm.

So, what should we do? In advocating to people who are less inclined to veganism, the best route may be to show them all the people and groups who eat an animal-free diet in order to send the message that it is a normal thing to do. For people who are more inclined to veganism, like vegetarians and others in the likely demographics, citing specific benefits of the change could be more effective.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have ideas on how the psychology of social norms can be applied to our activism? We’d love to hear from you! Post your opinions and comments below.

References:

Cialdini, Robert. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(4), 105-109.

Kim, H., Lee, E.J., & Hur, W.M. (2012). The Normative Social Influence on Eco-Friendly Consumer Behavior: The Moderating Effect of Environmental Marketing Claims. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 30(1), 4-18.

Misra, Shalina, Stokols, Daniel & Marino, Anne Heberger. (2011). Using Norm-Based Appeals to Increase Response Rates in Evaluation Research: A Field Experiment. American Journal of Evaluation, 33(1), 88-98.

Are VegPledges Effective?

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

When you’re tabling at an event, have you ever wondered if VegPledges (see a PDF example here) are effective? It takes extra effort to print out the forms, make them available to the public, and then encourage people to sign the pledge. Is it worth it? Do people follow through on their commitments? In this AR Trends article, we’ll take a look at whether and why VegPledges are an important tool for activists.

Are Pledges Effective?

Recently, a group of researchers wanted to get to the bottom of whether or not making a commitment leads to actual behavior change (Lokhorst et al., 2013). To find their answer, they dug into the environmental literature and reviewed 19 scientific studies. The studies tested if pledging to do a specific pro-environmental behavior (e.g., recycling, riding the bus, conserving water, etc.) resulted in more positive behavior change than not being asked to pledge. The results were clear: those who were asked to make a commitment were more likely to change their behavior than those who weren’t asked to make a commitment. Even after the pledge period ended, those who took the pledge were still engaging in more pro-environmental behaviors than those who didn’t pledge. It appears that pledges are an effective tool for behavior change, both in the short- and long-term, and are worth the extra effort.

Why Do They Work?

So we now know that pledges can be effective…but why? Let’s take a brief look at three of the major theories. Understanding why pledges work can help us optimize our pledge forms and programs.

Self-Concept 

People are generally socialized to be consistent. This means that when they voluntarily follow-through on a behavior, they conclude that the behavior must be a reflection of their self-concept. For example, let’s imagine that a man takes a pledge to switch to reusable shopping bags. As he buys the bags and begins using them, he’ll start to see himself as someone who cares about the environment. This change in self-concept is thought to be one of the reasons for long-term behavior change.

Attitude

A very similar idea to the previous theory is that people bring their attitudes in line with their behavior. When a person pledges to engage in a new behavior and actually follows-through, over time s/he will generate reasons why the behavior is good, thus developing a positive attitude toward the behavior.

Norms

The final theory has to do with social pressures, that is, concerns about what others think. In most societies, not keeping one’s commitments is frowned upon. Therefore, when people take a pledge, especially one that is public, they feel a sense of obligation to keep their word.

Taking VegPledges to the Next Level

Based on the 19 research studies, as well as the theories on commitment, Lokhorst et al. (2013) came up with several recommendations for improving the success of pledges. According to the researchers, commitments should be:

  • Voluntary–not coerced or pressured
  • Active (e.g., writing a statement or putting one’s signature on a pledge form)
  • Public or publicized
  • Hard to deny (i.e., pledgers should include their name as opposed to making the pledge form anonymous)
  • Kept fresh in people’s minds (e.g., follow-up with feedback, support, and resources)
  • Social (i.e., encourage pledgers to commit to recruiting a friend, neighbor, or family member. Not only does this increase reach, but by persuading others, those who pledged will further persuade themselves)
  • Fun (it’s much easier for people to adhere to a commitment if they enjoy it!)
With these general tips in mind, what are some specific ideas you have for making vegan pledges more effective? Please comment below. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Reference and Further Reading:

Lokhorst, A.M., Werner, C.,  Staats, H., van Dijk, E., and Gale, J.L. (2013). Commitment and behavior change: A meta-analysis and critical review of commitment-making strategies in environmental research. Environment and Behavior, 45(1), 3-34.

 

Meatonomics: An interview with author Dave Simon

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

Meatonomics, a new book by author Dave Simon, exposes the hidden economic forces that drive the animal agriculture system and explores the ways in which these forces affect consumer spending, eating, health, prosperity, and longevity. In the book, Dave discusses how the public has largely lost the ability to decide for themselves what – and how much – to eat. Instead, those decisions are manipulated by meat and dairy producers through artificially low prices, misleading messaging, and heavy control over legislation and regulation. A must-read for activists, this book will provide you with a better understanding of how the animal agriculture industry operates and what can be done to address the broken system.

VegFund recently caught up with Dave to learn more about his important book.

VF: How did the idea for Meatonomics come about?

DS: A few years ago, I emailed a factory farming video to a bunch of omnivorous friends and asked them what they thought of it. The most interesting response came from the dean of a major law school, who said that while the images in the video were disturbing, the humans were likely acting illegally and for that reason, the behavior was exceptional and anomalous. That is, in his view, the images in the video didn’t portray a systemic problem or suggest a need for change.

At the time, I didn’t know whether this was accurate or not. But I decided to start digging around, and what I found in my research was really shocking. In the past few decades, animal food producers have engaged in a relentless legislative campaign to emasculate anti-cruelty protections for farmed animals. They’ve also made it much harder for consumers to investigate, criticize or sue them. 

These dozens of recent laws don’t help animals or consumers – they help only meat and dairy producers. And they help in monetarily important ways; by helping producers keep costs low, they help ensure higher profits. As I learned more about factory farming’s economic forces and consequences, I thought the material was worthy of a book.

VF: In doing research for the book, were there any statistics that you found especially surprising?

DS: Yes – there are a lot of very surprising statistics in this field.  A few dozen of the most interesting are posted on the book’s website, but here are a few that stand out:

  • The U.S. spends about $38 billion to subsidize meat and dairy, but only about .0004 of that, or $17 million, to subsidize fruits and vegetables. 
  • A hot dog and a baked potato contain the same amount of protein – about 5 grams.
  • 200 million pounds of bycatch (dead birds, fish and marine animals) is discarded each day in the world’s oceans as an unintended consequence of fishing. This mass killing of animals – some with inherent economic value, and some with value as feed for commercially fished species – has devastating economic and ecological effects. The U.N. says fishing represents a “net economic loss” for the world.

VF: What do you think are the two most important things vegan activists can do to effect change?

DS: I think the single best thing vegans can do is encourage other people to consume less meat and dairy, or even better, to go vegan. There are a number of ways to do this, but the two I like best are handing out vegan literature in public, and inviting friends, coworkers or family members to eat at vegan restaurants where they can experience firsthand how easy (and tasty) it can be to be vegan. Anyone interested in handing out flyers can get them free from Vegan Outreach.

Another thing people can do is push for changes in law and policy. This takes more effort but, when successful, has the potential to affect thousands or even millions of people and animals. I propose a meat tax in the book and would certainly be interested to see that rise to the level of national discussion, but there are many other campaigns people can get involved in.

VF: What’s the main message you want readers to take from this book?

DS: I hope people will see that meat and dairy producers, often with the help of governments, are aggressively influencing consumer behavior in ways that are creepy, misleading, and inappropriate. The result of this heavy influence is that consumers are routinely manipulated into supporting animal agriculture practices that are unethical, unhealthy, and ecologically and economically unsound.

VF: Is there anything else that you would like to share with readers?

DS: As Gandhi said before successfully completing the unthinkable task of dismantling British rule in India, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Don’t ever be afraid to ask for change. Ask restaurants to provide vegan options. Ask friends and family to go vegan. Ask legislators to pass humane laws. There’s no harm in asking, and you might be pleasantly surprised to get what you asked for.

Be sure to visit www.meatonomics.com where you can order a copy of the book, find out about Dave’s book tour, and learn more about this important topic by reading the informative posts.

Dave Simon is a lawyer and vegan advocate. He works as general counsel for a healthcare company and serves on the board of the APRL Fund, a non-profit dedicated to protecting animals. Dave received his B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and his J.D. from the University of Southern California. He lives in Southern California with his partner, Tania Marie, and their rabbit, tortoise, and two cats.

Interview with Adrienne Lusk, Texas VegFest Organizer

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

Adrienne Lusk, director of the Texas VegFest and vice president of the Texas Veg Foundation, recently took time out of her busy schedule to chat with VegFund about the upcoming event. 

 

 

 

VF: With the festival just around the corner, we’re thrilled to have the chance to talk with you. Can you start by giving us a general overview?   

AL: We have a fantastic event planned for 2013! This year’s event will be held on Saturday April 6th from 11am-6pm at beautiful Fiesta Gardens, right off the lake. We are expecting 5,000 attendees for this event. With all of our activities, sponsors, vendors, speakers, demos, and of course great food and live music, Texas VegFest will be an event that you don’t want to miss!

VF: How did the Texas VegFest begin?

AL: It began as an idea that our now President, Angela Ramsammy, posted on the main vegan community forum of the area, Vegans Rock Austin. The idea was perfect timing for me as I was looking to do an event focusing on veganism but did not have a team. A group of us met in January of 2011 to begin going over the logistics, possible locations, and our ideas for this event. After several months of discussion and fine tuning the team, the foundation incorporated in July 2011, and the festival became an actuality.

VF: What inspired the Texas Veg Foundation to organize the event?

AL: Austin is a city that always has something going on. With such a vibrant scene and a welcoming–as well as rather large–veg community, it was hard to believe that something like this was not already going on in the city. In a sense, that was the inspiration. We wanted to create something good enough to be included in the city’s historic events, something that encompassed what the city represented and offered. The well-networked, plant-based community in central Texas needed to be showcased.

VF: Last year’s festival was a huge success. Did you expect it to be so popular?

AL: Absolutely not. Our staff was confident that the local vegan community would be there in support, but we did not expect the overwhelming support we received from attendees who were not vegan or vegetarian, who were there to learn more about cruelty-free lifestyles, or those who came from other states and counties. It was definitely a surprise, and I am so glad we could meet the expectations.

VF: What’s been the biggest hurdle?

AL: The biggest hurdle is always weather, but we won’t even go into that! During the planning process, the biggest challenge is fundraising and allocating the funds to be able to deliver the foundation’s mission effectively. Another stressor is making sure to provide the sponsors, vendors, speakers, demonstrators, volunteers, and attendees everything we promise and that all of these parties are communicating with each other.

VF: What do you enjoy most about running the VegFest?

AL: I actually enjoy the logistical aspects and networking of the planning portion. The people I network with are very passionate, and it is such a great feeling to see them be so supportive of Texas VegFest. I also get to learn a whole lot about how the city, county, state, and businesses run. However, THE most enjoyable part of planning Texas VegFest 2012 was during the peak time of the event around 3pm. The event seemed to take on its own form and ran on its own. I was finally able to take a step back and watch all of the months and months of planning at work in full swing. It was an amazing feeling.

VF: What advice do you have for an activist who is thinking of starting a VegFest in his or her community?

AL: Be organized! This cannot be stressed enough.

VF: If people want to volunteer for the Texas VegFest, whom should they contact? 

AL: There is still time to sign up to be a volunteer. Not only do volunteers get to work with a group of fantastic people, but they also get an official shirt designed by Herbivore Clothing Company, a special VIP swag bag, and a party in their honor where there will be some great prizes raffled, like a Vitamix 5200! Individuals interested in volunteering can complete the Volunteer form on our website. One of our volunteer coordinators will get in touch shortly. Or, potential volunteers can email us directly at: info[at]texasvegfest[dot]com.

VegFund is glad to be able to support the Texas VegFest and many other national and international vegan festivals that take place throughout the year. If you’re planning a VegFest, or considering starting one in your community, check out VegFund’s Merit Award program for resources and support.

Vegan Earth Day Outreach

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

On April 22nd, over a billion people from around the world will join together in celebration of Earth Day. Many will be open to learning what they can do to reduce their eco-footprint, and since going vegan is one of the most important steps one can take for the planet, this makes Earth Day a perfect outreach opportunity. To help you gear up for your Earth Day outreach, we’ve compiled some helpful tips and resources. If you have additional ideas, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

Education: You don’t need to be an environmental expert to host or table at an Earth Day event. However, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little time brushing up on how veganism is good for the planet. Lots of resources can be found online, but to save you some legwork, check out our recent AR Trends article. It provides a thorough summary of research on the environmental benefits of veganism.

Leaflets: Whether you’re tabling at an event or hosting a screening, chances are you won’t get the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to have literature. In addition to brochures that discuss the positive impact veganism makes for the animals, for an Earth Day event, you’ll also want to have literature that covers the environmental benefits. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Compassion Over Killings’ Eating Sustainably: A trifold brochure that explains how animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming, resource depletion, and pollution, and how we can fight for the environment by going vegan. It’s available for order in bulk quantities, including 25 for $4, 150 for $15, 500 for $40, and 1,000 for $65.
  • Action for Animals’ Go Green, Go Vegan: A flyer with a wealth of information on the negative environmental effects of raising animals for food. Global warming, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, and species extinction are just a handful of the many topics that are covered. Because the handout covers so much information, there is a lot of text and no images, which makes it less eye-catching than other options. It’s available for order in bulk, costing just $2.50 for 50 flyers.
  • Nonviolence United’s A Life Connected: Small booklet that encourages people to make choices that align with their values. This positive and colorful booklet points out that veganism is good for the animals, planet, and people, but unlike the other options, it doesn’t get into specific facts on veganism and the environment. It’s available for order in bulk, including 100 brochures for $15, 200 for $29, 500 for $69, and 1,000 for $139.
  • Vegetarian Resource Group’s Save Our WaterThis colorful handout gives a compelling presentation for the environmental benefits of veganism. It covers the impact that animal agriculture has on the water, air, and land, and also includes various tables that clearly show the inefficiency of meat production. This handout isn’t available for bulk order, so it must be downloaded and printed.

Finding or Promoting an Event: Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries! With thousands of communities participating each year, it’s likely that there’s an Earth Day event happening in your area. Tabling at a community event and giving out free vegan food samples along with educational literature is a great way to engage the public. To find an Earth Day celebration near you, browse the event calendar in your local paper or try an online search.

If there isn’t an event in your area, you might consider organizing your own. There are a range of possibilities, including feed-ins on college campuses, film screenings, and festivals. For those who are organizing events, promotion is essential. For great tips on advertising your event, read through VegFund’s Advertising 101 post.

Films: In recent years, there’s been an explosion in the number of documentaries that explore how our food choices affect the environment. If you’re tabling at an Earth Day event, playing a short documentary on a loop can be a great addition to your booth. Or, you might consider organizing a screening for a longer documentary. Here are a few titles that are worth checking out:

  • A Life Connected: An uplifting 12-minute video that explains the many benefits of making vegan choices.
  • Making the Connection: This 30-minute film is divided into eight chapters and explores how becoming vegan is good for our health, the environment, and the animals. It features interviews with dietitians, elite athletes, environmental groups, and more. Chapter 6 is about 4 minutes long and is specifically focused on the environment.
  • Meat the Truth: This is a 72-minute documentary about global warming that focuses on what many other environmental films, like an Inconvenient Truth, leave out: the impact of raising animals for food. This film is available in 10 languages.
For more video ideas, visit the Environment & Sustainability section of VegVids.com.

Eco-Friendly Outreach: Finally, whether or not it’s Earth Day, we should always strive to make our outreach as environmentally-friendly as possible. To see how well you’re doing, and for some great tips, read through Make Every Day Earth Day.

If you’re in need of support for your event, apply for a grant today! Now, let’s get out there and start making a difference!