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The Nonviolent Revolution – an Interview with Nathaniel Altman, by Victoria Moran

In 1971, I was living at the Wheaton, Illinois, headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America, and working in their library. I wanted to know the meaning of life. 

Everyone on staff was over 65 or under 25. No one else could manage on $100 a month plus room and board. I was one of half a dozen or so “young people.” So was a handsome, introspective guy from New York City, Nathaniel Altman. Like the other male workers — there weren’t many — he bunked on the 4th floor, and when he wasn’t busy with his grounds crew job, that’s where he’d be, working on his book, Eating for Life — the first volume on vegetarianism to be published in the U.S. in the 20th Century.

He’d type each chapter on his 4th floor manual typewriter, and bring it down to me in the library where I had access to a fancy electric typewriter — state of the art. I’d type, and proofread a bit, and think, “I know an author. Maybe someday I could be an author.” Eating for Life: A Book About Vegetarianism was published in 1973. My first book, Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, came in 1985. I feel fairly prolific with 13 titles. Nathaniel has almost 30 — he’s always been ahead of me. 

One of his most powerful works was The Nonviolent Revolution, published in 1989. Now, in response to the 2016 election and the situation we see as we look out on the world, Nathaniel has updated and republished this important work. I interviewed him about the book, the state of affairs in our world, and why nonviolence is the pressing message of the present day. 

What is ahimsa?

The term ahimsa (pronounced əˈhimˌ) comes from the Sanskrit, and has long been defined in India as “non-injury” or “non-killing.” Yet when viewed in a more active Western context, it means “dynamic harmlessness” or more properly “dynamic compassion.” This would not only encompass the renunciation of the will to kill or the intention to hurt any other living being through hostile thought, word or deed, but involves the conscious integration of compassion into every aspect of our everyday lives.

What brought you into the ahimsa lifestyle?

I had already become a vegetarian by the time I first learned about ahimsa in the early 1970s. The fact that ahimsa is so all-encompassing and practical appealed to me a lot. Ahimsa’s primary application, I believe, is achieving a level of inner peace; this is followed by peace with others and then expanding our circle to encompass the rest of the larger world community. Ahimsa has to do with what we eat, how we earn a living, what we spend our money on, what causes we support and the values we stand for as compassionate human beings. I remember reading from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The choice today is no longer between violence and non-violence. It is either non-violence or non-existence.” This impressed me greatly and led me to believe that the journey towards ahimsa is a journey worth taking.

You wrote your first book, on vegetarianism, in the early 1970s, and you first published The Nonviolent Revolution in 1989. How are things different now?

When I first wrote Eating for Life in 1973, choosing a meat-free diet was considered a strange and even radical idea. Now vegetarianism- and veganism for that matter- have become part of the mainstream, not just in the United States but in many countries around the world. There is more nutritional and scientific information on plant-based diets available in books, magazines and on the Internet than ever before, plus the number of restaurants that offer vegan and vegetarian cuisine has grown tremendously. There is also much more support available for those interested in adopting meat-free diets, including organizations and individuals like Victoria who offer inspiration, information and practical guidance.

It’s exciting to see that the concept of ahimsa is becoming more widely understood, and that more and more people are striving to practice a compassionate way of living. Yet at the same time, the acceptance of violence as a way to settle disputes is still very prevalent in the world; the threat of nuclear war is about as great as it has ever been; lying has become epidemic in the media, politics and business; millions of animals are still put to death every year for food, clothing and vivisection, the planetary environment is under constant threat due to rampant consumerism and the burning of fossil fuels. The challenges are great, and there is still much work to be done!

What do we need to do to join the revolution?

Although much easier said than done, I think the first step is to become more mindful of our thoughts, words and deeds every single day, because these all have an accumulative effect on the world around us. If we take human relationship as an example, we interact daily with dozens of people, whether at home, at work, at school, at the gym or when we go shopping. Even if we could make the charitable claim that if half the people over the age of 12 are responsible for at least ten negative thoughts, attitudes or actions every day, it shouldn’t be surprising that our world has often become a violent, insecure and unhealthy place to live. Yet if we make the effort to challenge wrong ideas, make compassionate choices in what we buy, what we eat and adhere to truth and kindness in our dealings with others, we not only create a more peaceful life for ourselves, but we can potentially benefit every living being on earth

Given the situation in the world today, are you optimistic about the future?

After the presidential election of 2016, I felt sad and depressed about the future of humanity. Yet my feelings eventually mobilized me to prepare the new edition of The Nonviolent Revolution, as well as a new edition of a book I wrote years ago about sacred trees. Although there is undoubtedly much evil in the world today, we need to recognize that far more people are striving to do good.

Each of us has a contribution to make that can have a positive and accumulative effect on the global peace picture. We can start with the little things. This can include learning how to be more patient with oneself and others, refraining from gossip, overcoming a harmful habit like smoking or resolving a conflict with another person. Adopting a lifestyle that does the least amount of harm possible to other living beings, following a path of right livelihood, enlightened consuming, recycling, helping others, planting trees, saving energy, and supporting individuals and organizations that work for good are all things an individual can do to achieve both personal and planetary healing. Even though the results of our efforts may not be immediately obvious, they have an impact!

Plus we may not be able to achieve everything we aspire to accomplish and we will most certainly make mistakes. As with any journey, we may lose our way at times, we may need to recover lost ground, we may need to take an occasional detour, or we may be frustrated with our progress. But I feel it is a journey worth taking. Although born out of inner reflection, a life dedicated to ahimsa is both dynamic and expansive. It contains both the seeds of self-transformation and lays the groundwork for the transformation of society

Nathaniel Altman is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and counselor who has authored more than twenty published books on peace studies, healthy diets, alternative healing, nature and relationship. A student of political science and metaphysics for over 40 years, Nathaniel is a writer, lecturer and workshop leader. He was a faculty member at the Krotona School of Theosophy in Ojai, California, and has appeared on over 150 radio and television programs throughout the United States and Canada, Australia, Latin America and Europe. His articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Good Housekeeping, Natural Health, Well Being, Free Spirit, Vegetarian Times and USA Today. Find him at www.nathanielaltman.com.

Victoria Moran takes very little credit for this post because all I did was ask questions and let Nathaniel’s brilliance and commitment do the rest. I am grateful and honored to have followed in my friend’s footsteps as an author, with 12 titles extant including Main Street Vegan and Creating a Charmed Life. Coming in December 2017 is The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook, coauthored with JL Fields and Main Street Vegan Academy coaches.

Suffering in the Dairy Industry, by Diana Goldman, VLCE

I wrote this post after reading an article in the newspaper about a dairy farm located relatively close to my home in Massachusetts. 

A mother’s experience, 20+ years ago, Singapore (where two of my three daughters were born):

Our newborn is up again. It’s 3:00 am. My husband and I lie quietly for a few moments willing our daughter back to sleep. But her cries are persistent. Who knows if she’s hungry, wet, cold or simply distressed and looking for comfort. Regardless, we’ve reached our limit; there’s only so long one can ignore an infant baby’s cries. My husband makes his way to the nursery, returns with our daughter, and lays her beside me. Her whimpers subside. She begins to nurse. At that moment there is no more peaceful sound than the blissful rhythm of our baby sucking.

A mother’s experience, three years ago, Sunshine Dairy Farm, Newbury, MA:

The calf is born. Cold and disoriented her mother nestles close to provide warmth; she guides her baby’s mouth towards her udders. The calf suckles and then falls asleep by her mother. Mother and child remain this way, comforted, nurtured by each other’s presence. The calf awakes and drinks more of the colostrum or “early milk”. This milk is rich in antibodies, essential for the health and growth of the baby calf, but not fit for human consumption. Within 24 hours the calf has done its job and her mother’s udders fill with milk. This, humans can consume and is therefore valuable….

Read More »

5 Questions with Victoria Moran, originally published in VegNews

1) You were raised in Kansas City, Missouri, which at one time had the second largest stockyards, yet you have been vegan for over 30 years. Why did you choose to become vegan?

I’d been fascinated by vegetarians since I first heard that they existed (from my grandmother when I was five) and I went vegetarian at nineteen out of compassion for the animals and also because I’d gotten into yoga and wanted to practice ahimsa, reverence for life. I learned about veganism a year later and read everything the late Jay Dinshah of the American Vegan Society wrote. I hung on every word, but I couldn’t give up my cheese and ice cream and baked goods. (In those days, pizza and pastries didn’t exist. That’s why everybody who went vegan then lost weight and got healthy, but some of us had a very hard time taking the plunge.) Ultimately, after my daughter was born and I wanted to raise her with integrity (not “It’s immoral to take the calf’s milk so we don’t drink it at home, but out at restaurants, we make concessions”), and I stepped, somewhat haltingly, onto the vegan path – at home and everywhere else.

Jay Dinshah, founder of the American Vegan Society (www.americanvegan.org) around the time of the Society’s founding in 1960

2) In your book Compassion – The Ultimate Ethic; An Explanation of Veganism, first published in 1981-83 as your thesis, you write about the history of veganism in the UK, and refer to the movement as “compassion in action.” Do you think the contemporary animal advocacy movement is honoring this approach? What do you think are our areas of strength and our areas for growth?

I do see the contemporary animal advocacy movement as “compassion in action.” I have so much admiration for people in this movement, their bravery and commitment and the creative ways people come up with to advocate for animals. I know that there are areas of disagreement in the movement, but there’s been an abolitionist/welfarist split as long as I’ve been around – and I was around before the term “animal rights” was coined. In those days, the welfarist position was pretty much that cats and dogs mattered, other animals didn’t count much, bigger cages were a nice enough idea, and you could choose from beef or chicken at the fundraising banquet for the animal shelter. We’re so much closer together now. Those who are called welfarists are animal rights people who want a vegan world but also want to make things better for animals stuck in the system now. And those who won’t settle for anything short of a vegan world have their hearts in the right place too. Every movement for change has had people in both of those camps. As long as we’re sincere in caring about the animals and putting their interests ahead of our own pet philosophy, whatever it might be, I think we’re on the right track.

 

3) In an interview with Veg News in August 2012, you say that as vegans “We don’t just threaten Big Ag; we threaten Big Pharma by the radical act of being healthy.” Can you talk more about this?

To me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of being vegan: we’re a liberation movement that, when widely adopted, will free even the animal captors from their diet-induced suffering while it liberates the animals. There’s never been a more perfect win-win. And, yes, I totally see that widespread, whole-foods vegan eating will change the health picture in North America and around the world. People are so sick! Almost everyone takes some prescription medication and many people take half a dozen. As we eat really well – keeping those vegan cupcakes to a minimum and focusing on real food – that’s going to change in a societal way, just as so many of us have seen it change in a personal way already. Health care – which is really sickness care – is big business. When our money is going more to the farmers’ market than to the drugstores, there’ll be a lot more health, happiness, and prosperity for regular people.

4) Your writing style is very personable yet directive at times. For example, in Main Street Vegan, you write, “Outgrow your need for milk and everything made from it. This may not be easy, and I’m about to tell you why so I can help you through it.” How have you managed to be successful in telling the truth to the general public without alienating them?

 Thanks for saying that. I’m a very flawed person. It took me twelve years to get from vegetarian to vegan and even then, I cheated sometimes. I know what it’s like to be imperfect and to find change daunting. For that reason, I can meet people where they are and not make them feel guilty for being precisely where every experience up to this time has led them to be. On the other hand, I know more than I did thirty years ago about what animals go through. But I see that moving into veganism at the pace that make it last for an individual is okay. I’d far rather have somebody coming this way than saying, “I did that once. It didn’t work. Now I’m Paleo.” It is a fine line, because for a lot of people making this change is still radical, threatening, and frightening. But it’s necessary. I do my best as a writer and speaker to acknowledge that it might be a challenge, but it’s even more necessary.

5) So much of your work around the nonhuman animal issue speaks about compassion. How do you personally deal with the issue of suffering we inflict on nonhuman animals daily?

I focus on doing what I can to alleviate some of the suffering rather than zeroing in on the suffering itself, which is overwhelming and causes me to feel negatively toward humans when, in fact, most of them are victims too. The Ghosts in Our Machine is a beautiful film that reminded me of the depth of the agony that animals are put through, but it did it with so much art and so much heart that I was able to go to that dark place, revisit what I know, and go out with more energy and conviction to make a difference. Other than in a special case like this, however, I don’t go out of my way to witness the horrors. I can’t afford to be depressed, because the way deep sadness shows in my life is stupor, apathy: “It’s all too awful: there’s nothing I can do.” So I don’t go there. I stay enough in the solution that I believe there’s plenty I can do. And then I do it.

Victoria Moran, shown here meetting her rescue dog Forbes in 2012, is the director of Main Street Vegan Academy. This interview was originally published in VegNews.

Love Rhymes with Everything: New book by vegan artist and poet raises money for animal rescue

Artist Dana Feagin is an oil painter based in Ashland, Oregon, who uses her art to raise money for animal charities. Poet Kat von Cupcake spent her pre-retirement years working as a San Francisco police officer and now bakes compassionate treats for humans and donates her profits to animal charities. Dana and Kat collaborated with the boutique publisher Ashland Creek press to create Love Rhymes with Everything, a collection of poetry and paintings that will benefit animal rescue organizations.

Q: How did the idea for this book come together?

Kat: If I remember correctly, Dana was at my house, and we were admiring her painting “Sugar Rush” that I had just purchased, and I nonchalantly told her that I had a fantasy about pairing my quirky animal poems with her paintings for a book. I had just started writing again and was terrified about how rejection was about to feel, but Dana gave an enthusiastic “heck, yeah” to the idea. Dana sent me a slew of digital images of her paintings, and it took off from there. We thought originally we would self-publish, but then ACP liked our idea of donating all the profits to animal-related causes and offered to publish it. Talk about a dream team. And, a bucket or two of sweat later, this labor of love is ready to share.

Dana: When Kat suggested the idea, I was instantly all in. Although Kat’s initial suggestion was just about the book, I thought we had to exhibit the poetry with my paintings as well.

Q: Kat, what inspired your first ekphrastic animal poem?

Kat: It was almost immediately after I purchased my first Dana Feagin original oil. “Sugar Rush” is a painting of an adorable, wide-eyed black-and-white calf, and in the background Dana painted cupcakes dancing around her head. “Sugar Rush” is hanging so that I can see her from my kitchen when I am baking. Dana painted her with her sweet pink tongue sticking out, and she seemed to want to taste a cupcake really badly … so my anthropomorphic imagination wrote a poem about it.

Q: Dana, how did your art become all about animals?

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It is true that vegans feel superior to those who eat meat? (in English and Spanish) — Enrique Vélez, VLCE

In an instant, we can be connected to any part of the planet thanks to social networks on the internet. That instrument has allowed us, as vegans, to learn more about veganism and also to more quickly carry that message of love and compassion for all living beings. In addition, it has allowed us to remain interconnected with people and institutions with the same purposes around the world. However, not everything is seamless: the more we immerse ourselves in the subject, the more people also point to us as being excessively moralistic and to believe ourselves to be superior beings. That controversy led me to ask the question: Is it true that vegans feel superior to those who eat meat?
For this, I interviewed some vegans with varying points of view. The most common response was: “I feel so good — healthy and in harmony with every living being — that I can’t stop saying it.” I came to the conclusion that this energy of a new life is so powerful that we want to immediately share that online and in our community of friends and family. The reactions we get, however, range from quick acceptance of our new path to the belief that we think we’re different and special. A few of us may feel this way, but I think it’s very rare.

Searching the internet for the “sense of superiority,” I found the following: The superiority complex is an unconscious, neurological mechanism, in which an individual’s inferiority feelings are compensated for, highlighting those qualities in which they excel. It is logical to think that each individual possesses positive and negative aspects. Possibly the negative aspects of being are bypassed by your psyche to obsess only on the positive ones. The term was coined by Alfred Adler (February 7, 1870 – May 28, 1937).” *


If this is one of the definitions of the sense of superiority, how do you perceive it? As a vegan coach, I need to find techniques that help me work with clients in a variety of ways, ranging from simple advice and examples to getting deeper when people present with addictive responses to certain foods the same way that an addict does to a drug. But how will I do it, if the first impression they have of me is that I’m a human being who feels a Greek god? I have start by carrying the message with love and compassion. Do you remember the Star Wars movies that, during an episode of self-defense, a negative feeling could lead you to the dark side of the Force? Would it be the same with vegans who feel superior or who, in the defense of animals, act a bit rude?
During the interviews, another vegan coach told me that she handles the problem of confrontation with people who feel attacked or see you as having an air of superiority like this: “When people ask me why I am vegan, I try to make sure I talk to them of my way of thinking and the personal experiences that led me to it. For example, instead of saying, ‘We do not need to eat animals to survive, nor enslave them, nor kill them for the convenience of the majority as a universal and infallible rule,’ I say: ‘When I learned that, as a human, I didn’t need animal products, I connected with the love that I’ve always felt for animals, and making the decision not to eat these foods was easy. I did not want to continue to support industries that kill beautiful and innocent animals and to be complicit in it. Using different, softer words can make a real difference.”

Although we will always find people who will feel threatened or targeted by our way of life, always remember that our mission is to educate. Like a teacher in a classroom, we must see each client differently.
Some recommendations:

We could offer many more recommendations, but the important thing is that we take into account that many times the way others perceive us will influence how effective we can be with our message as vegan coaches, or simply vegans who have an incredible and deep love for life.


Enrique Velez is a vegan lifestyle coach and educator certified by the Main Street Vegan Academy of New York, founded and directed by Victoria Moran. Enrique has been vegetarian for almost 30 years vegetarian and vegan for the past year-and-a-half. He lectures on veganism, provides one-on-one coaching services, demonstrations, and cooking classes.

For contact Enrique : 787-459-5678

Email: evelez9097@gmail.com

Veganismotropical@gmail.com

Facebook: Enrique Vélez Vegan Coach

Twitter: Enrique Vélez Vélez

@EnriqueVlezVlez

¿ES CIERTO QUÉ LOS VEGANOS SE SIENTEN SUPERIORES A QUIENES COMEN CARNE?

Por Enrique Vélez VLCE

En un instante podemos estar conectados con cualquier parte del planeta gracias a las redes sociales en internet. Ese instrumento nos has permitido, como veganos, a aprender más sobre el veganismo. También a llevar de forma más rápida ese mensaje de amor y compasión para todos los seres vivos. Además, nos permite mantenernos interconectados con personas e instituciones con los mismos propósitos alrededor del mundo. Sin embargo no todo es color de rosa porque mientras más nos sumergimos en el tema más personas también nos señalan de ser en exceso moralistas y de creernos seres superiores. Esa controversia que sigue creciendo me llevó a formularme la pregunta: ¿Es cierto qué los veganos se sienten superiores a quienes comen carne?

Para ello entrevisté a algunos veganos con otros puntos de vista diferentes al mío. La respuesta más común fue: “Me siento tan bien de salud y en armonía con todo ser vivo que no puedo dejar de decirlo”. Llegué a la conclusión de que es tanta la energía de una nueva vida que queremos llevar de inmediato el mensaje través de las redes o en nuestra comunidad de amigos y familia. Pero para sorpresa nuestra las reacciones son tan diversas que van desde la rápida aceptación de nuestro nuevo sendero hasta ganar detractores en el camino que nos han tildado de personas que se creen diferente y especiales. Aunque podría ser el caso de unos pocos estoy seguro que no de la mayoría.

Buscando en internet sobre el sentido de Superioridad encontré lo siguiente: El complejo de superioridad es un mecanismo inconsciente, neurológico, en el cual tratan de compensarse los sentimientos de inferioridad de los individuos, resaltando aquellas cualidades en las que sobresalen. Es lógico pensar que cada individuo posea aspectos positivos y otros negativos. Posiblemente los aspectos negativos del ser son obviados por su psiquis para obcecarse sólo con los positivos. El término fue acuñado por Alfred Adler (7 de febrero de 1870 – 28 de mayo de 1937)*

¿Si esta es una de las definiciones del sentido de superioridad como es que nos perciben así? Como Coach Vegano necesito encontrar técnicas que me ayuden a trabajar a los clientes de formas diversas que van desde simples consejos y ejemplos hasta adentrarme un poco más cuando las personas presentan cuadros de adicción a ciertos alimentos de la misma forma que un adicto no puede abandonar la droga. Pero como lo voy a lograr si la primera impresión que tienen sobre mí es que soy un ser humano que siento que vivo en el Olimpo Griego alejado de los mortales. Por ello podría tener en cuenta mejorar un poco la forma en que llevo el mensaje partiendo del amor y la compasión. ¿Recuerdan las películas de Star Wars que aún si el coraje se adueñaba de ti durante un episodio de defensa propia ese sentimiento negativo te podría llevar al lado oscuro de la fuerza? ¿Pasaría lo mismo con los veganos que se sienten superiores o que en la defensa de los animales actúan de forma un poco ruda?

Durante las entrevistas una Vegan Coach me contó que ella maneja el problema de la confrontación con personas que se sienten atacadas o te ven con un aire de superioridad de esta manera: “Cuando la gente me pregunta por qué soy vegana, trato de asegurarme de hablarle de mi forma de pensar y de las experiencias personales que me llevaron a ello”. Por ejemplo, en lugar de decir: “No necesitamos comer animales para sobrevivir, ni esclavizarlos, ni matarlos para conveniencia de la mayoría como una regla universal e infalible”, yo digo: “Cuando aprendí que, como humano, no necesito productos animales o sus derivados, y lo conecté con el amor que siempre he sentido por los animales, tomar la decisión de no seguir ingiriendo esos alimentos fue fácil. No quería seguir comprando alimentos a industrias que mataban a animales hermosos e inocentes y ser cómplice de ello”.   Desde esa perspectiva utilizar oraciones diferentes, suaves y llevando el mensaje de que no está escrito sobre las piedras de los 10 mandamientos el ser vegano, podría ayudar un poco.

Aunque a nuestro alrededor siempre encontraremos personas que seguirán sintiéndose amenazadas o señaladas por nuestro estilo de vida recordemos siempre que nuestra misión es la de educar y al igual que un maestro en un salón de clase debemos ver a cada cliente de forma diferente.

Algunas recomendaciones:

  1. Cuando puedes ver a tus clientes y a los que te rodean como niños en diferentes etapas de aprendizaje te ayudará a mantener un actitud de compresión.
  2. Nunca vea a sus clientes como un número más adoptando su visión de compasión por todo en el planeta.
  3. Cuide sus palabras y lo que publica para que siempre sea educativo y no en forma de acusación.
  4. Tenemos que tener paciencia con el nivel evolutivo de los demás. Aunque tenemos prisa por ayudar a los animales forzarlos no ayudará.
  5. Es bueno trabajar con técnicas y actividades para reforzar los cambios en sus clientes de manera gradual con miras a que los cambios sean permanentes
  6. Organice actividades de confraternización con sus clientes para que conozca a otros veganos y pueda percibir que la mayoría de los veganos buscan armonía con todo y no la superioridad.
  7. Si tienes que debatir el tema con una persona que está en contra del veganismo hazlo con mucha delicadeza tomando en cuenta que cada cual tiene libre albedrío.
  8. Por lo general las personas que critican o buscan defectos en los movimientos pro ambiente, naturaleza, salud, compasión por los animales, entre otros no están buscando aprender pero nunca está de más intercambiar algunas ideas sobre el veganismo con ellos. En las redes muchas personas que presencian debates pueden cambiar a un estilo de vida vegano en especial cuando seguimos cultivando un comportamiento a la altura de la compasión y el amor.
  9. Nunca critiques o argumentes sobre veganismo cuando tienes una persona que está comiendo carne contigo.
  10. En ocasiones obsequia alimentos veganos a tus amigos o familiares para que prueben lo delicioso que son nuestros alimentos y vean la generosidad que vive en ti.

Podríamos ofrecer muchas recomendaciones pero lo importante es que tengamos en cuenta que muchas veces la forma en que nos perciben influenciará mucho en lo efectivo que podamos ser con nuestro mensaje siendo vegan coaches o solo siendo veganos con un increíble y profundo amor por la vida.

Enrique Vélez es un Lifestyle Vegan Coach and Educator certificado por la Main Street Vegan Academy of New York. Fundada y dirgida por Victoria Moran. Ha sido por casi 30 años vegetariano y en el último año y medio vegano. Ofrece conferencias sobre veganismo, Servicio de Coaching one to one, demostraciones y clases de cocina.

 

Para contactarlo:

787-459-5678

Email: evelez9097@gmail.com

Veganismotropical@gmail.com

Facebook: Enrique Vélez Vegan Coach

Twitter: Enrique Vélez Vélez

@EnriqueVlezVlez

 

Five Tips for Making Your Vegan Parties Eco-Friendly

Whether you are a newly minted vegan or a vintage vegan practitioner, you value your social time with friends and family. Hosting holiday gatherings, dinners, lunches, brunches, showers and all kinds of parties from birthday to Super Bowl are wonderful ways to maintain your connections.

Have you noticed in both attending and hosting parties that entertaining can come at a cost to the environment? If you’ve ever eaten or sipped from disposables or with a plastic tablecloth under your meal, you know what I mean. At this point we are all generally aware that the cradle to grave impact of such single use items is not laudable. Here are five tips to help your gatherings up their eco cred.

  1. Make the Menu Vegan. While this might seem obvious, reminding invitees that your gathering is firmly vegan will staunch the flow of non-vegan food brought in by people who are not plant based and may have forgotten as they swung by the store for a food gift or potluck component. Obviously you make the call on what enters, but as we know, a plant-based diet is better for the environment (https://health.good.is/articles/meat-waste-environmental-impact).
  2. Ditch the Disposables. Individual situations vary from family to family and based on the type of gathering, so you will need to explore what works best for your household. Options include your own daily-use plates and utensils; breaking out your special occasion tableware; or finding secondhand extra plates, bowls, drinkware and silverware (either mismatched, which some people appreciate, or a matching service) and keeping them set aside for entertaining. Likewise, invest in or make a tablecloth or runner (http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/easy-home-diy-project-how-to-sew-a-table-runner-apartment-therapy-tutorial-197730) that is appropriately special instead of using plastic or vinyl table coverings. Don’t overlook sheets or blankets: while we have some nice tablecloths, my favorite is actually a sheet.
  3. Jars Still Have Their Place. Yes, mason jars may now be considered somewhat passe by the folks who initially embraced them but they still make long lasting yet easily recyclable holders for candles, flowers, drinks and utensils. If you do not have a stash of mason jars, raid your recycling. Remember that you can alter their look quickly and easily by using flowers, yarn, doilies, twine, leftover cloth, paint, lace or ribbon. Pickle, jelly and pasta sauce jars all make great entertaining assistants.
  4. Use Eco-Friendly Decorations and Accessories. Thanks to social media, people can feel obligated to have a “Pinterest worthy” gathering — not all of which is planet friendly. Choose paper over plastic and focus your decorations on lower impact choices like paper streamers, paper and fresh flowers, candles or even a DIY orange lamp (http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-make-a-clementine-candle-video-1453). You know that holiday lights are not just for holidays any more and add a twinkly, sparkly mood. Stick some in that aforementioned pickle jar for a bright spot. Consider investing in or making a cloth garland (http://www.littlemissmomma.com/2013/07/diy-fabric-garland.html) or banner (https://www.etsy.com/listing/165053023/felt-rainbow-garland-rainbow-party-felt?ref=related-7). Look for things you already own that you can rearrange to present in a different way; adorn your table(s) with doilies, paper confetti, books, baskets, candies, succulents, fabric, buttons or shells as decorative focal points. Let some of the food be the decoration, whether a beautifully decorated cake, a cupcake tower festooned with flowers, bowls of unpeeled fruit or a watermelon cut into a basket brimming with fresh fruit (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7olze_fruit-carving-fruit-sculptures-escu_creation).
  5. Reduce Plastic Coming Into Your Home. Remain mindful of packaging coming into your home as you purchase food and beverages for your gathering. Instead of buying jugs of water, serve pitchers of tap water. Can you make your hummus from home-cooked chickpeas? Notice what you are purchasing and if there are alternatives.

Jennifer Gannett is a faculty member at Main Street Vegan Academy, a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, a world traveler, a cat socializer, dog lover and a mom who works formally and informally to make the world a better place.

My training as a humane educator, by Lauren Gladstone, VLCE

The saying “Keep an open mind” has been my mantra since I started my vegan journey four years ago. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be vegan, let alone writing for a vegan blog! What began as a crusade in optimal health after the diagnosis of my mother’s cancer, turned into a lifelong passion in helping others while honoring my mom’s legacy. Every Vegan comes from their own place of why they chose this lifestyle, yet it is impossible to ignore the other reasons as well as become passionate for those causes.

This past fall, I attended Main Street Vegan Academy to become a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. I was originally attracted to the program so that I could help others as a coach. After all, I love to cook and it seemed like a natural fit. What I discovered was the topics that I thought I would be less interesting, turned out to be absolutely fascinating. In fact, it made me rethink my mission in how to help others. I was in awe at so many of the speakers that spoke with a passion, yet without judgment. So often I felt as if light bulbs were exploding over my head. I thought about activism in terms of outreach and education and I haven’t felt this exhilarated since I was a naïve, idealistic college student, ready to take on the world.

A few weeks after the course ended I was on Facebook where a job posting appeared. It was a part-time opportunity to be a humane educator. The requirements included:

This job description was written for me! I immediately decided to apply and sent my resume along with a cover letter. I was offered the job and a few short weeks later I was en route to Atlanta for training to become a Humane Educator with Ethical Choices Program. I arrived on a Thursday afternoon, took a nap and met my new bosses and fellow educators in the lobby.

The next three days that followed were filled with more information than my brain could process! We learned about how to present information to young adults about their food choices and how that affects their health, the environment and the animals. We also learned about the information we were presenting to the students so that could feel more comfortable speaking to the students. The presentations as well the presenters did an amazing job of providing information without bias or judgment. It was made clear that we are not there to tell the students what they should be eating. We are simply there to provide information so that they can make their own choices based on their own ethics, values and beliefs.

The presentations are so well designed to provide education by helping students draw their own conclusions. Our supervisors gave the presentations with such compassion. Our entire class sat in amazement. Every slide is referenced by well-known and accepted institutions or organizations. I think I could speak for my classmates that we were so nervous that we could never present with such poise and knowledge. It seemed like there was so much information to tackle. Slowly, but surely we began to break down the information and made it our own.

Ethical Choices Program is the brain-child of Lorena Mucke. Lorena is one of the kindest, smartest people I’ve met. She is always so positive and has more energy than anyone.   She is literally half my size (I’m 5’10), but she could run circles around me. She was such an inspiration to think that she started giving these talks because she wanted to empower kids with knowledge and choice. The mission of Ethical Choices Program is “to educate high school and college students about food choices, inspiring them to make decisions that are consistent with their own values as related to human health, the environment and animals. By providing factual, mainstream information and promoting respectful dialogue, students are encouraged to think critically about the impact of their choices.”…

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Ten Steps to Grant Funding Your Vegan Work, by Diana Goldman, VLCE

This post outlines how I obtained grant funding to do what I love (teach free vegan cooking classes to low-income groups) and how you can too!

Network with Likeminded People

At a Forks Over Knives screening, I met an attendee who is a board member of Mission Hill Health Movement (MHHM), a non-profit organization that focuses on the health and quality of life for Boston residents. He was interested in my experience teaching vegan cooking classes.

Present your Idea

I presented a proposal for vegan cooking classes to MHHM board members and shared the following information:

Ask for Introductions to Other Partners

MHHM was eager to form a partnership and willing to provide some funding. They introduced me to a variety of potential host organizations. Ultimately, Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), a low-income housing development offered to host a series of five, free, two-hour cooking classes in their kitchen. RTH offered to provid some funding towards the cost of running the program, now named “Jazz Up Your Veggies” (JUYV).

Find a Partner

Rich Roll, plant-based ultra endurance athlete, says, “pursue what’s in your heart and the universe will conspire to support you.” That was certainly the case when it came to meeting my program partner Annie. Newly graduated from PCRM’s Food For Life program, she had reached out to my contact at MHHM with the hope of finding leads for teaching cooking classes. He introduced us and I was thrilled to have her join me. She’s become a great friend, teaching partner and is instrumental in the success of our program. I can’t imagine JUYV without her.

Design the Curriculum

Together Annie and I chose four recipes per class that were simple to prepare, delicious, require no fancy appliances or expensive ingredients. Our target was to share recipes that would allow participants to eat vegan on $5/day. Here’s our flyer:

Prepare Pre and Post Program Surveys

One of our main goals was to design and deliver a program that proved that attitudes and behaviors can be changed. The surveys were very helpful for tracking these changes. Survey results provide compelling data for measuring success, modifying the program and attracting future funders.

Reach out to Local Establishments for Donations

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The Dietary Habits of Imaginary People, by Camille DeAngelis, VLCE

As a novelist who’s been vegetarian for 16 years (vegan for almost six), I spend a lot of time thinking about the dietary choices of imaginary people. Looking back on my debut novel, Mary Modern—in which the most sensible, take-no-crap character is vegan—it seems obvious that part of me was ready for this lifestyle, though it would be several more years before I connected all the dots. “How did you manage to make that roast chicken dinner sound so delicious?” a friend asked after reading Mary Modern. “Didn’t it make you hungry?”

Not remotely. But I can’t make all my characters vegan from the get-go because they need to learn something over the course of the story—and, yes, as in real life, many of them aren’t going to see what’s staring them in the face.

That’s why I decided on a not-at-all subtle allegory for my first novel after going vegan—I hoped I could make my point without any readers feeling as if they were being judged or preached to. Bones & All, a novel about teenage cannibals, reframes meat eating as flesh eating, though the result is a horror story many readers would rather take at face value. (A teenage girl who eats all her boyfriends! Hilarious!) The novel has resulted in at least one reader going vegan so far, though, and I’m calling that a win.

In my forthcoming children’s fantasy novel, The Boy From Tomorrow, eleven-year-old Alec and his mom have moved to a new town and adopted a vegan diet as a way of giving themselves a fresh start after his parents’ divorce—which is not the best reason, of course, but many dietary vegans consider the animals and our planet a little later on. Alec is happy to devour the results of his mother’s culinary experiments, and recognizes the narrow-mindedness of a “friend” who makes fun of his Tofurky sandwiches. Hopefully Alec and his mom will make veganism feel more familiar and accessible to young readers….

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