Hello Everyone! My name is Carolyn and I am a 19 year-old rising sophomore at Temple University studying Public Health with a minor in Spanish. My interest in health, nutrition, and overall well-being began around the end of my junior year of high school and into my senior year. At this point in my life, I had been a pescatarian for roughly 2 and a half years and had really started researching the nutritional aspects of the lifestyle. I became a pescatarian my sophomore year of high school due to my passion for animal welfare and as a stand against the cruelty of factory farming. I had always been an animal lover and found that as I grew older, I simply could not eat any more meat after reading and watching how animals are really treated in order to provide the human race with meat. Being a pescatarian was easy for me; now granted, my mom had been a pescatarian for 8+ years when I changed my diet so having another like-minded person in my family made it all the more easy when it came to dinner time and family parties. Sure I was the butt of several jokes from my friends and was faced with questions like “How can you not eat BACON?” or “Why do you care about animals so much? They’re meant for our consumption”. However, knowing how my actions were changing the lives of innocent animals while getting the word out to others was worth it all to me.
At the end of my senior year of high school, I watched the documentary Cowspiracy. Boy, how that documentary affected me. I’m sure you have heard of this eye-opening documentary but if you haven’t watched it yet I highly encourage you to do so. I, up until watching the documentary, would have liked to call myself an environmentalist. Like Kip Anderson, the maker of the documentary, I tried to take shorter showers and recycled everything and anything. I became known for recycling so much in my friend group at school that they would all hand me their water bottles throughout the day to recycle (why they could not do this themselves is beyond me, but that is besides the point). After watching the documentary, I felt like all of those years of doing my best to save water and reduce my carbon footprint were worth nothing. Sure it is a step in the right direction, but learning that animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental degradation was shocking. Why had I not known this before? And why was this only now being talked about after we have caused so much destruction to our Earth already? Many of the facts in the documentary speak of the difference that you can make by taking meat out of your diet. For example, in order to make one hamburger, you need 600 gallons of water. Pretty crazy right? So I being a pescatarian knew that I already was one step ahead of the average American. But I wanted to do more; for myself, for the animals, and, most importantly, for Mother Earth. The ultimate lesson learned from Cowspiracy is that the most sustainable way to live on this Earth is to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. By going vegan, you can save 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and ONE ANIMAL’S LIFE per day (cowspiracy.com).
Cowspiracy was the first of many other documentaries that I watched that I would like to say have changed my life. In February of this year, my freshman year of college at Temple, I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I had wanted to do so for a while, but was nervous for a couple of reasons. None of these reasons involved my health because I had done enough research on a plant-based life style and felt fully prepared to sustain a healthy diet. The first thing I was nervous about was telling my parents. I had talked to them about it before and though my mom is equally as passionate about animals and the environment as I am, she was never fully gung-ho of a vegan lifestyle. Her reasoning was another worry of mine: the social aspect of a vegan lifestyle. When I told her that I was beginning to adopt a vegan lifestyle, she said the same thing she had said before, “It is really hard to be a vegan and go out with friends who aren’t vegan”. She told me what I didn’t want to hear but knew was true. It can be a little isolating. Whether you want to be that burden on someone or not as a vegan, it does happen sometimes. When you go out with friends, they might worry that the restaurant they picked won’t have vegan options for you, or that you won’t be able to find more than one option, etc. Friends might stop inviting you over for dinners because they don’t want to have to cook a whole separate meal or take the butter out of the recipe to accommodate “the vegan”. All of the things she said were all of my own concerns as well, and made my decision of adopting this lifestyle a little nerve-racking.
But then I took a step back. I said to myself, if this is the lifestyle I want, then I am going to live it. Sure, there will be times that are harder than others, and restaurants that won’t always have enough options, and friends that may find your choice of the spinach salad over the bacon cheeseburger weird, but in the end it is all worth it. I know that I am living a life that I believe in and that I am proud of. And frankly, true friends and family will accept your lifestyle. They may not want to do the same with their own, but that’s okay. Something that I have always said when people ask me about veganism is that it is my own choice and I am not here to force someone else to adopt the same lifestyle as my own. I will gladly educate my friends, family, and strangers on why I have chosen the lifestyle that I live and why it is ultimately the most sustainable way to live, but I will never make someone feel bad about their choices because they are not the same as my own. I do this because I don’t like when others make fun of or impose their lifestyle on mine, so why would I do the same?
So now onto the fun stuff: being a vegan in college. More specifically, being a vegan in the amazing vegan-friendly city of Philadelphia! Philly is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the country with popular places all over like Vedge, The Vegan Tree, Blackbird Pizzeria, and my personal favorite, HipCityVeg. There are so many fun and delicious vegan options when I head into the city for the day or just ride the subway in from campus for dinner. With that being said, I do have to eat on campus sometimes as well. The last three months of my freshman year I was a vegan and found that eating on meal plan was relatively easy. There were enough options that I could use up my meal swipes on things like big salads at the dining hall, vegetable sushi, vegetable wraps, and tofu burrito bowls. Any meals I didn’t eat on meal plan were either eaten in my room, like my personal favorite of avocado toast, or eaten in the city, like a Ziggy Burger and a Groothie from HipCityVeg.
All in all, my vegan journey so far has been pretty great, and I would definitely say that if you are a college student interested in a vegan lifestyle and whether it is possible whether it is possible or not I have one thing to say: it is! I have never felt healthier, not only in my body, but in my mind and soul as well. My family members and friends have been incredibly supportive and accepting and I have found a new passion for spreading the word on the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I can’t wait to continue this journey and hopefully incorporate it into my career in Public Health. I’m so incredibly lucky to be a part of such an amazing organization and can’t wait to see the success that the Groothie will bring to the health of the public. I’ll be writing more blogs in the future as well so I hope you all enjoyed this first piece!