Another day, another fabulous Everyday Vegan Changemaker! I love Stephanie Grey Winnard’s friendly, warm and encouraging style of vegan outreach. Given her communication skills, it’s not a surprise that Stephanie is a teacher, teaching psychology at Pierce Community College in Woodland Hills, CA, where she also serves as the Faculty Advisor for the Pierce College Vegan Society. You can also find Stephanie teaching yoga at Param Yoga Healing Arts Center in Chatsworth, CA. Thanks for changing the world, Stephanie!
1. To start, we’d love to know how long you’ve been vegan.
I’ve been vegan for 13 years.
2. 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 started as an ovo-lacto vegetarian about 26 years ago, so I have not eaten meat in 26 years.
3. What was the catalyst (or were the catalysts) that made you go vegan? Was it a film? An experience? Someone else’s influence? A book? Was it overnight or did it take a while?
In 2006, the United Nations published their landmark study, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which revealed that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s transportation combined. Because I’m a passionate environmentalist, learning this strongly motivated me to make the change from vegetarian to vegan, and I went vegan basically overnight after reading about this study. At about the same time, I discovered that the dairy industry is inherently cruel to animals, and this also inspired me to make the change to vegan.
4. What were your biggest challenges or obstacles to going vegan and how did you overcome them?
A big challenge was when my two kids were little, at school, parties, and sports events, they were constantly being offered non-vegan food and junk food by parents, teachers, administrators, and coaches. I overcame this by talking to these adults and doing my best to educate them, and also empowering my kids to be proud to be vegan, and to speak for themselves. One practical tip is that I would always try to send a vegan alternative on the days when I knew that adults would be giving the children non-vegan food. I also always reminded myself that while dealing with these types of situations is challenging, it’s nothing compared to what the animals go through, and that always put it in perspective for me, and gave me the motivation to continue with my vegan lifestyle.
5. What is the world like as a vegan today compared to when you first went vegan?
It’s so much easier now! There are so many vegan options that are now widely available at most grocery stores. Here in Los Angeles, we now have about 100 all-vegan restaurants; whereas when I first became vegan, there were only a few. Most non-vegan restaurants now have vegan options on the menu as well. The biggest change is probably how much awareness has grown regarding what it means to be vegan. When I first became vegan, many people had no idea what “vegan” meant, but now it has become part of the general consciousness.
6. Please tell us your “why vegan” elevator pitch.
With the single action of being vegan, you can help solve so many of our world’s most pressing problems including ending animal cruelty, saving our planet, and improving health. It’s the most effective and consistent action a person can take to make a positive difference in the world.
7. What is your favorite thing about being vegan?
It gives me so much joy to live my life in a way where I am trying my best to cause the least amount of harm possible to others and to our planet. It gives me peace of mind to know that my lifestyle aligns with my values of practicing nonviolence, kindness, and compassion to all.
8. If you could tell someone some simple advice for shifting away from eating animals, what would it be?
First identify some dishes you already like to eat that happen to be vegan such as bean and rice burrito, spaghetti in marinara, PB and J sandwich, oatmeal, etc. Continue to eat these foods. Next, research some plant-based alternatives to your favorite animal-based foods such as the Beyond Burger, Follow Your Heart cheese, etc. and substitute these for the animal-based versions. Finally, research more vegan recipes and have fun exploring this new vegan world. Approach it as an exciting new journey and with a positive attitude, and have fun with it.
9. Can you tell us about a time that you think you had a positive influence on someone considering your vegan or compassionate living message? What do you think made it effective?
I feel as a psychology instructor I have had a positive influence on encouraging many students to go vegan, as every semester about 5 to 10 students share with me that they are going vegan. I often show documentaries and bring in scientific evidence that present the many reasons and positive benefits of going vegan. Lastly, I try to lead by example.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”
Peace in action.
Extra credit: Please let us know your favorite vegan organization.