Volunteering for Veganism/Potlucks for the Environment

Photo taken by author

Speaking as the head of the Green Sanctuary Stewardship Committee at the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, I am confident in our veganism subgroup’s grant proposal. When the churches in our district were asked to choose an environmental topic to work with in order to be considered for the grant money, we hesitated when it came time for us to decide. Other churches had chosen admirable but predictable causes, such as solar panels or recycling. The point was to find a cause that people who attended the churches could bring back with them into their lives beyond the confines of the church. A garden at a church is all well and good, but teaching people how to make their own home gardens and why that is beneficial for them and the environment has a much greater impact. Our team wanted to accomplish three overall goals: to find a cause that stood out from the crowd, to find a cause that would be far-reaching beyond the walls of the church, and to make a plan that would ensure that not only would our message be heard, but it would also have lasting effects after the program would be completed.

Before drafting the grant proposal, I reached out to the different subgroups which fell under the umbrella of the Green Sanctuary Committee, and the one that gave the most convincing argument was the Veganism Team. For starters, they made the point that no other contenders had chosen the same topic, and veganism isn’t a topic that people necessarily connect with the environment. Some people view veganism as a social issue, or maybe even an economic issue, but plenty of people are unaware of the environmental impact that the meat industry has on our world. This topic was an excellent choice because it would stand out to the grant proposal committee because it was slightly out of left field. Also, we could be creative with our plan to spread our message. For instance, a grant proposal about recycling probably would not be especially impactful for the participants or the world. There isn’t a large amount of options besides educating people on how to recycle properly, and then encourage them to recycle as much as possible. Also, recycling wouldn’t stand out to an environmental committee who probably receives countless similarly proposals. Our team had a wide array of angles they could choose in their approach for their topic.

In my opinion, our team’s decision was genius. Our thought process included finding a way to make people feel as though preparing vegan food was not as daunting of as task as they were imagining it to be. Non-vegan members of the environmental committee explained that it’s easy enough to make vegan snacks or vegan side dishes, but it can be very difficult to prepare full family meals, and basically impossible for family gatherings such as a holiday. That idea was the spark that we needed. How could we show that vegan food is not only enjoyable to eat, but also easy to make? How could we focus on full family meals and entrees, rather than easy vegan snacks?

The clear answer, for us, was potluck dinners. It seemed so simple, but so perfect. Those who attended would have to prepare a vegan dish of their own to bring to the event. Because the events had themes, they would likely have to look up new recipes and get more creative. Then when they arrived, they would have the opportunity to sample all the other vegan dishes that had been prepared by their peers, so they could see that vegan food often actually tastes good. This plan covered two important factors: showing people that vegan food is easy to make, and that there are a wide variety of tasty options. To really drive our point home, we made specific themes for our potluck events. The one I was most proud of was our Thanksgiving-themed dinner. It seems almost unheard of to have a vegan Thanksgiving, but many of the families in our group do just that, and we thought it would be an eye-opening event for our participants. Of course, we didn’t think any of them would actually go through with changing their own Thanksgiving to a vegan one, but we hoped they would get the point that any occasion can be made vegan. We took perhaps the one of the most extreme examples of a meal that people wouldn’t expect to be vegan, and we made it a total success. The event we did mostly recently was a German event, where most of the food was based on German recipes. German food is famously difficult to veganize, and we are trying to step up our game with every event.

We hope that the grant proposal committee will look at our efforts and our results and deem our program worthy of expansion, which would be possible with the grant money. Our idea is fairly self-sufficient, since it relies on participants to bring all the food. No money is needed for foods, but in order to expand, we would most likely need to rent spaces and pay staff to set up and clean up after events. Overall, a little grant money would go a very long way with our proposal, so we would be able to expand significantly.

According to the FDA in 2006, only 1.4% of Americans over the age of 18 claimed to be vegan. Numbers have risen since then, but we are hoping that we can begin a chain reaction that will result in increasing that percentage even more. One of the best website I recommend utilizing for gaining more information about how veganism impacts the environment is OneGreenPlanet.org. This website explains the environmental impact of the meat industry far better than I ever could. I urged everyone who worked with us to read it and get our program participants to read it as well. The information in the infographic is the “why” and our proposal is the “how.” I can’t share all their wonderfully informative information in this briefing, so I encourage people to read and share the infographic below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Credit: OneGreenPlanet.org
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