By choosing to leave meat off our plates, vegetarians are automatically challenging a huge cultural norm. Many people hesitate when it comes to implementing a plant-based lifestyle because it means changing one of the most fundamental parts of their life – what they eat. As our diets are guided by culture, family and friends, it is no wonder that the majority of people in North America continue to eat animal foods.
The growing popularity of the plant-based movement is an exciting shift for vegetarians. Supermarkets, restaurants, and fast food chains are adapting to the demand with plant burgers, nut-based dairy substitutes, snack foods, and everything in between.
At the epicentre of this movement, Vancouver has been one of the best cities to be a herbivore for a few decades. As the birthplace of organizations like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, Earthsave, and The David Suzuki Foundation, this city has more of a green hand than just a green thumb. Yet while the Lower Mainland has its fair share of vegetarians, our society is still entrenched in omnivore values and institutions. From the summer barbeque, celebratory steakhouse dinner, fishing or hunting trips, birthday cake to ice cream sundae parties; eating animals is firmly ingrained in North American culture. So when someone chooses a peaceful path, does it have to be at the expense of involvement in the community?
Where once upon a time to be a vegetarian meant sacrificing a social life for the sake of one’s beliefs, now it is entirely possible to be an active part of the community while standing for an important cause. With the urgency of climate change forcing us to face the realities of our decisions, our society must adapt to a less violent way of life. There are a number of ways to connect with people that don’t involve hurting animals, people just have to be willing to branch out from their comfort zones.
What are good ways to meet other like-minded folks in Vancouver? VVS events and those we share on the “Recommended Events” page are a great place to start. Throughout the summer especially, there are several curated vegetarian or vegan-friendly events; such as the Vegetarian Spring Festival, Vegexpo, Vaisakhi parades and celebrations, cooking classes, and even a Vegan Festival in July. Beyond these celebrations, many Meetup groups in Vancouver organize regular events for members to connect. Barring an internet connection or the funds to attend a class, there are always farmers’ markets! The beautiful thing about Vancouver is that the more connected and sustainably-minded a neighbourhood is, the more likely one is to find other folks with shared interests and dietary preferences.
Another great way to become more involved while “walking the walk” is to volunteer in the community. As Spring planting efforts grow in earnest, many community gardens and non-for-profits are seeking garden volunteers. Fresh Roots, the Environmental Youth Alliance, and Growing Chefs are just a few of the farming organizations that make a big impact in the city, supporting food security and the local economy while saving on transportation emissions. If one prefers the wilder side, The Lower Mainland Green Team, the Stanley Park Ecological Society and the Jericho Stewardship Group all provide opportunities for volunteers to directly help with conservation projects while building relationships.
With all the local events and organizations offering experiences tailored to a vegetarian’s lifestyle and values, the days of the lonely hippie eating kale salad and drinking green juice are things of the past. We must challenge the norms of animal consumption that led to environmental degradation and inconceivable suffering. The more people associate a plant-based lifestyle with fun events, becoming part of a compassionate community, and connecting with their environment, the more likely the movement is to grow. After all, humans are social creatures. We seek the approval of our peers, we want to belong to a group. Why not make the group worth belonging to one that is saving the planet?