VegOut raises awareness of sustainable living

By Ellie Phillips | 11/17/13 5:55pm


GVL / Hannah Mico. Roger Gilles, a professor in the writing department here at Grand Valley, spoke about his over thirty years of subsisting on a plant-based diet and shared his experiences with the attending students.

Professor Roger Gilles and his wife, Sue Stauffacher, a children’s book writer, spoke Saturday before Grand Valley State University students on the importance of locally grown food and a plant-based diet.

Their presentation was part of VegOut, an event hosted by the Grand Valley Humane Society and the Grand Valley Nutrition Club to raise awareness about sustainable living.

“We’re at a point in history when the farmer can grow and pick something in the morning, and we can cook and eat it that evening,” Stauffacher said.

Some people find the transition from animal-based living to plant-based living a difficult thing, and the couple is working to make that process easier.

“People hold their dietary habits with religious fervor,” Gilles said. “The two most common reasons we hear about why people eat meat are ‘I’m used to it’ and ‘it tastes good,’ as opposed to all the reasons we’re presenting today.”

These reasons include sustainable living, improved health, environmental and animal protection, and mindful consumption. Mindful consumption is the concept of only using what is needed instead of consuming things without considering the consequences.

Another idea the couple is trying to emphasize is for people to avoid labeling themselves as “vegan” or “vegetarian,” terms that can sometimes put other people off and inhibit conversation.

“We ought to be verbs, not nouns,” Gilles said. “I don’t say ‘I’m a vegetarian.’ I say ‘I typically eat plant-based meals.’”

Stauffacher’s half of the presentation focused on how plant-based meals can still taste good. She described how she makes a variety of typically meat-based meals with tofu, spices and other ingredients that make it nearly impossible to tell by taste that there’s no meat in the recipe. She also described how she’s worked to find a cheese substitute in her life, because cheese is something she loves eating.

“Life really shouldn’t be lived without brie,” she said. Stauffacher has learned how to make cheese from plants, focusing on not only making it taste like regular cheese, but have the texture of cheese, as well.

Apart from the presentation, the VegOut event also included booths for donations, Meatless Mondays, a “save the wolves” petition and the Farm Club.

Zach Dodson, who works at Bartertown Diner in Grand Rapids, came to demonstrate organic food preparation and promote the diner, which buys local food and serves only vegetarian, vegan and raw meals.

VegOut didn’t stop at promoting dietary changes—it promoted changes in lifestyle, as well.

Michele Fife, yoga therapist and founder of Seva Yoga in East Grand Rapids, came to speak and conduct a yoga class. She has been involved with yoga for almost 20 years, working with troubled youths, cancer survivors, inmates and others all over the world.

Those involved in VegOut said they have high expectations for the event’s future. One of the event organizers, Bryan Smigielski, hopes VegOut will grow into a nonprofit organization.

“It’s about trying to pull in all the holistic and positive approaches to plant-based eating and mindful consumption,” he said.

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