an organization dedicated to raising awareness about pressing environmental and sustainability challenges through the vegan movement.
this was our very first interview in our "inspire" speaker series, which aimed to shine the spotlight on influential trailblazers in the fields of environmental activism, animal welfare, sustainability, and personal wellness. this interview featured special guest, Tracye McQuirter. she is an incredibly inspiring public health nutritionist, vegan activist, best-selling author, and speaker.
in our second interview as part of the inspire series, we spoke with special guest, Lauren Ornelas. she is an extremely powerful animal rights advocate, and the founder & executive director of the food empowerment project.
our third interview as part of our "inspire" speaker series showcased special guest, Jaya Bhumitra. she's an amazing vegan activist who's worked with multiple different organizations, and is currently the managing director at animal charity evaluators.
Please confirm you meet the following criteria
We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
We have been working on this project for at least three months
We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Date You Started Your Project
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Meat consumption and production takes a massive toll on the environment, in a variety of ways ーincluding emission of greenhouse gases, wastage of water and soil, deforestation, and animal waste contamination. The Union of Concerned Scientists names meat - eating as one of the most prominent hazards to planet Earth. Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness about our everyday choices and their role in the context of these pressing challenges.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
My initiative, “we. vegan.” is an organization that aims to educate communities about the positive impact of a vegan lifestyle, primarily on the environment. Through my organization, we write and publish informative and passionate pro-vegan articles, host influential vegan guest speakers, and arrange DIY workshops for community members to create their own vegan dishes, cosmetics and clothing items. These unique and engaging events welcome community members of all ages, backgrounds, genders, and races.“we vegan.” harnesses the power of technology to publish articles, information, social media posts, gift guides, recipes and tutorials to help ease readers into their vegan regimens. Our events and content is designed to persuade and guide community members to make more sustainable choices. By keeping the community informed about the extensive impacts that arise from our seemingly trivial actions, I am able to raise more awareness, and allow community members to become more conscious consumers and citizens. Our online presence allows us to have a reach far beyond our location of origin, and make our resources easily accessible to people, regardless of where they live or who they are.
3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.
“we. vegan.” believes that an essential component of fostering sustainable practices is education about the scientific processes that connect our lifestyles and choices with the environment around us. Therefore, a large chunk of the content published by my organization detail these scientific processes, and aim to break them down in an easily digestible manner. STEM plays a critical role in the information we publish for community members, and is pivotal in encouraging citizens to make more environmentally conscious choices. By explaining the facts and logic behind why our ecosystem reacts in certain ways, we aim to help others understand why it is so crucial to come together and collectively care for our planet Earth.
4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
Being a dog-owner and living right next to a park, I’ve been privileged to have spent the majority of my childhood days playing outdoors. This led me to developing a deep appreciation and love for nature. Unfortunately, as time progressed, I noticed the state of the environment around me worsening. Living in Northern California, I experienced these changes firsthand. One such experience was the multi-year drought that hit California. I began to wonder why this was happening and what could be done to help restore the environment. This curiosity led me to researching about our consumerism habits and how they impact the world around us. Soon enough, I had learned about climate change, greenhouse gases and ecological footprints. This knowledge and my burning desire to to heal our planet Earth is what led me to starting "we. vegan."
5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”
6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.
We recently concluded our very first virtual speaker series, “inspire,” which featured three special guests - Tracye McQuirter, Jaya Bhumitra and Lauren Ornelas, all of which are extremely influential and prominent leaders in the fields of environmental activism, animal welfare, sustainability, and personal wellness. I make sure to continuously keep our website, social media pages, and blog up-to-date with new content, while handling the onboarding for new volunteers and team members.
7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
The majority of pro-vegan organizations primarily revolve around a vegan diet, and focus on the cons of meat production and consumption. However, my organization aims to take a more positive and holistic approach, by focusing on a sustainable lifestyle, and does so through a two-phased approach: education/information, and guidance/action. Our first phase - education, consists of raising awareness around the benefits of sustainable living, and our second phase, action, consists of interactive, hands-on approaches (programs, workshops, tutorials) to help guide people into their vegan regimens.
8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.
Over the past three months, my primary focus has been in increasing our online presence, growing our internal team, and launching new mini-projects within the organization. I have been actively updating our social media pages, posting new content, and planning for new events. Speaking with vegan influencers, such as Tracye McQuirter, Jaya Bhumitra, and Lauren Ornelas, has been pivotal to inspiring community members, and spreading their message and advice for others to take initiative. I have been working closely with our volunteer team to help further publicize our mission and open new chapters of we. vegan. We currently have over 3.4K followers on Instagram, and have initiated 3 chapters of we. vegan. in areas around the globe. We plan to grow these numbers by onboarding more volunteers and ambassadors, and continuing to promote our mission through content, events and projects.
9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
One of my next steps involves bringing my non-profit to my high school, and other local schools in my area. My objective is to encourage school cafeterias to serve “Meatless Mondays,” or “Vegan Wednesdays,” which would take place at least once a month. As the name suggests, the cafeteria would refrain from serving any animal products on these designated days. This would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of each school, and result in a vast decrease of greenhouse gas emissions. I would enact this change by discussing my organization with the administrative staff members at local high schools. Another idea I have is to have citywide designated days for residents to purchase exclusively cruelty-free products, and minimize meat consumption.
10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.
“we. vegan.” has had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to our content. We offer many opportunities for students to get involved with our mission - including our ambassadorship, volunteering, and pledge programs. We invest time networking with other young changemakers via our social media pages. For those who have indicated interest in starting a chapter, or signed our pledge, we work with them closely to come up with a plan on how they can take action most effectively in their community.
11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?
The environment is a shared resource, and it brings me a tremendous amount of joy to see other youth stepping up to make a change in their respective communities. Fortunately, there are a variety of methods to form partnerships, whether it be through individual roles or forming connections between two larger organizations. Currently, I am collaborating with other changemakers by leveraging our social media support to promote other vegan pages, such as vegan cooking and sustainable fashion pages.
12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?
Too often, the idea of making a lifestyle change overwhelms and steers people away from sustainable living. However, leading a vegan lifestyle brings a tremendous amount of value, regardless of who you are. Therefore, simple, tangible, and actionable items are what we focus on promoting. Over time, these small actions collectively make a huge impact. By providing community members with the resources, education, encouragement and guidance to make a difference, we are able to grow our movement.
14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.
Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?
How did you hear about this challenge?
Participated in previous Ashoka challenges