Embracing the Solutionary Life...One Vegan Festival at a Time
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
This natural biosphere that surrounds us is the origin point of all we need to sustain our lives. Our food, water and oxygen comes from the earth, and it’s our responsibility to steward these resources with utmost, intentional care. This also means extending compassion and kindness to our planet’s other inhabitants by ensuring their health, safety, welfare and humane treatment too.
That is the role of a solutionary—to be a conscious, relentless advocate for solutions in the world; to partner with initiatives, organizations and other human beings for the endurance of our collective future; and to protect the environment with regenerative communities. This grassroots endeavor is of both local and global consequence, and one movement, in particular, has brought it close to home.
Solutionary Events is a Southwest Florida based non-profit coalition that introduces people to the benefits and accessibility of a vegan lifestyle through a series of educational, mindful and ecological outreaches around the Sunshine State. One such event that has gained noticeable momentum and traction right here in our community is the Sarasota Veg Fest. This annual extravaganza is a celebration of all that harmonizes and connects us to animals, the environment and our fellow humankind.
For a glimpse into what this year’s Sarasota Veg Fest has to offer, I spoke with Jenna Bardroff, the coordinator behind this event which will descend upon the Sarasota Fairgrounds next month on May 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
Natural Awakenings: How many years has the Sarasota Veg Fest been in existence?
Jenna Bardroff: Sarasota Veg Fest is about to enter its second year as a recurring community event. The festival is associated with a network of movements taking place, both across this nation and the world, in response to a dire need for humane education on healthy, compassionate and eco-friendly living.
NA: What has been the public reception, both to this event and to the notion of a vegan lifestyle?
Bardroff: Sarasota Veg Fest is a collaboration of many different initiatives and individuals in our community. The inaugural Sarasota Veg Fest was a major success, thanks to the support and enthusiasm received from the Sarasota area and beyond. This festival welcomes all audiences to learn about a compassionate vegan lifestyle through enjoyable activities.
Guests can listen to renowned speakers and health professionals, watch food demonstrations to understand how to re-create vegan meals, take home literature and resources, help their children learn kindness to animals and the environment, taste delicious vegan foods, peruse vegan merchandise, network with over 150 veg-friendly businesses, and participate in health classes and workshops.
The festival offers community members a safe, non-judgmental environment for exploring various aspects of a lifestyle that benefits people, animals and the environment. Following the inaugural event in May 2018, the Sarasota Veg Fest team earned rave feedback from guests and festival participants. Local media estimated that 18,000 people attended the first event.
NA: Why is it crucial to educate and raise awareness of our impact on the environment?
Bardroff: This planet is shared by all beings. We have just one Earth—we are all connected. So the choices we make locally affect people, animals and ecosystems globally. For instance, rainforests are known as “lungs of the planet,” meaning they produce 20–30% of the Earth’s oxygen. However, between one and two acres of rainforest are cleared each second to make room for animal agriculture. Similarly, coral reefs are known as “rainforests of the sea,” meaning they support the lives of around 25% of all marine species. However, marine scientists predict more than 90% of coral reefs will have died by 2050.
It can be a challenge to perceive how our actions on a minor scale contribute to the devastation of entire ecosystems. But consider the impact of beef purchased at a local grocery store. A single pound of beef wastes an average of 2,500 gallons of water, uses 16 pounds of grain and emits 26 pounds of greenhouse gas. So by eliminating the consumption of just one burger, an individual can benefit the planet, feed the hungry (currently, we produce enough food on this planet to feed 10 billion people, but this is instead used to feed livestock and meet consumer demands), and spare the lives of animals.
If we don't start caring about the impact humans make on this planet we call home, we will have nothing left to care about. Education and advocacy are the most powerful tools to enact positive, sustainable changes. Instead of taking into account what can happen if we don’t realize the magnitude of what it means to protect the planet, we believe in considering what could happen if we create a regenerative world on the basis of healthier lifestyle choices.
NA: What kinds of vendors and exhibits will people find at this year’s Sarasota Veg Fest?
Bardroff: Sarasota Veg Fest welcomes a diverse selection of vendors, entertainment and activities unified in the like-mindedness of making the world a safer, more compassionate place. The vendors include wellness centers, plant-based physicians and dietitians, massage therapists, acupuncturists, yoga studios, chiropractors and merchants of cruelty-free skincare.
Sarasota Veg Fest also features non-profits focused on animal rights, environmental protection and social justice, as well as animal rescue groups and local handcrafted artists. The Factory Farm Experience highlights educational exhibits which uncover the realities of industrial farming. And, of course, guests can look forward to a delicious assortment of vegan cuisine from high-quality local vegan restaurants and food trucks.
NA: How can those new to the vegan lifestyle embrace this practice in simple, sustainable ways?
Bardroff: With any important lifestyle change, mindset and support are everything. Many people who learned about the vegan lifestyle from last year’s Sarasota Veg Fest reported how remarkable it felt to know they were being heroes for themselves, animals and the planet with each vegan meal they consumed. Education is the first step to embracing a new lifestyle.
The Sarasota Veg Fest team is prepared to offer the tools and support needed to adopt sustainable habits. Watching documentaries such as What the Health, Forks over Knives, and Cowspiracy help to create a foundation of knowledge. Websites such as PCRM.org, NutritionFacts.org or OneGreenPlanet.org are important resources for learning more on health, nutrition and recipes. For many people, it can be useful to heed the advice of a certified health coach such as Naomi Green, who runs a plant-based nutrition program called Going Vegan for Health which empowers individuals to thrive for a lifetime.
Most people have been raised with the idea that eating animals is natural, normal and necessary. The fact that human beings do not need to harm animals in order to be healthy is liberating. Moreover, a basic understanding of health and compassion (through resources like videos, websites, health coaches, discussions with other vegans and community initiatives like Sarasota Veg Fest), the vegan lifestyle, in turn, becomes natural, normal and necessary.
NA: Finally, what does the term “solutionary” mean, and how do you further this mission?
Bardroff: Being a “solutionary” means choosing to be the solution for people, animals and the environment as a result of consistent, conscientious and compassionate lifestyle practices. Solutionaries are individuals, groups or organizations who are dedicated to making these conscientious decisions on a daily basis for the improvement of our world. Those of us who consider ourselves solutionaries are not perfect—because no one is—but we strive to continuously do better, both for this planet and all of its inhabitants.
Solutionary Events is a volunteer operated non-profit organization driven to create healthy, compassionate and regenerative communities by empowering leaders to coordinate socially responsible vegan events. In collaboration with the Sarasota community, we have coordinated Sarasota Veg Fest, Sarasota's Solutionary Health Festival and Be the Solution Convention. In addition, we have partnered with local organizations such as Natural Awakenings, iHeart Media, Senior Life Publications, Safety Awareness and Education Corporation and Oscar Scherer State Park to further the reach of our educational programs.
Solutionary Events is thrilled to collaborate with new volunteers to support their efforts in coordinating vegan festivals, races or walks, film screenings, workshops, beach or park cleanups, school programs and other educational outreaches. Ultimately, we aim to teach human beings how to move from being known as a problematic species to this planet, so we can mobilize toward being a solutionary species instead.
The Sarasota Veg Fest will take place at 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. This event is free, and parking is free as well. For more information, call 941-730-4745. For a complete list of the vendors and activities, visit SarasotaVegFest.org. For more information on additional Solutionary Events outreaches, visit SolutionaryEvents.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.
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