The ve­g­ans are com­ing! The ve­g­ans are com­ing!

How the plant-pow­ered life­style is more than a mil­len­nial craze

Midtown Post - - Currents - By Macken­zie Pat­ter­son

With sta­ples such as Fresh and Live Or­ganic Food Bar go­ing strong in the Toronto food scene, it’s no se­cret that fol­low­ing a ve­gan diet is as hot as ever — es­pe­cially among mil­len­ni­als.

A global sur­vey con­ducted by Nielsen showed that 43 per cent of Cana­di­ans are try­ing to in­cor­po­rate more plant-based foods into their diet, and the pre­lim­i­nary draft of Canada’s new food guide re­leased in 2017 favoured plant-based foods.

Net­flix doc­u­men­taries such as Forks Over Knives have made the advantages of ve­g­an­ism (a healthy body, a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment and happy an­i­mals, to name a few) clear, and for many, the choice to eat a plant-based diet is spilling over into other ar­eas of life too.

It was this very doc­u­men­tary that spurred Levi Coop­er­man and his wife to go full plant-based four years ago, and the cou­ple hasn’t looked back since. Coop­er­man, who is in his mid-for­ties, says that his ve­gan diet is some­what of a rar­ity among his other fortysome­thing friends, but he fits right in with the mil­len­ni­als at his of­fice.

“I work at a tech com­pany with a lot of younger folks, and there are a lot of peo­ple in the mil­len­nial group that are ve­gan or plant­based,” he says. “We have food brought in on a weekly ba­sis, and of­ten there’s a sec­tion for the ve­g­ans and veg­e­tar­i­ans — that group is grow­ing. But most of my friends are not plant-based.”

Coop­er­man says he hasn’t yet ex­tended his ve­g­an­ism into other ar­eas of his life, like cloth­ing, but he’s in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about cru­elty-free fash­ion — an­other ma­jor as­pect of the ve­gan life­style that has peo­ple of all ages and walks of life rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing their wardrobes.

Priya Ra­jan, owner of the Right Side Bou­tique, a cru­elty-free and ve­gan shop on the Dan­forth, was also first drawn to the ve­gan life­style by a Net­flix doc­u­men­tary, and she says her bou­tique is sim­ply an ex­ten­sion of the life­style she lives now as a re­sult. “I be­came ve­gan af­ter I saw a doc­u­men­tary called

Earth­lings. I was dev­as­tated,” she says. “Af­ter that, I knew I couldn’t be part of the meat in­dus­try — I felt like I had to be the change, so I’ve been ve­gan since then, and my bou­tique is just a re­flec­tion of how I live.”

At al­most 50, Ra­jan says she also feels like she’s out­num­bered as a ve­gan in her age group, but she’s glad to see the younger gen­er­a­tion tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to make big changes in the fash­ion in­dus­try.

“In my age group, I def­i­nitely feel like I’m a mi­nor­ity,” she says. “I think the younger gen­er­a­tion is more aware, more con­nected, and they’re not com­part­men­tal­iz­ing things as much. I think peo­ple com­part­men­tal­ize where meat comes from and where clothes come from, and I don’t think you can block that piece out.”

In­deed, mil­len­ni­als are tak­ing the lead by in­cor­po­rat­ing more nat­u­ral, or­ganic and plant-based ingredients into their daily lives.

Danielle Sch­leese is a ve­gan makeup artist based in Toronto, and she says the changes she made in her diet nat­u­rally spilled over into other ma­jor ar­eas of her life, like her busi­ness.

“I started to re­search more. I started to look into the back­ground of the in­dus­try and how prod­ucts are made, and I re­ally dis­cov­ered so much,” she says. “At the same time, I was do­ing my diet changes, so it kind of fell hand in hand, and I de­cided to com­pletely wipe my kit clean, which is kind of dra­matic, but I lit­er­ally got rid of ev­ery­thing at once and started com­pletely fresh.”

To­day, Sch­leese has made it her man­date to ed­u­cate oth­ers on ve­g­an­ism in the beauty world, while spread­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage about the ethics of a plant-based life­style. She says she’s seen an enor­mous amount of pos­i­tive change in the cos­met­ics and per­sonal care prod­ucts in­dus­try in re­cent years, and she’s hope­ful that more is to come.

Clock­wise from left: A look inside Priya Ra­jan’s Right Side Bou­tique, ve­gan makeup artist Danielle Sch­leese, and Levi Coop­er­man with his kids

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