College is one of the best places to promote an active culture of veganism. Campus is full of curious, smart people who are thinking about life’s big questions, like what are responsible ethics, how to decrease our environmental footprints, and what to eat for dinner. Young people tend to be more open-minded and flexible about lifestyle changes, and you can help make their dietary switch easy for them by providing a strong support network on campus. Here are some of my tips for running a school club dedicated to inspiring and sustaining veganism on campus:
1. Think of a catchy name. A wonderful friend helped me think of the name for our vegetarian club at New York University Abu Dhabi: Veggie Might. I love that our name is clear about the purpose of our club, recognizable, and bold. A student with awesome design skills also made us a super cute logo. If you like the name or the logo too, we won’t mind if you use them—in fact, we would love to create a network of Veggie Mights across the world! (Let us know or request a high resolution logo by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
2. Find students as passionate about meatless eating as you. Try to find students who are older and younger than you so you have access points to each class, and leaders even if you graduate or study abroad. A faculty or staff advisor can also be a strong benefit—they might let you use their kitchen to cook or help spread your message amongst professors. Let all of your friends know that you are involved in the vegan club, in addition to Student Government or the body overseeing student clubs, so that members can find you and join easily.
3. Maintain an active web presence on Facebook, Twitter, and/or through a blog. Post event announcements, news articles, and pictures from your meetings here. Veggie Might also asks students what type of events they want to see next.
4. Talk to your dining hall. Make sure your campus dining hall and snack bar offers delicious and healthy vegan meals and staples like soymilk. Meet with the head chef and head supplier and bring a list of suggestions from your club so they know specifically what you want. Thank them on your web pages when they introduce a vegan dish you like—they will feel appreciated and vegans will know what options are available for them!
5. Collaborate with other clubs and organizations.* Getting another club or department involved not only helps you find diverse ways to promote veganism, but you also reach members who would never come to “just” a vegan club event. For instance, you could show Cowspiracy with the environmental society and/or the film club, or join the yoga club for stretching and vegan snacks. Veggie Might has teamed up with our environmental, movie, yoga, art, debate, and women’s rights clubs on campus and arranged special meetings with our health center nutritionist to answer our members’ questions about healthy vegetarian diets specifically. Our library also organized a display of our favorite animal rights books, like James McWilliams’ The Modern Savage, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, and the indispensible The Animal Activist’s Handbook by Matt Ball.
*In addition to reaching out to non-vegan clubs on campus, try connecting with vegan clubs at other universities and exchange tips on successful events, recipes, and strategies. NYUAD Veggie Might will be your first virtual friend!
6. Offer (free) food! Show off your cooking skills with vegan baked goods and meals. If you don’t have a club budget, you can have bake sales or seated dinners with a low charge to help share delicious vegan food. Veggie Might also likes to bake vegan brownies for the talent show (see #5) and label them “vegan” in huge letters. The club usually pays for ingredients and huge crowds come to the show.
7. Organize a Meatless March. Ask students to make a pledge—from going vegan for a month to eating one vegetarian meal a day—at a certain time. Veggie Might chooses March every year and host dinners and cooking workshops throughout.
8. Teach people how to cook. Offer workshops for basic vegan recipes, or share your secret recipe for your favorite sinful vegan treat. (Mine is chocolate chunk banana bread.)
9. Get competitive. Veggie Might hosts competitions for recipes, like smoothies or dipping sauces, with funny judges. We talked to our snack bar, and they agreed to offer the winner’s dish on their menu for the month! This is awesome because people get creative with vegan recipes and also the best are shared with the entire school through the snack bar.
10. Be positive and supportive. Show your support for students who are interested in joining the club, even if they are not vegan, and try to make the transition as easy for them as possible. Make a list of grocery stores and restaurants in the area that have lots of vegan foods available, and talk to them about their challenges. Most importantly, set a good example as a positive, friendly vegan, and people will be more willing to get involved with the club!