Marisa Miller Wolfson is the co-founder of Kind Green Planet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healthy, humane, eco-friendly living. Crediting her unbridled energy and upbeat you-can-accomplish-anything attitide to her plant-based diet, Marisa spends her days empowering others to choose kinder, cleaner, heart-healthy foods. Her passion shines through in the inspirational and entertaining documentary, Vegucated, that she just finished up. It’s a guerrilla-style film that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks.
Marisa is teaming up with COK to host a free sneak preview of Vegucated on Thurs., July 21 at the National Animal Rights Conference held in Los Angeles. In between her busy work and travel schedule, she took a few moments to talk with me:
1. How long have you been vegan, and what prompted you to change your diet?
Since March 2002, the day I grabbed a “101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian” booklet for reading material on my plane ride home to Indiana for my 26th birthday. I had been vegetarian for three months after seeing an old Tom Regan documentary called We Are All Noah. At that screening event, I was very moved, but I remember rolling my eyes at a vegan who said, “Milk is liquid meat.” Oh, puleeez. But by the time I landed and had read all 101 reasons, I decided to go vegan. I realized that if I truly respected animals and wanted to protect the environment, I could no longer support the dairy and egg industries either.
2. What inspired you to create Vegucated?
Sitting in a screening of Super Size Me, I thought, “Ok, so we know what not to eat. Someone needs to make a documentary of this process in reverse, explaining what we should eat and focus on the ethical issues as well as health issues.” I spoke with my boss then, Mary Max, and she said, “You should do it!” I had years of experience organizing screenings of other people’s documentaries about veg living and animal protection, so I knew a bit about how to engage audiences, and I decided to give it a shot. It took a year to get the project off the ground, but once we did, we knew we had something pretty special.
3. As you followed the journey of three people discovering the benefits of vegan eating, what were some of the most surprising things you learned?
Each person’s experience taught me something new, but most notably, through Tesla I learned that lack of social support is perhaps the toughest challenge people face when going vegan. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised to see that if you expose people to information, give them hands-on experiences to let them come to their own conclusions, and offer them healthy, humane alternatives, you don’t have to “sell” veganism at all. It becomes a no-brainer.
4. Tell us about your email program, “Vegan at Heart”, which coaches people who are transitioning toward vegan eating.
The idea is to share practical information with people who consider themselves vegans “at heart” but not yet in practice—it’s our safety net to catch people who’ve seen the film, are eager to make changes but need some guidance. Subscribers receive one daily email for 30 days with tips and tricks for going vegan, then they receive the Vegan at Heart e-newsletter thereafter. People can ask me questions anytime, and I offer emotional support and troubleshooting for specific challenges. We also built a Cheering Section to create a space where people can share victories and challenges and help support other people in their processes too.
5. What are some basic tips you can share for people just getting started?
First and foremost, I’d say consider it one big adventure. Try a bazillion things, knowing you might not love this or that form of a food, a brand or a recipe. But don’t give up. Try different brands, different styles, different ways of preparing it. You might surprise yourself. Over time, you’ll find new foods that satisfy the cravings you had for old (non-vegan) foods. As Brian says towards the end of the film, “it’s amazing how adaptable our bodies are.” Our taste buds do change.
Be sure to watch the trailer at GetVegucated.com.
Want to get a DVD copy while also helping this film gain widespread viewership? Check out Vegucated’s new KickStarter campaign!