Paying It Forward: An Earth Day Guest Blog by Steven Todd Smith

Earth Day is tomorrow, which is one of my favorite times of year, because it allows me to share the deep and direct connection between eating animal products and the destruction of our environment (something you may or may not already be aware of). This is a fact that is both difficult to take in and empowering to hear, because the best part about knowing this is that you can make a difference every single day with your fork. You can choose to eat vegan - and by choosing veganism, you are not only working to better the lives of animals who desperately need our help, or to better your own health and physical well-being, but you are taking massive leaps and bounds with a vegan diet to help save our Earth.

Fact: According to a 2006 UN-sponsored report titled "Livestock's Long Shadow," factory farming plays a major role in every aspect of environmental collapse, from ozone depletion to ocean dead zones. Factory farms, which hold tens of thousands of animals per facility in windowless warehouses throughout the country, are responsible for more than 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.


In honor of Earth Day, I am asking you, my readers and supporters, to make the pledge of sharing this vital information with one friend, loved one, co-worker, or acquaintance in your life. We are getting to the point where big change needs to happen in our world, and I encourage you to share these facts with others because it will hopefully empower them to make better choices as well.

And now, for the main event - my husband's first guest blog on Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!. Steve has been wanting to do a guest blog for a while now, so I am thrilled to be able to share his words with you. I remember thinking back when Steve ate meat and I desperately wanted him to go vegan - "Steve is the best guy I know, and the kindest person in my life - if he can't make the change, then what about everyone else?" Well, Steve did make that change, and his story below is proof that he is not only living that change successfully, but he also is using his personal experience to fuel positive change in others. Read on!

 Paying It Forward for Earth Day
by Steven Todd Smith

At the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, October 2009.

My journey (indirectly) began when Lindsay, my wife, then girlfriend (but always soulmate, and your lovely bloganista) decided to go vegetarian after I specifically showed her the tragic, gruesome ending of Fast Food Nation, depicting the unfortunate fate of cows in a slaughterhouse.  Her journey took many bumps and bends, but consistently led her in the direction of truth, compassion, and a choice for the greater good.  

 Dancing at our wedding, November 2009. 

During this time, I had direct exposure to her discoveries.  Lindsay would read me passages from books - how an animal-based diet is detrimental to your health, testimonials from workers in the factory farming industry, and inspirational quotes from brilliant thinkers who knew the good that came from eating a plant-based diet.  She would show me videos online, like Earthlings and Meet your Meat, and, while I was very resistant at first, I eventually took in what I was seeing and hearing.

Cooking tofu cutlets for our first ever married - and vegan - 
Thanksgiving, November 2009.

Change is a scary thing to face in your life, especially when it involves revamping all or most of the habits/beliefs you've had thus far. Knowing that I did want what was best for me, for living creatures, and the world but also knowing that I don't like being forced into anything, I decided to educate myself on my terms, in my own time.  Lindsay's patience and guidance helped me the whole way.  The major catalysts for me were:

1) In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, which made me look at the food industry and what I eat in a totally different way.

2) Food, Inc., which confirmed those new thoughts and put a visual with it.  I actually kicked the wall of the movie theater as I left.  I was that mad and ready to start making changes.

3) Skinny Bastard, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (of New York Times Bestseller Skinny Bitch), which covered the gamut of an animal-based diet vs. a plant based diet. This was a book Lindsay gave to me for my birthday last year.  It was a present from Lindsay that officially changed my life. 

Having a head-butting contest with Ann the goat at WFAS, October 2009.

With the seeds Lindsay had planted for me along her journey and with my three major catalysts, I took a month-long veg pledge in July 2009 which continued on throughout the summer.  By the end of August, not only was I still eating vegetarian, but I had also cut out dairy and eggs.  I made the decision to go vegan.

Sharing a moment with a dolphin in Santa Monica, August 2009.

Going vegan in September 2009 (thanks to my wife!) was a rebirthing of myself in a sense.  It opened my eyes to the horrors and tragedies that take place in the world and made me realize that I do not want to be a part of them.  It opened my eyes to a world of choice, showing me that I am responsible for my lifestyle and however it affects me or others around me.  It opened me up to life, kindness, and, of course, delicious food.

The most amazing part about going vegan thus far - besides how great I feel about myself and how lucky I am to cook and eat such delicious food with my wife, family, and friends - is the whole "Pay It Forward" nature of the simple act of going vegan. 

Meeting vegan advocate and actress Alicia Silverstone, March 2010.

It was very difficult to know about the animal cruelty and the health and environmental dangers of an animal-based diet and not be able to tell everyone I knew everything I knew.  But through the friendly sharing of knowledge, introducing others to yummy vegan food, and the recommendation of excellent books and films, I've begun to see the chain of "paying it forward" starting.

I ate meat, dairy, and eggs for 25 years of my life.  During that time, I knew a few vegetarians and a couple of vegans.  Now, after seven months of living vegan, I not only find myself in a GIGANTIC community of wonderful, loving vegans, but I'm beginning to see the seeds of change within those closest to me.  

 Cutting our 100% vegan wedding cake, November 2009.

The idea of "paying it forward" can spread so much good over such a vast network/community/population of people that it's amazing to really think how powerful the one initial spark can be.  As a gift, I gave Skinny Bastard to one of my best friends who has already been around Lindsay and I enough to have discussed issues on health, animal cruelty, and the environment; to have eaten home cooked and restaurant vegan meals with us; to know why we decided to go vegan and what it means to us.  As of this past Monday, this best friend of mine has been eating completely vegan for one month.  Not only that, but because of this bold decision of my friend, other mutual friends are beginning to show interest.  Knowing both of us as former meat-eaters, and now seeing us cook vegan dishes for Super Bowl parties and other events, our friends are beginning to wonder what this whole vegan thing is about.  The seed is being planted.

Videotaping Lindsay and my fundraiser for Farm Sanctuary 
and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, March 2010.

But the chain extends even further!  I can now happily say that from a group of family and friends that also ate meat, dairy, and eggs, I have:

- One amazing mother, 4 months vegetarian/pescatarian, who cooks delicious vegetarian and vegan meals for friends and is beginning to see her friends cook veggie sometimes too!
- One amazing father, who experienced his first vegan Thanksgiving with Lindsay, myself, and the rest of the family, and is keeping his mind and tastebuds open to new foods being introduced into his life!
- One stepmother-in-law, making the choice to abstain from eating land animals for the past month since our fundraiser!
- One brother-in-law, doing a veg pledge and slowly working vegan elements into his diet!  (His girlfriend is on her second pledge!)
- One sister-in-law who has tried out going both veg and vegan at different times in the past couple of years and is continuing to discover where her path leads her!
- One mother-in-law and her partner who've eaten vegan for the last couple of months!
- Many others now interested in trying out parts of a veg/vegan diet!

The world is getting better and better.  :-)

In honor of Earth Day, please share with the Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! community:

WHAT IS YOUR "PAY IT FORWARD" STORY?

Comments

CurlyLocks said…
Wonderful guest blog!

To my son and daughter-in-law, you two truly have had an enormous influence on my cooking and eating habits, as have the recommended videos and books. I'm so much more at peace with myself for making these changes.
JACQUELYNN said…
Awww, you are a wonderful hubby to your wonderful wife :) It is so nice to hear about your journey together. My fiancee is 100% supportive of my vegan lifestyle (so awesome)... and just ate his first full (knowingly) vegan supper I made for him two nights ago. Veggie and seitan stir fry with brown rice, and he LOVED it!

I think I am going to get him "Skinny Bastard" since you said it changed your life...
What an awesome victory and teaching blog. Thank you.

David and I love to pay it forward as much as we can. It comes naturally out of thankfulness for the things that have been given or revealed and the progress made every year of our lives. This year especially, there's just so much to share as we're learning and people are so receptive.

Gods dreams for me came alive in my vegan playground. I wonder how many more stories there are out there...it's just so exciting! Where Gods dreams will/have come alive for them and how their gonna pay it forward naturally.

We celebrate with you all the victories of lives changed. I am one of those lives God used KMIV to change. God bless You both.

What an awesome team you are.
Jeri - Oahu
Melissa said…
Great post Steve! I really connected with the part where you said you wanted to tell everyone what you have learned about veganism in relation to health, the environment and the animals. It's hard to keep it inside isn't it? I love when people ask me questions so I can share what I know without sounding judgemental. Congrats on paying it forward!

- Melissa
http://www.greenbeansandyam.com/
Myra Wolf said…
I have been waiting for your guest blog post Steve :)
Since the first time I met you...your and Lindsay's freshmen year at NYU-Tisch..over seven years ago at my home...you have had a "magic" with animals. From your first introduction to an array of rescue animals over these years, you know their language and they have all known a bond with you from the moment they have met you.
When you guietly became vegan..I was not surprised. You like facts and truth and when you saw it and found them, you made your choice. Not only have you made the choice to live a vegan lifestyle but you are at total peace with it and it is obvious. It has outwardly served you very well and to know you will live healthier too, along with Lindsay, makes my heart so happy.
What a great thing to see at this young age, before anything medical might make you decide on that decision. And, there is plenty of facts to show the correlation between food and disease.
I am beyond proud to call you Son,(for many more reasons then being vegan), and beyond content that Lindsay has found her life partner in you. You are well blended :).
Continue being proud to spread the knowledge you know.
All I can say is, I feel better since eliminating meat, dairy, eggs and seafood (since accidently walking by a fish butcher section of a food store). I thank you for paying it forward with a beautiful, delicious birthday dinner at Blossoms last year, a super vegan Thanksgiving dinner, Wedding dinner, and Christmas porta bella, horseradish sause dish..yada yada..:)
I will pay it forward as well and after I take some vegan cooking classes I will "feed it forward".
PS: I am alittle shocked "your friend" is vegan eating now :)..Some guys you would never guess it. Hey, alot of guys are vegan that I would never guess either! (ie, a ninety year old cardiac surgeon I saw on tv..still operating..was one man I would have never guessed to be vegan either. :) Go guys!!
xoxo
Mara said…
Happy Earth Day everyone!
I loved reading about your journey together and I totally believe in the power of "pay it forward"!
I was totally inspired when I won the vegan chocolate giveaway contest on this very blog earlier this week! It just made me feel so happy and gave me a boost. So, in honor of Earth Day, I organized an "Earth Day Potluck" in my office for tomorrow. The catch of course, is that I asked everyone to bring a meat-less dish. I was a little worried about the reaction I'd get. Sometimes people can get very defensive and feel like you're judging them if you try to tell them about the negative effects that the meat industry has on the environment. But anyway, I included the statistic about how if every American cut out just one chicken meal a week, it would significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (like taking a half-million cars off the road) as you sited in your post. People responded positively and are bringing in dishes (which are actually egg and dairy-free too!) I'm bringing in BLT's (with tempeh bacon), a veggie pasta salad, fruit salad, and vegan chocolate cupcakes! I'm also doing a raffle. Whoever goes meatless for lunch can enter. The prizes include a $10 gift certificate to a health food store near my office (that offers lots of veggie lunches!), a copy of a Vegetarian Times magazine, and a reusable shopping bag. I'm so excited about the event tomorrow! And I want to thank you, Lindsay (and Steve) for your blog. It truly has inspired me! Thanks!
Lindsay said…
What beautiful responses!! I am so touched by this - you are all such loving beautiful people! :)

Mara - that is amazing that you're having a raffle and potluck! Please let me know how it goes! And Jacquelynn - that is great that your husband tried your vegan dish, and I definitely think you should get him Skinny Bastard. :)

Happy Earth Day!!
wendy said…
wow, that is so wonderful. i love reading how others came to veganism, and yours truly is a love story, not just between you and your wife, but with the animals as well. maybe i can get my huz to write a guest post! love the blog...
Rachel said…
My most recent
pay it forward? Hmm...

I made a vegan quiche with lots of veggies, tofu, homemade crust.. (YUM) and offered it to my 11 year old neice and father in law-
it was gone in 1 hour. :)

My in-laws have even allowed us to prepare vegan items for the family get togethers... the seeds are planted! :)

Thanks for posting Steve! Great Job! (plus, I adore your wife and her blogging... it gives me something to look forward too)

:)
Lolly said…
What a great blog! You two make a great team!
Anonymous said…
Todd, thank you for blogging. What an interesting, articulate entry! Hope you will blog more often!

It's really nice to "meet" you, the other half! I totally hear you on the "not forcing" people but simply facilitating information. There is just something about nagging that will bring a wall down, automatically. Silvia
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