I recently had the great honor to interview a very talented and passionate student – Chloe Falkenheim. Chloe is a high school senior from the greater Washington DC area. She is founder and president of her school’s vegetarian club, and founder and executive director of Vegetarian and Vegan Youth (VegYouth), an organization that engages and empowers youth to become vegan and activists in the vegan movement.Chloe dedicates her time educating people on the issues related animal agriculture, the cruelty inflicted on animals and the impact on the environment and health. She has served on Mercy for Animals and Pollination Projects’ Youth Advisory Boards. She was the Humane League’s “Student of the Year,” and her work has been featured in the Charleston Gazette, and Our Hen House.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself
A: I’m currently a high school senior the Washington DC area. I started a non-profit organization called Vegetarian and Vegan Youth (VegYouth) and a vegetarian club at my high school. I served on Mercy for Animals and Pollination Projects’ Youth Advisory Boards and was the Humane League’s “Student of the Year.” I’m a new contributor to One Green Planet, and my work has been featured in the Charleston Gazette, Huffington Post and Our Hen House.
Q: When did you go vegan and why?
A: I became vegetarian when I was 9 because I didn’t want to kill animals. Throughout the next few years, I slowly learned more and more about the issues related animal agriculture–the cruelty inflicted on animals and the impact on the environment and health. When I was 13, I was on my way to being fully vegan, and learning that the celebrity Lea Michele was vegan at the time solidified my decision.
Q: What made you want to do more (activism) for animals?
A: It wasn’t until I watched my first factory farming video, actually, that I became inspired to do more. I also learned that going vegan is the best thing one can do to stop supporting an industry harmful to animals, the environment, public health and human rights. So I started my club at my high school, and it all blossomed from there!
Q: Why did you start VegYouth?
A: I initially started VegYouth because through my activism at my high school, and difficulties I faced as a young activist, I realized that there needed to be more support for youth wishing to change their diets and become active in the cause. I found that many teens I talked to were interested in changing their diet but were held back by parents or fear of social backlash. I also talked to many teens who were interested in making a difference but weren’t sure how to even start, let alone do activism effectively. I made so many mistakes myself with starting my high school club that I decided to devote my time to helping other teens so they didn’t have to struggle like I did. Those were my initial motivations, but they grew into so much more.
Youth are the generation leading the future, and also the most open-minded and rebellious as we are not stuck in our ways and trying out to new ideas. That means it’s highly important to target youth, and since peer conformity is real, youth are the best to talk to youth. Also, in-school activism is highly important because schools are where students spend the vast majority of their days. Student activists can do so much activism as to ensure all students graduate hearing the veg message, and all students have a support network and community to go veg. That means student activism is some of the most important activism we can do and support, and student activism everywhere could spur the movement.
There is huge potential in creating an organization completely geared towards youth, harnessing the power of youth with the unique ways they can change the world. Plus we’re making the movement cool!
Q: What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
A: In 5 years, I will have just graduated college! I see myself running VegYouth full-time and taking it to the next level. I anticipate that in 5 years VegYouth will be a network of at least 500 student groups and tens of thousands of vegetarian and vegan youth in our online community in over 20 countries, with partnerships with other student organizations for environmentalism, health, food and workers rights, and will be present frequently in mainstream media.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into to animal welfare activism?
A: If they are still in school, I would encourage them to join us, and we can help! We have an online community of veg youth, an alliance of student activists, a mentoring program to match you with someone experienced to help you, and more.
I recommend first starting with incorporating activism into your daily life. Demonstrate to your friends how awesome it is to be veg. If your friends go out to pizza, call ahead and ensure there will be delicious food for you and share with everyone. If your friends are making s’mores, bring vegan ingredients.
Educate your teachers and classmates. Incorporate animal activism related topics into your schoolwork. For example, I have found ways to incorporate vegan-related topics into all of my classes, from Spanish to Biology to English to Calculus to Chemistry. Incorporating it into your schoolwork is a great way to spark class discussions.
Take it even further and talk to your cafeteria directors to add more vegan options, hold events in your school, and start a full-fledged student group. The most important thing is to do something. Animals need action now and can’t wait until we are older or wiser or more experienced.
Q: Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?
A: Haha, very funny! I wouldn’t say I, or many students, are very good cooks. However, I have found some creative uses for Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo. I really enjoy whole wheat bagels with just Sriracha flavored Just Mayo.
I also love green smoothies. My favorites have bananas, apples, spinach, carrots and beans. They fill me up after track practice!
I invented my own sandwich: the peanut butter banana cookie sandwich. To recreate this sandwich, add cookies between the bread-slices. Dinner can vary from pasta with pesto to burritos with rice, beans and guacamole.
These are all very simple meals students can put together quickly and easily