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There is no time like the present to go vegan—with people becoming more conscientious about the treatment of animals and their health in the past few years, traditional restaurants and the media have noticed. Veganism is no longer a foreign concept. There has been a recent surge of establishments offering meat free dishes, completely vegan restaurants opening their doors, and new vegan products hitting the shelves. Even so, when you first make the switch to veganism, adjusting to the new lifestyle has a learning curve and may even be lonely, especially as a teenager living without much control over your environment. The most valuable piece of advice for making this transition smoothly is to find a community and interact with other people who can relate. Finding a group of like-minded individuals, or even just a friend or two who share your ethics and drive to do something can make a world of difference.

On the internet…

In this digital age, the internet is a great place to get your questions answered and connect with other vegans. Join an online community like The Post Punk Kitchen forums to interact with people all over the world and learn about events near you. There is a thriving vegan food blog community to follow, participate in, and get inspired by. Every November, Vegan MoFo, or Vegan Month of Food, encourages bloggers to get in the kitchen and learn something new, then blog twenty times throughout the month. Anyone can sign up to participate and captivate the world with enticing vegan creations. Vegans are generally all-around compassionate individuals and happy to help each other out, so don’t be afraid to email your favorite bloggers, cookbook authors, and activists to start a conversation.

In high school…

Even if you are the only vegan that you know of at your school, starting a dialogue can educate your peers on your choices, make people consider their choice to consume animal products, and out the closet herbivores. A great way to do this is to break out your most decadent baking supplies and make something delicious to share and show people how amazing vegan food can be. If your school cafeteria is a nutritional wasteland, get others on board to change that by petitioning, then work with the cafeteria to introduce meat free, healthier options that don’t involve an iceburg lettuce salad bar. If you write for any school publications or have the option to submit an article, consider writing about animal rights or vegan food. These are all great ways to get your voice heard! If your school has animal rights or environmental groups, consider joining and you may meet some like-minded people. If there isn’t, start one of your own!

In college…

Whether you go to a large university or a small liberal arts school, moving away to college can offer a wealth of resources and a newfound sense of freedom, but may also be lonely and intimidating. Step out of your comfort zone and get involved. Larger schools should have vegan, animal rights, and environmental groups to participate in, and offer creative outlets for your ideas. Sign up to leaflet on campus through Vegan Outreach or Mercy for Animals, and start conversations with interested students and faculty. When signing up for classes, look for electives on topics relevant to veganism to learn more about something that interests you and meet other people with similar ideas. It still holds true that everyone in any academic or work environment loves baked goods. Bringing cupcakes into class, contributing to a bake sale, or starting one of your own is a great way to meet new people and show off your skills. But if college still feels like high school part two, getting involved in the community and meeting people off-campus can be the key.

In your community…

Even if you don’t live in the most vegan-friendly city, there are options out there almost everywhere. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to find your niche. Find a vegan meetup group in your area through Meetup to try out new restaurants with a group and attend potlucks. Host cooking nights or dessert parties. If you’re struggling to find a community that fits your interests, start your own event doing something that motivates you! Get inspired by acts big and small and check out Vegans On The Move, a new blog that keeps track of vegan activism happening anywhere and everywhere. Baking activism, “baketivism”, is a great place to start because you can start a bake sale anytime and anywhere. Vegan bake sales are a fantastic way to raise money for charity, build a relationship with vegan-friendly establishments, and meet other vegan bakers. A great resource to check out is Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale for tips on creating a bake sale and spreading the word. If your town has a vegetarian co-op, consider volunteering to get involved in the community directly. Even just talking to the owners of vegan-friendly restaurants or food carts creates a sense of community.

Last but not least, vegetarian and vegan fests are happening all over nowadays! Besides New York and Chicago, vegan fests are happening in unlikely places such as Madison, WI, which recently held the first Mad City Vegan Fest as a result of a community coming together and working to make it happen.

If you look in the right places, you’ll find a vibrant, thriving vegan community full of passionate individuals doing something unique. Put yourself out there as a new vegan and your involvement will be rewarding for both you and the animals.

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