Monday, August 13, 2012


By Sue Sedlazek

A couple of weeks ago I was at a community event when I ran into Sola Pallotta, owner of the Very Virginia Shop and one of our Loudoun Meatless Monday partners.  “Did you see the article about Meatless Monday in the Leesburg Today?” she asked.  Her question took me completely by surprise.  Even though I had yet to read the paper, it seemed to me that I would have had some prior knowledge of any such article.  Or written it myself.  In fact, none of the folks involved in the launch of Loudoun Meatless Mondays had anything to do with the piece, entitled Embrace Loudoun’s Meatless Monday with Soy by Samantha Bartram. 

It was a thoughtful article that addressed the challenge that going meatless – even for one day a week – presented to some people.  It also offered practical “how to” tips by demystifying the practice  of cooking with those oft joked about vegetarian staples, tofu and texturized vegetable protein (TVP.)  (Though truthfully, most vegetarians admit to going through an initial phase of purchasing blocks of tofu, only to later throw them out after letting them sit untouched for months in their refrigerators.  Newbies generally have more success with simple dishes like bean burritos, stir fries, veggie chili, meatless pasta and Boca burgers.)  My favorite part of this article, however, was that its writing was unprompted by anyone with a stake in the original campaign.  Which meant only one thing:  our movement had momentum.

People were talking about it.  Many were really trying to get on board with it.  And while some may still be struggling a bit to embrace it, there was little doubt that “Meatless Monday” had become part of the Loudoun lexicon.  Fantastic!  Because the first step in any cultural change is building awareness, and we were clearly succeeding on that front. 

A few weeks earlier I had a similar experience at a local farmers’ market, where I was doing a vegan cooking demonstration.  A woman named Karen introduced herself to me and said she was trying to start a Meatless Monday initiative in her company.   Wow, I thought, not only was the campaign taking hold among the residents of Loudoun County, it was beginning to sprout up in the business community as well.  For this we owe a debt of thanks to the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and our local government for recognizing the environmental benefit of initiatives like Meatless Monday in this year’s Green Business Challenge.   Karen’s company was a winner in last year’s Challenge and is clearly committed to environmental stewardship.   Whether or not it officially adopts a Meatless Monday campaign, the fact that the idea is being discussed and considered within a large multi-national company like Karen’s is a clear signal that the movement has truly taken off.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Something for Everyone

By Sue Sedlazek

There are generally three types of reactions I get when the topic of Meatless Mondays comes up.

The first is the enthusiastic “Awesome!” which is a good indication that the person I’m talking with already eats along the veg continuum.  Whether vegan, vegetarian or veg-inclined, these people need no encouragement to cut out meat because they’re already doing it.  Still they are glad to hear about restaurants putting more emphasis on veg cuisine.  For these people, Meatless Monday means a more supportive community where they are welcome and valued.  It also gives them a great excuse to invite their friends out to eat!

The second type of reaction I get comes from the veg-curious – people who for one reason or another have thought about eating more vegetarian dishes but haven’t been able to break the meat habit.  They’re a lot like the people who wait until New Year’s Day to go on a diet.  They want to do it, but they need some occasion to get going.  For this group of people, Meatless Mondays are the perfect incentive, with New Year’s Day rolling around once a week.

My friend Rodney falls in this category.  He’s been talking about going vegetarian for the last year but just hasn’t gotten motivated enough to dive in.  So I was thrilled to read his Facebook post last Monday:  “Starting Meatless Monday today…trying to move to a vegetarian diet…one day at a time...” For people like Rodney, a public campaign like Meatless Monday can be a big motivating factor by generating that sense of community where “we’re all in this together.”

The third type of reaction usually comes with an expression of mock horror.  “Meatless Monday!  Why on Earth would I ever want to do that?”  Often these pronouncements are followed with a bit of good-natured ribbing about vegetarian diets, or even some genuine concerns about going without meat.  What about protein?  Iron?  Taste?   I welcome these reactions, because if nothing else, they open the door to a conversation.  And almost always, after the jokes and veg-bashing have been exhausted, we actually spend a few minutes talking seriously about the whys and hows of reducing consumption  of animal products.  Invariably, after a respectful exchange of opinions, these certifiable carnivores almost always end up acknowledging that, just maybe, there are benefits to cutting back on meat.  Mind you, I don’t expect these people to jump right on board with Meatless Mondays, but I know they are now thinking a little more about it.  And with the growing availability of delicious vegetarian options nowadays, they may just be tempted to give it a try.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Growing a Movement

By Loudoun Veg founder, Sue Sedlazek

When I first met Shoes Cup & Cork Club owner Jane Shihadeh, I was a customer asking questions about the menu.  Specifically, I’d wanted to know if any of the entrees she offered were vegan.  That question opened up a conversation about menu choices and the challenge restaurants face in accommodating the expanding list of dietary options demanded by their patrons.  Gluten-free.  Nut-free.  Dairy-free.  Vegetarian.  Vegan.

I understood the tricky balancing act required of business women like Jane.  She genuinely wanted to satisfy her customers but also had to think about the economics of expanding her menu.   As we got to talking about what sorts of options might be available to someone with my dietary needs, we stumbled onto the topic of Meatless Mondays.  Jane lit up.  She was very familiar with the national campaign and loved the idea of doing something special for her veg customers one day a week.  Right then and there, we decided to team up and start a grassroots campaign to bring the Meatless Monday movement to Loudoun County.

As a former oncology nurse, Jane is quite knowledgeable about the link between diet and health.  The idea of helping people reduce their consumption of saturated fats by promoting healthy plant-based foods is a natural extension of her career as a caregiver.  The fact that the national Meatless Monday campaign is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reinforces her conviction.

Since becoming involved with the campaign, Jane has grown increasingly aware about some of the other reasons for cutting back on animal products besides the obvious benefit to personal health.  Reports about the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the environment were compelling.  Waterways contaminated by runoff from feed crops and animal waste containing toxins and antibiotics is particularly concerning given Virginia’s ranking as second among states with the most polluted rivers in the country.   There are also the emissions of greenhouse gases which rival those of the transportation industry.  And then there’s the considerable depletion of water and land, two of our planet’s most precious resources.  It quickly became clear that if we ever hoped to address the issue of world hunger, we needed to drastically curb our consumption of meat and dairy.

Being a compassionate person by nature, Jane was also moved by reports describing the egregious abuse of animals on factory farms.  While she wasn’t ready to join me in becoming a vegan, she has a strong appreciation for the reasons I became one.  Offering a vegan menu one day a week was something she could do to support the values we both shared around issues of health, environment and animal welfare.  She hoped others would feel the same way.

From the beginning, Jane was insistent that our Meatless Monday initiative be something easy for everyone to participate in.   Since most restaurants already offer some sort of vegetarian option, it wouldn’t take much to create a meatless special for one day of the week.  For patrons, Meatless Monday menus would simply offer them another choice, along with a good incentive to begin their weeks with a healthy, delicious meal.  And as Jane likes to point out, with all the benefits associated with it, who wouldn’t want to do it?