The objective of this project was several fold. With the rise in health problems around the world stemming largely from lifestyle choices, including and influenced by diet. Reducing and eliminating the consumption of animal based products has been objectively shown to reduce the severity or cure many of these lifestyle based conditions. Veganism is objectively better for the environment by reducing the land and water resources needed to produce the same number of raw kilograms of food, and in terms of calories, and reducing methane emissions from livestock. Last, and most important to me during my transition, eliminating the consumption of animal based products removes the suffering endured by animals to produce the products we exploit from them. Vegetarianism and veganism are positive for both the individual, the environment and society in nearly every aspect. The difficulty is the cultural and social temptation to consume.
In terms of improving lives, this project was successful. From the people who fully participated, who were fully engaged and cheated the least, several did not return to their original habits after the end of the project and still remain vegan. Those who chose not to continue, or even frequently cheated seemed to still become much more realistic about their own abilities to control their behavior, and introspective about their own choices regarding their lifestyles and their health, and have reduced their overall meat consumption now bearing new attitudes towards animal based foods.
It is my intention that perhaps FCP can make this a yearly event, with discussion on our online groups, shared photos, and the same kind of social solidarism and pressure that worked to keep people in line during this event.
A smaller and more private cohort will likely make this more intimate and provide the kind of pressure that people can make use to help them break their old habits. Further, more intimate support in terms of tips of breaking old habits, and forming new ones will be an essential start. Shopping, buying fast food, eating with friends, snacking, cooking at home, and preparing for all of these will be put into a guide.
Another aspect of this will be to make the social media more interactive. In this iteration, social media participation was voluntary, and a lot of the follow up and social pressure was carried out by the leader. This has severe drawbacks, most notably time constraints, and the limitation of the social pressure that can be carried out by a single individual. People willingly shared their information via social media, and the most effective tool was the sharing of people’s meals to make it clear that maintaining a vegan diet need not be boring, unpleasant, or done alone. It can be a shared and pleasurable experience, filled with delicious foods, new surprises, and even shared triumphs and defeats. The social media structure for this project was through facebook, and it was set up as an event, and this had serious limitations, although facebook is a fairly ubiquitous platform and it frequently checked which makes it easier to check in. In the next iteration, making rules so that posts should tag others to also post their foods may be an extremely useful in pulling in more people to participate in sharing the experience. Facebook events are limited to two weeks, so the event was split up into two segments. In the first segment, there were 54 posts for people sharing their meals or news, and in the second half, as momentum decreased, there were 37 posts for the group. In the future, a goal of one post every two days for every participant seems fitting, and can perhaps be accomplished by tagging a set of names each time one posts. The shared process creates an intimate sense of solidarity and shared struggle, and helps the group work through problems that are likely to be experienced by all, most notably the social pressure to defect. Expanding the social media aspect to use this as a tool to delegate responsibility, to amplify and multiply the channels of social pressure and encouragement, and provide an open and seemingly accessible tool to ask questions, share triumphs and get feedback over problems seems like it has the potential to greatly increase the success of this project in the future. Sharing the responsibility, wisdom, and the problem itself is a crucial part of managing, and this can be seen as effective delegation. This is not only a question of methods, but of understanding how the tools that we have interact with people, and the relationship between our behavior, choices, social connections, and media and technology uses. Lastly, I need to beware not to create resistance or strengthen repulsion to habit change by overpressuring participants, some of whom may genuinely have an aversion to sharing.
Of those who permanently switched, many already had that broad habitual domain. This project simply extended their domain, in that they had already considered transitioning to veganism and had recognized that they had the potential and reason to do so. The implication for this is that this project likely couldn’t convert someone that hadn’t already been considering the switch. This was not universally so however, but still it should not necessarily be seen as a shortcoming, but an area where the project can improve. One of the goals of this project was to make people more mindful of their food choices. For the project to have more lasting effects, it need also convince more people of the possibilities or their habit changes, their recognition of their ability to make permanent changes, and the predisposition and willingness to make permanent positive changes in their lives. By focusing not only about changing behavior, but helping them to expand and fulfill their own habitual domain, their ability to think further, overpower the initial impulses, they will be empowered and more able to make such changes permanent.
Thank you to all the participants this year, and everyone who helped so much.
Staff writer: Ari B