Lindsey - Don’t underestimate the power that you have to change the world

Lindsey makes it possible for more of us to consume consciously by helping make more vegan food options available in Shanghai through two businesses, Happy Buddha and Serenity. Read on to find out more about her story and thoughts on food and sustainability.

Where are you from?  I'm from Colorado, USA. 

What brought you to Shanghai?

Teaching. My husband and I were teaching in Hawaii before we moved to Shanghai. We decided to try something new, but at first I hated it, I thought we'd stay 2 years max. Then I started to make friends and got involved in charities, one year lead to another and now it’s number 7. 

What does sustainability mean to you?

I used to only think of it in terms of the environment, but now I think it's about the broader energy you put into things. In business with finance, everything. I guess it’s living in a way where you meet your basic needs and leave enough to give back. Now that I have the kids I think,  'If it doesn’t improve our quality of life do we really need it?' It’s not about giving things up, it’s gaining more.

What are you passionate about?

Food, cooking, feeding people, learning and teaching, travelling.

How do you do to consume consciously?

There’s been a big shift in what I want as opposed to what I need from when I first came to China. The beginning was like the honeymoon phase where I wasn’t thinking about what I was consuming. My husband actually pointed out how much I was consuming. I slowly started to become more aware of wants vs needs.  I also read The Diamond Cutter. There was one part of the book where they talk about keeping your space clean so your mind can think. The less you have the more you can focus. It’s a matter of thinking about your choices and what you really need. 

I watched Cowspiracy and my husband started watching it too and it makes you think 'Why don’t people know this?'  We’re raising awareness with food and documentaries, trying to let people come to that in their own time. When you watch documentaries like that you can’t ignore it. It's like 'Hey this is the reality'. Once you know it's really hard to ignore. You’re fighting against the establishment, you’re fighting against so many people who have a lot to lose. Greed is a powerful thing.

Are you vegan/ vegetarian? How did it all start for you? 

We would have meant growing up with every meal except breakfast. Then a friend asked me why I ate meat, since I love animals so much, and that got me thinking. I stopped eating meat and fish 12 years ago. For me, it was about animal welfare, as well as my health and the environment. I started experimenting and making seitan as an alternative to meat and then started selling it at farmers markets in Shanghai. I cook a lot and love feeding people comfort food that they wouldn't expect to be vegan.

I don’t want to say I’m trying to be a vegan, I eat vegan as much as possible, to be vegan you have to plan and be prepared. If it's an emergency I can't always get vegan food. I would be completely vegan if it weren’t for that, I could give up those things if there were more options. That's why we had the 21-day vegan challenge as well, to show people the options that are already available. 

My first pregnancy following a vegetarian diet was fine, but with this pregnancy, my blood pressure and cholesterol were lower, which is a good thing. I ate a mostly vegan diet and everything was great. Our kids are vegetarian too, my son is two and a half and he’s really big for his age. I want people to see he’s strong and active. My mom and brother visited recently and saw how easy it was and decided to go vegetarian. 

How would more people becoming conscious of what they eat or being vegan change the world?

There would be immediate benefits for the person. That’s priceless, you can’t put a value on a healthy life. It changes your thinking and you become more conscious of your choices. What you value starts to change. Your environmental impact, your carbon footprint would also be less. More people being vegan would reduce the demand for meat which in the long run would save the lives of millions of animals.

What’s the easiest part of being vegan?

The eating good food and the simplicity of it. You’ll use the same few ingredients to create simple things that taste amazing.

What’s the hardest part of being vegan?  

Being social, people want to go out to eat. A lot of it revolves around food and finding a place that makes everyone happy is difficult since there isn’t a big enough demand for it. Restaurants are more willing to change now, we just have to keep asking.

What are your top 3 practical changes to consume consciously?

  •  Make a commitment to not buy more stuff, just buy what you need. Your space will be cleaner and your mind will be clearer.
  • Plan your meals, and cook ahead, visit your local market. 
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your passion, share it with your friends. Don’t keep it a secret. Be proud of it and talk to people about it.

What are the biggest challenges we face today?

When you start talking to people about changing their eating habits they get uncomfortable because it's such a personal thing. It hits a nerve, it's a cultural barrier. Finding a way to open people’s minds, to change their perception of what it means to eat a plant-based diet is a big challenge. When people try plant-based food their mind will stop them first, not their taste buds. Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s totally avoidable. Powerful corporations bank on people not changing.  

People are already having wars over water, that’s happening now. Just because it’s not you now doesn’t mean it’s going to be in ten years.

If the whole world was listening, what would you say?

Don’t underestimate the power that you have to change the world.

What do you do?

I’m still teaching full time, but I'm on maternity leave until April. 

Cornelia Blignaut