James - Go Vegan!
James makes it possible for more of us to consume consciously by making vegan food accessible in Cape Town through Lekker Vegan. Read on to find out more about his story and thoughts on health, veganism and sustainability.
Where are you from and what brought you to Cape Town?
I'm from Amsterdam, my father is from Indonesia and my mother is from Amsterdam. I lived there all my life, but my mom moved here a while back and tried to convince me to come to South Africa and do something here. I couldn't find a purpose form me here, but I have now.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Being honest, open and doing no harm. I believe in doing no harm and not taking shit. Don't steal anything from anyone on the planet, don't take the health of the planet, don't take the health of a person, don't take the health of an animal. Take no shit is about having the right to defend yourself. I don't believe in violence, but I do believe in force when it comes to defending yourself. That's basically where I come from, I pull that through in everything that I do. If I run a company I don't want cause harm to the planet or to the animals that are living on it. I do my best to do no harm, sustainability to me.
What are you passionate about?
I'm very passionate about veganism because we're the voice for the voiceless. Animals don't have a voice and nobody's looking out for them, there are a lot of people who are causing them a lot of harm, stress and agony. Animal agriculture is also causing major damage to the planet and to the health of people. I think veganism is the most sustainable way to live and it addresses all these different issues at the same time. That's why I feel good about this. I don't believe in having a purpose in life, it's just about what you want to experience, and I want to experience influencing a lot of people in a positive way, in a vegan way.
How do you consume consciously?
I live by the law 'do no harm, take no shit'. So that means that I have to be aware of everything I buy and the consequences of my actions. I go quite far in that, I don't use palm oil in my products because of the harm it does to the planet. Plastics, I try to avoid them as much as I can. I don't carry plastic bags with me all the time, so sometimes when I go to a supermarket I do buy a plastic bag, I'm not perfect, but I try to do as much as I can. When it comes to food, I'm vegan. Not only food but all animal-derived products! I don't consume any animal-derived products. It helps a lot in the sustainability of my choices.
What else could you do to consume more consciously?
I'm well aware of the bad labour practices and issues in the fashion industry. I don't buy a lot of clothes, but I'm not very informed about what I could do better in terms of the clothes I buy. You never know, even with big brands that say they are sustainable, there are always scandals so they're not sustainable at all. When it comes to clothing there needs to be more education and good information needs to be more readily available. In clothing I also don't use any animal products, so no wool, no silk or leather. Overall, I could definitely educate myself more on ethically sourced clothing.
When did you start becoming more conscious of your consumption?
I had a health issue, I had something called an anal fissure, which is like hemorrhoids but it's a wound in your anus that opens up every time you shit basically. I saw this Facebook meme saying that 'If there's one herb you should master in your life it's cayenne pepper.' I was intrigued by that whole meme, so I looked into it and it had to do with cayenne pepper being good for your blood, your blood vessels, your heart, basically anything that's red. The anal fissure that I had is a vein that's thin and irritated, so I thought I could use cayenne pepper to treat it.
I googled using cayenne pepper and found someone who told me to use organic cayenne pepper in water. You have to buy organic because they sterilize herbs through irradiation so that germs die, but that also kills the life energy, the vitamins, the enzymes of the herb and they lose their healing properties. So that opened my mind and made me look up which herbs are irradiated. While these herbs are being cleaned of germs, they're also losing their nutritional value. If I were to use non-organic cayenne pepper I wouldn't get the health benefits, that blew my mind because that means all the herb people eat does nothing for their health.
That's when my consumption behaviour just completely changed. I wanted to learn everything, so what do I buy, what can I buy that's healthy. In the end, I cured my anal fissure in three days by using cayenne pepper in water every day and night. I was suffering for three years and my doctors couldn't help me. That was the second switch, I started thinking, why doesn't my doctor know about this, why doesn't he know that he could cure me with a euros worth of cayenne powder? He's been selling me creams and creams and creams for three years and they didn't help at all, they just sedated my system. It treated the symptom, not the cause.
The cause was my diet, red meat, coffee, dairy and sugar. After that experience I changed my diet, I got to learn more about my body and what's causing this problem. Even now that I'm healthier, if I consume the bad stuff like alcohol again I get the same problems, it's my body telling me what I'm not supposed to eat. I'm actually grateful for my dysfunctional body because it has taught me how to treat it in a perfect way so that I can be the best version of myself and have the energy to do 110 hours a week and be vegan. That's how I learnt what's sustainable for my body and for the planet.
How would more people becoming conscious of their consumption change the world?
People would change their actions. They would be more aware of what their actions are contributing to or destroying. When it comes to morality a lot of people are confused, but it's really simple. You just have to ask yourself, am I stealing something? If I buy plastic, what am I stealing? I'm stealing the health of the planet. It's about knowing what's right or wrong and from there you could judge all your actions. Then consumption also becomes easier, you become more aware of the products you're choosing, what is the effect on the planet, your own health and animals. It would create a healthier planet where nature thrives, animals thrive, and people thrive.
What’s the easiest part of consuming consciously?
Skipping meat. Consuming meat is the most harmful thing we're doing to the planet right now. There are so many good meat substitutes available all around the country like Fry's family foods. There's no excuse really, you're not missing out on anything. If you want to take conscious action, skip meat.
What’s the hardest part of consuming consciously?
Skipping plastics, they're everywhere! It's so hard. If you go to a supermarket, most of what you buy is in plastic. That can only change when entrepreneurs get more conscious, they have to say they can't stand putting out more plastics in the world. It's not up to the people. With meat, you can choose not to eat meat, but with plastic, you cannot choose not to live a normal life and not consume or buy plastic. Everything we do is in plastic. It has to be a governmental thing or an entrepreneurial thing.
What are your top 3 practical changes?
- Skip meat
- Skip dairy
- Skip eggs
What are the biggest challenges we face today?
The availability of sustainable products. Whether it's vegan or not, the packaging is still a challenge.
If the whole world was listening, what would you say?
What do you do?
I conceptualized 'Lekker Vegan', a vegan restaurant with its first store in Cape Town.