Interview with Katelin Rupp, Co-Founder of Indy VegFest, Solution #4 Plant-Rich Diet

If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved.

Project Drawdown – #4 Plant-Rich Diet
Katelin Rupp
Interview with Katelin Rupp, Co-founder of Indy Vegfest, on September 21st, 2019.

Introduction

Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. An international coalition of more than 200 researchers and other experts identified and modeled the 100 most substantive, already existing solutions for addressing global warming.

Katelin Rupp co-founded Indy Veg Fest — a free, annual event celebrating plant-rich diets. A side gig with no money… in meat-happy Indiana. Three years later? 5,500 attendees and growing!

The Interview

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In 1993, Katelin Rupp read the book Diet for a New America by John Robbins and Joanna Macy. Soon after she decided to be a vegetarian.

In 2017, she co-founded the first Indy Veg Fest — an annual, free festival in the spring to celebrate plant-rich diets.

They have local and national speakers, documentary screenings, and community non-profits. The audience favorite, however, is the wide variety of food vendors. Visitors can try every kind of vegetarian and vegan food imaginable.

Throughout it all, Katelin and her team try to be as non-judgement and welcoming as possible. The result? In just a few years they’ve grown to 5,500 attendee.

But organizing this isn’t her day job… yet. She’s the Director of Program Evaluation at the Indiana State Department of Health. She oversees the development and implementation of the program evaluation plan for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission and the Indiana Tobacco Control Strategic Plan.

Key Lessons

Formed an executive board and the non-profit in 2016. First Indy Veg Fest was the next year.

Indy Veg Fest is very “grassroots-y” and volunteer led

“What did you learn from other vegan festivals? And along the way?”

  • Not everything that’s successful elsewhere will work in Indianapolis.
  • Larger cities market to existing vegans (e.g. as a vegan paradise). We market to everyone.
  • In Indiana, people are most interested in trying the new kinds of food. They aren’t so interested in watching a one hour documentary.

“What about framing? Messaging?”

  • Veganism tends to make people uncomfortable. It challenges their behavior, beliefs, identity. Food is very personal for people. It’s critically important to be mindful with how we present the event. Important to be inclusive, welcoming, and have open arms.
  • We may have clashed most with hardcore vegan activists, because we’re not drawing a hard line in the sand. We are flexible.
  • Aggressive messaging (e.g. about the industrial farming) doesn’t work for most people. It does for some. We’re more interested in celebrating diversity in all individuals (which includes different reasons for choosing veganism like ethical or environmental concerns).

Ways to encourage plant-rich diets in Indiana:

“Are there any organizations in Indiana focused on promoting plant-rich diets?”

Meta: the question burst exercise at the end of the conversation is a fun activity, even for interviews.

More

Regarding methane emissions from cattle, see the promising Drawdown solution of feeding them red algae. It can reduce their emissions 99%.

#MeatlessMonday – a global movement with a simple message: one day a week, cut the meat.

The Impossible Burger at Burger King.

Connect Further

Connect with Katelin on LinkedIn.

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