It’s time for my favorite blog post of the month! Every month, on the last Sunday of the month, I get to share the story of one of the many unique vegans living here in the cowboy state. “Discovering Vegans in Wyoming” is my effort to bring vegans together and to show people how others made the transition. I love getting to sit down and chat with fellow vegans in the community and getting to know them! Everyone has a unique story, but there are always a lot of similarities with everyone I have talked to.
This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emerson Kopp. Emerson is a high school student and she happens to be the youngest vegan I have met so far! She is only 16 years old and relatively new to veganism, but she has had a lot of support and has found it a lot easier than she expected. She has been vegan since the summer of 2017. She wasn’t vegetarian before making the transition to veganism, but she “hadn’t eaten red meat for six years” prior to that. One day, a friend suggested that she watch “What the Health”. Emerson decided to watch it with her boyfriend, and right after that, they both went vegan for their health. “It wasn’t that difficult.” For her, the hardest part was giving up sweets. Her friends and immediate family were very understanding when she made the decision to go vegan. Two of her closest friends were vegetarian, and her mom has been vegetarian “since she was 19” so that made it a lot easier. Now, she has a handful of friends that are vegan! The rest of her family wasn’t as supportive. “They will hunt and stuff like that… that’s what happens here”. Even though, she has people in her life that aren’t vegan, she doesn’t get a whole lot of questions about her vegan lifestyle from friends or family. Her younger cousins will ask about what she “can and can’t eat”. A few of her peers will ask where she gets protein, but for the most part, she will “play it down” and just tell people she “won’t eat dairy”. She is afraid that she “will get slammed”.
Since becoming vegan, Emerson has learned to cook. In the beginning, she would eat a lot of processed vegan foods like Oreos. She quickly realized that she’s “not going to feel good eating that… there’s no benefit at all”. She still likes some processed vegan food products, but doesn’t fully rely on them. One of her favorites is the “Tofutti” brand. She really loves the cream cheese, “it tastes like cream cheese”! Now, she likes cooking because she “actually knows what’s going into it”. A few years prior to becoming she “ate pretty terribly”. She would eat way too much bad food, but since becoming vegan, she “will actually portion things out”. She really likes eating and making stir fry! She “loves it because you can put anything in it”. As much as she enjoys stir fry, when she needs inspiration, she uses some cookbooks. One of her newest ones is the Afro Vegan by Bryant Terry. Her mom cooks a lot too. She said her mom “uses Thug Kitchen religiously”! When she gets to eat out, she likes going to “JS Chinese” and “House of Sushi”. She likes JS it because “They have a big fish tank, and it’s really cute.” When she gets to go out of town, she likes “Sweet Melissa’s” in Laramie, WY. She remembers going there with her mom! There is also an Ethiopian Restaurant in Ft. Collins, CO that she really likes! She’s only been there once, and doesn’t go to Ft. Collins often, but every time she goes to Denver, she hopes to stop there! She loves it because “you eat everything with your hands”.
Being in high school, word moves quickly. Now, she finds that people will come up to her and tell her that will try to be vegetarian or vegan. A lot of fellow students will watch documentaries and decide to try it! She believes that “a lot of it has to do with the school that she goes to”. At school, she “does a lot of art stuff, so people are really open to it”. She has also found that since she has been vegan, “her mom will eat more vegan”! To those friends trying to make the transition, Emerson would suggest to “ask yourself questions”. In the beginning, she had to ask herself if eating a non-vegan product would be “worth it”. A lot of times, the answer would be no. That helped her deny non-vegan foods a majority of the time.
Having the opportunity to talk to people and hearing their stories is my favorite part of my job. I really enjoyed talking to Emerson and getting to know her! I am excited to see what she does in the future, since she is so young and just beginning her journey! She has inspired me and once again reminded me why I continue to grow Vegan in Wyoming. I hope that this interview encourages and inspires others as well. If you are interested in being interviewed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.