Emily Fritz | Staff Writer
Sept. 1, 2022
This past Saturday, tents lined Allegheny Commons Park in North Side for Pittsburgh’s eighth-annual VegFest, inviting passersby to see for themselves what there was to offer, regardless of dietary commitments. As two-time consecutive winner of Pittsburgh’s Best Food Festival, VegFest shared the talents of the local small businesses, culinary innovators, non-profit organizations and musicians alike.
The inviting atmosphere and desire to share invaluable knowledge about sustainability, animal welfare and a plant-based lifestyle outweighed the skepticism of any meat lovers who felt hesitant to join in the festivities. According to Pittsburgh VegFest, “Most of the thousands of people at [the festival] are not vegan or vegetarian. We have nearly 8,000 attendees a year.”
Many small business vendors came to VegFest to promote locally made, all-natural, 100% organic or vegan products. There was something for everyone, from Soapy Solutions to The East End Food Coop to Earth Kandy Nail Polish.
Attendees looking to further their sustainability or animal welfare journey on an individual level found food-focused organizations to be especially helpful. Dylan Nagy from Vegan Pittsburgh said, “A lot of plant-based food options tend to be more environmentally friendly than alternatives.”
According to Nagy, Vegan Pittsburgh is a non-profit whose mission is to help “people who are looking for vegan options find vegan-friendly businesses in Pittsburgh.” To participate with Vegan Pittsburgh, restaurants and businesses must have two clearly labeled vegan options on their menu year-round.
The list of food vendors was extensive, including, but not limited to, Veggies N’At, Everest Eats, Botanical Vegan Café and Franktuary. Everest Eats featured a tuna melon poke bowl, which gave a vegan twist to a traditionally pescatarian dish by utilizing watermelon as a plant-based fish alternative.
For more vegan options in your area, go to www.veganpittsburgh.org.
Among newcomer vendors was Louis Mennel, founder of Carbon Compost. Mennel, a lifelong vegetarian himself, shared that his attendance was not for-profit as he engaged with visitors about the importance and benefits of composting.
“Outside of creating awesome soil, [compost] has a substantial environmental impact by reducing methane generated at landfills,” Mennel said.
Mennel’s goal, like many others, was to approach VegFest as a networking opportunity, as well as a platform to educate.
“A lot of people don’t know that there is a problem with waste going to landfills,” Mennel said.
As he distributed free compost samples to visitors, he said that “composting can work on the institutional level with schools such as Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh [by] offering organic waste management services through commercial composting firms such as AgRecycle.” According to Mennel, this company works with large institutions to reduce waste and effectively reshape the carbon footprint in the area.
Mennel said he encourages Duquesne students to advocate for similar processes to take place in the Bluff.
“Get people thinking [about] ‘what is composting’ and start the conversation,” Mennel said.
Mennel’s services can be found on his website, www.carbonpostpgh.com.
VegFest wouldn’t be complete without their numerous non-profit animal advocacy groups. The Proper Pit Bull, Pigsburgh Squealers Rescue and Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch were among those in attendance who invited people to interact with their respective animal companions.
Nicole Garritano of The Proper Pit Bull works to reduce stigma against pit bulls. She said it is important to “support adoption over purchasing a dog because of the number of dogs, especially pit bull-type dogs, in the shelter system.”
Garritano said she warns others of for-profit, “backyard breeders,” who implement improper or unsafe care for their canines by “not [breeding for] proper temperament.”
The Proper Pit Bull lacks a brick-and-mortar location, but for students looking to get involved, many volunteer opportunities take the form of tabling at events, coordinating events, outreach and shelter visits, according to their website, www.theproperpitbull.org.
Pittsburgh VegFest reaffirmed their mission in sharing the festival with locals. “We hope that coming to VegFest [enables] folks … to make the connection between the animals they share their home with and the ones on their plate.”
To learn more about Pittsburgh VegFest and future events, follow @PittsburghVegFest on Instagram or sign up for their newsletter at www.pittsburghvegfest.org.