DUNMORE — Mark Collier, a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu, embraced the vegan lifestyle just over three years ago after his beloved dog Dozer died of cancer.
“He was my best friend,” said Collier. “I couldn’t separate why I could love this animal and eat this one, so it was a no-brainer. It was easy for me to take the vegan route.”
The Berwick man has lost about 200 pounds since becoming vegan, which he attributes to the lifestyle choice and his jujitsu training. He was one of several speakers Saturday at the second annual NEPA Vegfest, where dozens of vendors marketed non-animal-derived food and other products to hundreds of guests at the Dunmore Community Center.
“The whole mission of veganism is compassion and love for all,” said event organizer Maura Cummings, who along with her husband, Lee, operates the Farmhouse Sanctuary, a local farm-animal refuge. “We’re encouraging people to just see that this is a loving happy lifestyle. We’re not here to make people feel bad about their choices. It’s all about just showing that there is an option.”
Some of the guests maneuvering around the various booths and food stands embraced veganism for ethical reasons, while others did so for health reasons or out of concern for the environment. Others, like Arielle Zahodnick of Scranton, who eats a lot of plant-based products but isn’t necessarily vegan, wanted to sample some local vegan food options.
“I definitely do like the healthy options because then you can eat junk food but it’s still better for you,” she said.
While the idea of vegan junk food may seem oxymoronic, vendors at the festival offered a variety of vegan takes on traditional treats — from vegan chili cheese dogs to vegan salted peanut butter fudge brownies.
Kristina Walters, who founded Koko Handmade Vegan Skincare in Brooklyn, New York, several years ago before moving the business to Monroe County, also sold her plant-based products at the festival.
“You can pronounce and recognize every ingredient in the product, and I think even if you don’t consider yourself vegan you can appreciate that you know exactly what’s going into the products you’re using,” Walters said.
Cummings encouraged anyone curious about the vegan lifestyle to give it a chance.
“Any little change makes a huge difference,” she said. “You don’t have to go all in. You can make small choices and let it kind of grow organically.”
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