Emily Fritz | Staff Author | Pittsburgh VegFest featured a live band, live animals and a wonderful selection of vegan and vegetarian friendly food.
Emily Fritz | staff writer
September 1, 2022
Last Saturday, tents lined Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side for Pittsburgh’s eighth annual VegFest, inviting passers-by to see for themselves what was on offer, regardless of dietary commitments. A two-time consecutive winner of Pittsburgh’s Best Food Festival, VegFest shared the talents of local small businesses, culinary innovators, nonprofits and musicians alike.
The welcoming atmosphere and desire to share invaluable knowledge about sustainability, animal welfare and a plant-based lifestyle outweighed the skepticism of all the meat lovers who were hesitant to join the celebrations. According to Pittsburgh VegFest, “Most of the thousands of people at [the festival] are not vegan or vegetarian. We have almost 8,000 participants a year.”
Many small business owners 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.
Participants looking to advance their sustainability or animal welfare journey on an individual level found food-focused organizations to be particularly helpful. Vegan Pittsburgh’s Dylan Nagy said, “Many plant-based food options tend to be more environmentally friendly than alternatives.”
According to Nagy, Vegan Pittsburgh is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to help people looking for vegan options find vegan-friendly businesses in Pittsburgh.” To participate in Vegan Pittsburgh, restaurants and businesses must have two clearly identified 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 presented a tuna melon poke bowl that put a vegan spin on a traditionally pescetarian dish by using watermelon as a plant-based fish alternative.
For more vegan options near you, visit www.veganpittsburgh.org.
Among the newcomers was Louis Mennel, founder of Carbon Compost. Mennel, a lifelong vegetarian himself, shared that his participation was not for profit as he chatted with visitors about the importance and benefits of composting.
“Besides creating great earth, [compost] has a significant impact on the environment by reducing methane produced in landfills,” Mennel said.
Mennel’s goal, like many others, was to view the VegFest as a networking opportunity as well as an educational platform.
“A lot of people don’t realize that there is a problem with landfilling waste,” Mennel said.
As he gave away free compost samples to visitors, he said that “composting at an institutional level can work with schools like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh [by] Offering organic waste disposal services through commercial composting companies like AgRecycle.” According to Mennel, this company works with major institutions to reduce waste and effectively transform the region’s carbon footprint.
Mennel said he encourages Duquesne students to campaign for similar processes at the cliff.
“Make people think [about] ‘What is composting,’ and start the conversation,” Mennel said.
Mennel’s services can be found on its website www.carbonpostpgh.com.
VegFest would not be complete without its many non-profit animal welfare groups. The Proper Pit Bull, Pigsburgh Squealers Rescue and Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch were among those in attendance, inviting people to interact with their respective animal companions.
The Proper Pit Bull’s Nicole Garritano works to reduce the stigma attached to pit bulls. She said it’s important “due to the number of dogs, particularly pit bull dogs, in the shelter system, to support adoption over buying a dog.”
Garritano said she warns others about for-profit “backyard breeders” who apply improper or unsafe grooming to their dogs by “not [breeding for] right temperament.”
The Proper Pit Bull lacks a stationary location, but for students who want to get involved, there are many opportunities for volunteers to get involved with events, coordinate events, socialize and visit animal shelters, according to their website www.theproperpitbull.org.
Pittsburgh VegFest reiterated its mission to share the festival with locals. “We hope to come to the VegFest [enables] People… to make the connection between the animals they share their home with and those on their plate.”
To learn more about Pittsburgh VegFest and upcoming events, follow @PittsburghVegFest on Instagram or sign up for the newsletter at www.pittsburghvegfest.org.