Andrew Udell is a 16 year old student at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City. Andrew is a co-founder, together with his friends Lizzie Davis and Skyler Siegel, of Veguary. I asked him a few questions about his plan to help save the world one month at a time.
What is Veguary and how did it start?
One day at shul, my Rabbi posed a question to our smaller minyan about our effect on the world. One thought led to the next, and I just started thinking about how eating meat affects the world. I decided to do some more research about vegetarianism, and I came across some really daunting facts that were difficult to handle, yet important to know. I wanted to try out being a vegetarian for a little while. I started doing some more thinking, one thing led to the next, and with the help of a few friends, we founded Veguary and built the site in a few months. Veguary refers to the second month of the year, in which those enthusiastic about fighting global warming, improving their health, or making a positive difference in the world commit to reducing or eliminating their meat intake by pledging on our website at www.veguary.org.
Why February? Was it for the name?
I did think Veguary had a nice ring to it, but more importantly, it gave the Veguary team enough time to set up the site and spread the word. It’s also the shortest month, so for those that just want to learn about reducing their meat intake and the benefits of vegetarianism, it’s not too big of a commitment.
You were recently at the Hazon Food Conference. Tell me something about your experience there as a teen, and has it changed how you feel about food and Jewish life?
Being at the Hazon Food Conference was a remarkable experience – I had never done anything like it. Being there as a teen was even better – there were so many people at the conference that were really educated about sustainability, I was really able to learn so much from all of them. For me, it added a whole new layer to environmentalism. I struggled on how to connect Judaism to my environmental interests, but with the conference, you realize that these ideas are so intertwined with each other. Whether it was connecting Jewish tradition to my environmental interests, or Jewish teachings, the possibilities are endless.
This isn’t your only environmental project. Tell me about some other green initiatives you’ve been a part of.
With the help of Hazon, I spoke at an NYC community board to lobby for Upper West Side bike lanes. I continue to work Hazon to make sure that NYC gets these bike lanes. I have been involved with many other projects, but one other current one is the Sustainability Committee at my school, where we focus on greening our high school (and the plans for the new school building for the lower and middle school) as well as educating lower school students about the environment.
What about Varch? Will you be back on the meat next month?
That’s a great question! To be honest, I do think I will be eating meat on Shabbat. However, I really don’t think people have to become vegetarians full year round – the purpose of Veguary is to educate about the harms of our over-consumption of meat. The Veguary team hopes that people will feel compelled to reduce their meat intake (drastically) because of the facts we have presented; however, cutting out meat entirely is not absolutely necessary.
You can learn more and pledge to be a veg at veguary.org