FIU alumnus promotes veganism through ‘SoFlo Vegans’

Nelida Insua-Coelho/Contributing Writer

Applying a vegan lifestyle reduces a person’s carbon footprint, with animal welfare accounting for 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from human-related activities. The Internet and other media outlets are resources for vegans to keep themselves informed on the latest vegan nutritional news. With an onslaught of informative websites, there are many websites that give inaccurate information.

One of the most popular questions is “where do you get your protein?” which is common because vegans worry how they will remain energized without their previous source of protein.  FIU alumni Sean Russell, who graduated with a bachelor’s in communications in 2006, identified the need to keep the public properly informed about veganism.  He decided to use the power of the media and start his own media company to become a reliable source of information.

In 2015, shortly after becoming a vegan himself, Russell started ‘Soflo Vegans,’ a media-based community dedicated to making South Florida a hotspot for vegans in 2005 as a meetup.com group.  Meetup is an online social networking website and mobile app that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.

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Photo courtesy of Sean Russell, SoFlo Vegan Founder

“We produce both digital content and live events for anyone interested in learning more about living a plant based lifestyle as well as feature articles, a vegan directory of restaurants, mobile apps and other resources, providing one of the most comprehensive listings of vegan events in South Florida,” said Russell.  “We officially launched our website in May of 2017.”

When asked about the importance of the media to promote and network with other vegans, Russell stated:

“Distribution is key to spreading your message to the widest audience possible. Regardless of the size, media plays an important role in reaching different types of audiences. It allows you to become a blip on the radar of people that previously didn’t know you existed. It might also lead to being discovered by affiliated channels or even a single influential individual that might happen to pick up a magazine or listen to a radio broadcast at the right moment.”

Russell worked a full time job teaching technology and video production at Silver Ridge Elementary in Davie, Florida and attended night classes for his last two years up to graduation. He sought opportunities to network while he was still a student and was hired as a production assistant for MTV after he volunteered to work on a short film.

According to Russell, this type of networking sharpened his ability to boldly seek out more opportunities later in life, and it reinforced the importance of media in communicating a message to large groups of people at once.

Russell’s focus has been on community building, a task that he has worked on since sophomore year in high school. When he made the transition to veganism in 2015, his desire to build a community around his new lifestyle strengthened. Due to his frustration of meeting people that aren’t aware of other individuals working towards similar goals in the community, Soflo Vegans began increasing awareness not only about veganism but involvement of individuals in South Florida as well.

Even though Russell was not vegan during his time at FIU, he recommends becoming an advocate on campus so that more vegan options are introduced.  Documentaries such as “What The Health,” recommended by Russell, brings about vital consciousness regarding the animal agriculture industry and how it affects human as well as environmental health. This documentary discusses such topics such as what the meat and dairy industries work to hide, the diseases animals develop in the factories, the torture of said animals, the hormones and pharmaceuticals given to the animals and as well as how destructive meat and dairy are for one’s health.

While working within the community, Russell states that it’s important to provide value and support causes that identify with our core beliefs.

“Media is simply a tool that helps you become an effective communicator. The more you practice delivering your message, the better you will get at producing content that speaks to your audience.”

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