Salad to Solidarity: Empowering Veganism with Rachida Brocklehurst Editor of the Green Vie
Gone are the days of sandal-wearing hippies living on salad leaves and bland lentils. Veganism is the now the new buzz word. It’s creative, experimental and mindful. Yes the rise of veganism is a growing trend that’s been born out of a global concern over climate change, animal welfare and health matters. But it’s impact has not only sparked a rise in vegan food businesses but inspired many to adopt a plant-based lifestyle that combines an ethical approach to style and travel. Curious to find out more, I interviewed the lovely Rachida Brocklehurst, Editor in Chief of Green Vie.
It’s great to have you here Rachida. Please tell me what you do.
Thank you so much! I’m the editor in chief of Green Vie Magazine, a quarterly digital publication (launching in September) for conscious consumers who want to enjoy the finer things in life, whilst still being ethical. I also run Green V PR – a digital marketing and PR agency for vegan and ethical business whilst providing consultancy to luxury hotels to make them more vegan-friendly and sustainable. In addition to this, I’m the host of the Green V Bites Back podcast, where I help smaller businesses with their marketing and PR. And finally, I’m a columnist for Vegan Food & Living Magazine, and a soon-to-be author later this year!
Wow that's a lot of hats to wear! What inspired you to start Green Vie Magazine and The Green V brand?
As a writer and journalist, I’ve always felt most comfortable expressing myself through the written word, so my brand actually started life as a personal blog. I moved to Belgium 4 years ago, and found that it wasn’t really that easy to live in Brussels as a vegetarian. I then started learning about veganism and realised that it no longer felt right to be vegetarian anymore, I had to go vegan – which of course was even more difficult in Brussels!
I started a blog to help English-speaking vegans living in or visiting Brussels. From there, I decided I wanted to have more of an international focus, rebranding it to The Green V. The bulk of my professional life has been working for publications and on magazines etc, so it was always a lifelong dream to create my own. There are lots of great vegan magazines out there, but I wanted to create something that would also appeal to non-vegans. Cue Green Vie Magazine, a lifestyle-focused publication that combines food and ethical content with art, travel, culture, book reviews and business content with a strong luxury element.
There’s been a huge rise in vegan restaurants. From clean-eating cafes and pubs to fast food vegan kebabs and burgers. How do you think the food scene has evolved over the years?
Oh, it is simply wonderful! The days of a lack lustre green salad or a dodgy plate of chips are over! I think what we’re seeing now is an influx of vegan junk food, as people are excited to showcase a different side to veganism, and to make it more accessible for the mainstream and non-vegans. I’m personally very passionate about integrating vegan options into non-veg restaurants, and this is something I’m seeing more and more of each time I come back to the UK. A few years ago, you would have had to go to a dedicated plant-based space to enjoy decent vegan food, and it would have been rather health-focused, instead of naughty but nice!
Brands, celebs and even athletes are now sharing their ethical values and vegan posts on social media. How far do you think this goes in “normalising veganism” and dispelling myths?
It’s essential that well-known figures promote their ethical values, in the best way possible. Honestly, I am not the type of vegan that has a didactic approach – in my profession it just wouldn’t work – and it’s a turn off. Gentle inspiration is the best way to connect with people, and with celebs and athletes sharing the vegan meal they’ve just had, or talking about how going plant-based has affected their performance – it presents a way to show a different lifestyle without attacking someone else, whilst also showing that it is healthy and beneficial to be vegan, or to eat plant-based.
As a luxury lifestyle and travel magazine, you explore vegan restaurants abroad. What’s your experience of being vegan and vegan food in Europe and beyond?
Veganism is really taking off in some areas of Europe, which certainly makes travel much easier! Italy is, in my opinion, winning the race, because vegan options are so openly available – vegan croissants in train stations, vegan sandwiches, amazing vegan restaurants - they have really taken it into their hearts. Of course, big cities will always have more diverse options but a lot of Italian cuisine lends itself to being free from animal produce, particularly in the south. Last year I spoke at Italy’s leading vegan festival, Vegan Days and the food was absolutely beautiful. I rolled back on to the plane at the end of the weekend!
France (outside of Paris and Nice) and the French-speaking parts of Belgium are where I’ve struggled the most, as the concept of even being vegetarian is puzzling for some. But, you can always find something, I’ve travelled extensively outside the touristic areas and I’ve never had to go vegetarian for my journey or eat any animal products. In fact, in a teeny village in the South of France I had an off menu ratatouille pizza! It sounds a little crazy, but it was heavenly, and it all comes down to 2 things: communication and politeness. I speak a little French so that helps and being mindful that the person you are talking to might not know what vegans eat. Be friendly and charming, help them out with your own suggestions and come up with something together!
You’ve also got places like Berlin and Amsterdam which are full of vegan eateries, and I also have a great love for Lisbon and Thessaloniki, both of which had vegan options as standard in many traditional restaurants.
There’s a huge ethical movement behind veganism, how have you felt empowered and how has it changed your life?
Without sounding too corny, going vegan allowed me to become the person I was always destined to be. When I transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan, I did feel a little alone, and didn’t actually meet another vegan for months! Now it is so amazing to stumble across vegans or those interested in the lifestyle all over the place. I also love how many people know someone who is vegan, and are inspired to adopt more positive choices within their own lives. My decision to go vegan impacted every area of my life, and I feel that I have grown into myself in a way that I don’t think I would have done had I not chosen this path.
What advice would you give to those thinking of reducing their meat intake and embracing a plant-based diet?
Some people find it best to go ‘cold turkey’ overnight, others gradually cut things out one by one, and some go vegetarian on the way to vegan. It really depends on your personality and how feasible things are for you. But I would give two bits of advice: 1) don’t feel pressured by others who might be pushing you to do more than you feel you can at the moment – it’s your journey and you have to feel 100% connected to what’s driving you from within. 2) Try and sign up to take the Veganuary challenge (which runs all year round) where you can meet other people who are experiencing the same things, get daily support and a wealth of information at your fingertips. Go at your own pace, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions – we’ve all been there!
Animal welfare is of course a driver for becoming a Vegan, but what other issues have motivated people to fully embrace a vegan and ethical lifestyle?
With sustainability really starting to take off, a lot of people are wanting to do their bit for the planet. Animal agriculture (and this includes dairy and egg farming as well as meat) has a really bad impact on the planet, and the unbelievable amount of grain or soy that is grown (hello deforestation) to feed animals, who are then killed to feed humans is just mind-blowing.
There are also great health benefits to be experienced by adopting a plant-based diet, and I think this is something that many people are taking note of, even if they are not yet focussed on the other elements.
Where has your journey with The Green V taken you and what moment are you most proud of?
I spent a lot of last year travelling and researching some wonderful hotels and restaurants around Europe that are dedicated to providing a wonderful vegan experience for their guests. However, the biggest highlights for me have been moderating a high level debate on plant-based alternatives at the European Parliament in Brussels, and delivering a 1 hour speech at Italy’s leading vegan event, Vegan Days.
What are your 3 top vegan places to eat in London?
I don’t spend as much time in London as I would like to, but I would say (in no particular order) The Vurger Co for insane burgers and vegan mac & cheese, Itadaki Zen for delicious Japanese food and Ms Cupcake for sweet treats aplenty!
What’s your style?
My style has definitely evolved over the years, although I’ve always enjoyed a kind of retro, sophisticated style, that is very feminine. I’m not really trendy, I prefer a classic, chic style that accentuates the curves, and pieces that I can reuse to create different outfits, so I’m not constantly buying new items all the time. Naturally, I don’t wear wool, silk, leather, suede etc, so I am always mindful to check the items I’m interested in to ensure they don’t have any animal materials.
For more information visit https://thegreenv.com/
Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/greenviemag/
Images courtesy of Rachida Brocklehurst.