By Robert Coombs
We face ethical decisions every day that test our values, personal beliefs, education, understanding of systems, finances, and experience. These individual choices intersect in our overlapping communities creating a constantly changing and intricately woven web of life that ultimately connects us all.
The decision to eat meat (or not) is a choice many people are considering today in this array of ethical decisions due to the environmental impacts of the industrial meat and dairy industry, effects on our health, and the conditions in which most of these animals are raised. Look at the environmental impact alone: meat consumption is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and deforestation, stresses water resources to produce animal feed, and creates an enormous amount of agricultural pollution. The impacts contribute to climate change while simultaneously eroding our climate resiliency.
Miles Woodruff has set out on a mission to illuminate the world about these impacts while supporting changes to daily food choices that are increasingly plant-based. His hope is to accomplish this by using the technology we already use: our cell phone. He says, “We are experiencing a culinary paradigm shift driven by climate change, spearheaded by mission-driven startups and backed by smart money. We are making an app to support and reward these incremental changes and continuous improvement.”
Miles was not always a sustainably minded person. Early in his career, he worked in traditional business for major manufacturers and retailers. He had the opportunity to see what scale looks like from the inside. His reality shifted when he met the legendary Jane Goodall in the Congo. Dr. Goodall is well-known for her work with chimpanzees. He knew who she was, but could not foresee the profound impact she would have on his life and how his whole world view would change.
Goodall’s work with chimpanzees shocked the world. She came to realize that these creatures run the same emotional programs as humans – pain, suffering, and joy. This spoke to Miles, but it was her humility that shook him. “She is an icon, author, PhD who impacted world views, but she didn’t come off like that. When we met she was just a person who spoke with me like my opinion mattered and my decisions had an impact.” Miles began to realize that long-term dedication to a cause adds up to impact over decades and began questioning his own legacy.
He wasted no time transitioning into a sustainability mindset and has spent the last decade focused on environmental conservation and sustainable business bringing his previous experience in product development and sales to the table. His ambition and drive to change food systems led him to work simultaneously on completing his MBA in Sustainable Solutions at Presidio Graduate School and a PhD in Biological Anthropology at Durham University (UK.)
Now Miles is launching VegRising, an app that he began developing for his MBA Capstone project. “The aim of the app is to make reducing consumption of animal-based products fun, effortless and quantifiable.” People need support making big changes such as shifting to a plant-based diet. For example, they might have questions on how to determine the integrity of a product and its ingredients and where to find plant-based foods. VegRising will provide this support. Miles is applying the latest psychological research around what facilitates and hinders the transition to a plant-based diet and builds in a gamification component that helps members stay on track. The app will allow customers to get credit for their influence in their families and communities and will make the connection of their personal impact over time.
“If you understand climate change, you understand we need to change the way we eat. We need to change whole systems directly impacting things that matter- not just the bottom line” says Miles.
To help Miles realize his ambitious vision to create 1 billion plant-based superheroes by 2025, consider a contribution to his ambitious GoFundMe campaign to support VegRising here. You can help Miles save lives, save forest, and save the planet.
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