Paramedic grad becomes new president of a local plant-based non-profit

VegOttawa hopes to raise awareness for veganism as more than just a diet, but as a lifestyle that can help the environment
Photo: supplied
Vegan Hike and Hang Out is an event VegOttawa hosts to bring together the vegan community for some fun. The group hiked to the Kitchesippi Brewery on Sept. 30, 2023.

Despite graduating from Algonquin College’s paramedic program, Alan Wong decided he didn’t actually want to be a paramedic. Instead, Wong wanted to focus on a career he would be passionate about.

After graduating in 2011, Wong started working with OC Transpo. Working with buses, however, was not Wong’s dream either.

Nearly a decade later, Wong left OC Transpo and finally started pursuing something he is passionate about: veganism.

Wong started volunteering at VegOttawa, a local plant-based non-profit, in the summer of 2023. On March 24, 2024 he became president of VegOttawa.

“I just saw there was a need for some direction and organization within VegOttawa, so I just wanted to step up and do what I could,” said Wong. “It’s also experience I’m hoping to gain to help me and my career.”

VegOttawa’s mission is to promote veganism in Ottawa. They do this by hosting events such as Beyond Meat barbeques and planning hikes for vegans to get together and hang out.

Alan Wong, an Algonquin College graduate. is the new president of VegOttawa.
Alan Wong, an Algonquin College graduate, is the new president of VegOttawa. Photo credit: supplied

Members of VegOttawa receive discounts at various vegan-friendly businesses around Ottawa that have partnered with the non-profit. Recently, VegOttawa started giving student memberships at a 50 per cent discount.

“We have noticed many college and university students in Ottawa getting involved in animal rights and sustainability associations,” said Joyce Santos, vice president of VegOttawa. “It’s so encouraging to see so much passion and dedication to this cause. We wanted to acknowledge the student community.”

For VegOttawa, veganism isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. They are dedicated to promoting how veganism can help the environment and animals.

Last year broke numerous records related to climate change, including being the hottest year on record and having the highest concentration of greenhouse gases held in the atmosphere, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

In 2022, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were 50 per cent greater than they were in the pre-industrial era. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to grow in 2023, according to the WMO.

As long as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane continue to get trapped in the atmosphere, global temperatures will continue to rise, said the WMO in a press release.

VegOttawa believes that going vegan will produce less greenhouse gases, which will help the environment.

“Animal agriculture contributes largely to climate-warming greenhouse gases, as well as deforestation, water pollution from animal agriculture runoff and soil degradation,” said Santos. “Eating plant-based is beneficial to the environment and also an ethical choice for those who have compassion for animals.”

Wong pointed out a study published by Science, an academic journal, which shows that despite meat and dairy farming using 83 per cent of farmland and releasing around 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, it only provides 18 per cent of calories.

“[It] is ridiculous, four-fifths of our land is making one-fifth of our calories,” said Wong. “In general, the best animal products, in terms of emissions, land use and water use, are still worse than the worst performing plant products.”

However, some students are finding it difficult to go plant-based.

Aryan Chandel is a fourth-level hospitality – hotel and restaurant operations management student. Growing up in India, Chandel was raised as a vegetarian. However, upon moving to Canada, Chandel realized it is more difficult to be plant-based in Canada as vegetarian food here isn’t as good as the food in India. Chandel has since started eating meat.

“The best vegan and vegetarian food is Indian, but Indian food is quite expensive,” said Chandel.

The rising cost of food is part of why VegOttawa wanted to provide students with a discounted membership.

“We know that, especially nowadays, food is not cheap, especially going out for food,” said Wong. “We are at least trying to help out a little bit.”

Wong never returned to school after finishing the paramedic program at Algonquin College. Despite this, he has found a career he is passionate about.

When Wong isn’t promoting veganism with VegOttawa he is doing research for an animal-focused organization, a job he absolutely loves.

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