By Kate Harris
Keith and I met through photography but bonded in our lifestyle choices. We both considered ourselves environmentalists and proudly traded the influence of mass marketing for informed decision making.
I was raised vegetarian by parents who believed eating animals was unhealthy. (It’s safe to say they were a bit before their time!) Despite having fought it stubbornly in my quest to be “normal”, their commitment to plant-based organic living is something I now highly cherish. If only I could have told 9-year-old Kate, “Don’t worry, you won’t always have to hide your food behind your brown paper lunch bag.”
Keith began his own quest a bit more recently. Being raised on the SAD diet, with memories of Salisbury steak “TV dinners” and a glass of Coke to wash it down. He started changing course a couple of years before we started dating, eliminating red meat and reducing dairy. At the time he was primarily focussed on weight and physical health (Keith’s Pinterest board was nicknamed “1,000 Ways to Cook Chicken”.)
We instantly bonded over healthy eating during the course of our dating stage. With a commitment to informed eating my mother handed down, I taught Keith how to read labels. Which starts with actually reading the labels. (Sure, it says 10 grams of sugar, but what does that actually consist of?!) He brought a renewed sense of adventure and curiosity that supported us both in our commitment to personal improvement.
After a weekend-long visit with our dear friends Noah & Isabelle of The Plantiful Podcast we started asking questions. As the empowering and effective activists that they are, they provided us with some resources and additional questions for us to explore our personal answers. Then, we watched Cowspiracy, and everything changed.
It felt hypocritical calling ourselves environmentalists while contributing to the highest cause of pollution. A few days later we were calling ourselves “Environmental Vegans.” Keith was making an exception for local lobster, leaning on the “sustainability” claims of a tour we had taken the year earlier. Kate was allowing the inclusion of eggs from her mom’s geriatric chicken farm.
A short time later we watched What the Health, and more documentaries, books, and articles followed. Filters were falling away at an exponential pace. At just the right time, our business brought us to a dairy farm, photographing a story for a long time client. To say we had an eye-opening experience would be an understatement. The farmers were genuinely kind people who clearly believed they were doing good work for the world. They were happy to tell us about the dairy farming business and answer all of our questions. This was no documentary, there was no room for wondering if our opinions were being manipulated by crafty editing. We were literally face-to-face with a horrifying truth. We thought family farms were different! But we suddenly saw Mabel the cow as a future McDonalds quarter pounder. Our journey from “Environmental Vegans” to “Ethical Vegans” just got a huge jump-start.
As our perspective on these choices changed, so did our outlook on food as a whole. All of a sudden it stopped being about what we don’t eat and started being about the wonderful new culinary opportunities. We were learning about new foods (hello jackfruit tacos!) and experiencing changing tastebuds (seriously, adding coconut oil to black coffee? Who would have thought!)
Growing up, the number one question I faced was “Vegetarian? Sooooo…what do you eat for Thanksgiving?”
But times have changed, we have slipped into a different era where some of our clients not only share in our dietary choices but teach us a thing or two. Like Noah and Isabelle who blew my mind with lupin beans and the tidbit of not all wines being vegan. Or Utsav and Rani telling us about a new vegan-friendly Indian restaurant near our home.
And those who aren’t vegan? They are so extremely supportive. Always making sure there are vegan options at their wedding for us. Even once having a bridesmaid store a pint of So Delicious in her mini fridge for our dessert. Another couple insisted on having us over for dinner a few months after their wedding to surprise us with a home-made vegan meal and sharing their new vegan status (citing us as inspiration!)
I have come a long way from the shy 9-year-old who was embarrassed by my home-packed lunches. Now, together with Keith, we proudly share what we eat. Exploring a growing number of vegan or vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants across our travels. We embody our values through our food choices. We make a point of showing our appreciation for those that provide plant-based options, both verbally and through reviews (Keith writes Google reviews as though they are Candy Crush levels!) Often walking away with new connections, shared commitments and happiness in knowing we are making a difference. These choices have created such enrichment in our lives. From knowing how our decisions impact other creatures, and the earth, to bonding with others and sharing our love for plant-based deliciousness. It’s proving to be a journey, as we now look toward the wedding industry and its potential to create change and inspire others.
Note from Editor: Kate and Keith describe themselves as Adventurous Photographers on their website, and they certainly walk the talk! Follow their super fun Instagram account and stay tuned for their first feature and their own vegan wedding story on The Kind Bride!
Kate & Keith are wedding and event photographers creating a work/life balance around sustainability and the outdoors. Both vegan, they are committed towards zero-waste initiatives and founded a non-profit (Sustainable Seacoast) in their home area to aid restaurants and events in eliminating single use plastics. Their passports show Southern Maine as home but are often found at family bases in New Jersey, Oahu, and Mount Desert Island, Maine. Loving to travel, they drive their Lobster Van (Promaster conversion) across the country for weddings, stashing their tiny Lagotto Romagnolo (dog) between camera bags and a Nutribullet, and using Happy Cow to explore vegan eateries along the way. They can easily be bribed with coconut milk cappuccinos.