Michael Parrish DuDell
is a busy guy. Not only does he hold down a day job as managing editor of The Domino Project
, Seth Godin
's new deal, but he also serves as senior editor at the popular green celeb/gossip blog Ecorazzi
, is a frequent contributor to sites like Crazy Sexy Life
, the Huffington Post
, and Veg News, is the president of the Sustainable Leadership Council (which he founded), and consults with American Express as part of their ZYNC Advisory Panel program. He lives in New York City and is a much sought after speaker on the topic of greener living and food sustainability.
Michael was a self-described "big eater" who converted to veganism ten years ago (and shed a lot of excess weight in the process). He's also a recovering professional actor who left a successful career behind to pursue his interest in business, writing, and activism.
I first became aware of Michael through his work at Ecorazzi, which was founded by my friend (and MNN writer
) Michael d'Estries and I've been impressed with everything he's done since. He doesn't know it (I guess he will know), but his daily Facebook posts showing the lunch that Seth Godin makes for his crew makes my tummy rumble.
Here are seven questions answered by Michael Parrish DuDell.
• How did your transition to veganism happen?
Was it an overnight wholesale change or did you slide into it? To say it was an overnight wholesale change would be just about right. I grew up in Tampa, Florida in a family that, while focused on healthy eating, still consumed their fair share of animal products. As a teenager, I started to consume the same kinds of “food” my friends were eating: overly processed, highly sweetened, animal-based garbage. Not surprisingly, by the time I was 15, I weighed close to 260 pounds and was absolutely miserable.
Around the same time I began dating a girl who was vegetarian and, although I had no interest in ever giving up my burgers, I was supportive of her dietary choice. Still, I stated my position firmly: I will never, ever, ever be a vegetarian. Well, you know what happens when you say never, right?
On January 23, 2001, while celebrating her father's birthday, I found myself unable to eat the delicious plate of grilled chicken and buttery mashed potatoes I had ordered. It was as if the chicken had all of a sudden become a Chicken. The next morning, still feeling repulsed, I retired to the bookstore in search of answers. What I read about animal-production that afternoon was utterly overwhelming and left me changed forever. I had no idea that a diet based around animal-protein was so destructive for the environment, my health, and for the animals. By the end of the day I had decided to go vegan. That was 10 years and almost 100 pounds ago.
• So what's the deal with the Domino Project? What's your favorite Seth Godin meal?
The Domino Project
is absolutely one of my favorite things to discuss. In short, it’s a new publishing venture started by business superstar/celebrated author Seth Godin and powered by Amazon.com. Our goal, in essence, is to reinvent the way books are spread, shared, and experienced. So what exactly does all that mean? Essentially, we’re spreading ideas that we’re proud to stand behind with no regard for what bookstores and middlemen want -- in other words, ideas for our readers, not more readers for our ideas. We publish swiftly and directly while respecting a variety of formats and price points to match our audience’s desires. With little patience for obsolete institutions (cough, cough bestseller lists), we’re focused on the ideas, our readers, and our authors. As a life-long lover of books, I’m so proud to be a part of this company and truly excited about the work we’re doing.
Oh yes, and as my Facebook page
often recounts, Seth makes us delicious vegetarian lunch everyday. My favorite is probably the rice noodles and tofu red curry. Yum!
• Which celebrity cares the most?
That’s a really tricky question. As the senior editor of Ecorazzi.com
, I spent the better part of 3 years living and breathing celebrity culture, and I’ll say this: it’s a complicated world. Celebrities are put on a very unfair pedestal and, as a result, have a slew of industry-specific boundaries and limitations that the average person may not recognize. Therefore, I always support a celebrity who speaks up on behalf of a cause – even if they might not be as loud as their non-famous activist counterpart.
That said, I do have some favorites. I appreciate Emily Deschanel – the star of Bones – for her relentless animal and environmental advocacy. She’s the real deal! Daryl Hannah is a champion for Mother Earth and a pioneer in a plethora of ways. America’s Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker not only speaks up for his respective causes, but also uses his skills as a photographer and filmmaker to bring the issues he cares about to the next level. Ellen DeGeneres goes above and beyond; Ed Begley Jr. is the ultimate eco trailblazer; Jack Johnson is unstoppable. And the list goes on and on.
Influence is a really special thing, and I respect anyone – celebrity or otherwise– who uses his or her power to create positive change in this world.
• Does the world need saving?
I’m not sure if “saving” is the right word, but yes, I think we’re in a fragile state and in desperate need of some tangible solutions. The more important question, of course, is how do we go about creating a society that fosters the kind of innovation needed to produce these valuable results? I’m not sure I know the answer to that one. I will say this: I think societal progression requires a capacious amount of cooperation between government, the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors, and citizens. This, sadly, is something that seems to be decreasing each year, and so we are forced to be even more creative.
At my very core, I’m an entrepreneur and a hopeless believer in the power of conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship. I think this generation of young people is redefining the principals of business, and I’m optimistic that progressive companies run by thoughtful leaders can contribute greatly to a kinder, cleaner, and more compassionate planet.
• What's the difference between green and greener?
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of either of those words. But maybe that’s because I’ve been immersed in green for so many years. On a surface level, obviously, green versus greener speaks to the extent of one’s devotion. Digging deeper, I believe it’s probably more a battle between philosophy and execution.
What I don’t like about green versus greener is the inherit implication that one is better than the other. Activism is a buffet – not an entrée. What enlightens (i.e. interests) one person is not necessarily what will enlighten somebody else. To be an effective movement, we must not only respect that difference, but also create a community that embodies and facilitates that experience. While one might think “greenest” is naturally better than “greener” or “green,” I don’t think that’s necessarily true or particularly relevant to the goal at large. It’s important for the members of any social movement to respect the transition of its prospective constituents. We must be disciplined and wise enough to focus not only on the short-term achievements but also to build a sustainable (excuse the daunting buzz word) infrastructure that’s capable of standing the test of time. In other words, I’m less concerned about whether one embodies the ultimate green lifestyle but more interested that he or she fully understands the foundation of the cause and works each day to become a little better.
• Who is one person doing good in the world (besides yourself) who we should know about and why?
I could – and almost did – write a book about this question. My generation (Gen Y/Millennials) gets a bad rap for passivity and apathy, but I can assure you that only the opposite is true. There are so many people, specifically young people, who are dedicating their lives to creating a better world.
One of my favorite young world-changers is my good friend Michael Littig who left for Africa earlier this year to start The Dadaab Theater Project – a theater engagement collaboration connecting voices across cultures, particularly refugee youth from Dadaab and American youth. Essentially, he’s helping young people in the Dadaab Refugee Camp -- the world’s largest refugee camp—create their own opportunities and platforms for positive change by bringing theater to their community. A revolutionary in his own right, I can’t say enough about Michael’s courage, fortitude, and incite. He’s the perfect example of how one can make a generous contribution to society by tapping into their passion and natural-born talents. For a hefty dose of inspiration, check out his organization’s site at GreatGlobeFoundation.org
• If you could have it your way, what would life look like in 10 years?
I’m a natural born planner and so, of course, the question I ask myself must be set in the future.
Even though, as far as I can tell, life rarely works out the way one plans it, I think a lot about where I want to end up and what exactly I’d like to be doing.
Hopefully in 10 years, at 37, I’ll have a wife and children -- I’d like around 3 -- and a thriving socially conscious business with employees who genuinely enjoy the culture we’ve created and the work we’re doing.
I’d like to live in Asheville, North Carolina or another small progressive city, hopefully in the South; that’s where I’m from and where most of my family lives.
If all goes well, I will have found a way to balance life and work and have enough money to not have to worry too much about having enough money. I will be doing something I love with people I love in a city I love all the while making some sort of grand contribution to society. I will look back at 27 and laugh at my inexperience and naivety and then promise to do the same at 47 about my life at 37. I will be happy, healthy, and will wake up each day excited for what’s ahead and grateful for what I’ve been given.
Yes, that would be nice. Fingers crossed it all works out.