Meet the People: Neja Maruša Medved, Vegan and Zero Waste Blogger

By , 27 Feb 2018, 11:25 AM Meet the People
Meet the People: Neja Maruša Medved, Vegan and Zero Waste Blogger All images by Maruša Medved

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While Slovenia is a country that produces and consumes a lot of vegetables, it also has strong dairy and meat farming traditions, which can make things difficult for vegetarians, never mind vegans. We spoke to Neja Maruša Medved, who’s trying to make life easier for those who want to follow a cruelty-free diet about her work with Slovenian Vegan. 

February 27, 2018

When did you start this project, and why?

I created an Instagram account called slovenianvegan on 22 March 2016. I was a vegetarian determined to eliminate dairy products, eggs and honey from my diet, for ethical reasons. I also wanted to stop supporting cosmetics companies who perform cruel tests on animals. My first post was about a cruelty free and vegan hair conditioner, which I was very proud of buying. I think it was my first product certified by The Vegan Society, who invented the word “vegan” in 1944. My friend, who is also vegan, suggested that I create a Facebook page, so I could reach more people interested in veganism. The page Slovenian Vegan went live on 30 August 2016.

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How do you get ideas for content?

The ideas are mostly mine. When I see that something I think would be useful for my followers or they ask about something then I research the topic and create a post. Sometimes I also get ideas from other bloggers from around the world.

The main aim is just to help myself and others find vegan products in Slovenia, and there are many options hiding in plain sight. My current goal is to reach as many people who are interested in veganism as I can. It would be awesome if more people realized that almost anything they eat can be eaten vegan. My goal in the future is to open an online store selling only cruelty-free and vegan products, with as little waste as possible in the process – I’m currently interested in a zero-waste lifestyle, but unfortunately most vegan products are packaged in plastic.

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Some vegan groceries

What’s your day job, and how does it affect your blog?

I’m a senior student at the University of Ljubljana, where I study graphic and media techniques. I’m currently working on my diploma thesis. I started this blog the first year I arrived in Ljubljana. I think living on my own gave me a chance to explore veganism, especially in Ljubljana where there are tons of vegan options in stores and restaurants. I think being vegan in Ljubljana is the easiest thing ever.

What are some problems vegans face in Slovenia?

I think Slovenian people are very closed minded when it comes to veganism. Especially older people stick to traditional food and fear change. I keep my blog positive, without activism, because I want people to explore vegan options out of curiosity, get to know and love them. But there are still people who rated my blog with 1 star, simply because they hate vegans. I love the saying – “Vegans are like adults, first you hate them, but then you become one and realize they were right all along.” And it’s true.

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Vegan croissant

So is it getting easier for vegans in Slovenia?

Of course. Every day I find more and more vegan friendly products and restaurants that offer vegan options. Some of the largest companies have also started adding vegan products to their lines. I think demand creates production, so we need to support these companies as much as we can – especially if they’re Slovenian. Things are changing for better and soon there will be plenty of options.

What about eating out?

I come from a very small town that has zero vegan options. We have only one store – a small Mercator, which means I have to drive at least 15-20 minutes by car to reach the nearest supermarket. I used to have the nearest restaurant with vegan options 30 minutes away from me, but recently a restaurant 15 minutes away by car started offering vegan lunch. It was delicious, but too expensive to visit often. So shopping and eating out in my hometown, as a vegan, is very disappointing. When I’m studying in Ljubljana, eating out isn’t a problem at all. I live in the centre, so I can walk to get a vegan sandwich, pizza, ice cream, burek, falafel, etc. There are also many vegan food options that can be bought with a student coupon.

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Vegan milk options

What stores are good for vegans?

I think Interspar, Mercator and Hofer are the most vegan friendly supermarkets, if you don’t have an organic shop nearby. Interspar has its own vegetarian line of products called Spar Veggie, and some of them are even made by Slovenian companies. They also offer a big line of Veganz 100% vegan products from Germany and many more. Hofer mostly offers their Natur Aktiv vegetarian and vegan products in special offers, which means that when they’re gone, they’re gone, until they bring them back in another special offer. I love that they included Violife vegan cheese in some of their offers. It’s cheaper at Hofer than at most organic shops. You can find information about vegan products, where to buy them and how much they cost on my Facebook and Instagram.

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Vegan spinach burek from Backwerk

Can you recommend some restaurants or cafés?

My personal favourite is spinach burek from Backwerk, in Ljubljana. You should definitely try it, if you’re ever nearby. I also love the food from Loving Hut in Ljubljana Vič, Fari’s Delice (also Ljubljana) and Žareča Rajngla (in Braslovče). Here’s a link to the full list of vegan friendly restaurants and cafes, made by the Slovenian Vegan Society. They also created an app called “Veganski ponudniki Slovenije”, which you can only find on Google Play at the moment.

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What other things should vegans know about

You should definitely check out the Slovenian Vegan Society, which is an organization that creates vegan events and organises other activities. They host the 30-day vegan challenge and Vegafest – the biggest vegan festival that’s held in Ljubljana every year in spring. Their website is filled with information on how to go vegan, what to eat and what not to eat, where to eat and buy, articles, recipes, an online store with vegan clothing and books, and so on.

I also recommend the Happy Cow Guide and website if you travel a lot. I try to update that site with vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes and bakeries in Slovenia as much as I can to help foreign visitors find vegan options here. You can use their website or download their app on your smartphone (Android or iPhone).

What else are you working on?

As I mentioned, I’m currently interested in a zero-waste lifestyle, because we create too much waste that pollutes the environment and destroys sea life. There was no zero waste help group or page for vegans in Slovenia, so I created a group on Facebook called Zero waste vegani Slovenija and created another account on Instagram called zerowasteslovenianvegan. I already have a bamboo toothbrush and bamboo toothbrush travel case, a glass water bottle, a menstrual cup and reusable pads, a stainless-steel razor, bamboo and stainless-steel straws, reusable bags, a reusable bamboo coffee cup, a wooden hairbrush and dish brush, etc. I hope to switch everything I own to a reusable or environmentally friendly version in the future.

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I also recommend an app, created by Slovenians, called Vegan & Cruelty-Free Scanner where you can scan products and the app tells you if they’re cruelty free and vegan or not. You can also add new products, if you find them.

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Vegan sandwich

Finally, if you’re not sure if you want to become vegetarian or vegan you should watch a documentary called Earthlings. It turned me vegetarian overnight. You can also watch it with Slovenian subtitles here. Other very good documentaries are Cowspiracy, What The Health, Meat The Truth, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc. and a movie called Okja. If you’re more of a book person, I recommend The China Study, My Beef With Meat, How Not To Die and The World Peace Diet.

You can keep up with Neja's work by following Slovenian Vegan on Facebook or Instagram.

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