As far as I can tell, there seems to be a heightened awareness about the impacts of consuming meat and using animal products. Being vegan was considered a counter-culture or "on the fringe" not that long ago, but it is now hitting the mainstream. As the momentum grows, so too do the options for vegan products from menu items at restaurants, to grocery store products, to cosmetics, and of course, leather alternatives for shoes and clothing. I live in Ottawa. While it's no bustling metropolis, we certainly don't have the choices for vegan restaurants and offerings of big cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or New York. And yet, there seems to be a growing movement and community in this city for plant-based living.Speaking of community, since I've embarked on this SOULiers Studio venture, I've realized how easy it is to connect with like-minded individuals that are both interested in sharing experiences and hidden vegan gems across the city. I recently connected with Joelle Tremblay, founder of the Instagram account @VegansofOttawa who is contributing to the movement in her own unique way! I wanted to hear more about Joelle and what motivated her to initially adopt a plant-based lifestyle. I also wanted to know what drove her to launch this IG community page. Naturally, this led to some rapid fire questions which she obliged with some great answers. How long have you been vegan? When I was 12, I told my mom I wanted to stop eating meat (vegetarian was not in my vocabulary yet). She was raised on a farm, and my dad grew up as a butcher in the family business. The answer was no. So when I moved out at 18 for University, I stopped cooking it, but would often not voice it when I was visiting friends and family. I only made the official transition in my early twenties. I went fully raw, and then transition to a vegan lifestyle that suited more my active and multi-dimensional reality.What motivated you to launch the “Vegans of Ottawa” IG community?I just came back from some time abroad in Australia (Melbourne). The community is VERY strong there. I longed for the same thing back home, and wanted to share all the positivity and love that comes with this lifestyle.How has the response been so far?Incredible. Within the first 48 hours I reached almost 200 active, local, followers. Many small businesses have also reached out for me to help them promote their products. Everyone is very positive and loving, which reflects the caring nature of vegans.Where do you hope to take this initiative? What is your end goal (if there is one!)?That Ottawa becomes the first officially vegan city! Ha! No, this is simply a resource for vegans and veg-curious who live or visit our city. To show how easy it is to be vegan here, from eating, to shopping, to living.What is your favorite vegan restaurant in Ottawa?Yiiiiikes! Hard one; I have been going to La Belle Verte for many years and I crave the raw pizza all the time. However, I have a list of over 25 spots I love in the city that I send to friends who ask me where to eat.What do you do for work or school?I recently graduated as a Master in project management and worked for the Vimy Visitor Centre that opened its doors last month. I also launched the initiative www.failureoption.com and teach yoga as a pastime.What do you want to be when you "grow up"?Happy, Healthy and Strong!What is the hardest thing for you about being vegan?Honestly? Finding fashionable and warm winter boots. The rest I can handle.What is the biggest myth you’ve hear about being vegan?I did a television interview last year about the 5 questions vegans are tired of hearing. I think it’s the fact that “I must be sick often”. If I sneeze, it’s “because I’m vegan”. I recently had my blood tested, and everything came out as healthy as can be (from iron to B12).What is your favorite vegan “junk food”?Anything baked by Josephine (Little Jo Berry’s)!What is your hope for the vegan movement in the next 5 years?That it keeps on growing. The numbers are everywhere, the interest is there, my parents have incorporated so many vegan meals and buys in their daily life, and you (that's us at SOULiers Studio!) offer hope for every vegan looking for cute winter boots!What do you think about the Ottawa vegan scene?I grew up here, but lived over 6 years in Montreal, Geneva and Melbourne. I traveled in over 20 countries, but always come back. We are very open-minded and positive. The love overpowers the hate; rarely will we face a negative comment online, and if so, everyone responds compassionately and with knowledge. I think we offer a very safe and flourishing environment, and we truly have everything (and more) a vegan can dream of!I've yet to meet Joelle in person but I hope to change that some day soon. In the meantime, I'll be following her good work @vegansofottawa. You should too.