Dr. Couper shares her experiences as “a plant-based teacher”

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Adopting a better lifestyle for herself and the planet, Dr. Cooper has never felt, both mentally and physically, better. She recommends that others also give it a try for similar results. “People usually perceive plant-based diets as very challenging, but I would suggest that they give it a try,” Dr. Couper said. “I thought that it would be extremely difficult to give up certain foods like cheese, but I realized that I did not miss them as much as I thought I would.” (Photo/Dr. Couper)

Whether it may be sponsoring three clubs on campus, switching to a plant-based diet or never wearing any clothing made with real animal fur, there is no doubt that Dr. Couper, who teaches Honors Chemistry, profoundly cares about the planet. She tries to help the environment as much as she can, both inside and outside school. Dr. Couper has adopted a healthy lifestyle both for herself and the planet.

Even though she almost never eats any meat or dairy products, Dr. Couper does not claim to be vegan. “I would say that I am plant-based rather than vegan because I don’t follow the typical lifestyle someone who is a ‘true’ vegan would,” Dr. Couper said. “For example, I still have products in my house that I had before I decided to go plant-based, such as minimal animal products.” However, she states that she is trying her best to leave these products behind her. 

Dr. Couper first decided to change her lifestyle around 2016. “Initially, my choice to go plant-based was due to environmental reasons. Then, as I made the switch, I started to learn about the disadvantages of factory farming and the negative effect dairy products had on people. I realized that the harming of animals for food was not ethically reasonable for me.” 

At the moment, only she and her sister follow a plant-based diet, but her mother has started to become much more accepting towards the idea and makes an effort to prepare a couple of vegan meals each week.  

In addition to this healthy meal plan, Dr. Couper is also strongly passionate about the environment and always makes sure to have a compost bin. “In my house, anything that can be recomposed for the Earth never goes into the trash. At least, that’s how I grew up,” she said. She especially emphasizes  the significance of water. “I grew up on an island where we would get our water from the river, so I have always been conscious of water conservation.” Her goal is to “live the most minimalist life she can.” As well as being conscious of the well-being of the environment outside of school, Dr. Couper tries to get students also involved by sponsoring the Urban Garden Initiative Club. The club had been around the campus for years and though she claims that “the iguanas always find a way to mess up our garden by eating the veggies,” she still finds the process rewarding. She hopes to successfully maintain the garden, without the iguanas,  next year by adding an extra fence around the garden (Photo/Dr. Couper).

Apart from the Urban Garden Initiative,  Dr. Couper was also involved in a composting program in school; however, the program did not go quite as smoothly as she hoped. “It was a problem because not everybody is used to composting in this school, so we tried to start with the lower school, but that still did not work out,” she said. “It would be nice if our school started working on food waste, but it would require teamwork and many, many tries to make it work.” 

Despite her efforts, she knows not everyone will have a positive outlook on leaving animal products behind. For those who want to give it a try, she suggests they try the cliche way:  starting small with meatless Mondays or vegan substitute products. “The vegan substitutes may surprise you. They are very delicious and, most of the time, even better than the meat/dairy version,” said Dr. Couper.

Kayra Su Dayi came here from Turkey in 6th grade and will be in 9th grade next year. She loves painting the pictures of nature or animals which she takes with her camera when she finds something captivating or interesting. Aside from art, she plays tennis and competes in speech and debate. She prefers to give informative speeches, but is still in the process of exploring the broad range of speeches. She liked to volunteer at Flamingo Gardens before the pandemic every weekend. She is a member of NJHS and interested to join more clubs next year!