polaroid grid by star drooker
polaroid grid of Derek Goodwin by star drooker

Derek is a long time vegan activist and the founder of the Vegan Bus Project. He went vegan on New Year’s Day 1996 and has never looked back. Around the same time he became active with the Rochester Animal Defense League (now defunct) and by 1998 he was serving on the board of directors at the popular Rochester Area Vegetarian Society (RAVS).

Moving to Northampton, Massachusetts in 1999 Derek began to put his talents as a photographer and web designer to work for the movement. He created the web site Veganica.com which launched in 2000 as an online community for vegan artists and musicians. The site is still popular to this day (and will be getting a much needed upgrade soon!). In 2001 he began photographing events and animals for Farm Sanctuary and also became the photography advisor for VegNews magazine. His photographs of sanctuary farm animals have since been published in dozens of magazines, newspapers and books all over the world.

In 2005 a community radio station called ValleyFree Radio launched in Northampton and Derek decided a show about veganism would be just the thing. In October of 2005 Vegan Radio made its debut and featured Derek with co-hosts Megan Shackelford and Scott Lahteine. Together they covered news stories and events, interviewed vegans and animal rights activists, and played music by vegans. The broadcast shows were digitized and made into podcasts. Vegan Radio was one of the earliest vegan podcasts and remains one of the most popular today.

In 2006 Derek went to the Burning Man festival and was inspired by the amazing artworks and abundance of creativity among the participants. This event grows in size and scope every year and is shaping culture and art all around the world. Derek realized the potential that bringing a vegan message to the event could have and in an epiphany came up with the concept of the Vegan Bus.

In April of 2007 Derek and a group of vegan friends began fund raising and by August had purchased a full sized school bus and converted it to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO). They took the bus on its maiden voyage of 6000 miles (round trip) from Massachusetts to Nevada to attend the 2007 Burning Man Festival, where they joined with an organization called Vegcamp that did outreach and education at the event.

The experience of leading the Vegan Bus crew on this cross-country odyssey helped Derek grow as an organizer, leader, and team member. The continual mechanical and leadership challenges were both educational and stressful. Derek stepped back from the project in 2008 to gather his insights and brainstorm ways to make the project financially viable as well as extending the scope of what the bus could do beyond Burning Man.

Derek’s goals for 2009 and beyond include an extensive summer tour that will bring the bus to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian events. The bus will tour with activists and performance artists who will creatively engage with people in various situations to spread the vegan message. A “zine” which pulls content from Veganica.com and other sources will be distributed to educate about veganism and sustainable living. Vegan Radio will conduct interviews on the road and photographic and video documentation will be added to the mix. In the winter months the bus will stay local and work on visiting schools and community events while fund raising and plotting the next summer’s activities.