By Jessica Ferrigno

Max La Manna wants to inspire and encourage you to be a vegan and live a zero-waste plant-based lifestyle.

La Manna, 23, who switched to plant-based foods six years ago, is becoming an influencer on social media sites where he promotes vegan cooking and an environmentally friendly lifestyle. His Instagram account, where he posts mostly pictures of his delicious creations and trash that he has collected off the streets, boasts 49.5K followers. La Manna is also a model with Click and an actor.

Take a gander on La Manna’s website and you will be immersed in a world of cooking consciously, eating consciously and living consciously.

La Manna, who committed to a zero-waste lifestyle about a year ago, says he hopes that by sharing his recipes and lifestyle on his social media sites and website, he will inspire others and show them how easily anyone can commit to a zero-waste plant-based lifestyle. 

“Take your time. Look at why you want to create change in yourself – what is calling you to make this positive disruptive change in your life, because it’s going to remove the old patterns in which you thought before so there’s going to be challenges,” said La Manna. “So just take each day one day at a time and accept what is offered to you. See if you are able to work with those challenges in that moment.”

La Manna grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut (just one hour from where FoA is headquartered). His father was a chef, which spurred his love for cooking. He remembers his mother telling him not to litter when he was little and that raised his awareness about waste. He would always see trash and plastic on the streets and during visits to the beach with his family at a young age he’d see plastic littering the sand. This waste and litter stuck with him and he sought out ways to limit it.

Buying food at the local farmers market and in bulk has enabled him to be a zero-waste chef, he said. La Manna also brings containers and reusable bags with him when shopping and shares his tips and tricks to help reduce waste with his followers.

La Manna’s influence is not limited to his fans on social media. He has been able to inspire many friends and family members to give vegan food and restaurants a shot. He said they often text him pictures of their meals.

“It’s definitely a part of their life now. They understand it and they will accompany me when I go out to eat,” said La Manna. “Everyone has their own journey and their own path and for them to come into that world is nice. It takes time for people.”

It took time for La Manna in the beginning, as well.

He said he first started with something as little as skipping a straw or a napkin, and often had to remind himself to ask servers not to bring a straw when ordering a drink. Soon he was discovering ways to live without creating any waste. Now he brings containers and bottles to restaurants to take home his leftover food and water. Any of his leftover food at home goes into a compost.

Once La Manna discarded old habits, he recognized many benefits to becoming a vegan.

“I feel great. I’m full of energy. I don’t get that lethargic feeling. I know that what I’m feeding my body is good for it and my body is responding well to it,” said La Manna.

Being vegan and zero-waste is not only great for La Manna’s body, but it does wonders for the environment. He can minimize his footprint on the earth and reduce the climate impact of the meat industry. Forty-two percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of food, products and packaging, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Another benefit of his vegan, no-waste lifestyle is its contribution to community needs. Humans waste 1.3 billion tons of food a year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. To reduce that waste, La Manna and other zero-wasters support giving the extra food to shelters or food banks.

“This is our one planet,” La Manna wrote on his website, “and our one opportunity.”

Jessica Ferrigno, a journalism major at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, is a Friends of Animals summer intern.