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Vegan Insider - Green Leafy Gael

by Lana McGhee
Amy McColgan AKA Green Leafy Gael has been demystifying veganism for years. 

At a time when veganism hadn't quite hit the mainstream media, Amy created a place where people could learn and understand about veganism and how vegans live.

Since launching Green Leafy Gael she has become an important figure in the Irish vegan world, having written for the Irish Times on veganism and given talks at vegan events. Amy's next step is to become a vegan lifestyle coach, offering tailored plans for new vegans from all backgrounds. 

When did you realise you wanted become vegan, and what inspired you to start Green Leafy Gael?


I realised I wanted to be vegan in February 2013 when I found a number of documentaries exposing the meat and dairy industry for what it really is and also ones depicting the health risks associated with eating these products. Forks Over Knives was the one that affected me most and that led me to do more research online listening to online lectures from doctors such as Michael Greger MD and Dr. John Mc Dougall amongst others.

Some of the documentaries I watched showed heart wrenching clips of animals in slaughterhouses or on farms and the sight of it shook me to my core. The veil was lifted, and I could now see that I was being marketed to my whole life. I was inspired to start Green Leafy Gael by the many questions I got about why I was vegan and the strange looks I got at parties. It wasn’t very well understood in Ireland back in 2015 nor was it often in the media so I felt a sense of duty to explain what it meant, and the benefits associated with being vegan.

Also, I wanted to be able to warn people about the dangers of eating meat and dairy products without being too overbearing! If they read my posts then great but I didn’t want to be lecturing anyone across the dinner table (my family are an exception!). I also wanted to demonstrate simple recipes and my own daily eating habits, so that if people were considering becoming vegan they’d have food inspiration to guide them along the way. 

What has been the most amazing result of becoming vegan for you personally? 

In terms of health benefits I was never a very unhealthy person, but since becoming vegan I can now eat a lot more food and worry less about my weight and that’s a huge burden lifted because I like a good feed. But the health benefits can vary depending on the person.

What is your favourite vegan dish & restaurant?


A favourite dish is impossible because I like trying new things constantly – althugh I do love vegan gyozas and good vegan pizzas. But on a day to day basis I keep it very simple with wholegrains, beans, veggies, fruits, greens and maybe the odd vegan yoghurt or whatever new vegan treat appears in the supermarket.

My favourite restaurants in Dublin are Sova Vegan Butcher and Veginity for their sheer innovation and creativity. And in Barcelona I loved Flax and Kale and Cat Bar.

Green Leafy Gael

After living in Barcelona, do you think Ireland or Spain is better for veganism?


It’s a hard one to answer because Spain is so much bigger and vast so you could be in the wilds of Andalucia with no big city for miles and if that big city is Seville then you’re screwed but if you’re anywhere near Barcelona or Madrid you’d be grand. I think Spain has much better access to basic vegan food like beans, legumes, fruits and veggies for sure. But in the more traditional restaurants and towns you might be quite stuck for a hearty meal. It really depends on logistics.

But in Ireland we are more exposed to British and American media where veganism has exploded over the past 2 years so in general, you’re probably not going to find yourself anywhere that someone wouldn’t understand the concept of veganism (well again it depends). So if you’re somewhere with no options at all they should be able to come up with something half-decent. And the thing is you’re never too far away from a city in Ireland really (unless you’re from Donegal but that’s another story!).

And another thing: In Ireland we have delis. So no matter where you are in the country, there will be a Spar or Centra or Mace deli somewhere in the vicinity where you can get a salad sandwich or bap with Ballymaloe relish. In Spain that is never possible. Everything is already made up so you’re on olives and chips for the day. So the answer is: it depends.


Do you have any favourite vegan fashion brands or beauty products brands?


Aside from Forester Products, yeah I love anything sustainable and vegan or that uses recycled materials like Batoko swimming togs and Insane in the Rain coats. Will’s Vegan Shoes are a great brand for shoes.

For beauty products, I’m very minimalist but a brand I really admire is White Witch Skincare – it’s not only vegan but all natural and zero-waste.

What do you think of the move towards vegan leather and do you own any vegan leather products?


I think it’s great because why would we want to walk around with an animal’s old dead skin on us – we really need to shift that narrative!

And vegan leather brands are at the forefront opening our eyes to the concept of not exploiting animals for fashion and we should be supporting them where we can.

Especially those that use sustainable materials. I currently have a Forester backpack, a pair of crocodile style brown ankle boots from Mireia Playa, and a handbag made from repurposed seat belts by Barcelona bran Babau – it’s not exactly leather looking but it is nice and shiny and black.

Green Leafy Gael in Forester Products Backpack

Which brand has impressed you the most with their move towards sustainability in 2018?


I tend only to follow and support brands that are already sustainable where possible but in terms of brands who’ve moved towards sustainability, I suppose any of the bigger brands that have openly made a conscious effort to use recycled plastic (a few famous sports companies for example) would impress me. But to be honest I want to see more.

I want to see zero plastic in supermarkets and coffee shops, I want fast-fashion brands to use recycled and organic fabrics and to stop polluting the planet.

What three vegan and sustainable gifts would you recommend?


Girls love beauty products so why not avoid the rows of plastic in Boots and check out some more ethical companies that don’t put chemicals in their products and that use better materials such as glass. White Witch Skincare again would be my number 1 choice there.

There’s also an Irish company who’ve made the best vegan natural deodorant on the market: Pit Putty. Male or female this would make a fantastic stocking filler – no plastic involved – it’s so effective too! If shoes are your thing I think Nae are a great brand and they use all sorts of materials from cork to pineapple (piñatex)!

What does the future hold for Green Leafy Gael?


These days I want to focus on creating and helping people individually. I’ll be releasing a downloadable vegan transition meal plan very soon, aimed at Irish people looking for a guiding hand into the world of being vegan in Ireland. It will have many veganised Irish favourites with a healthy twist.

The goal is to have recipes and ingredients that we’ll all recognise but at the same time there’s always something new to learn and hopefully this guide will help those who need it and who might not have the time to be traipsing through the internet into the wee hours looking for recipes to suit them.

I also will be offering a vegan coaching service to anyone who needs a more personalised coaching package. Everyone takes this journey differently so all coaching services will be tailored to suit the needs of the individual at whatever stage of life, young or old, talented chef or student.

Finally, where can people follow you and find out what you are up to?


You can find me on Facebook if you search Green Leafy Gael – any major updated will be posted there. If I happen take any nice photos you’ll find those on my Instagram page.

All photos are vegan related so it’s a good place to see what the North West is capable of providing. Also Green Leafy Gael  for the plan and a heap of recipes and vegan and sustainable product reviews.

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