Meet Rowdy Keelor; his amazing spirit and compassion for all living creatures is inspirational. We’ve been so luck that Rowdy became our part-time, temporary Campaign Organizer this summer and is a big reason why our SOS Tour was such a success.
Before we met Rowdy, he was a touring musician in a band called Jahman Brahman. Rowdy explains, “I found Dogwood when I first started to pursue environmentalism instead of rock n roll; it happened very organically.” He soon began tabling at places around town like the CO-OP and local events. Rowdy also began cross-promoting Dogwood among the bands he’d worked with, and when Dogwood began looking for a temporary organizer, he was ready to meet the challenge.
“It’s my first time actually getting to work for an environmental non-profit. It’s been a great learning experience, and there’s just something about a local, environmental, non-profit that’s special. It’s great to be here in Asheville and work for local causes and for local forests.”
In February of 2015, Rowdy Keelor, Adam Agee, Lyric Antio and Caroline Francis founded Friends Against Butts, a small organization that recycles cigarette butts and turns them into industrial plastics by partnering with a company called TerraCycle out of New Jersey. Lyric had already been doing some cigarette recycling at UNCA, and all the members were excited about the project, “Caroline is a former cigarette smoker and she is my lady partner. She felt like she had some karmic reparations to do for all the years of smoking. Adam is my roommate and my brethren. I’ve known him for a really long time and he’s a really caring individual.” The group strongly feels that cigarettes hurt the earth. Once they realized they could be recycled, they were so excited to spread the news.
Recently, Friends Against Butts finalized a deal with the city of Asheville. now they will collect, separate and store all the cigarette butts from 160+ receptacles around town.
TerraCycle gives the organization one dollar per pound that they send in, which helps the group cover their costs. This project is an absolute labor of love. Rowdy says, “We didn’t start this to make money, we started it to divert waste because landfills filling up is a big thing.”
On his experience at Dogwood and all that he has learned in his journey in environmentalism, Rowdy says, “When you get into the environment, there’s just so many different aspects of it, waste diversion, energy sector, land use, water use, climate change, forestry, so it’s all a part of protecting and preserving and doing something positive for the environment.
From his time on the SOS Tour, Rowdy learned the importance of a well-thought out strategy, movement building and the power of a good team.
Environmental work has shown Rowdy the power individuals have to be environmentally conscientious with their diets. It has lead him to vegan advocacy,
“I really care about people having the power themselves to do something and that’s lead me to veganism and the power that we have every day with our diet to effect the planet because of how much oil, water, everything that a vegan diet uses less of is really fascinating to me and so that empowers people to make a choice every day to help the planet. Because there’s a lot of statistics like even if the energy sector is completely halted where it is right now, emissions from animal agriculture would still cause the gigaton threshold in a certain amount of years and I also really love animals, and think it’s terrible how they’re treated and it’s also great for healthcare and economy if you care about that kind of thing.”
Rowdy hopes to continue on with his vegan advocacy using some of the tools of organizing that he has gained during his time with us at Dogwood Alliance.
Rowdy’s advice for other activists is to be persistant.
“Never give up, even if a single action seems like a failure. When you look at is as part of a movement, it’s not. I want to talk to thousands of people at once and reach masses and masses, huge amounts of people, but there’s something to be said about one-on-one conversations with someone you’ve never met before.”