Cleanse America: The movement that wants to baptize you with green juice

Cleanse America's raw-food evangelists want to convince one million Americans to try a cleanse before the end of 2012. But will they reach the unconverted?
Small Town Raw
Paul Risse in his small town raw foods cafe and juice bar.


The latest healthy living movement to spread across the country wants you to start juicing… for Jesus.

Okay, not really. But Cleanse America does have an evangelical feel, with biblical quotes mixed in with rotating photos on its homepage, its founder Paul Risse describing himself as a child of God in his bio, and words like “believe” and “mission” leading its messaging.

But he’s really just a juice missionary. “How America is living is unsustainable,” explained Risse, at a recent Cleanse America event at Organic Avenue’s Space of LOVE on the Lower East Side. “Once you cleanse your body, you start to see the world in a different way.”

Risse’s goal is to prove this to one million Americans, and get them to commit to a 10-day cleanse of all juice or just raw foods during 2012.

Paul Risse
Paul Risse, founder of Cleanse America

And if anyone can bring cleansing to the masses, Risse can.

Risse was inspired to take the idea national after convincing 300 people in his small Texas cow town of 22,000 people to try a one. He runs what he describes as a “thriving” raw food cafe and juice bar in the same town, the “dairy capital of the world,” where customers “kick cow shit off their boots while waiting for their green juice.”

Cleanse America’s virtual programs begin at set times throughout the year, so whether you’re in New York, Seattle, or Houston, you all do it together.

Everyone checks in at the Cleanse America website, which fosters a feeling of guidance and support, kind of like an online fitness challenge.

At just $25, there’s no cooler coming to your co-op: you’re responsible for making your own juice or meals. (Act now if your Breville needs an oil change.)

Even so, April’s cleanse drew about 750 people, and the next one starts on June 20.

Sure, the converted will come, but what about green juice atheists and hamburger-dependent heathens? “I know that cleansing is powerful beyond the physical,” he explains. “If we can shift from judgement and from telling people what they’re doing wrong, and give them food with love, instead, we can transform the nation.”

That sounds like a strategy that has worked before… —Lisa Elaine Held

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