LAS MUJERES OF TODO VERDE: Elena

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I just really believe in using food as a tool to talk about and see connections to a lot of other larger systemic issues. Food touches all of us, because we all need it to survive. When I was deciding what direction to take professionally, I was just strongly pulled towards food justice and have been pursuing that since.
— Elena, Todo Verde Administrative & Events Coordinator

We’re happy to call Texas native Elena Lopez, part of our Todo Verde family! Elena has embraced the L.A. food justice community with open arms, and has worked with organizations like L.A. Kitchen, L.A. Compost and now our TV team! Elena shares with us her journey from Texas to L.A and how leading a sustainable lifestyle has been for her.

As a Texas native, how has your transition to L.A. been? Was it easy to find a community you felt a part of?

It took me a while to fully understand and appreciate LA for all that it is. When I was in school I only caught glimpses of what it’s really like to live here because so much of my time revolved around campus life. In my senior year I got to explore more and was exposed to all of the amazing food justice work being done in the city. Since finishing school, I’ve really gotten to take a deeper dive into this community that I now feel like I am apart of. Also working at LA Kitchen for two years helped me make connections to so many amazing folks doing food work! So it was easy in a way because I was doing it for work anyway! I feel super lucky that my work and personal passion mix.

I also love LA now for all the things that the mainstream media doesn’t show about the city -- all the people and communities fighting for change, and of course, how obsessed with good food the city is. That’s something I’ll always carry with me, once you have local fruit from a socal farmer’s market you can’t ever go back -- (lol) it’s a thing.

You first got in touch with Todo Verde with your work at L.A. Kitchen, and now currently split your time with L.A. Compost and TV, have you always been inclined to work with organizations that focused on healthy food practices + sustainable advocacy? If not, how did you get involved with these organizations?

I have always been called to community based work with a food justice connection. I just really believe in using food as a tool to talk about and see connections to a lot of other larger systemic issues. Food touches all of us, because we all need it to survive. When I was deciding what direction to take professionally, I was just strongly pulled towards food justice and have been pursuing that since.

What has your sustainable lifestyle journey been like? Did your family / upbringing have any influence on it?

I actually grew up eating a lot of meat! Being from Texas and all. So my choice to eat more sustainably has been a solo project, and my family has been very supportive and have even tried eating less meat themselves. In return I try and be as encouraging and understanding as I can. I know it’s often challenging for People of Color (POC) to go vegan because they get a hard time from their families, so I love that mine has embraced me making this lifestyle choice.

But my journey was super gradual and slow. I began eating vegetarian in 2014 and then one day being vegan just seemed…possible. And by then I was feeling much more connected to the animal rights side of veganism. Honestly, I got a lot of inspiration from vegan Youtubers like Ellen Fisher. Ellen mentions in her videos that there are so many ways to be vegan and I think that is so true. Veganism doesn’t look like just one thing. I think now I’ve found a balance of what foods make me feel best, and I’ve learned to listen to my body.

What are some of the issues / problems you've encountered, if any?

At first it was frustrating being vegan and not having any vegan friends. Having to be that person that’s like “Uh sorry we can’t eat here there’s nothing for me to eat,” is never fun. Or the flip side just eating French fries and being sad while everyone else eats meat. The transition phase was hard, but now my non-vegan friends know the deal and we always find somewhere with a good veggie option; or they try a vegan place with me, which is so fun. I’ve also made more veggie friends along the journey too, so it's so nice to have cool fellow vegans who can get excited about vegan food with you. To be honest, it definitely took a while to get here, but it was worth the struggle.

What is your advice for folks looking to begin their journey to sustainability?

I do believe that we vote with our dollars, so I like to look at the products I consume and what I’m supporting by buying them. This process has made me more conscious on sustainable my lifestyle is. There are many easy practices I’ve incorporated into my life to minimize my footprint or support sustainable businesses. The easiest was to start with using less plastic when I didn’t have to -- so using a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, grocery bag, produce bags, and straws. I also consume less fast fashion and instead shop at thrift stores or sustainable businesses. I buy produce and local goods from farmers markets to support a local food economy, and compost with LA Compost! Because of greenwashing or stereotypes  I think some people believe that doing these things is more expensive, but I have found that I actually save money by doing these things. It’s also near impossible to live 100% sustainable unless you’re living off the land somewhere, so you have to be understanding with yourself when you have to do things like buy gas for your car or medicine from a big corporation.

Books / blogs / articles you recommend?

I actually really enjoy YouTube for inspiration on recipes. Lately I’ve been into Pick Up Limes, From My Bowl, and The Loud Noodle. The last book I read was You Cant Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson and it was both hilarious and very real -- I would definitely recommend it.