TH Citizen Profile: Lauren Grochmal

A big green wave and hello to graduate student Lauren Grochmal, the fifth and final subject of this week's Citizen Profile series that featured some folks who visited the TreeHugger booth at this year's Green Fest DC. Each won the opportunity to spend their green cents here on TreeHugger, and it's been an enjoyable, enlightening, thought-provoking series.

Lauren, a grad student at New York's Columbia University, loves her vegan, fair trade double chocolate cake, takes pride in her vegan cat, and feels guilty about enjoying drinks served in disposable plastic cups when she goes out in the city (but she still drinks 'em). Learn more about Lauren's thoughts on making sustainable food choices, and for some great tips and resources for going green, grad-student style, beneath the fold.What is your age?

My age is 26

Where do you live?

I live in NYC (Manhattan)

What do you do for a living?

I am currently a student at Columbia University. I am working on a Masters of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy under the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

You've chosen vegan, double chocolate fair trade cake as your guiltless pleasure (which, quite frankly, has our mouths watering); why is making sustainable food choices such a central part of your green life? Are you willing to share your recipe or direct us to the store?

I don't have a recipe (I am still learning how to bake vegan) and it varies where I can find it. I usually end up at the old standby, Red Bamboo, on West 4th by Washington Sqaure Park. They have the most amazing vegan deserts but their Death by Chocolate compares to none other! Babycakes on Broomes St also has incredible vegan brownies (I couldn't even tell the difference and I eat a ton of vegan sweets.)

Making sustainable food choices is one of, if not the most important decision I make everyday. On top of being a vegan, I purchase only organic products and make buying local and fair trade a priority as well. I believe that consumers vote with their dollar. Therefore, by making a conscious choice to purchase only sustainable food items, you are telling the industry that you choose to support only those companies that are environmentally respononsible. And in my case, as a vegan, I choose not to support the meat industry as well which is one of the most environmentally destructive and polluting industries in the United States. I believe sustainable food choices are extremely important because we as consumers hold the power to tell the food industry that we want food grown and packaged in sustainable and ethical ways.

What is something you can't live without? Is it green? If not, are you willing to seek out a green alternative?

One thing I cannot live without is definitely either my computer or cell phone which are both not Energy Star rated. I did however purchase the computer used from my best friend Heather and my current cell phone is a simple refurbished one of the same version I originally bought 4 years ago. If my phone stops working, I simply ask for a refurbished model that Sprint provides for free. To address the energy issues with both of these electronics I would like to have a solar charger that all my electronics can be charged from. I also want my next computer to have a superior Energy Star rating and I am looking into refurbished computers as well.

I was actually going to say my cat for this question because it was the first thing that came to mind. However, it seemed that you were asking for a product of some type. I recently found sustainably manufactured vegan cat food (Ami) made in Italy. So now my cat is vegan too. Most people think I'm crazy so I wasn't sure about using this answer. I did research cat dietary needs and ran it by my holostic vet in Chelsea to make sure she would have more than enough protein and nutrients. It turns out this food has more protein (obviously from plant sources instead of meat) than most conventional grocery store cat food. Who would've thought?

Would we find any eco-products in your closet? Your fridge? If so, what? We want to hear brands.

Eco-products in my closet, at this point, consist of much vintage or thrift store/consignment type items. I recently just purchased my first pair of organic jeans by Loomstate and I LOVE them! After this purchase I decided the next change I was to make in my life was to, from now on, only purchase clothing that is made from organic or recycled fibers. I will also consider purchasing it if it is manufactured sustainably. I do however have an entirely organic cotton bed from the futons to the pillows to the comforter and sheets. I purchased these from multiple sources. One of the futons is from Rawganique.com and the other is from the Heart of Vermont website. Both futon covers were handmade for each futon from Heart of Vermont as well. My pillows came from 3r Living in Park Slope, Brooklyn and my comforter is from Danny's Organic Marketplace online. My sets of sheets came from Target and Speigel.com. I do have organic towels in my closet from TomorrowsWorld.com as well. They are actually located in Norfolk, VA which is only 20 minutes from my hometown of Hampton, VA.

My fridge has a ton of eco-products. I think my favorite item would definitely have to be the organic sprouted grain bagels by Alvarado Street Bakery. I eat one almost every morning for breakfast with organic vegan whipped butter by Earth Balance and Crofter's organic Pomegranate Jelly. I also love the organic kids cereal Gorilla Munch by EnviroKidz with Trader Joe's organic vanilla soy milk. The EnviroKidz brand donates 1% of its sales to endangered species, habitat conservation, and environmental education for kids. It has fun eco-facts on the outside and inside of the box that I find entertaining during breakfast. Other eco-products in my fridge include much local organic produce and fresh fruit that I purchase from the Park Slope food Coop and well as one of my staples as of late, Tofurky brand oven roasted deli slices.

As a graduate student I am kept very busy so my time available to actually cook is limited. At the Green Festival in DC I met a women, Amy Townsend, who recently started up a vegan organic home meals delivery service called The Hungry Vegan. She ships all the food, including desert, that you will need for one week prepared and ready to eat. It comes refrigerated so it is actually never frozen. The food is amazing! It's like having home cooked gourmet meals for dinner and lunch everyday! And while some may argue that the shipping takes away from its "Eco" label, Amy sources local produce as well as packages in used or recycled boxes and corn-based food containers. For the past month this has been the majority of the food in my fridge.

Tags: Brooklyn | Chocolate | Citizen Profile | Fair Trade | New York City | Pets | Vegan

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