Living Green Goes Mainstream at LA Convention Center

Sustainable farmers, animal rights activists, yoga instructors and morticians were among the vendors gathered at the Convention Center for Green Expo Festival on Sept. 16 to 18 celebrating all that is vegan and eco-friendly.

“If you want to make a difference, you have to embrace the companies and brands because they will go with the demand,” said Dr. Corinna Basler, president of The Green Festivals, Inc. “The more people ask and care about green products, the more they will produce.”

In response to 2015 market cues, companies are now seizing the consumer’s interest of green products.

M.A.C. makeup boasts itself on cruelty-free manufacturing. Target and Trader Joe’s both offer a multitude of vegan and vegetarian foods in their grocery section as well as green household essentials.

A green lifestyle, once geared toward a clichéd granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing subculture is a thing of the past. Eco-friendly merchandise has officially entered the mainstream public, for those who seek healthier, cleaner products.

Big Green Opportunity Report saw a 75 percent increase in businesses who sold green products during the down economy, from 2008-2011. The same survey found 49 percent of customers supported the businesses due to their environmentally beneficial practices.

“When I first started there were only two meat alternatives and they weren’t very good.” said Hal Weiss, Southern California organizer for People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly known as PETA. “Back then, if you were vegan, you were going to a health food store and now that’s not really true. . .You can also get them at Vons and Ralphs.”

Today, green commodities cover a broad range of food, cleaning products, farming methods, holistic medical approaches, cars, home energy options, animal rehabilitation and even burials.

Eternal Meadows, a cemetery located in Santa Monica, even offers environmentally sound plots for the departed by placing the body in an organic shroud or wicker basket with no metals or other materials. The intent is to repurpose the body back into the earth.

Veganism, abstaining from all animal foods and products is gaining popularity. This includes refraining from meat, dairy, eggs and honey as well as leather or anything tested on animals.

“People believe veganism is just a trend and I disagree. It’s definitely growing and hopefully will continue that path but it’s a healthy growth, it’s not fluctuating,” Basler, a-10-year vegan said. “There are more [vegan] products than ever before.”

In addition, Google revealed searches with the term “vegan” grew 32 percent from 2014-2015. California ranked as the number one state for vegan inquiries. Los Angeles, the host city of the Green Festival, ranked third of U.S. cities for vegan interest.

Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita and vegan for 17 years, said that veganism has benefitted her and her family in many ways.

“Waking up in the morning was way easier. I was happy to be alive, to jump out of bed and be productive and the long term effects are we just don’t do sick, we have three kids and they’ve been raised vegan and you know, it’s not fair because all their friends go to school and miss all these days and my kids have 100 percent attendance rate.” Laks said.

The Gentle Barn, a rehabilitation center for animals ranging from dogs and goats to peacocks and llamas, also works with at risk, inner-city and special needs children.

“Once [the animals] are healed and happy and safe, they help us heal people with the same stories of abuse and neglect as well as teach tolerance and kindness,” Laks said. “It’s kind of a circle of healing, we heal the animals, the animals heal people and people turn around to be kinder to animals.”

A possible hurdle to get more people on board for going green could be budget restraints. According to Consumer Reports in 2015, organic products were 46 percent more expensive than their regular counterpart.

For more people to embrace a green lifestyle Basler said, “It needs to be tasty, it needs to be affordable, it needs to be fun and not just ‘okay that’s just another granola bar.’ Sustainability shouldn’t only be for a different class. It needs to be affordable and it needs to be for everyone.”