Ashley Renne of the green lifestyle blog Hey Ashley Renne uses her platforms to encourage others to live more sustainable lives—including going vegan and planting veggie gardens. She’s also a volunteer wildlife transporter and super into smart technology. We learn something new from her every single day from how to regrow scallions to recipes for colorful nutritious vegan meals. She’s one of The Beet’s favorite Black vegan influencers to follow for inspiration.

Here, in an exclusive interview with The Beet, Ashley talks about how she can’t live without garlic, the time a prince encouraged her to take a trip, and how she’s made adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. She aims to show the environmental and health benefits of plant-based living. We think her advice will help encourage you on your journey to be a more ethical vegan. 

Q: What made you go vegan?

AR: I went vegan in 2016 after accidentally following a vegan page on Instagram. At the time, I was vegetarian, but truthfully I knew nothing about veganism. All it took was seeing one video showing the emotional pain animals endure in the dairy industry for me to take a permanent stance against animal exploitation of any kind.

After that, I adopted a completely vegan lifestyle and never looked back! Eventually, I learned about the environmental and health benefits as well, so I decided to incorporate it into my sustainable lifestyle brand. Vegan living has become a major part of my life both personally and professionally. I’ve committed to using my brand to advocate for the end of animal exploitation, protection of our natural environment, and improvement of our health through plant-based lifestyle changes. 

Q: What do you typically eat?

AR: For breakfast, I normally eat high-protein vegan cereal from Sprouts with Ripple plant-based milk. If I'm feeling fancy, I’ll make sweet potato pancakes, turmeric tofu scramble, and plant-based sausage. Lunch and dinner changes every week! Lately, to avoid going to the grocery store too much during the pandemic, I've been using Purple Carrot, a vegan ingredient delivery service. They send ingredients and recipes that my hubby and I cook up. Today, I had a burrito for lunch and tofu and sticky rice for dinner.

Q: What is your favorite vegan restaurant?

AR: One of the best vegan restaurants I've been to is Folia at Four Seasons in Dubai. The venture was created by Chef Matthew Kenney and HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed. Fun fact! While I was in India, I posted a story about how I was thinking of stopping in Dubai on the way back to the US just to visit this restaurant. Khaled responded and said, "You Should!" - so I did. No regrets.  

Q: What is your favorite vegan meal to cook?

AR: Lately I've been obsessed with Jenné Claiborne's Sweet Potato Soul cookbook. I cook about 2 recipes a week from it! My favorite one to cook is her lentil soup. It's so simple to make, yet bursting with flavors.  

Q: What is one ingredient you can't live without?

AR: Am I the only one whose nostrils and taste buds have a strong reaction to fresh garlic? The second I get a whiff of it, my mouth instantly begins to salivate. I don't think I could live without it. Just to make sure that never happens, I began re-growing garlic bulbs from clove scraps! I have a little garlic garden now. My plan is to never run out. 

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to go vegan?

AR: Always remember your why. Whether it's for animals, the environment, personal health, or all of the above—the incredible benefits of going vegan cannot be denied. For me, this is a way of life and a permanent stance against animal exploitation, environmental destruction, and health degradation. Focusing on my why gives me the strength to keep this up and never look back.

Q: Other than going vegan, what can people do to live a more eco-friendly 'greener' life?

AR: There are so many ways to go green! That's the beauty of it all. Everyone's eco-journey is different. 

Start with small changes. The first step is to adopt a sustainable, low waste mindset. An easy phrase to live by is "reduce, reuse, recycle." 

Begin by reducing your consumption. Take a look at what you buy. What can you cut back on? Then, out of what you do buy, decipher what you can reuse instead of throwing away. And then if it must be disposed of, try to buy products that are recyclable to keep as much waste as possible out of landfills. 

Let's take clothes for example. You can commit to "reducing" your clothing consumption. If you feel your wardrobe is lacking, you can choose to "reuse" by renting your clothes from a rental service including Rent the Runway or NY&C Closet. Instead of throwing old clothes away, recycle them by donating or repurposing the fabric.

Q: Tell me about your volunteer work as a wildlife rescuer. 

AR: For as long as I can remember I've always been a huge animal lover. It's why I went vegan after all. While I was working on a project last year for State Farm, I learned about an initiative they have called Neighborhood of Good. On the website, you can enter your zip code and what you care about, and they will show you a list of organizations you can volunteer with based on your location and interests. 

That's how I discovered WREN - The Wildlife Resources and Education Network. I joined the organization as a volunteer wildlife transporter and it has given me so much fulfillment to help those that don't have the ability to help themselves. When people find injured wildlife but don't have the means to transport them, we travel to meet them and transport the animals to vets and rehabbers. I think it's our duty to work together with Mother Earth. Nature gives so much to us humans, we owe it to nature to do all we can to protect her.

Q: Who is your role model or inspiration? 

AR: Jenné Claiborne aka Sweet Potato Soul has been one of my biggest inspirations. She was the first Black vegan content creator I discovered. When I saw her YouTube page it gave me the courage to proudly say out loud that I'm vegan. 

I was nervous about transitioning my brand to focus on my vegan lifestyle because I thought it would be met with hate, criticism, and a whole lot of teasing. But seeing her incredible work motivated me to push forward. Sure I've been hated on, criticized, and teased ever since, but the confidence I gained seeing other Black vegans being unapologetically themselves helped me not give AF. I am who I am and I'm not backing down. 

Q: Who helped you go plant-based?

AR: To be honest, my vegan journey was lonely. Other than the one Instagram account I saw that inspired me to go vegan, I was on my own after I made the switch. My family, my husband, my friends all supported my decision but made it clear they’d never do it themselves. 

My husband always cooked for me, but when I went vegan he stopped. He just didn't know what to cook for a vegan. So by trial and error, I experimented with different meals until I eventually found my groove. My husband was the last person I ever thought would join me, but four years later he finally came around

Now we cook together, dine out together, and it's amazing! I finally have someone to share this lifestyle with. I don't think I even realized how isolated I felt until he decided to make the switch. Even my husky pup Kayden is vegan now too, which means we officially have a meat-free household. I must say, it's nice to have my plant-based partners in crime. 

Q: If you had 30 minutes to work out what would you do?

AR: For the last several years I've been rocking with P90x. It's a fitness program led by Tony Horton. My husband and I met on and I believe we were matched together in the database just because we both listed P90x as an interest. P90x3 is the 30-minute version and we wake up every morning to do it together.

Q: What is your go-to smoothie recipe?

AR: My favorite smoothie recipe is 1 cup of frozen dragon fruit, 1 cup of frozen mango, and 1/2 cup of plant-based milk. It makes for a great smoothie bowl which I then top off with spoons of fresh fruit.

Q: Do you have a mantra?

AR: It isn't the strongest or the most intelligent that survive, but those who adapt easily to change. I've always had an adaptive personality, and that flexibility and willingness to adjust as needed keeps me from living a stressful life. I don't always get my way and instead of getting upset, I go with the flow. I've learned that often when plans seemingly go wrong, I later find that it happened just as it was supposed to and in doing so, made room for something bigger and better.

Q: What’s next for you?

AR: I plan to release helpful e-books and other resources within my sustainable, vegan lifestyle brand. It’s my hope that the materials I’m working on will help my community attain a healthier body, home, and planet. I received a scholarship to study plant-based nutrition and will be using my certification to help people thrive.

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