THE BLOG
05/21/2013 09:49 am ET

Astoria Characters: The Vegan Blogger

Every day begins with an organic green smoothie. Kelly Bennett tosses some baby lettuce, kale, blueberries, a whole banana and half a pear into the mighty jaws of the Vitamix, which jackhammers them into juice.

As she pours the mixture into a glass jar, Kelly, a self-styled eco-urban dweller, positive thinker and lover of almond lattes and fresh-cut flowers, explains that she doesn't drink every meal.

She's vegan, working on becoming raw vegan, but she does eat plants that aren't pulverized.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kelly's an award-winning vegan lifestyle blogger.

The concoction provides the green fuel for her award-winning lifestyle blog, her personal website and her passion for "empowering people to become conscious consumers who live healthier, more compassionately."

Kelly, who just turned 28 and wears a glass-encased live root around her neck, makes her living helping companies grow conscious lifestyle brands online. Her road to conscious consumerism started in, of all places, Long Island, the land of conspicuous consumption.

She grew up in the South Shore, blue-collar, working-class village of Babylon. Although it was far from the mad-money masses and miracle malls of the North Shore, the Island represented a culture she didn't connect with.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Her day starts with an organic green smoothie.

"I always wanted to touch people in a different way and make the world a better place," she says. "Fashion and travel have always been my interests."

By 15, she had her first job: She worked for McDonald's.

"I always knew I wanted to be a businesswoman," she says.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kelly's jagged mirror reminds her to sage the space.

When she was 20, something happened that changed the course of her life: She and her family moved to Las Vegas.

"I felt like a fish out of water," she says. "School became my No. 1 outlet -- I ended up earning two bachelor's degrees."

To get away, she flew away -- all the way to China to study its language during her summer break.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She lives simply in a rented room.

"It was the most awakening experience in my life, and I felt the call to action," she says. "I couldn't even say hello in Chinese. But I got good at miming, and I connected with people's souls."

On her second trip, when she taught impoverished students English for six months while earning a minor in Chinese, she survived an earthquake that killed 90,000.

"I was on the other side of the mountain," she says. "It made me realize how precious life is."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Tapping out her blog, veganconsultant.com.

When she went back to Vegas, she became a vegetarian then a vegan.

"I was having health issues, and I felt the power of the plants," she says. "Then I got the idea for a website on living a happy vegan lifestyle."

The only thing that was missing in her life was New York City, so she moved back, holding a series of holistic jobs that solidified her intent to "create an empire in space that can grow consciousness."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kelly is a conscious consumer.

In addition to working with a variety of companies, Kelly also holds down a job at a cold-pressed juice company, helping plan special events for its Manhattan retail store.

Kelly takes her conscious consumerism to heart. She rents a room in a friend's house that she's filled with used and reused furnishings. Her mattress, covered with a Bob Marley blanket, rests on the floor, taking up half the space.

An antique dresser holds her makeup, a jar of lemon water and family fridge photos, and her desk, the one where she writes her blogs, is made from the door of an old kitchen cabinet. Its only handle serves as her wrist rest.

On the floor of one white wall, there's a jagged mirror fragment with two yellow Alice in Wonderland Post-it notes. One says, "Sage me." The other says, "Kelly you are a shining gem rock star human."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She hopes to make the world a better place.

The most colorful thing in the room is Kelly: She's like a spring crocus in a flowered, carnival-colored mini, textured tights, faux-leather boots and denim midriff top.

Her cascading curls are held in place with a glittering gold-tone floral clip. Silver and turquoise bangles run up one arm, rings the size of bird's eggs decorate her fingers and chandelier strands of beads adorn her neck.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Stay tuned: Kelly has a lot more stuff in the works.

"I feel naked without my jewelry," she says.

Kelly has a lot to keep her busy. She's working on a book, and pretty soon she's going to launch a fashion website that sells what she calls "repurposed clothing." And there will be other things coming up shortly.

"I see myself at the center of all kinds of different opportunities," she says. "I'll always work for myself. I'm going to prove that you don't have to struggle and be poor to live a conscious life. How I live now is only a preview."

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com.
Copyright 2013 by Nancy A. Ruhling