Back in our day, youth activism meant wearing “I’m not a nugget” T-shirts and plastering anything we owned with stickers of similar messaging. Those of us who were truly brave stood outside of pet stores and handed out animal-rights flyers to strangers. These days, activism has gone digital, and Gen Zers are harnessing its power to call for immediate action.
Isaias Hernandez is pushing against societal obstacles using his platform @queerbrownvegan to call for an environmental awakening. As a self-proclaimed Climate Influencer, the 26-year-old asserts that the climate problem is an education problem, and he works with businesses and organizations to improve their environmental footprint while also inspiring individuals to take up the cause themselves. As a first-generation Mexican American who grew up in Section 8 Housing of Los Angeles, Hernandez also advocates for more diverse voices in the space.
Tackling any environmental issue is a monumental lift and approaching it with an intersectional mindset as Hernandez does presents even more pieces to the puzzle. Hernandez offered a glimpse into his everyday life as an activist, educator, and content creator, along with some lighter topics on food and favorite restaurants.
Beyond this interview, we had the opportunity to listen to Hernandez speak as part of the Better Earth Media event in Los Angeles on January 25. He was part of a high-profile panel that included Support+Feed founder Maggie Baird and environmental documentarian Katie Cleary. He spoke about his youth, growing up in an urban affordable housing project where he experienced firsthand environmental injustice. Air pollution plagued his community and it was this upbringing that sparked his passion for pursuing a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley. However, Hernandez didn’t fit the “look” of an environmentalist—he wasn’t a white cis-gendered male, and he was forced to jump over more hurdles than most.
Hernandez realized it wasn’t enough to advocate for the environment. He had to bring in more voices—voices like his and those from other backgrounds.
“I educate people on the intersections of food sovereignty, racism, and education,” he explained. “I believe it is important to understand the history of our food systems being colonial projects and active settler colonial projects that uphold white supremacy. Education is what allows us to have critical conversations around theories of liberation.”
A vegan environmentalist
While passionate about environmentalism from a young age, Hernandez didn’t go fully vegan until his final year at UC Berkeley in 2018. The notion was sparked by his Global Food Systems Policy course where he learned about the daily atrocities of slaughterhouses committed against both the workers and the animals. His decision to slowly cut out animal products came from an ethical resolution rather than a purely climate-driven justification.
“It was not easy,” Hernandez admitted. “I feel the mental gymnastics to go vegan was a bit hard but with education, care, and reduction, it made me who I am today.”
He continued, “I know veganism is an interconnected movement to liberate non-human animals and humans, this is why I do it, for all collective beings on the planet.”
A daily snapshot
As a full-time freelancer, content creator, and public speaker, Hernandez doesn’t live a life that can be contained into a 9-5 schedule. However, he did share his morning and evening routine along with a few tasks he might be juggling on any given day.
8am: When he isn’t called for an excruciatingly early international meeting, Hernandez likes to wake up and enjoy a Peloton class on the bike.
9am: Hernandez refuels immediately by making his own green juice, which takes about 30 minutes. His go-to blend includes vegan protein powder, spinach, broccoli, celery, and cucumber. Following this, he’ll hop in the shower and go through his skincare routine, and eat a light breakfast that typically consists of vegan yogurt or fruit.
On mornings that allow a bit more time, Hernandez will take the time to craft a homemade vegan egg McMuffin. His foolproof recipe includes a JUST Foldable Egg and a Gardein patty between a vegan mayo-slathered English muffin, served with lettuce and tomato on the side.
11am to 1pm: he gets to work which can include everything from meetings with clients to talk about speaking opportunities, posting on social media, designing infographics, uploading YouTube videos, and more. To break up the monotony, he’ll often go on walks for meetings and take the call through his AirPods.
1pm to 2pm: Hernandez dedicates an hour for lunch to reset, then he’ll get back at it, taking mini breaks every hour to stretch.
2pm to 6pm: head-down at work, with hourly breaks for stretching and mobility.
6pm to 10pm: The remainder of the evening includes making dinner, listening to music, and lights out by 10pm. “I’m an old soul,” he professed.
Time permitting, Hernandez will fit in a foraging session during the summer months. He splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City, but he truly enjoys foraging on the East Coast. “I love hunting for fungi because it enhances my eyes and lets me find things easily,” Hernandez explained.
Vegan food finds
The East Coast may have better fungi finds than metropolitan LA, but when asked about his favorite restaurants, the West Coast won out. Monty’s Good Burger, Cafe Gratitude, and Veggie Grill made his top three. When not noshing on a burger from Monty’s or a bowl from Cafe Gratitude, Hernadez is active in his home kitchen. He told us he often makes enchiladas, pan dulce, and ramen at home—all dishes that require a bit of patience and skill.
To learn more about Hernandez’s work and learn how you can support, follow him @queerbrownvegan on Instagram or visit his website.