A green heart
Gay Browne likes to hike each year in a Bavarian forest to reset her green button.
“I come once a year to breathe the fresh air here,” the Montecito author told the News-Press by phone as she strolled in the woods near Munich and talked about positive steps for the world.
“Environmental health is beginning to be the next public health crisis,” said Ms. Browne, 59, who’s encouraging people to keep their homes and bodies free of toxins and pollutants.
“The first thing I say is changing the mindset,” she said. “Instead of thinking, ‘I’m in a clean, healthy world and I feel fine,’ we change our mindset to ‘We do not live in a clean, healthy world, so my intention is to choose healthy things in everything I do.’ “
Ms. Browne, a personal environmental health adviser, offers tips in “Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World” (Citadel Books, $15.95). Released in March, the book is sold at Chaucer’s Books on upper State Street, Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito and at amazon.com.
The Lexington, Ky., native, who has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English literature from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va., moved to Montecito in 2004 from Los Angeles and started Greenopia the next year. Greenopia is a database of sustainable businesses to eat, shop and live a green lifestyle, and it evolved from a print series into a website.
Ms. Browne explained how a green lifestyle can start with something as simple as a shopping trip.
“The first thing is look for locally grown produce wherever possible,” she said. “Buy locally and buy at farmers markets, but more grocery stores, honestly, are doing a really good job of bringing local food.
“Secondly, bring your own bags, which is pretty basic these days,” said Ms. Browne, who opposes single-use, disposable plastic bags.
Ms. Browne also recommended a glass of tap water over plastic water bottles or trying Just Water, a carton made mostly from recyclable paper. It’s packaged by a company started by actor Will Smith and his son and fellow actor Jaden Smith.
“It’s the best portable option I know,” she said.
She said aluminum bottles are also good, but noted “aluminum is still a natural mineral that’s being mined.”
To further help the world, Ms. Browne, who’s a vegan, suggested buying a third of the beef, chicken and fish you normally buy.
“Four-fifths of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is the result of cattle ranching,” she said. “Livestock production uses 75 percent of the agricultural land in the U.S. and 30 percent of the surface of the world.
“It would be great if we ate less meat because we could grow more vegetables and other food (on the same amount of land),” she said. “It would be more plentiful and be less costly.”
Ms. Browne added that consumers would have the fringe benefit of less cholesterol in their diets.
The author also warned against buying toxic cleansing products for your home.
“Honestly, vinegar, lemon, water and baking soda can do the trick of any store-bought biodegradable product,” she said.
Ms. Browne also recommended eco-friendly shampoos and dishwashing and laundry detergents.
She prefers bars of soap over liquid dispensers.
“Liquid soap makes a 25 percent more carbon footprint than a bar of soap,” Ms. Browne said. “That’s because of the packaging.
“Bars of soap are fantastic,” she said. “You use them until they’re gone. A bar completely disappears when you’re finished.”
Ms. Browne also supports driving electric and hybrid vehicles over standard gasoline cars.
“In 2017, the American Lung Association said four in 10 Americans are in risk of serious health effects from air pollution,” she said. “That’s up dramatically from where it was before.”
The author said polluted air can cause everything from irritated eyes, throats and noses to respiratory ailments and heart disease.
For cleaner air in your home, Ms. Browne recommends a HEPA filter.
“The environmental movement today is so mainstream, so hopefully people will be inspired by this new way of living because it gives them a longer, healthier and happier life,” she said.
“And the planet will be healthier too.”
“Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World” by Montecito resident Gay Browne (Citadel Books, $15.95) is sold at Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State St. (682-6787); Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 East Valley Road, Montecito (969-4977); and at www.amazon.com.
For more information, go to gaybrowne.com.