How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World

This book is dedicated to Alex, Colin, and Katie, who, with their unconditional love, taught me how to live with a green heart.

Who hasn’t found peace and inspiration walking through a forest, diving into ocean waves, or experiencing the simple pleasures of a park filled with songbirds? We need no PhD to tell us that these are more enriching moments in life than countless hours sitting at a desk or trapped in a car on a busy freeway. Yet many studies have indeed made the clear connection between nature and human health. In addition to lowering blood pressure and improving memory function, spending time outdoors is a proven stress reliever.

Knowing this, we have tried to make our homes more like the forest, filling them with potted plants or maintaining backyard gardens. We condition the air to make it more like taking a breath on a mountain top. We filter water to give it qualities akin to a clear cold spring.

But the sad truth is that just as we have degraded our natural surroundings with pollution, overconsumption, waste, and climate change, the environment in our homes and workplaces now contain the same stressors in the form of air pollution, toxic “cleaning” products, harmful pesticides in our foods, and lethal heavy metals in our drinking water. What was once a sanctuary for the human body, spirit and mind—an attempt to savor the benefits of nature in the midst of the dense urban jungle—has now become the very epicenter of self-destruction.

So what can we do about this? Demand action from our government?

When I served as the secretary of the California Protection Agency, I saw firsthand the benefits of regulating the exposure to chemicals used in everyday life. But I also saw its limitations. There are literally hundreds of thousands of potentially harmful substances and compounds, with new ones added to commerce every day, and even well-meaning government officials simply can’t keep pace.

Moreover, what was once thought safe can no longer be trusted. For example, in 1946 regulators established exposure limits for benzene, one of the most toxic constituents of gasoline fumes, at 100 parts per million (ppm). Today we know that benzene exposure causes lung and other cancers, so the exposure limit has been reduced to 0.5 ppm, 200 times lower than was thought safe just three generations ago.

If government alone can’t protect us, can we count on corporations to produce products that are always safe? Okay, such a foolish question hardly needs an answer as findings emerge revealing how the sugar industry lied to consumers for decades about the dangers of its products to human health, and how they then taught the “denial” tactics to tobacco companies and later to oil and coal companies that also faced regulation of their harmful products.

No, government and big business will not always put our wellbeing first. It’s up to each of us to self-educate and take action. That’s where this amazing book becomes an invaluable guide to the future.

In Living with a Green Heart, my good friend Gay Browne describes actions we can take that can simultaneously improve our well-being and repair our planet. Choices we can make in everyday lifestyle decisions that effectively have the power to spearhead a revolution redefining health and accessibility to “green” lives. Gay has considered everything from water quality to toothpaste in understanding that we all have the capacity to be part of the solution to the environmental challenges we face at home and around the globe. Living with a Green Heart is the embodiment of the old adage “think globally, but act locally.”

People will always move faster than government or businesses. Our “leaders” will follow if we demand change, and consumer choices will influence corporate priorities, products, and accountability.

The power lies within each of us to make decisions that protect us from the thousands of still unregulated chemicals and toxins remaining on the market, keep us from adding even more waste to a planet being chocked by plastic and pollutants, and help us materially change the world and the places where we live and work. Our actions, empowered by great books like this one, will make all the difference in the quest to create a society that develops and exercises its “green heart.”

Shakespeare said, “Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend . . . / Then how when Nature calls thee to be gone, /What acceptable audit canst thou leave?” Giving room for your green heart to flourish, and helping others to do so, will leave a legacy that would inspire even Shakespeare to write sonnets of joy.

Terry Tamminen is CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. An author and activist, he is the former secretary of the California EPA.

Read some excerpts from Living With A Green Heart.

Living With A Green Heart

“Living with a Green Heart” by Gay Browne is a thought-provoking and inspiring guide for anyone looking to positively impact the planet. Through her own personal journey towards sustainability, Browne invites readers to explore the ways in which our daily choices can have a significant impact on the environment and our own well-being.

With a gentle and encouraging tone, Browne offers practical tips and advice on everything from reducing waste to eating a more plant-based diet. She shares her experiences living a more sustainable lifestyle and her lessons.

What makes “Living with a Green Heart” truly revolutionary is Browne’s emphasis on the connection between environmentalism and personal growth. She shares that by living in harmony with nature, we can improve not only the health of the planet but also our own mental and emotional well-being.

Overall, “Living with a Green Heart” is a must-read for anyone looking to live a more sustainable and fulfilling life. Browne’s passion for the environment and practical advice make this book an engaging and compelling call to action.