Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World

Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World

by Gay Browne


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“If you want one of the shortest, fastest routes to getting toxic chemicals out of your life, get behind the wheel of Gay Browne’s Living with a Green Heart and you’ll get there in no time flat.”
—Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group
In an increasingly toxic world, the paths to environmental health and personal well-being run parallel. The journey begins with a few small steps.
Is the damage we’re doing to our planet literally leaving you sick, sore, and gasping for air? Want to take back our inalienable rights to clean air, clean water, and healthy food? In this quietly revolutionary book, environmental pioneer and founder of Greenopia, Gay Browne, shares a roadmap for making incremental changes that will not only transform your life, but heal the world we share.
From the home to the office, from the foods we eat to the clothes we wear, here are actions you can take today that will improve your Personal Environmental Health, and help you stop feeling overwhelmed, reduce illness, improve sleep, mood, and focus, and start making a difference, including:
*Make conscious choices when shopping, and support companies with good environmental stewardship and healthy products.
*Test your water for harmful chemicals, install an affordable water filtration system, and reduce your water use by utilizing water more efficiently.
*Work with your doctor to create a personal plan for detoxing your body. 
*Use only non-toxic and organic household products, and choose organic, eco-friendly fabrics made by sustainable and fair trade certified companies.
*Choose the method of transportation that makes the lightest carbon footprint. 
With these and many other actions, Gay Browne’s work has taught her that even the smallest change for the better, faithfully practiced, can have an immense positive impact on our minds, bodies, and spirits—not to mention the planet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806539003
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Environmental pioneer Gay Browne is the world’s first and only personal environmental therapist and is the founder of Greenopia, a company dedicated to achieving personal and community environmental health through small and large habit and behavioral adjustments. Greenopia is a comprehensive bestselling series of city by city guidebooks listing local eco-friendly resources. Greenopia Los Angeles was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.
In 1994, even before the U.S. Green Building Council established the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines for environmental building verification, Gay set out to create what she calls “an optimal personal environmental health space.” She began designing and constructing the first completely environmentally responsible home of its kind. Once completed, it was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Home Section.
Gay travels the country speaking on environmental issues, sits on several boards, and holds various chair positions for environmental alliances, arts, and hospital foundations, and women’s and school groups. She lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her children and dogs. For more information, and tips on how you can live with a green heart, visit her website at

Read an Excerpt


THE ELEMENTS: Air, Water, and EMFs

I choose to breathe healthy air, drink clean water, and spend time away from my devices every day.

EVERY LIVING HUMAN BEING and animal on the planet needs air, water, food, and shelter to survive. The quality of and access to all of these requirements for life will decide how long and in what condition we will live. These shared elements are part of what's called the global commons, the Earth's shared natural resources. These resources have been heavily taxed over the past century due to industrial innovation and a growth in population. For all of us to survive and thrive on the planet, it is critical that we stop thinking just about ourselves and think about the others in our community, and how we can better share these resources without further depleting them to the point of exhaustion. Living this way requires us to raise our level of consciousness and develop the self-discipline to act less selfishly. Without slowing our consumption way down, the quality of life as we know it will drastically change.

The Air That You Breathe

I choose to inhale and exhale clean air.

I have always suffered with asthma. As a child, my asthma attacks terrified me. I can remember being cradled in the arms of my parents all night long, each of them taking turns sitting in the rocking chair as they tried to calm me, encouraging me to take sips of water because they had given me all the asthma medication I was allowed for the day. What sticks in my memory most, beyond the terror of not being able to breathe, was the feeling of being loved unconditionally by my parents, how much I hated having asthma, and how I wanted to kill whatever was causing the attacks so I could go on with my life.

Asthma continues to be an unwelcome intruder in my life — as it is in the lives of twenty-five million Americans. Dust, mold, freshly cut grass, certain types of pollen, and cold or flu season can trigger it, as can a perfume or heavily polluted air. I can't get rid of my asthma, but I do my best to control both the indoor and outdoor air that I breathe. This means avoiding prolonged exposure to environmental allergens whenever possible and taking the steps that I will outline in this section.

You don't have to have asthma to suffer the effects of poor air quality. Asthma is just one of many afflictions that are caused or exacerbated by unsafe and poor-quality air.

Air quality rose to public awareness in 1952, when London suffered through what came to be known as the "Great Smog." Fog combined with sulfurous fumes from coal fires, exhaust from vehicles, and smoke from power plants blanketed the city for five days. It is now considered the worst pollution crisis in European history, and it is estimated that it was responsible for the deaths of eight thousand to twelve thousand people. This disaster prompted Parliament to pass the Clean Air Act in 1956, and the city began its transition from coal for heat to gas, oil, and electricity. However, this was hardly enough to solve a global problem that over the years has been exacerbated by industrial society. In 1955, the United States established its own Clean Air Act, a law that was designed to control air pollution on a federal level, administered by the EPA. It was amended in 1965 by the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act, which authorized the federal government to set standards for controlling emission of pollutants from cars beginning with cars manufactured in 1968. This act is still in place and has since been amended in the 1990s to include air pollution from other toxic air pollutants. The State of California has its own pledge, the Climate Air Scoping Plan, that will reduce statewide emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

According to the Lancet Commission on pollution and health, pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015 — 16 percent of all deaths worldwide — three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In 2017, Boston University School of Public Health found that those who live within 1,500 feet of a highway have a greater likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease than those living twice as far away. According to the EPA, more than forty-five million Americans live within nine hundred feet of a major road, railroad, or airport. In their 2017 State of the Air report, the American Lung Association stated that despite progress, four in ten Americans are at risk of serious health effects from air pollution. Short- term health risks include irritated eyes, noses and throats, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue; long-term health risks include respiratory ailments, heart diseases, and cancer from particulate matter and gaseous pollutants.

Air pollution is made up of various quantities of substances. Particulate matter includes dust, smoke, pollen, tobacco smoke, animal dander, dust mites, molds, bacteria, and viruses. Gaseous pollutants are a result of the combustion process and come from sources including gas cooking stoves, vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, adhesives, paints, varnishes, cleaning products, and pesticides.

Outdoor air pollution is visible; you can see the smog and know it exists. However, indoor air pollutants are mostly invisible. Professors John Spengler, Joe Allen, along with Skye Flanigan at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, have done an amazing job in researching the health effects of environmental pollution on indoor air. And while our highly industrialized society makes it challenging to control the quality of our outdoor air, there is much we can do to improve the air that we breathe indoors.

When I rebuilt our home in Pacific Palisades, my goal was to build a house free of toxins. With the help of Mary Cordaro and our contractor, Chet Hoover, we sourced formeldehyde-free plywood, used cotton insulation instead of fiberglass, eliminated varnishes on wood or any other surfaces, sealed air ducts, put filters on air conditioners and heaters, and used a state-of-the-art air purification system. But you don't have to completely rebuild your home to improve the quality of the air you breathe. There are lots of little steps that could have a significant impact.

No More Toxic Dust

• Vacuum frequently and use a vacuum fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA and carbon) filter.

• Wet mop uncarpeted floors.

• Microfiber cloths are best to wipe furniture as their smaller fibers cling to the dust and dirt particles.

• Caulk and seal cracks and crevices with low- to no-VOC materials to keep dust from accumulating.

• Use genuine HEPA and carbon filters on your air heating and cooling systems. Be mindful of loose terms such as "HEPA-GRADE" or "HEPA style."

• Electronic equipment is a source of chemical fire retardants and dust. Keep these devices clean.

• Increase ventilation.

Filtering Out Those Nasty Particulates

The dirty secret of outdoor air pollution is that outdoor air is brought into our buildings and the majority of our exposure to air pollution actually occurs within our homes and buildings. You may be surprised to learn that, according to the EPA, our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than the outdoors. While that figure is startling, in a way it's good news because you have more control over the air you breathe indoors. Keeping your home clean, well ventilated, and free of dust particles is a good start. You also want to use an air cleaning filter.

There are two types of air cleaning devices for indoor use. If you have access to the source of the air supply in your home or workplace, the best way is to install an overall filtration system in the heating and air conditioning units. However, if this is not possible, the easiest way is to buy a portable HEPA and carbon filter. HEPA stands for "high- efficiency particulate air," which is a fancy way of saying that the filter works to capture particulates like dust mites and smoke and pull them out of the air. A certified HEPA or carbon filter will remove at least 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger in diameter.

There are many portable HEPA and carbon filter options that you can move from room to room and range in price from $50 to more than $1,000. It is important to check in with Consumer Reports or the EPA website for up-to-date information on the best brands. Also, look at the filter's MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value), which can be found in the label or in the product description. The MERV rating should be an eleven or higher to safely remove unwanted particulates. Some filters use electrostatic precipitators or ionizer technology, which may make the problem worse by producing ozone — a lung irritant. If you have an air purifier of any sort, please make sure that you clean or change the filter on it at the recommended intervals. Also make sure the filter is the right size for the space it will be used in; what's suitable for a 150 square-foot bedroom might not be best for a 350 square-foot great room. There are HEPA and carbon filters in every budget, and they can be found in places like Bed, Bath & Beyond as well as Costco. My favorite brand is Rabbit Air.

Beyond the HEPA Filter

• Mechanical filters capture particles on a filter material. Electronic air cleaners use electrostatic attraction. HEPA filters are in the mechanical category.

• Gas-phase and activated-carbon air filters remove gases and odors with a material called a sorbent.

• Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation cleaners and photocatalytic oxidation cleaners destroy all air pollutants using ultraviolet light technology.

• Awair smart-sensing devices monitor the quality of your air, displaying levels of temperature, humidity, CO, chemicals, and fine dust in your home and give recommendations for improvements.

Houseplants Help

A plant added to your living room decor not only looks pretty, it can also increase the humidity and decrease the levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (CO) in the air. Scientists at NASA, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Georgia found that common houseplants can absorb a long list of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through their leaves and roots, including benzene found in plastics, fabrics, and pesticides and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives found in some cosmetics and dish detergents. We will discuss preservatives in cleaning products more in depth later on. The plants that were the most effective include Japanese royal ferns, spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants, and peace lilies. Plants are natural filters and have the added benefit of looking beautiful, so preserving those outside your home and bringing more into your home are great ways of ensuring good air filtration. It is important to note that any of these benefits will be negated if the plant is overwatered; overwatered plants cause mold. Also, often what is most effective in houseplants removing chemicals isn't necessarily the plant itself, but what it is potted in, such as activated charcoal.

Take the Bus or Train

To help cut down on the outside pollutants, when possible take public transportation, carpool, and take advantage of new shared riding services such as Zip Car. This sounds small, but by using less energy and fuel you are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Public transportation is the most cost-effective, energy-efficient thing you can do, other than walking or riding a bike. It's also a good way to feel a part of the larger human whole.

Plant a Tree

It's not just houseplants that help improve air quality. Trees do too! They absorb potentially harmful gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. It has been reported that residential proximity to vegetation is associated with lower levels of stress, aggression, diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that children living in greener areas have lower levels of asthma, blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

Trees Cleaning the Air

According to One Tree Planted, a global reforestation group based in Vermont, when you plant trees you are directly cleaning the air. As a tree matures, it can consume forty-eight pounds of CO2 per year as it turns that CO2 into parts of itself. It also releases enough oxygen to supply your needs for two years. These two effects help to give the Earth a healthier climate.

Green Heart Heroes

Since 1973, Andy Lipkis has been educating, inspiring, and engaging people to plant and care for trees in the Los Angeles area through the organization he founded called Tree People. He and his team, along with volunteers and more than two million students, have planted more than two million trees, which has dramatically impacted the watershed and the quality of life in Los Angeles. Andy believes more trees strategically planted in cities is the key to protecting personal and community health and safety, and creating great social and economic benefits. Andy and Tree People have shown that an "urban forest" is the fastest way to make cities resilient and protected from the rapidly increasing heat, fires, flooding, pollution, and water shortages caused by climate change.

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., is the Smith and Lucille Gibson Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville, the director of the university's Diabetes and Obesity Center, a senior member of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, and the codirector of the American Heart Association Tobacco Research and Addiction Center. He started the Institute for Healthy Air, Water, and Soil at the University of Louisville and created the new field of environmental cardiology. He and his team study how pollution affects the heart and blood vessels and how exposure to polluted air affects the risk of obesity and diabetes. His research is supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health. In 2017, with the support of Christy Brown, a big- hearted and generous philanthropist from Louisville who shared Aruni's passion for creating a cleaner environment, he joined with The Nature Conservancy to create a program in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, called the Green Hearts Project to study the effect of trees in improving air quality, as a direct way to improve the quality of the city's air.

Trees and their canopies are not only linked to better air quality but also have been proven to reduce violence. A 10 percent increase in tree canopy area is associated with a 12 percent decrease in crime. So, the next time you want to breathe better and feel safer, stand under a tree or, better yet, go plant one. Picnicking under trees with a friend is one of my favorite ways to dine.

Pay a Visit to Mother Nature

The best way to breathe clean air is still to go out into nature. Every day, Mother Nature brings out the sun, grows new trees and plants, and delivers clean fresh air for the world. A walk in the park, a hike in the mountains, or just finding a tree to sit next to not only helps improve the quality of the air you take in, it has also been shown to improve your overall well-being by relieving stress, sharpening your thinking, and boosting your memory. "Forest bathing," a popular activity started in Japan, is now gaining in popularity all over the world. Forest bathing is not about getting naked and running through the woods, but it is about going out into nature, taking off your shoes, and putting your feet in water to alleviate the stress of our daily lives and get closer to nature.

Check the Air Quality in Your Area

I didn't pay much attention to daily air quality levels until I moved to Los Angeles in 1983, at the height of the city's smog problems. At that time, reporting on the PM2.5 — a metric that measures atmospheric particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 microns — was something every network news anchor and disc jockey included in their daily broadcasts. This number was important because it meant that a particulate was so small and light there was a greater chance of inhaling it. For me, it meant never leaving home without my inhaler and avoiding being outdoors on poor air quality days. The air quality was so poor that despite having built a green home, I eventually ended up moving to Santa Barbara because my airflow was steadily decreasing at the rate of 5 percent a year. After twenty years, that was a significant loss and one that might have had me hooked up to a oxygen tank by the time I was sixty.

To check air quality levels in your area, look up the most recent American Lung Association State of the Air report at Two good apps are Breezeometer and Purple Air, which is becoming a popular outdoor air quality measuring device.


Excerpted from "Living With A Green Heart"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Gay Browne.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Page,
THE ELEMENTS: Air, Water, and EMFs - I choose to breathe healthy air, drink clean water, and spend time away from my devices every day.,
The Air That You Breathe - I choose to inhale and exhale clean air.,
Water Is Life - I choose to drink clean water.,
EMFs - I choose to be in a quiet and creative state of mind every day.,
PERSONAL CARE - I choose to use healthy products that respect my body.,
The Truth About Toothpaste - Practicing good oral hygiene gives me something to smile about.,
Deodorant - I am filled with gratitude and love for my body.,
Soap - I have a clean body and a healthy mind.,
Hair Care - My hair reflects my inner beauty.,
Sun Protection - I allow the sun to nourish my body.,
Makeup and Moisturizers - My face radiates happiness and love.,
Intimate Care Products - I choose to care for my body, my partner, and my planet.,
FOOD AND BEVERAGES - I am one with all that I put in my body.,
Dairy - I choose to drink milk that is healthy for me.,
Red Meat - I honor the life of cows.,
Poultry - I choose to consume healthy food from happy animals.,
Eggs - I choose to see each day as a new beginning.,
Something Fishy About Fish - I protect our oceans, our rivers, and our fish.,
Fruits and Vegetables - I choose to eat a plant-based diet.,
Grains, Flours, and Pasta - Each bite I take is a kernel of wisdom.,
Plant-Based Proteins - I welcome the nourishment of plants.,
Nuts and Seeds - I make nuts and seeds a part of my healthy diet.,
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice (and Not So Nice) - My life is filled with sweet things without adding sugar.,
Coffee and Tea - I am awake to the wonderful aroma of life.,
Alcoholic Beverages - I enjoy drinking responsibly.,
Nonalcoholic Beverages - I choose beverages that are good for me.,
HOME - I treat myself, my home, and my family with loving care.,
Household Cleaning Products - I use environmentally friendly cleaning products in my home.,
The Family Room - I am at peace in my healthy home.,
The Bedroom - My bed is a place of well-being.,
The Kitchen - The kitchen is the healthy heart of our home.,
The Bathroom - I let life flow freely without fear.,
The Garage - I treat every part of my home with care.,
Waste Disposal - I only buy things I need.,
Pets - I care for all living creatures.,
Clothing - We wear our heart's creation.,
The Real Cost of Transportation - Act is an action taking flight.,
Socially Responsible Investing and Spending - I spend and invest my money with companies that make the world a better place.,
GET INVOLVED - I choose to live consciously and share lovingly.,
SO, WHAT DO I DO NOW? - I live with a green heart.,

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