It’s been a long time since Alicia Silverstone was “Clueless.” Since then she’s earned accolades on screen and stage, most recently in Donald Marguilies’ “Time Stands Still,” directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan, which she’ll take to Broadway next month. At the same time, the longtime environmental activist’s unique brand of non-judgmental yet no-holds-barred diet advice was earning a different kind of approval, as she recently told us in this exclusive interview.
The experience lead her to write The Kind Diet: How to Feel Great, Lose Weight, and Save the Planet (Rodale), which debuts this month.
The ecoista is clued in to the best in vegan fashion and beauty—like Melissa Plastic Dream shoes, Ecoganik clothes and Josie Maran Cosmetics—which she’ll share with readers of TheKindLife.com, a new website that will launch later this year. The EcoTools by Alicia Silverstone collection of cosmetic bags made from hemp with a recycled PET lining debuts for holiday. But among all of this sustainable swag, Alicia also confessed to one eco-sin: An addiction to paraben-containing moisturizer. “That’s my one naughty treat,” she said. “I buy it like once a year. It’s smells so yummy!”
Honestly, we were a little apprehensive about interviewing Alicia. She’s got such a reputation as a hard-core vegan—she even swam nude for a PETA video that was banned in the U.S.—that we were afraid she might take us to task for eating even the occasional free-range, organic meat. Yes, she is unequivocal on the subject: “If environmentalists who are meat eaters were given the whole truth about how many of our resources are wasted on meat production, they’d be horrified,” she said. “To create one 16-ounce steak it takes six months worth of showering water. I don’t see how an organic farmer uses less water. And what about the methane? Just because you’re raising an organic cow doesn’t mean it doesn’t fart.” But in the book, as well as in our interview, Alicia was down-to-earth, warm and totally comfortable talking about things that typically make people—let alone celebrities—very, very squeamish.
Case in point?
“A lot of people are constipated. There are so many people out there that don’t poo!” she said. “Some people can’t go for 10 days and that was normal for them! That’s totally unacceptable.”
When did you start getting involved in eco-consciousness and how important do you think these kinds of changes are for you and for the planet?
I’d say it started hard-core about 11 years ago. It started with my love of animals—that was my entry point. Then I started to learn more and I found that the same things that were good for animals were also good for me—and the planet! That was so amazing to me.
Everyone deserves and needs clean water and air and food but not everybody has that. That is the core of what’s driving me. I started caring about animals—I still do—but there are many different reasons to care about what happening. We don’t have clean air and we definitely don’t have clean food. You have to have these crazy filters to get clean water. It’s a big problem, and we have to get to the root of it.
The Kind Diet is so amazing—such an intuitive and wise way of looking at food, health and fitness. Can you tell me how it came about?
I’d been squirreling away ideas for a book for a very long time. For eight years! I had a whole file, it was just called “book.” All my recipes and my ideas and thoughts—any time I found something interesting I’d write it down. I just kept collecting. But actually writing a book seemed like such an epic idea—I just couldn’t conceive of how I would do it. Plus, I was busy doing a lot of other projects.
But enough people kept nagging me. I counsel and help a lot of friends, a lot of people who are constipated. There are so many people out there that don’t poo. Some people can’t go for 10 days and that was normal for them! That’s totally unacceptable. You should be pooing at least once a day.
So I’d give them my program and it would work perfectly. There was a woman with ovarian cysts. A friend of mine had high cholesterol. One friend who lost 30 pounds—he couldn’t believe he’d been eating that way before.
I was seeing all these people flower and blossom! But it was taking so much energy to do these little independent books for everyone, I thought, “I might as well do one.”
Did you see the “sexiest vegetarians over 60” contest that PETA ran in September? The woman who won it was 70—and she looked 40!
I’m not surprised.
Do you think following The Kind Diet can bring us that kind of result?
Yes! People need to start realizing that food isn’t just about satisfying your hunger. It’s a really powerful tool to heal and nourish your body. I feel younger than I did at 19, that’s for sure. I didn’t live then the way I do now. I feel more vibrant and more alive and more strong and just kind of more beautiful, I have to say. I’ve seen improvements in my skin, nails and internal health.
I don’t need to go to the doctor; I don’t take any medications. I know this is about longevity. It can make you younger, for sure.
Eating locally has led a lot of people to start their own “victory gardens”—even Michelle Obama! Do you have a garden? What’s your favorite food to grow?
I’ve been gardening for a long time now and I do enjoy it. But I’ll have all this crazy amazing stuff happening in the garden then I’ll go off to do a play for three months and when I come back it’s all dead and I’m like, “What happened?” I’m a bit more mature now. When I go away I’ll leave someone in charge of the garden.
It’s insanely beautiful to watch food grow in front of you. I planted sweet peas—they’re so beautiful, they’re in wedding bouquets. But they are actual peas! I had sort of forgotten about that party. I was distracted by their beauty—and then I was surprised by this amazing food, as well. They’re so delicious.
Let’s get down to basics: Do you think someone can eat meat and still be an environmentalist?
I do feel that if environmentalists who are meat eaters were given the whole truth about how many of our resources are wasted on meat production, they’d be horrified. I can’t stress enough the connection between what goes on your plate and what’s going on in the planet. I know it scares people, but you can’t deny the facts.
What I’m trying to present is a non-judgmental way of looking at the information. It’s not the hottest topic in the environmental movement—people don’t want to go there. But it’s really not scary. It’s super easy and super delicious! With the book, I can say, “Here’s my 11 years of doing this. Skip all the wrong turns and bad choices, all the mistakes I’ve made. I’m making the path for you.”
I’m psyched for people to do what they can. But I’m not inspired by people who sit back and say that they can’t do anything at all. Isn’t the whole point of being alive to grow and move towards something and be your best self? I can’t relate at all.
But what about people who only eat free-range, locally sourced meat? Are they off the hook?
It’s the same environmental impact. To create one 16-ounce steak it takes six months worth of showering water. I don’t see how an organic farmer uses less water. And what about the methane? Just because you’re raising an organic cow doesn’t mean it doesn’t fart.
We have to reduce the consumption of meat to reduce the harm to our planet. Animal protein contributes to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The consumption of meat is nasty to your body. Yes there are elements that can make it healthier—like if you only eat it once a month, and eat organic—but these are better choices, they’re not the best choice. It’s still really bad for your body.
Of course, we still want to know about the frivolous stuff: What are your favorite green fashion labels or beauty finds?
I created a website called TheKindLife.com to get people hooked on all my groovy latest finds—that will happen around the time of the book. I love Tammy Fender and Suki—those are my favorite skin care lines. Josie Maran lip gloss and eyeshadows [link]. Kiss My Face and Giovanni for shampoo. Desert Essence for conditioner—it smells so yummy! And Pharmacopia moisturizer. It’s all organic, except for a teeny bit of parabens. That’s my one naughty treat. I buy it like once a year. It’s smells so yummy! We have to all write to them so they’ll take the parabens out.
I love Melissa [Plastic Dreams] shoes. And Stella McCartney. Melissa makes these two shoes that are so great. They’re these black slightly raised flats with an open toe. And a spider web gold shoe that is so awesome.
My favorite clothes are Ecoganik and PI. And the last time I went to New York I had this Clear2o water bottle that someone sent me—it has a filter in the top of it so I didn’t have to waste any water. It’s like a sports bottle—you just fill it up. New York water tastes so good! I tried the same trick in Napa and it was disgusting.
These are all so cool—some of them I recognize but others are new to EcoStiletto. That bottle will be on TheKindLife.com, right?
Probably! It’s brilliant. I was thinking for years, “Someone needs to invent a bottle that could filter your water!” I’m always late to a party.
What’s the biggest thing you’d like to green in your life—even if it’s impossible right now?
I’d like to restore the whole community that I live in, starting with my home. For a long time I’ve been trying to restore my hillside and do permaculture practices. There’s this thing called City Repair that’s so cool—they do it in Portland or Seattle, somewhere northwest. You take back all that’s been sort of concreted and restore it. So if I was to start with my home, I’d install all native plants and create a huge organic garden so that everyone in my neighborhood could come to my house instead of going to the farmer’s market.
That is awesome! Can I live in your neighborhood?
Right? So maybe there’s an area that’s not being used—a strip of dirt—and I start growing food there. And we get the food and native plants and wildlife all buzzing and brewing.
It sounds very utopian.
I’ve been dreaming about it for a long time. Or knocking on everyone’s door on my street to find out what they do. Doctor. Plumber. So you know what’s there. You don’t have to drive anywhere. It’s all on your block.
That sounds ideal. What’s the best green advice you ever received and do you follow it?
A long time ago a friend of mine gave me a good lesson about chemicals. He wouldn’t let his kids get in my bath because I had used chemicals [to clean it]. He explained that he didn’t want the chemicals to go into their skin—your skin is the largest organ in your body—and into the ecosystem. He helped me understand how to read labels, about avoiding parabens. Really all my products are paraben free except for that Pharmacopia lotion!
That’s not so bad. What’s your worst eco-sin?
We all mess up and forget stuff. The other day I forgot to bring my mug to the store. Thank god they were using compostable corn, but still I wouldn’t need to do that if I had my bottle.
But my biggest thing right now is my pool. It kills me. Obviously, I know that I’m lucky to be in a position to have a pool, but it drives me crazy the energy it requires. I have a bromine pool, which is very close to salt water. I know it’s a better choice than chlorine, and they sell it to you like it’s all good for the planet, but if you do more research you realize it’s not much better.
It depresses me. We have these huge bodies of water sitting in our back yards that we put chemicals and a lot of energy into. But I really, really love it. And I try to make the best use of it, because it’s here! I thought about turning it into a pond, but my husband’s not ready for that. And I thought about filling it up to grow food. So I made it a community pool so that anyone in my neighborhood can come and swim, they just have to call me up.
Okay, now I really need to move to your ‘hood. So who’s your “eco-idol”?
I idolize people who care about the little things. Who live gracefully. Even if I’m in the bathroom and I see someone being careful about water it just melts my heart.
I idolize the people who are on the front line, who are really vocal, like the “Sea Shepherd” guy—those people are my heroes—but I also admire anyone who’s excited and interested and cares and wants to learn more. That’s amazing to me.