Greening Our Lives at the Go Green Expo by Shannon Nies
Since April of 2008, the Go Green Expo has provided people with resources to be more environmentally friendly in their day-to-day lives. This April, the Expo will be held in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It will feature exhibitors displaying eco-friendly products and services as well as demonstrations and seminars.
Vision Magazine spoke with three extraordinary women who will be speaking at the Expo: Dr. Anne Marie Fine; Elaine Wilkes; and Mariel Hemingway. Each of these women gave their unique and inspiring perspectives on living a greener life and making positive changes in our external as well as our internal environments.
Vision Magazine: Why did you decide to speak at the Go Green Expo?
Dr. Anne Marie Fine: I wanted to speak at the Go Green Expo because when we talk about green living, we talk a lot about saving the earth, protecting the earth, or doing things that leave a smaller footprint, things that are sustainable. And I think that those are all incredibly important, but as a physician, I really think that if we want to be sustainable as a species, we have to clean up the human body and begin with the environmental contaminants inside of us.
VM: What do you plan to speak about at the Expo?
AF: What I want to talk about is the inner-connectedness between the people and the animals and the earth [and] how our environment impacts us on a basic organism level. Because of my interest in environmental medicine, I want to talk about how environmental toxins and the resulting individual toxic burden relate to the kinds of chronic illnesses that we have and how [that] impacts our ability to create energy, vitality and wellness in our lives.
VM: What is environmental medicine?
AF: Environmental medicine is a specialty of medicine dealing with the effects of the environment and how they might relate to that person’s disease or chronic illness status. The environment would include anything that impacts our health, from the air that we breathe, to the water we drink, the food we consume, the homes we live in, the personal care products that we slather our bodies with, and the environments in which we make our living. A good example is mercury. We accumulate it in our bodies by breathing air from coal-fired power plants, eating top predator fish like tuna, from amalgam tooth filings, and unfortunately from many vaccines.
It is also worthwhile to note that traditional medicine and the epidemiological world looks at toxins in isolation. Environmental medicine as practiced by naturopathic physicians recognizes that in the real world nothing is in isolation and that the human body faces numerous combinations of toxins on a daily basis and they accumulate in combinations that have never been tested.
VM: How does integrative medicine deal with these toxins?
AF: What integrative medicine does is look at the body as more of a system, which means you’re looking at a body holistically. You’re looking at how the cells, tissues, and the organs communicate, how they work together, what the feedback loops are. You’re able to assess someone completely instead of just looking at one diseased organ all by itself.
There are now laboratory tests you can do to assess someone’s levels of various toxins including heavy metals. And what they’re saying, even from tests done on infants’ cord blood is that 100 percent of the toxins they tested for in one study on infant cord blood they found in 100 percent of the babies, and they’re finding them in pregnant women and in breast milk.
A lot of times a conventional doctor will get a patient who has a problem that is a result of the accumulation of environmental toxins. Because these types of problems are hard to discern, these patients frequently wind up seeing an integrative physician. They’re going to ask, “Is this person carrying an environmental load that’s too much for them to handle and is that the cause of their [physical] problems?” Because we’re individuals, we’re genetically unique and we have an individual ability to handle or to not handle a toxic load. So one person may be able to handle toxins very well and not have any problems, and then another person may not have a very good functional detoxification capability in their body. If one has poor detoxification capability, toxins will accumulate and start causing problems for that person. As more and more toxins build up in the entire population, there will come a tipping point when even those with strong abilities to detoxify will develop symptoms leading to disease.
VM: Please talk about your skin care company, Fine Natural Products, LLC.
AF: As a naturopathic physician, I started looking at the whole problem of toxins in personal care ingredients and how to address that in my patients. I used to talk to them and tell them to choose products which are clean and pure, and then they started telling me, I can’t find any products like that. And what was available that I could see was not at the level that I wanted to see; it didn’t meet my exacting standards for purity or efficacy, and so that’s how I decided to start my own line.
I feel that environmental toxins are terribly damaging. We are finding that women who live in more polluted environments have differences in their skin and that their skin ages prematurely. My [skin care] line has been formulated to address these skin stressors resulting from exposure to a broad range of environmental toxins, nutrient deficiencies, and UV exposure from the sun.
Finally, it is important to know that we should not put anything on the skin that we would not be willing to eat [since the skin is the largest organ and able to absorb substances placed on it]. In fact, my products are edible. When I was testing the organic seed oils that I was considering using for my Youth Serum, I used them as salad dressings.
VM: What do you hope your listeners will take away from your presentation and from the Expo?
AF: What I hope they take away from the Expo and me as a whole is when we think about the concept of going green, leaving a light footprint on the earth, and living in a more sustainable way, let’s not forget to apply those same principles to ourselves and make sure that we’re going green on a personal level, as well as in terms of what we’re eating [and] drinking, and what personal care products we are putting on our skin.
Vision Magazine: Why did you decide to speak at the Go Green Expo?
Elaine Wilkes: I think people really need to understand how we need to treat nature [and] what we can do to help save the planet. I think it’s vital that people go to this [expo]. Not only are there great products where you can learn to green your home, to green even your wardrobe, there’s [also] great speakers. All of these people have culminated so much knowledge. There is so much education, knowledge, and it’s also really fun.
VM: What do you plan on sharing during your presentation?
EW: I think what I want to do is do things [differently] that people don’t think about, and how we can look at nature in an entirely different way and look at what we’re doing to our food that people don’t realize. I sense that creativity is more important than knowledge, so I try to bring in a lot of creativity into my presentations and stories so people feel inspired.
VM: What do you hope your listeners will take away from your presentation, and the expo as a whole?
EW: I interviewed one ethnobotanist and he said when he was 12 his teacher said, “Nature’s alive.” Nature is a living, breathing entity. Nature has over 4 billion years [of] experience, and so we can learn so much from that. Zen masters, if someone gives them a problem, basically go into nature and see what nature would do. For example, water will carve through rock. If you look at the focus of a tiger, [notice] how they don’t multi-task—they’re focused. There’s just so much we can learn from nature which can bring wonder. The more you understand about nature, the more you feel harmony; you’re living in harmony with yourself and the planet. I talk about the Schumann waves of the earth, how just sitting on the ground will actually ground you. There are waves that will actually attune you to nature’s rhythm versus your own rhythm [and] will calm you down.
VM: What does green living mean to you and how do you live green?
EW: I have to say my book [“Nature’s Secret Messages: Hidden in Plain Sight”] was a turning point for me, because the way I live green is because I fell in love with nature. And I wasn’t a nature lover before. Now I have a greater understanding and a greater love. It’s like when a mother loves her child—she’ll do more for the child because she loves the child. And so [I’m] the same way; I’ll try to see how I can go the extra mile because I want to help out.
I think by just doing your part, even the littlest things [can help]. [For example, when] recycling bottles, people are good at home. But when they’re out, they’ll just throw out the bottles. So it’s just little things—just bring the bottle home with you and throw it in the recycled trash there. If everybody did these things it would make a huge difference.
I know organic is more expensive, but if tomorrow everyone bought organic, the price would go way down. What you buy offers a big message to companies that, ‘Okay, people want this, so let’s make more of this.’ So I try to buy as many eco things as possible.
Also, I write in my book about personal care products as pollutants. What I read about personal care products [is] that all the shampoos with the chemicals and all the drugs are all going into the [water ways]. When, let’s say you’re at chemotherapy, you don’t absorb all the chemotherapy, a lot will go in your urine, and the urine goes into the streams. And sometimes people clean their homes with products that are so harsh. It’s way too much. And they’ve proven that with Ed Begley’s products. UCLA did a test on all cleaning products, and they ended up using his because they said his cleaned just as well as the toxic ones.
Nature can give you so much if you really understand it. It’s really astonishing, all the wonderful things about nature. So just being in it brings so much peace and joy.
Vision Magazine: What do you plan on sharing during your presentation at the Go Green Expo?
Mariel Hemingway: Bobby [my partner] and I are speaking on nature’s principles, what it means to connect with nature and how nature’s our best guide. And the more that you connect with your food is a way to connect with nature. The more you get outside is a way to connect with nature. And the more that you connect with nature the more you connect with yourself. So it’s really about asking the question, what would nature do and how. If we open [ourselves] to the simplicity of nature and the magnanimity of nature as well, there’s a great lesson, a great teacher inside of that, and then the teacher within you sort of blossoms out of that knowing.
VM: What do you hope your listeners will take away from your talk?
MH: Life is about inspiration. I don’t want anybody to follow me. I’m not some guru. For us [Bobby and me] it’s inspiration, through education [and] empowerment. What I want them to take away is a feeling that they’re already great; they already know what to do to be healthy. They just haven’t uncovered it. It’s my belief that you’re already healthy, happy, beautiful, [and have a] perfect body. All of that is already in you and you have all the answers that unlock your doors to your health and well-being, but it’s about having someone like myself or many, many others who are out in this field who are really wonderful communicators, to come away going, wow, I think there’s an adventure out there that could bring out the best in me.
VM: Have you been to any of the previous Go Green Expos?
MH: Yes, I’ve been to every one. Though there are a lot of celebrities there [who say] this is my thing, I’m into green, it’s really my life, creating a space for wellness and health and well-being for people is really what I am about. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I’ve written three books. My latest book is a cookbook. I have a cookie called a Blisscuit, (you can get it on www.marielsblisscuits.com) and so this is really what I care about. Bobby and I are creating a site called “The WillingWay,” which is his name, Bobby Williams, and my name, put together. He has the will and I have the way, which we feel is like this yin-yang. There’s this male-female dynamic that happens when two people get together, and that’s how we want to share it with the world…creating a product portal so that you can buy products [that] help you to be your best self.
VM: What does green living mean to you?
MH: I’ve been an environmentalist since I was a kid. I grew up in Idaho and I testified when I was 18 years old in Washington, D.C. in front of Congress for the Wilderness Society. So it’s always been a passion [of mine] to really have people understand the outdoors and nature. And that’s what I think the environmental movement’s about—it’s about connecting in nature. Most people go, Al Gore is all messed up about the polar ice caps, which we all should be messed up about; but the problem is when they hear overwhelming information like that, it feels as though there’s nothing I can do. So what I want to do is say, what you do is you eat better; you make a choice that you’re not going to eat food that is genetically modified anymore. We have the right to eat better food, and when you eat well—when you eat organic and biodynamic and non-abused animals—you are saying to your government [and] you’re saying to the environment around you, I care about my internal environment because my internal environment is what opens me up to my external environment. When you start to feel healthier on the inside, you’re better on the outside. You begin to change the people around you and you have a different viewpoint of the environment.
VM: How do you live green and connect with your internal and external environment?
MH: Almost every morning Bobby and I get up and watch the sunrise. We walk barefoot in the earth to connect with the earth. People think that animals have a kinesthetic sense that we don’t have. We all have it, but the problem is we wear rubber shoes, we walk on rubber mats, we work out in these places that ground us out so you have no connection to the earth.
When you take five, 10, 15 minutes a day, or a couple times a week, to actually walk barefoot on dirt or sand, you connect with nature more because you actually get that energy from Mother Earth. Watching sunrise and sunset is a way to connect to nature. Breathing more, going outside and just taking deep breaths. We connect in nature a lot because that’s actually where we feel at home; that’s where we feel most at peace.
VM: Please talk about your program from your book, “Healthy Living From the Inside Out.”
MH: “Healthy Living From the Inside Out” came from my ex-husband [who] contracted cancer. My mother had cancer [and] did what most people do and she went down the path of chemotherapy and radiation. She got rid of the cancer, but her immune system was shot and she was never healthy again. She lived 15 years but it was a pretty miserable 15 years.
Then when my ex-husband got cancer, I just said to him, please let’s not jump into chemotherapy and radiation. Let’s look at your lifestyle; let’s look at food, because I think of food as medicine. We’ve become anesthetized with the food by the choices we’ve made, so we don’t think it’s doing anything. All of a sudden in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, you’re overcome with aches and pains and diseases and all this stuff that could have been prevented by the simple choices of what food am I eating.
So we changed the way he ate. He cut out sugar completely because sugar feeds cancer cells (it makes cancer cells grow and multiply). He became a meditator and he’s completely healthy. He has to watch his lifestyle choices because stress and not taking enough time to be silent or eat well have an effect on him as they do everyone. But he is proof that you can overcome disease—bad disease—through lifestyle choices.
VM: What do you see as healthy living for a person?
MH: Healthy living is different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all way that you eat, in the way that you exercise, take silence, or the way you connect in nature. But there [are] basic tenets; we all know what foods are really not very good for you. A healthy lifestyle is really a lifestyle that makes you feel calm, that enables you to deal with your stresses in an even manner. It means that you’ve got vitality and energy, and it means that you’re happy, that you laugh, or that you force yourself to laugh until you can laugh.
Being healthy really is a full spectrum; it’s the mind, it’s the body, it’s the spirit. It’s what you’re doing on every level. You should have a lot of energy. You should be child-like if you’re healthy. That’s a true healthy person because that shows that your mind is open, free and you’re malleable.
Learn more about Elaine Wilkes and her “‘Outside’ the Box Solutions for Inside Your Body and Mind,” by visiting her Web site, www.elainewilkes.com.
For more information on Mariel Hemingway, her books, and resources for healthy living, please go to www.marielhemingway.org.
The Go Green Expo will be held at the Los Angeles Convention center, April 16-17, 2011. For more details and to purchase tickets, please visit www.gogreenexpo.com.