Photo James White/CBS
Sara Gilbert is an Emmy-nominated actress (”Roseanne”), producer and co-host of the daily charfest “The Talk,” and mother of two (son Levi, 8 and daughter Sawyer, 6). She recently added author to those descriptors, with the release of her first book, “The Imperfect Environmentalist,” a breezy, entertaining, information-filled primer for those who want to make eco-friendly changes but don’t know where to start. Subtitled “A Practical Guide to Clear Your Body, Detox Your Home and Save the Earth (Without Losing Your Mind),” the book offers tips on what to buy, use, drive, eat, and more.
“I felt like there was no easy, single reference guide that you could pick up and read without getting confused, discouraged or bored,” Gilbert tells MNN. “I thought, why don’t I do something for people who aren’t thinking about the environment 24-7 and just want and easy way to start making small changes, which is almost everybody. I think everybody is willing to do something if it’s easy and the information is accessible.”
She believes that small changes in the cleaning products you buy, skin products you use, paints you use in your home, and furniture you choose can make a big difference, greatly reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals. “The home environment is a great place to start: carpets, paints, furniture, mattresses.” Avoid buying kids’ pajamas covered with toxic flame retardant and non-organic produce, “otherwise you’re eating pesticides that are designed to kill bugs,” Gilbert advises.
A vegetarian since she was 13, when she became concerned with animal rights issues and “started to feel weird eating animals,” she cut out red meat, then poultry. “I never missed it,” says Gilbert. After giving birth to Sawyer, she suffered from mastitis and learned that dairy products may be a contributing factor because of their high fat content. “I thought about how gross that was. Also, they make cheese with enzymes from cow stomach linings so even cheese isn’t truly vegetarian. And a Chinese study found that dairy products lead to cancer among other things. Those things turned me off of eating dairy, and I became a vegan.”
Gilbert is raising her children vegetarian, “but they eat vegan a lot. It’s the balance of trying to get them to eat healthy and organic and not completely alienate them from everyone else around them. When they’re old enough to see how food is prepared and what’s going on in slaughterhouses and what it does to your body, they can also talk to people who think [meat is] delicious, take in all the information from all sides and make their own decisions,” she says.
Her children “can’t help but learn” about environmentalism and eco-friendliness “because I’m vigilant and the information gets passed down to them. But they’re kids and if it means that they’re not getting a new toy because it’s made of some bendy plastic made of phthalates, they’re not that happy about it.” She has come up with a compromise on occasion, telling the kids, “If we’re going to get this stuffed animal that’s brightly colored and filled with stain-reducing chemicals, you get to play with it for an hour or two and put it at the foot of your bed, not by your face where you’re breathing in those fumes all night. It’s about finding a balance that works in the real world—that’s kind of the point of the book. We’re not gonna be perfect, but how can we minimize our risk?”
Gilbert, who got her “Talk” makeup artist to use organic cosmetics on her, always looks “for simple products, where you recognize and can pronounce the ingredients.” She suggests checking the contents label against the Skin Deep database to see if they’re toxic.
As for plastics, she tries to limit them in her home, even the ‘safer’ ones, saying, “It’s super easy to change plastic Tupperware for glass.” She chooses organic, non-GMO food, and vintage clothing and furniture. “I go to swap meets and buy vintage stuff on eBay,” she says. She recently gave up her six-year-old Prius for a diesel SUV. “It got better gas mileage and was cleaner burning than the hybrid model so I went that route,” she explains.
One area where Gilbert admits to needing improvement is organic waste disposal. “I tell people to compost, but I’m not doing it. I’m like, ‘eww, gross.’” She’d rather concentrate on more pressing problems, such as air quality, population growth, “global warming because of the fossil fuels we’re burning, and fracking that’s pouring so many chemicals into the earth.” She has remained an animal rights advocate and is participating in a PETA stamp campaign along with celebs like Paul McCartney and Joaquin Phoenix.
Engaged to musician Linda Perry, she blames her ultra-busy schedule for not setting a wedding date. In addition to “The Talk,” she’s shooting a comedy series, a TV version of the movie “Bad Teacher,” for midseason on CBS. “I feel like I’m getting to do two things I love. I’m really lucky,” she says. As a mother, she hopes that other parents will take some of her book’s advice to heart. “I hope that people get inspired to keep their kids safe, keep them away from pesticides, plastics, and make their school supplies and cleaning supplies safe,” she says. “I think that if we clean up their environment we’ve really done a service for the world.”