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Eat Animals? As If! Our Interview With Alicia Silverstone

Posted May 05 2010 2:51pm

Alicia Silverstone Alicia Silverstone, best known for her role as the airheaded matchmaker in the 1995 comedy Clueless, is gaining a green following outside the multiplex thanks to her devotion to Earth-friendly causes. She developed the EcoTools line of beauty products, emplaced solar panels and water-conservation measures at home, and became a vegan. We caught up with her while she was promoting her book, The Kind Diet (Rodale, 2009).

Q: How does being a vegan connect to other aspects of green living?

A: If you're interested in protecting the planet, you have to look at what you're eating. They say one 16-ounce steak takes the same amount of water to produce as six months of showers. So if you're saving water by taking shorter showers but still eating meat, you're really not being as effective as you could be.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , has said that people can do a lot for climate change by just giving up meat one day a week. That’s the kind of thinking I like. You don’t have to do everything at once. You can take steps. If everyone moves in the right direction, that’s what is important. You make the best effort you can. But when you slip up – like when you forget your mug when you go to the coffee shop – don’t give up! Continue to try. Just do the best you can.

Q: The Kind Diet talks about "flirting with veganism." What's that?

A: You can look and feel better just by making a few small changes. I want to give people a safe, nonjudgmental place to start. Just because you don't totally give up meat doesn't mean you can't benefit from this. Sometimes you need to flirt a little.

Q: What do you think of green fashion?

A: It's getting fantastic. I'm not wearing clunky hemp clogs; I'm finding really beautiful stuff. But I've never had to compromise between fashion and being green. My first stop is vintage and used-clothing shops. Sometimes my husband has to remind me, when our sheets are torn or something, that maybe it's OK to buy something new. When that happens, I think bamboo or hemp.

Q: You’ve been outspoken about vegetarianism and veganism for many years. Why did you write a book now?

A:  Well, I was seeing amazing results with people I knew. Friends would come to me with health issues, and I would tell them what I know. I would give them a pamphlet I put together over the years, things like studies and recipes. It was like a little book. And they loved it. When they changed their diet they saw amazing results. So I thought that putting together a real book for anyone interested in being healthier would be great. I’ve been wanting to do it for eight years and it was the perfect time.

Q: Did you learn anything new about what being a vegan means to you while writing the book?

A: I wasn’t trying to write a book for vegans. I wanted to write a book for people who wanted to look and feel their best. I felt like I had a magic toolbox for that. I got really clear about my thoughts during the writing process. It clarified what I actually wanted to say. I know exactly what I want to say now, which is that there are so many reasons to eat less meat: for the environment, for the animals, for your health. All these amazing doctors and athletes are showing how it works. I’ve seen the potential for healing.  It was hard to keep it to myself.

Q: Is being in nature an important part of your life?

A: I like riding my bike and going to the ocean or mountains for a walk. I like seeing this amazing, beautiful planet. But I also love New York City and Los Angeles. I live in an area of L.A. where I feel like I’m in the country, though. I love to compost and grow some food. I was recently walking in the neighborhood and saw my house from a hill—the garden, the solar panels, everything—and I thought, that’s a cute house. I liked that. 

Q: One of the hardest things about going vegetarian or vegan in some places is the lack of community. Is that part of what you are trying to address with TheKindLife.com ?

A: It’s so awesome! All these people are coming together to tell their story or say, “I’m feeling so great.” They can help someone who is new to this lifestyle or just meet new friends.  My eventual goal is for people to find someone who lives down the street so that they can share and connect and maybe have a potluck.

Q: Many omnivores are now more conscious about getting meat from local farms that treat their animals humanly. Is that a victory for people concerned about animals?

A: I feel like it’s not a full step, but kind of like a half step. It doesn’t solve the environmental and health problems. It gets you thinking in the right direction, but there are still problems with raising animals for meat. It’s really hard to find a farm that actually lives up to the image on the package. Unless you go the farm, and see how they treat their animals, I would be skeptical. And until people eat less meat, it’s not a solution. Because you just can’t produce that much meat on small farms. If everyone was eating meat only once a month, then maybe it would work. That’s just not the case now. So at the end of the day, I’m not in favor of it.

—interview by Kyle Boelte

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