Alicia Silverstone on Her New Book, The Kind Diet, Organic Gardening, and Cow Farts (Interview)

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's Time Stands Still, directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan, which she'll take to Broadway in January. 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 in this interview [excerpted from EcoStiletto]. The experience lead her to write The Kind Diet: How to Feel Great, Lose Weight, and Save the Planet (Rodale), which debuts this month.

Image credit: Marc Baptiste for 944 magazine; styling by Monica Schweiger.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, 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. (EcoStiletto has giveaways of the bags lined up each week through December for its Members.) 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.

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 does 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... Continue reading this interview at EcoStiletto
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is an occasional TH contributor and founder, editor, and CEO of EcoStiletto.
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