Earth Month Q&A: Debra Lynn Dadd, Author
Earth Month Q&A: Debra Lynn Dadd, AuthorTo celebrate Earth Month, we interviewed environmental thought leaders to find out more about their passions and perspectives with respect to our Planet. If you haven’t already, meet Debra Lynn Dadd. As an internationally recognized consumer advocate, she’s devoted her career to toxic-free living; authored numerous books on the topic; and, runs the website Live Toxic Free.
With more than 30-years of experience finding consumer products that are free from toxic chemicals, Dadd has become an influential voice on all-things “non-toxic” and was dubbed "Queen of Green" by The New York Times. Dadd authored Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home from the Chemicals That Are Making You Sick in 1984, the first book about toxins in consumer products, and has since published seven more books on the subject. Dadd also hosts Toxic Free Talk Radio every weekday, where she interviews guests who are working to create a toxic-free world.
How and why did you get interested in the environment?
I became interested in the environment in 1987.
In 1985, after a lifetime of living in suburbia and the city, I suddenly wanted to go live out in a forest. I lived there alone in a small cabin for two years.
In 1987, a friend took me to Mt Shasta and I drank water from a mountain spring for the first time. The water tasted so different than any other water I had ever drunk, and it felt so good in my body. And I just had this moment where I realized that THIS was the water I should be drinking, directly from nature, with no pollutants, unchanged. And I saw in that instant how industrial my life was and how far from nature our culture is. In that moment I wanted to come back to the natural world, protect it, restore it, consciously participate with it and be aligned with it. And I've been going in that direction since.
What was the first personal lifestyle change you made to live more sustainably?
I think it was to eat organic food. That was so long ago. It was the step I could do. Organically grown food was available in my area even then. I remember when I first ate organic oranges. They tasted divine. They didn't smell like supermarket oranges. I later learned what I thought was "orange" smell was actually fungicide sprayed on commercial oranges. That Christmas I gave everyone bags of organic oranges so they could smell and taste the difference.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge environmental movements face?
I think the biggest challenge environmental movements face is that most people have no awareness of the environment. In the first book I wrote about the environment, I referred to "my local forest." The editor couldn't understand that concept.
Before we can take care of something, we need to know it's there and love it. We take care of children because we know them and love them and want the best for them. When we get to know the ecosystems in which we live and they become real to us—the plants and animals and waterways and weather patterns—we then come to love those too and want to care for them.
Why is protecting the Earth so important?
Protecting the Earth is so important because without it, we humans could not live. EVERYTHING that sustains our lives comes from the Earth: the air, the water, the food, all the raw materials that are used to to make all the products we use every day...all these come from the Earth. As I sit at my desk writing this, I see the sand in the glass bottle, rain in the water I'm about to drink, an oak tree in the desk I am sitting at, a chicken in the soup I just ate. Everything comes from the Earth. We need to keep the systems going that produce all this, or we as a species will not survive.
How can we teach the younger generations to respect the Earth?
Take them outdoors so they can experience Nature first hand. Introduce them to plants and animals, so they experience other species as friends. Help them grow food in the backyard so they can see the cycle from seed to stomach. Teach them they are part of the whole cycle of life.
What is one thing everyone can change in their normal routine that will help the Earth?
Just one thing??? I would say in general reduce using toxic chemicals, because every toxic chemical we use in our homes harms the environment in manufacture, use, or disposal. One way to start is to use vinegar and water (half and half) to wash your windows instead of ammonia. Though there are many other things we can do, in my opinion, eliminating toxins are the most important because they are killing and deforming so many inhabitants of the natural world.
What is something you do regularly to help protect and respect the Earth?
Almost everything is my personal home is free of toxic chemicals. The only exceptions are products I need where a toxic free option is not available. If it were, I would use it instead. But these are very few.
Be sure to check out Debra Lynn Dadd’s interview with Naturepedic founder Barry Cik and tune into her radio show Toxic Free Talk Radio which airs weekdays at noon ET. Have you started eliminating toxins from your life? We want to know where did you began and how. Tell us in the comments section below. A big ‘thank you’ to Dadd for participating on our Earth Month questionnaire! This series will live-on after Earth Month concludes. Check back regularly for interviews with more environmental thought leaders!
Read the first installment in this series: Earth Month Q&A: Denise Hamler, Green America