How I Became an Environmental Therapist

On April 22, 2006, I was standing on the Santa Monica Promenade handing out first edition Greenopia guides at Heal the Bay's Aquarium Earth Day celebration. My husband, my son and our small staff of three, were all wearing bright green Patagonia polo shirts embroidered with the Greenopia leaf logo. I can still remember how I felt that day. I was exhilarated and exhausted yet bursting with energy. We had just spent the previous six months walking door-to-door in LA armed with yellow legal notepads writing down what local businesses were doing to be green. To our surprise, we discovered eight hundred businesses were using good green practices.

These listings ranged from dry cleaners to nail salons to coffee shops and restaurants. We organized them in a Zagat-style guide including an independent green leaf rating system and distributed them throughout bookstores and newsstands in Los Angeles. The first year we sold twenty thousand copies. Along with the business listings, we offered tips on how to be environmentally friendly and explanations as to what constituted an eco-friendly business. My intention was to inform, educate and instruct Los Angelenos on how to eat, shop and live green. The response was overwhelming, and we went on to publish guides in San Francisco and New York before moving all our listings onto the web where we have grown organically to over one hundred thousand business listings nationwide.

Now ten years later, my mission of helping people live eco-friendly lives continues but has recently shifted to the more personal as a result of attending The Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard in 2015. Rosabeth Moss Kanter and The ALI Program challenged me to look at Greenopia and how it could become a greater impact for social change in the area of environmental health and wellness. As I listened to experts including Jack Spengler, Daniel Schrag, Bill Clark, and Heather Henriksen, I learned that environmental health is quietly looming as the next big public health crisis.

We are surrounded by news of toxins leaching into the water we drink like what happened in Flint, Michigan. The soil we farm on is being injected with pesticides and chemicals harmful to our health. The skincare products we apply each day are full of mercury and lead and parabens linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. According to new estimates from the World Health Organization, "An estimated 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 - nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths." Global climate change might be stealing the headlines, but the most important part of this story is how my personal health and yours and those of our children, is being affected by the environment.

So ten years from its original launch, I am reintroducing Greenopia with a new focus, this time on personal environmental health and I am reintroducing myself as an environmental therapist, more committed than ever to share with you innovative products and the work of leaders in this field so you can continue to eat, shop and live healthfully.