Essential Environments: Creating Healthy Living Spaces

    After offering a common-sense eating lifestyle that shares how to cure daily disease and lose excess weight through improved digestion, in her book Essential Eating, Janie Quinn now has produced a 235-page guidebook for creating healthy living spaces.

    Essential Environments: Discover How to Create Healthy Living Spaces (Azure Moon Publishing) is an incredibly detailed, yet highly readible and usable resource that explains how to reduce and eliminate your exposure to the chemicals that are harmful to your health and the health of our earth.

    class=”alignright”>Quinn’s research taught her that 80,000 man-made chemicals have been added to our planet during the past 50 years, and that these chemicals are building up toxins in our bodies and creating disease – especially in younger people that cannot handle the overload of toxins that they are faced with daily. However, it is not enough to know the facts, she explains in an interview with Edge Life. The key is choosing healthier alternatives in our daily lives – one simple step at a time.

    Quinn, founder of Essential Living, is an environmental and certified Feng Shui consultant, award-winning author, nutritional counselor and professional educator. She has been bringing the balance of nature into man-made environments for more than 10 years. Aside from her books, she has launched classes on essential eating, products such as sprouted grain, and other events and workshops to help people make healthier decisions.

    She spoke with us by phone from her home office in Waverly, Pa., about her latest book and her approach to essential living.

    For whom is your new book, Essential Environments, intended?

    Janie Quinn:This book bridges a gap for the seasoned environmentalist to the novice. Before I wrote Essential Environments, I did a lot of research and found that a gap in the type of environmental books that are out there. There are many that are geared to children and young adults, and then on the other spectrum we have the textbooks and the scientific "scare you" books. So I thought, "We need something in the middle that is sort of a guidebook for the person who wants to make a better choice, but doesn’t have time to take a course or make a big project out of it."

    I used my own life as a pattern and I said, "Look, I’m going to just walk the path of my life and I’m going to see all the areas where the toxicity can come in, and I’m going to give everybody a little consideration that could make their life better."

    You write that it’s natural when you become aware of the toxins in our lives to become panic-stricken about what to do. What approach do you recommend to begin the journey of creating a healthy environment?

    JQ: Well, you’re so right, because the information sometimes that comes at us is so overwhelming. With the whole idea about global warming and the exhaustion of our resources, the average person just becomes paralyzed. Essential Environments was made to say, "Look. There’s some really easy baby steps that you can take – steps that you’re already taking, only instead of making maybe a toxic choice, you make a non-toxic choice."

    For example, at some point in everybody’s future, you’re going to buy laundry detergent. How easy is it to buy free and clear, non-toxic laundry detergent versus the other stuff. That’s the type of information in Essential Environments. You don’t have to read it cover to cover. Just flip it open. Every section is going to have a topic that is probably going to involve something that you’re already doing in your life but where you can just make a better choice, from toothpaste to deodorant to shampoo. You’re going to buy toothpaste. Might as well buy a safe toothpaste.

    Do you think there’s a perception that it costs more to do that?

    JQ: We just graduated another Essential Living class here in Pennsylvania, and it’s so fun to see how many perceptions and how many myths are dispelled by the time the students leave at the end of the class. One myth is that a healthy lifestyle costs more money. That is a complete myth. Just look around at different cleaning products that you use that could be replaced with white distilled vinegar, which is cheap, baking soda, which is cheap, water, which is cheap, and one or two other things. You’re going to save money in the long run. You’re always going to save money on the healthy path, because you’re not going to have to spend money on expensive medical bills, time off work, or products and things that aren’t necessary or that may be toxic in your life.

    And I guess the funniest thing about that myth is: What is the cost of the toxins to you – especially if they’re killing you?

    JQ: The heroics that people go through. Our class this Saturday was through our Central Eating, Lifestyle and Cooking School. It always amazes me the kind of people and who sign up for the class, because we only take 12 students at a time.

    The number one surgery in America is gastric bypass surgery and I can almost guarantee that somebody in the class is going to consider having that surgery, because they think that’s at the top of their list of their options. After just a few hours with them, it’s fun to show them that there’s another way that they can eat real food that’s free of chemicals and pesticides and preservatives that will restore their health in a much gentler way than surgery.

    What are some other myths that you would rank at the top that people have about living in a healthy environment?

    JQ: That scented candles are going to make your environment healthier. Scented candles and perfume are two things that people do that they think make themselves feel better and put them in a better frame of mind and maybe relieve their stress. But those two fragrance areas, scented candles and perfumes, which I see in abundance in our culture, are nothing but synthetic toxic chemicals. We’ve been led to believe that they’re just wonderful things when, in fact, they’re emitting toxins and causing allergies and headaches and ADHD and ADD. Just a list of symptoms can be avoided by not using them.

    There’s nothing wrong with burning a candle if you have a little window open or you are using a 100-percent beeswax candle, but burning all those scented candles in a closed environment is absolutely not healthy.

    Another myth is that organic food is expensive. My line is: Organic food is regular price and all the other food is cheap. If food drives the foundation for our entire life, we should be spending a little more money on our food. America spends less of its discretionary income on food than any other nation in the world. It’s a myth that food should be cheap.

    I’m constantly looking at the cost of soda pop. It is just amazing how the price drops and people continue to consume more and more of it. It’s one of the cheapest liquids you can buy.

    JQ: Absolutely, and it’s just sugar and chemicals. There’s a new study from Purdue University that shows that it is a myth that you will lose weight drinking diet soda. It shows that people who consume diet soda end up consuming 30 percent more calories than those people who don’t drink diet soda. What does that mean? It means that the body is a very intelligent machine and diet soda is devoid of calories and nutrition. If the body doesn’t get what it needs in the soda, it’s going to increase your appetite and you’re going to consume more calories. It just makes so much sense.

    What were some of the most difficult changes that you had to make personally in creating a more healthy environment for yourself?

    JQ: One of the hardest frontiers is maybe the yard. Again, there’s another myth that our yard should be dandelion and weed free. It’s so easy to call that chemical company to come spray your yard and then we forget about it, but there really are so many other alternatives that require a little effort. There are a host of non-toxic and sustainable ways to nurture your yard and outside environment. But for anybody who has a yard, I think that the alternatives are not just in the forefront of their mind.

    I can tell someone to buy sprouted bread because it’s better than unsprouted bread, and you can go to the health food store and buy that bread. That’s an easy thing to do. I can tell them to change their laundry detergent, and they can go to the grocery store where it is readily available. But when it comes to the yard, the homeowner or the person taking care of the yard doesn’t think of the natural ways, and the landscape companies and chemical companies only know how to do it in a toxic way. Finding the alternative isn’t as easy as maybe some of the other suggestions in the book.

    When you think about the environment, you also have to think about the inhabitants. Children play on that yard and chemicals in that yard can spill over into your water supply. There is a huge ripple effect. A few dandelions are a good thing.

    You made a point in your book of discussing the process of considering change. Why?

    JQ: My thing is that the first thing about change isn’t actually change, it’s believing or considering that you can. That’s the first step.

    Change is a very scary word to our culture. And it’s the only thing we can count on. It’s a dichotomy. Considering that it can be done is the first step. Many students who come into class have a huge fear like, "I don’t know if I can do this." The way I talk about this is to consider what could happen in your life. Consider that you could lose the excess weight. Consider that you could get off your allergy medication. Consider that you don’t have to go through surgery or whatever you’re considering now. Consider that you could live in a healthful body. Consider that you could have more joy in your life than you could ever imagine. And it’s a transition word that helps people to connect with the doing part of it.

    Then why are so many people choosing not to make these changes? Are they just misinformed or have the myths convinced them otherwise?

    JQ: I think we can point to our culture right now as being very inauthentic. I always chuckle at some of the things that are not authentic in our culture, like Sunday night football on Monday night, the oil-free Oil of Olay, and I think when we’re surrounded by that fake, faux food or things that aren’t authentic, that we become disconnected with the flow of nature. Right now, we live at a time where we as human beings are disconnected from the flow of nature.

    What was the Bush initiative to improve our air quality, the Clear Skies Initiative?

    JQ: Yes. You, too, can have more emissions!

    We need to bring more authenticity into our life – whether that means emulating nature or being in nature, it involves reconnecting to the things that are real. Nature’s authentic. You don’t see rivers that are too wide or mountains that are too tall or colors that don’t match. Nature is in balance. That’s why the art of Feng Shui has become so popular. People want that natural balance, that healing power of nature.

    I’m sure you’ve read The Celestine Prophecy. People go and they lie down in the fields to get re-energized. We should all do that. Just take yourself out into nature and throw yourself upon the ground and lie there and spend some time there. Then your body starts to vibrate with those healing powers. I hope what Essential Environments teaches you is how to bring that healing power of nature into your man-made environment. As humans, we spend 95 percent of our time in a man-made environment. A lot of the man-made environments that I’ve been in don’t know the first thing about a healing power. Our culture today needs to bring that healing power back into those environments.

    I notice that you arranged your book according to the elements. What was your intention in doing that?

    JQ: The four elements are actually four sacraments: earth, air, water and fire. It was very easy for me to quadrant our paths of life in those areas. Earth is everything of Mother Earth. It’s also your bath and beauty products, all your home products, the earth products, the earth practices, your yard, your office. Water is the water that you drink and use. Air is your air quality. And fire represents food, the fuel for our life.

    What are some examples of practical, easy solutions for improving your overall health found in Essential Environments?

    JQ: I’ll give you one for each chapter.

    • The Earth – One of the things that you come in greatest contact with on a toxic level would be your laundry detergent, because you sleep on sheets and wear the clothing. Whatever you are using in your laundry is going to rub off on your skin. The easiest thing you can do is replace your laundry detergent with a biodegradable, non-toxic, laundry detergent. Two of the top companies are Seventh Generation and BioClean. They have great products. I’ll give you another one for Earth, too, because I think this is so important: Get the antibacterial products out of your life. They are actually lowering the immune systems of children.

    • Water – We are conditioned in our culture that we need to drink filtered water or bottled water, but one of the areas where toxins come into our life is the shower. Your skin absorbs toxicity six times faster than if you ingest something. If you’re drinking filtered water, it’s one thing, but if you’re showering in non-filtered water, then your whatever’s in your tap water comes in contact with your skin. I say that if you can’t drink your tap water, you better not be showering in it either. Getting a shower filter is important to keep the toxins out of your body.

    • Air – Studies show over and over that the air outside is cleaner than the air inside. Just open your windows as much as you can. Get some fresh air inside, and get rid of the scented candles and perfume.

    • Food – I’m all about eating the freshest organic food that you can find. Another thing that people forget about it the cookware. Aluminum and non-stick pans are very toxic. Cast iron, stainless steel and glass cookware is the way to go.

    What kind of daily discomforts can be eliminated by following the advice in the book?

    JQ: There are so many. We think that daily disease is part of life, and I think we’ve forgotten that we don’t have to live with daily disease, anything from high cholesterol to asthma to memory loss to lowered eyesight, and from chronic illnesses to earaches to colds to diabetes. The number one prescribed medication is for indigestion today, not the flu, not cancer, so there must be a lot of people walking around with some indigestion.

    Essential Environments also will give you more peace of mind. In addition, toxicity can form in your joints in forms of aches and pains, so if you have backaches or joint aches, living an Essential Environment life can reduce your joint pain and give you even more energy in your life. Children can be better protected. They can have less illness, less sickness, less colds, less flus, less earaches.

    Since you brought up children, how do you think our culture’s doing in terms of educating our children about living healthy?

    JQ: I think we’re doing a really poor job, myself included. I have to say that given the opportunity to speak to a group of adults or a group of children, I’d have to pick the adults right now, because the children go home to an environment that is run by adults. If I can get the adults to change their environment, then the children are just going to be changed. Given that there are only so many hours in the day, if I had to be given a choice, I’d have to hit the adults.

    Tell me about your Essential Living network.

    JQ: It keeps growing and growing. I lived in California before I came here to northeastern Pennsylvania about 20 years ago. About 10 years ago, when Essential Living started, I thought, "Oh, if I was just in Southern California. Things would go so much faster." But now, 10 years later, having traveled the country talking about Essential Environments and Essential Living, I find that every place needs Essential Living – every pocket of the country. We just have our different drugs of choice. In one city it may be Starbucks Coffee, in another city it may be power bars and in another city it may be perogies.

    In northeastern Pennsylvania 10 years ago, I woke up as a very sick person and I decided that I am smarter than that and I’m going to heal by body. When you put out those intentions, amazing things happen. I had a nutritional counselor actually teach me how to eat, which was so incredibly simple. I went from a size 16 to a size 6 in a very healthy way. I cured all of those things I talked about, from chronic illness to daily illness, and my health was restored. So many people ask me how I did it. I believe it was infinitely easier than I imagined.

    I was a marketing executive then, and I thought, "I’m just going to write a little brochure about how to do this," and, of course, it turned into Essential Eating. People started to buy the book and read it, and then they started to ask questions and started to want to have sessions, and it just blossomed.

    My journey started because I was sick. My wake-up call was disease. I healed myself. I wrote Essential Eating to help others. It became such a popular thing here in northeastern Pennsylvania that we decided to open a school so we could teach people the hands-on part of Essential Eating, because cooking is something that is just now coming back into our culture. People have forgotten how to do that wonderful activity. So we decided to teach people how to get a little cooking into our busy lives – and it is so much simpler than people can imagine. We don’t need all these gadgets and all these complicated, gourmet kitchens. We need very simple things, and we can put a meal together in minutes, using what I developed as the continuous kitchen. A continuous kitchen involves cooking once or twice a week so you have foods put together the rest of the time you don’t have time to cook.

    As I got healthier and healthier, I realized that, "Oh, my goodness, people are eating better, but there are so many other areas of our life where toxicity comes in." That’s where Essential Environments came in. Along the way, we wanted to make it very easy for our Essential Eaters and our Essential Environment people to do this lifestyle, because I recognized that it appears overwhelming, but it isn’t, really.

    For classes, we started to make baking mixes using the sprouted flour, which was another big piece of Essential Eating. If you sprout a grain, it changes it from a starch to a vegetable. If you eat sprouted grain breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, muffins and tortillas made with sprouted flour, then you are actually digesting this food as vegetables do in your body. The Essential Eating Sprouted Baking Company is up and running as a certified organic company. We have the Essential Eating Lifestyle and Cooking School, and we have Essential Environments. So, we’re an education-motivated company. We believe that people just need to know that these options, these alternatives, are available and dispel some of the myths. Plus, we’re trying to provide a service and a product that helps them do that.

    So far your classes are just in Pennsylvania. Do you plan on expanding that?

    JQ: So far they are just in Pennsylvania. We have hopes some day of training people around the country who want to become cooking guides. We hope to expand on all fronts by making it more accessible to people.

    How did the process of writing these books change you?

    JQ: It’s been a very fun journey. I think that the information and the support for these groups were already working before I said, "Okay, I’m ready." They were both divinely inspired. It’s just been an amazing affirmation for what I believe. Everything is in universal timing. I was ready and this information was ready and the window opened and "BAM!" I wrote the book. Very fun.

    In the bigger picture, do you think you were intended to write this as part of your life’s journey?

    JQ: No question. It is my life’s journey, and that I get very clearly that I have been chosen to be the messenger. That doesn’t make me any more special than anybody else. I’m just the person who’s spreading the message. As a marketing-minded person, I can understand how to package things so people can grasp them. I feel very fortunate that we could put Essential Environments together in a way that people can grasp the importance of living this way, and yet understand that in our fast-lane lifestyles, it’s doable.

    I call myself a human cheerleader, because that’s what I do. I just cheer us on that we can be better and do better, because I believe that people want to do better. We want to be good and we want to help the environment and we want to do our part. Sometimes it’s just not packaged correctly.

    For more information on Janie Quinn and the Essential Living network, visit or call toll-free 1 (877) 771-1216.



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