Buttoned Up Expert: EcoStiletto Interview with Jennifer Taylor

After playing Charlie Sheen’s love interest on “Two and A Half Men,” Jennifer Taylor gets away from the gossip in her organic garden.

By Rachel Sarnoff, EcoStiletto.com

After playing Charlie Sheen’s love interest on “Two and A Half Men,” you’d think Jennifer Taylor would be hooked on gossip, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. “I don’t really read magazines or follow up on people,” the beautiful 37-year-old said in a recent interview for EcoStiletto. “I’m too busy for that.”

A mother of two—Jake is five; Samantha, 15 months—Jennifer prefers to spend down time in her organic garden, where last summer she grew all of her family’s fruit and vegetables—from cherries and avocados to brussel sprouts and salad greens, of which she said, “There’s nothing like preparing dinner and going outside and saying, ‘Okay, Jake, go get me a head of lettuce!’”

Jennifer uses at-home experiences with gardening and recycling to teach her kids about sustainability, such as taking her son with her to the recycling plant and letting him keep the money they earn from turning in bottles and cans. “He’s six,” she said. “Telling him it’s good for the Earth isn’t going to make as much of an impact as seeing the money in his hand.”

Similarly, it was a personal experience with allergies that two years ago started her journey toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle for herself and her family. After suffering for years from what she thought was lactose intolerance, Jennifer finally discovered that she was allergic to common food preservatives—an condition experts say affects 1% of adults and 2% of children in the U.S., or more than three million people. Find out more about Jennifer’s fight to rid her family of allergens, her thoughts on working with Charlie Sheen, and her eco-sin confession in our exclusive interview.

Taylor w pineapple2< EcoStiletto: Your career is so six degrees—you made your film debut in “Wild Things” with Denise Richards, Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife, and now you play his fiancée on “Two and A Half Men.” Has the fall out from his personal drama affected you?

Jennifer Taylor: Honestly, I don’t know how he’s holding up the way he is with the problems going on in his personal life. If my husband and I have a little tiff, I’m like, “I can’t do anything!” He’s doing amazing in that it’s not affecting his work at all. My heart goes out to both of them while they’re going through this.

ES: Okay with that elephant in the room out of the way, when did you start getting involved in eco-consciousness?

: It’s been about two years. I thought I was lactose intolerant or that I just got sick from eating certain things, but I finally realized that I was allergic to food preservatives. These things are so nasty. That really started a shift towards a healthier lifestyle—growing our own food, recycling.

Taylor in Organic Garden tending tomatoes2< ES: Your allergies were to preservatives BHA and BHT, is that correct?

JT: Yes. A lot of people have sensitivities to those two, but those aren’t the only preservatives that I can’t deal with. The problem is, there are so many different names for them! “Seasoning” is another word for MSG, which my baby is really sensitive to. It’s even in soup! Every time I eat something that I haven’t had before and feel it in my stomach I look on the package and it’ll have some chemical name “added for freshness.” They are ridiculously hidden.

ES: It’s the same thing in beauty. The word fragrance can mean all kinds of chemicals. It’s just not regulated.

JT: The whole organic beauty products world, that’s something I haven’t even tapped into. I need baby steps!

ES: I usually tell people, “Look for the word ‘paraben’ on the label.” Where you find that word, chances are there are other chemicals in it, as well.

JT: Yes. It’s just so scary because you think that as a consumer if you go to the store and buy something you assume it’s okay and good for you—nobody would try to hide these things. But it’s just not true. Caveat emptor—buyer beware.

Taylor w flowers2
ES: How important do you think making these kinds of changes are for you, personally? What about for the planet?

JT: For me, I think it’s important to eat clean and simply and just do something. Gardening, recycling, carrying reusable water bottles—every little thing helps. If everybody did one little thing it would really help.

This way of living is better for the planet and it’s better for my family. It teaches them responsibility. That we can’t just do anything and expect no consequences. If we dump crap in the water it will affect the fish and our food supply! We really don’t live alone here. Sometimes we think we do.

ES: So what’s growing in your garden?

JT: Right now we have a lot of fruit trees: Fig, avocado, apple, orange, grape, blackberry, cherry and nectarine.

ES: Wow! Did you put in all of those trees?

JT: The apple tree and orange were here. Everything else we planted.

ES: Amazing!

JT: We actually had a bigger garden last year—40 by 40 square feet—with corn and tomatoes and brussel sprouts. Pumpkins. Everything for a salad. It was enormous—my son helped us plant it. But we were planning on moving and have a gigantic garden is not a big seller. But now we’re staying, and I want my garden back!

ES: You’re in production right now. How do you find time to be greener while managing the demands of motherhood and work?

JT: It’s really hard. It takes a conscious effort because it’s so much easier to cook crap that’s nowhere near green. It takes a lot of effort. I’m a big planner and list maker. I live out of my little agenda. I prepare for dinners a couple of days in advance because I know that I can’t just grab something off of the shelf as I’m going home.

ES: What is your secret for staying centered and balanced while juggling work and motherhood?

JT: The only secret is just being grateful for everything. Whenever I start spinning out of control, with too much to do, I think, “You know what? You have a lot right now. There are a lot of people who are less fortunate.” As long as I have my family, nothing else matters.

ES: I understand you volunteer at your kids’ preschool as a science teacher. Is environmentalism a part of those lessons?

JT: Well, my son is going to kindergarten now but my daughter is in that same preschool. I go in once a week and teach science to them. We teach them about electricity and the weather but also the ecosystem and water cycles so we can throw in the little things about recycling and not polluting. There are two and three and four-year-olds—they are so impressionable at that age. I hear from parents all the time, “So-and-so was telling me about photosynthesis!”

ES: Shifting gears to the more frivolous stuff, do you have any favorite eco-friendly fashion finds for our readers?

JT: I always knew about hemp clothing—I like anything that’s comfortable and those are always super comfy clothes. But some of this stuff is totally new to me. Someone gave me an eco-friendly dress. I haven’t worn it yet but it’s so pretty. I can’t believe there are
eco-friendly handbags now!

ES: Yes, once you know about conventional fashion—like that it takes two-thirds of a pound of pesticides to make enough cotton for one pair of jeans—it really makes you think.

JT: Really? I never knew that. I always thought cotton was great.

ES: It’s the fabric of our lives.

JT: Ha! Can they make it without pesticides?

ES: Absolutely. You can get organic cotton sheets from Macy’s! So it sounds like you’re still learning about green beauty, but I read that you like to make your own beauty products. What’s your favorite recipe?

JT: I do, but it’s not that elaborate, it’s actually lazy! When I’m cutting up a pineapple I rub a slice on my face, then wash it off after five minutes. It really makes a difference—your skin is shiner and tighter. I try to fit things in like this into what I’m already doing. Do I have time to chop and puree a mask? No way!

ES: What’s the biggest green change you’d like to make in your life—even if it’s impossible right now?

JT: I would love to be totally independent from electricity and just use solar energy. My husband is an electrician and we want to install solar panels on our house.

ES: What’s your worst eco-sin?

JT: Hm… I have to say my family’s worst eco-sin. Long showers. It’s bad. I don’t spend a lot of time but I do take the kids in the shower with me and then I let them stay in so I can put my makeup on. They love it in there!

ES: It might not be so bad. Actually showers use less water than baths, although it depends on how long of a shower we’re talking about! The average shower uses about four gallons of water; the average bath uses 50!

JT: Really? Okay, yay!

ES: What’s the best eco-advice you ever received—and who gave it to you?

JT: You, telling me that the shower is better than the bath! I honestly thought taking a shower was worse.

All photos are by Ray Kachatorian and were originally shot for Natural Health magazine, except the photo of Jennifer Taylor with Charlie Sheen, which was shot by Greg Gayne for Warner Bros.
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff