Arizona Muse: My Sustainable Life - ‘If I look at a plant or some moss really close up I feel closer to the natural world’

The model and environmental activist tells Olivia Petter how sustainability influences her daily life

Saturday 26 June 2021 08:38
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The Independent’s My Sustainable Life is a Q&A series in which famous faces reveal their personal approach to the climate crisis

This week, for My Sustainable Life, we hear from American model and climate campaigner Arizona Muse.

Previous guests on My Sustainable Life include model Lily Cole and TV chef Gizzi Erskine.

Born in Tuscon, Arizona, Muse, 32, lives in London and has been modelling since she was just 19 years old. Having worked with high-end brands, such as Prada and Chanel, and fronted numerous Vogue covers around the world, she is one of the most successful working models today.

But she is also a staunch environmental activist. Not only did Muse live and work on a farm during lockdown, she has just launched a new charity, Dirt, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting biodynamic farming all over the world.

This way of farming champions boosting biodiversity, community wellbeing and replenishing soils, allowing them to store more water and draw down more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Here she explains why she no longer accepts work if it’s in a distant country, the restorative feeling she gets from studying moss for just a few seconds, and why empathy is key to fighting the climate crisis.

The most sustainable decision I made in the past year was... change the way we travel as a family. We try not to go far away and if we are travelling, we’ll always do it by car when we can as opposed to flying.

I also really try not to accept work that is far away from me anymore to avoid long-haul flights. If I’m asked about it, I’ll explain: “well, your shoot is happening in Thailand and, for environmental reasons, I’d prefer to work with you another time when you’re working in England”. It’s like things like that which send a little ripple of education to that one person at least.

My least sustainable guilty habit is...

Up until embarrassingly recently I was still ordering plastic bottles of water to my house, which was shocking. Now we just drink tap water.

If I ruled the world, I would make it more sustainable by...

...ensuring that there was a really healthy and efficient composting infrastructure in the whole world to compost all of our food waste. I know all of these businesses are putting in huge amounts of research development to create biodegradable and compostable clothing and packaging, but we still just put it in the bin because no one’s created a global infrastructure for composting. And I just think that’s crazy.

When I want to feel in touch with the natural world I...

...look at a plant, or some moss really close up, for like, 25 seconds, that’s all it takes for me to feel closer to the natural world.

I study it, notice what the different color transformations are and where the texture changes. I get this restorative feeling from doing that. I live in a city, so I feel deprived of nature regularly.

If I could invent one thing that would make my life more sustainable it would be...

...something that allows people to empathise. I don’t want to call it a machine because obviously we don’t need more machines in the world. But some kind of phenomenon or concept that allows the whole world to suddenly be able to feel true empathy, and have it come from a place of curiosity and kindness.

That would allow people to educate themselves about how the climate crisis is affecting those less fortunate than themselves.

My sustainability hero is...

Robin Wall Kimmerer. She’s an American author, poet and biologist. Her books allow you to see the world and nature differently. It’s just incredible; the joy that she exudes through her writing really touches your heart.

The one thing everyone should watch or read about the climate crisis is...

I can’t pick just one. Kiss the Ground - that’s on Netflix - and One Strange Rock, which is also on Netflix. It’s a series narrated by Will Smith and it’s incredible because he doesn’t talk about sustainability. He talks about the physiology of the planet and the perspective of astronauts who’ve been away from it.

I think it’s probably really interesting to people who feel sustainability is not for them, because it’s just about science. And it helps us understand the earth, which so many people don’t know a lot about. And that’s, partly I think, why we’re damaging it so much, because we just don’t get it.

My favourite vegan or vegetarian restaurant is...

Farmacy in London. It’s delicious and very environmentally friendly.

My one piece of advice to people trying to be more sustainable is...

Truly believe that every decision you make has a huge impact. Because until you believe that, you won’t make small decisions that will make a difference. But think about it. If you make decisions today, they could impact you for the rest of your life. So, for example, I made a decision when I was 29 to stop buying plastic bottles of soap.

For the rest of my life, I’ll be buying bars of soap for all of the bathrooms and kitchen in my house. That’s four bottles of soap every month or every six weeks for the rest of my life that I’m saving.

Three sustainable brands everyone should know about

Mother of Pearl - I just adore their clothes and their whole sustainable ethos.

Olistic - It’s a French label, I love that so much; I just did a collaboration with them

Skim Paris - It’s a leather brand, which is controversial because we have been taught to think that leather is one of the least sustainable things. But actually, there’s a different narrative emerging, which is that leather holds the answer to climate change because it gives cows a purpose beyond agriculture.

Arizona Muse recently launched her new charity Dirt, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting biodynamic farming all over the world. Find out more here.

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