Arizona Muse: how we can all tackle the climate crisis

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Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Arizona Muse has a captivating ability to incite conversations. First, it was through the enviably chic outfits she wore as a model and the campaigns, for names including Chanel and Estée Lauder, she fronted. More recently, her latest 'shag' hair cut has helped the style trend on social media. But it's within her role as a sustainability activist that Muse is most proud of her power to change people's minds and actions.

In fact, you only need to read her Instagram bio – so often the place for models to showcase their multi-hyphenated careers - to see that Muse does things a little differently. Hers notes: "We are in a Climate Crisis. I'm educating myself about the solutions available and sharing what I learn right here."

Here, Muse talks exclusively to Bazaar about her sustainability journey, a new charity effort and the simple plant-friendly rules that she lives by to be more eco-friendly without sacrificing on style.

I became interested in sustainability when...

"I was about 26, so six years ago, after being invited to a charity luncheon by Synchronicity Earth, which was all about biodiversity. That was the first time that word had really been used in front of me and I was like, 'wow. Why are we not talking about this?'"

"It shocked me that it wasn't a common conversation – even though we were already experiencing climate change – so it sparked my own sustainability journey. I used to sit at fashion dinners and start saying how interested I was in it – I'd have maybe a minute and a half before the person next to me would turn away. But now, it's amazing to see how the discourse has changed dramatically. Everyone's talking about climate change now, and it's amazing to witness."

We need more sustainable fashion because...

"Alongside dyeing processes and the growing of natural materials for fashion, which are huge environmental polluters, there is a massive human aspect too. For example, the horrendous exploitation of the women who make the clothes for other women."

"You can still love fashion – I've got a 12 year old who's just discovering style and it is the sweetest thing to watch because fashion really is a tool for self-expression. We just need to make sure everyone who helps us express ourselves is treated with respect too."

"Take the main players in sustainable fashion, like Nina Marenzi from The Sustainable Angle and Ursula de Castro from Fashion Revolution. They've been considered outsiders their whole careers, but they were really early to see what needed to happen. Fashion Revolution is focused around worker’s rights and unsafe working conditions, while The Sustainable Angle sources sustainable fabrics for the fashion industry. That's so important because the most common thing you hear from designers is 'where do I find the fabrics?' Nina saw that niche and then in the last three to four years, it's just exploded. It's amazing to see someone who was right all along become a mainstream success."

Sustainability still has a money problem...

"I'm really blunt about the fact that your ability to shop sustainably depends on how much money you have. Let's not beat around the bush: that's the unfortunate truth. There are plenty of people who cannot afford to spend more money on something that could cost less if they just continue buying what they've always been buying. That is the reality and it shouldn't be about guilting those people. Unfortunately, there's a lot of sustainability shaming around. That's why I want to focus on working on a system change that makes sure no one is left behind."

"However, if you are lucky enough to have money right now, you have the privilege of being able to spend your money where it makes a difference. So shop with businesses that are doing the right thing: using materials that are not harming the planet, paying workers fairly, and localising their supply chains to lighten up on shipping.”

The future of my sustainability activism might surprise you…

My activism has really taken me deep into agriculture. I've just started a charity called Dirt, which will support biodynamic farming and put a strong emphasis on things that are not food. We know that our food is grown on farms, but actually everything, including our clothes and beauty products, are too. Take wood for example: it might be from a managed forest, but managed forests are only planted with one species. And that one species of tree will become very vulnerable to disease, because it's not in a bio-diverse forest."

"It all comes back to biodiversity. It's the key to everything, but we are losing it everywhere. The single biggest thing we can do right now is promote biodiversity and practices that support it.”

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Easy ways to become more sustainable

Check your product packaging

“All it takes is a brand stopping and thinking, ‘Why do we need that box or plastic sleeve around our bottle?’ Because they don’t. All of Aveda’s products, for example, are so carefully sourced to support farmers, rather than middlemen. All the packaging is recycled or biodegradable plastic, which is so much better than using virgin plastic, and they don't wrap the products in extra boxes. It is such a small action but it's saving so many trees.”

Choose your skincare carefully

“With skincare, I always say you should focus on reading the ingredients list and go with the products with fewer ingredients. I love pure oils because they're so high in nutrition and they're often grown on farms that are regenerative or at least organic.”

“One of my favourites is Fushi, which does a wonderful range of organic face oils. I also love Evan Healy – a beautiful American brand. They have a great clay mask that comes as a dry powder, so you mix it with water yourself.”

Find the right salon

"It's important to know what is in the products you are using, which can mean taking the time to do your own research. That extends to the hair colour and treatments you have in the salon – not just the brands you use at home. Do a little research and look at the salons in your area. I just got my hair cut at the eco-conscious Butcher's in London, by Davide [Spinelli] and Dominic [Roach]. It's a space where all aspects of sustainability – from the running of the salon itself to the full range of Aveda products used – are considered really carefully."

Consider your wardrobe

“Look out for organic materials, and not just ones that say 'sustainably sourced' because that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Organic, however, is a certification that's protected. We should be considering dying processes too: a good certification is Oeko-Tex. That means that the chemicals used in the dyeing process are better – not perfect, because there's always room for improvement, but a step in the right direction.”

Find your footing

“Footwear is a really tricky one. As you may have noticed, there are very few sustainable shoes around because it is really hard to do. I love Nicholas Kirkwood's first collection of completely sustainable shoes. It's a huge feat: he's very fashion-forward, so they are very sexy."

Try farm deliveries

“You can reduce your plastic consumption to almost zero with farm delivery boxes. It also really helps to support farmers, because when they don't have to sell to grocery stores, they make a much higher margin. It takes a little work in the beginning to find the right box for you, but then it just arrives every week, so it's much easier than grocery shopping.”

Travel consciously

“I'm not going to say that you shouldn't be travelling, especially after the year and a half that we have just gone through. I guess that is about travelling for the right reasons. Basically, go see your family if you haven't seen them, but consider the effect of your air miles for any unnecessary travel”

Utilise social media

“Type 'sustainable' into Instagram and you’ll find so many shops pop up now. It’s so fun to explore and it also means that it is easier than ever before to buy sustainable things for your home, wardrobe and beauty cabinet.

Ask questions

“One of the biggest things that we can do as citizens and individuals is to ask questions. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid: you're learning, and that's okay. The best brands will answer your queries and if they don't, there's probably a reason they won't and then you have your answer. Also, the more questions they get, the more likely they are to shift – and that's a healthy pressure to put on people. I don't like shaming and blaming. But, for brands, it is about putting pressure on people to change in a positive way.”

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