For Earth Day this year we are supporting DIRT, an organisation founded by model and activist, Arizona Muse. We caught up with her to talk about origins of DIRT, and her approach to sustainable fashion.
Happy Earth Day! Tell us about why you founded DIRT, what biodynamic farming is, and why you chose to focus on that over other regenerative methods of agriculture?
"When I began educating myself about the climate crisis, I became fascinated by the wondrous entity that is soil; the living, breathing organism, a home to trillions of microorganisms and fundamental to almost every touchpoint of our lives. But, due in part to the effects of industrial agriculture, the Earth’s soil is in crisis. I knew I had to address the urgent need to regenerate soil globally in the face of climate change. Last year, I founded DIRT - Foundation for the Regeneration of Earth, which focuses on soil regeneration by supporting the Biodynamic Farming Movement. Biodynamic Farming is a true gem of a solution, an all encompassing soil regeneration method to help breathe life back to our soils and therefore, our Planet. Biodynamics is a type of regenerative agriculture that improves and maintains ecosystem health, positively impacting biodiversity and the microbiome of soil. It uses no chemicals at all: farmers see their farm, vineyard, forest, and garden as a living organism, and they develop biodiversity and encourage the regeneration of soil. Using Biodynamic methods means with every year of production, life beneath the soil of a Biodynamic farm becomes healthier and more alive, populated with trillions of microorganisms and better able to absorb rainfall. I chose to focus on Biodynamics because, as well as it being rooted in my childhood, it is protected by a very important certification called Demeter, which means enhancements to soil health and community well-being are guaranteed."
You’ve been an activist for many years now. What was your journey into sustainability, and when did you know you wanted to be a part of the change?
"I spent much of my twenties at the heart of the fashion industry, wearing clothes made from every type of fabric, but I realised I didn’t know enough about their origins. I wasn’t connecting the clothes on my body to who made them or where they came from - the soil. This realisation led me on a path of education and activism as I embarked on a journey to learn more about the impact of the fashion industry, and the emergency we must work together to address: climate change, social justice, water stress, pollution, biodiversity, the degradation of soil, and of course many, many more."
What do you hope to achieve with DIRT, and the fashion industry as a whole?
"The ambition of DIRT is to find and support projects around the world that are using Biodynamics to regenerate land and communities. I hope DIRT highlights the importance of nourished, healthy soil, on a global scale. We cannot live without it, and the fashion industry is inexplicably tied to it: the fibres for our clothes come from the ground. I want to see awareness in the industry, and for this awareness to be followed by action that makes a difference. For example, by incorporating Biodynamically-grown products into supply chains. DIRT operates with the intention to raise mainstream awareness and funding for Biodynamics, with the goal to educate the population and support farmers to create a mainstream shift to Biodynamic farming. DIRT wants to see a world where all 37% of terrestrial land that is managed by humans is cared for using Biodynamic methods, and I hope we are well on our way toward that goal in 5 years. Our purpose is to increase the amount of land that is farmed Biodynamically, sourcing projects on Biodynamic Farms around the world and seeking donors to support each project. The reason behind this strategy is to build more than a monetary relationship between the farmers and the donors. If people can spend more time listening to Biodynamic Farmers, understanding who they are and their process, this experience is what will encourage the movement and knowledge to spread."
Many brands globally are trying to shift their focus to producing responsibly. How do you weed out any greenwashers in this space, and what is your own approach to fashion, now that you’re working towards change in the industry?
"I think one way brands are at risk of greenwashing is by appearing to join the conversation without being part of the action. Notice the language being used when a brand talks about its sustainability goals, rather than achievements. When a brand sends messages out into the world of their hopes and dreams for a sustainable future, hold your applause if change has not yet actually been implemented. We must look for the evidence that tangible action has taken place, because merely hoping for a sustainable future isn’t bringing us any closer to it.
My approach to fashion has been a complete shift in mindset, and I am now sensitive to every purchasing decision I make. I first think about whether I really need that garment or product, and I sleep on it. If I decide that myself or my family really do need to purchase something, I’ll first explore whether or not I can buy it second hand. If I do need to buy something new, I research brands more carefully now, and search for the evidence that sustainable materials are being used, and supply chains are ethically looked after - all of which still unfortunately involves a lot of research from the consumer. I also send feedback to the brands, writing to them to ask about their packaging or materials and if they plan on choosing more sustainable options in the future. There are so many sustainable options out there, from wardrobe rentals, to repairing the clothes we already own and making them last so that they don’t just end up in landfill - we can all do our bit. But ultimately, we must demand that brands do everything in their power to put nature first so that we can live in a world where we don’t have to check every label and spend hours searching through misleading jargon. Where we can trust that whatever it is we’re buying was created without causing harm to the Planet."
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to anyone on their own sustainability journey, wanting to live life more responsibly?
"Making sustainability a part of your life doesn’t need to be daunting. You don’t have to quit your job to be part of the change – in fact, you can play an immensely powerful role changing the practices of your workplace from within. On a personal level, think about what you do each day – what you eat, what you wear, how you travel. Are there changes you can make? When it comes to clothes, I love taking a moment to look at the label, and at the brand’s sustainability pages. What materials were used to create this garment? Where were they made? Who made them? Do they pay the people who make their garments fairly? If we ask these questions of all products, we will begin the important shift in thinking towards sustainability."
What are your plans for DIRT in the future, and how can we get involved to help your mission?
"It’s been almost a year since we launched DIRT, and we continue to find amazing Biodynamic projects that we can fund and support, as well as raising awareness of Biodynamic practices. Ultimately, we want to increase the number of Biodynamically managed farms, and Biodynamically-grown products, across the globe.
There are plenty of ways for anyone and everyone to come and say hello to Dirt and join the movement. You can head to our YouTube Channel where we have a mixture of short films to take you through Dirt’s story, as well as the journey of different materials and how Biodynamics could change that journey into a more regenerative one.
Visit our website www.dirt.charity to learn some more about what we do and the projects we’re working on. We love opening up conversations, which can be started by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in supporting a project. You can also follow us on Instagram @dirt.charity, or on my personal Instagram @arizona_muse for updates, ideas and education which I hope ignites a spark in somebody to become more conscious of the world beneath our feet."
Find DIRT here.
Find Arizona here.
Images - Teodora Berglund