Why Model Arizona Muse Started a Charity Called ‘Dirt’

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Model and environmentalist Arizona Muse hasn’t slowed down since being named global sustainability advocate for Aveda.

On Thursday, she launched “Dirt,” a charity devoted to biodynamic farming, a form of regenerative agriculture that fosters biodiversity, soil fertility, water conservation and community development. She revealed the efforts the day before at the Sustainable Angle’s Future Fabrics Expo in London, an organization where Muse is a board member.

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Most used by grape growers, biodynamic farming is less common in the fiber sector (despite fashion’s growing affinity for regenerative agriculture with Timberland, Stella McCartney and more jumping on board).

Saying her mission with Dirt is to help “make soil sexy” by supporting biodynamics education, research and conversion projects, Muse reiterated that “our disregard for this precious resource means we risk destroying one of our best solutions to the climate crisis. The food sector is catching on, but the apparel industry is fashionably late to the party.”

Muse believes fashion needs to acknowledge the growers behind “the garment we are wearing,” as central to the value creation in the industry, in parallel to her work with organizations like Fashion Revolution.

With global farmers being most susceptible to poverty, according to The International Fund for Agricultural Development, Muse added that “the farmer suicide crisis, not just in India, but around the world has highlighted that we need to do all we can to ensure that these people who sit at the heart of so many industries are able to enjoy their wonderful and vital work, and also that they feel valued.”

Dirt currently has 10 projects in the pipeline, at varying funding needs. These projects include forest protection in Brazil, mine regeneration in Uganda, biodynamic wool and leather farming expansion in the U.K. and two projects in Egypt — one to regreen desertified land and the other to further expand biodynamic cotton farming.

Throughout the pandemic Muse spent time living and working on a farm, saying that “I have never seen something have such an impact on degraded soils as biodynamics. Biodynamics was the first form of sustainable farming system to arise in response to the industrialization of agriculture. It is almost 100 years old, 20 years older than organic and various studies show that it is significantly more effective at improving soil health.”

Managing the day-to-day operations at Dirt, Muse hopes to scale-up biodynamic farm adoption among the fashion industry and later to the beauty and jewelry sectors in 2022. Dirt will be funded by contributions from the fashion industry to start with, as well as environmentalists.

In the year ahead, Dirt will help link brand partners with relevant projects of their choice that are, furthermore, vetted by a certification called Demeter.

“Vagueness around certain terms makes for fertile ground for greenwashing, especially in fashion. Regenerative is already being co-opted and losing meaning because there is no certification, which allows brands to take just a small aspect of regenerative and then stamp it on a collection. Words like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have lost almost all impact as a result of a lack of standards. The biodynamic certification ensures that a set of standards are met that necessitate enhancements to soil health and community well-being, and that the term can’t be used deceptively,” added Muse, who enlisted help from the Demeter certifying body.

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