Legendary supermodel Gisele Bündchen covers Vogue Hong Kong’s April Sustainability issue, styled in Dior. The glamorous Brazilian star – who rose to fame in the late 1990’s – is known for her highly-championed environmental work, which includes helping to plant 40,000 trees in the Amazon Rainforest.
Gisele is from Brazil, home to the the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon. While climate change and global warming have become an imminent crisis that cannot be ignored, Gisele has always spoken up on environmental issues, acting as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations since 2009. The model and philanthropist has personally visited Africa and Brazil on volunteer expeditions, while also establishing the Água Limpa with her family, a project that seeks to purify local water, rebuild Brazil’s rainforest environment, and also bring to light the issue of deforestation with the education program Florestas do Futuro (Forests of the Future). The selfless supermodel commemorated her 40th birthday last year by planting 40,000 trees, while also becoming the executive producer of the Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground.
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This cover shoot is being shot in Costa Rica, which is known for its rustic beauty. Why do you like this place so much?
I have been enchanted by Costa Rica since my first visit there. It is a place passionate about protecting and preserving nature, and that’s why it is the perfect refuge for me. Over the years the small village near where I live has grown a lot, though it still has the characteristics of a small country town, and still isn’t all that easy to access–which I love! Being in the middle of nature is my happy place. It’s where I feel most like myself.
You grew up in Brazil. When did you become actively aware of the importance of sustainability?
I grew up in a small city in the Brazilian countryside, and have felt a deep connection to nature my entire life. But it was an experience I had more than fifteen years ago that really woke me up. In 2004, I spent a few days living with an Indian tribe. I was able to see close-up how their harmonious connection with nature gives them everything they need to survive. I also saw how the effects of deforestation and water pollution were making them sick and affecting their way of life in negative ways. From then on, I knew I needed to do something–so I began using my platform to bring more attention to the importance of preserving nature and our natural resources. Our health as humans depends on the health of the planet we all share.
With your global reach, what have been some highlights of your fight in climate change? Have you made progress?
I have been supporting environment causes since the early 2000s. In 2009, I began working as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nation Environment Programme. My partnership with UNEP allowed me to connect with more people and create greater awareness around the importance of protecting and sustaining our natural resources. Even better, I’ve been able to learn so much, and meet so many inspiring people from all around the world who are doing wonderful work on behalf of humanity and our planet. It makes me extremely hopeful.
The good news is that nowadays, people seem much more conscious and willing to make changes that will benefit our planet. The thing is, we all need to do that before we reach a point of no return. Our natural resources are finite, and the fact is it costs more time and money to restore nature than it does to preserve it.
What has been your proudest achievement in your sustainability efforts, and what is your next action plan?
Over the past two decades, I´ve worked and supported a range of different projects. One that’s especially close to my heart is the Água Limpa Project (Clean Water Project). I developed it with my family in the region of Brazil where I was born and grew up. Its mission is to help improve local water quality for future generations. With my father’s coordination, my family and I planted more than 40,000 trees, and also restored the riverbanks of one of the region’s main water sources. An ecological corridor was created, and both animals and biodiversity came back. My family and I were able to see firsthand how with just a little help, nature is able to regenerate itself.
To celebrate my 40th birthday last year, I donated 40,000 trees in the Amazon Rainforest in honor of Mother Earth–and set up a separate campaign so that my friends and anyone who wanted to join in and donate more trees. In only a few days, the number of trees grew to 260,000! It was such a great example of how we can do so much more when we work together.
In the future? My plan is to continue learning about how I can best help protect and regenerate nature.
How can I leave the world a little bit better than when I arrived in it?
You are known as a family-oriented person. What kind of routines do you teach your children about incorporating sustainability into a daily lifestyle?
I believe that as parents and as people, we all need to lead by example. If you practice good habits, they will become natural, and even the norm, for your kids. If you give your children the opportunity to experience all the incredible benefits nature brings to our lives, it’s more likely they will grow up appreciating and respecting nature too. I often tell my kids that you can only love and protect something you know. That’s why spending time in nature, and really getting to know nature up-close, is so important.
At home we focus on the main things–recycling, avoiding plastic, not wasting food, and giving away things we don’t need or no longer use. Those things may seem small, but for kids, they become habits that start early on and only grow stronger with time. As a result, children grow up more conscious of the amount of waste humans generate, and the negative effect it has on our environment and, ultimately, on our health. We also keep a vegetable garden in our backyard, which has been a great learning experience for my kids. For example, it’s allowed them to observe how long it takes, and how much effort is needed, for a seed to grow, and eventually turn into the food that appears on their plates. As I said, if you can expose your kids to nature as early as possible, they will grow up understanding the difference between harming the cycles of life or collaborating with them.
How do you actively practice sustainability in the way you dress, and how has your personal style evolved?
I´m a very basic person! In my personal life, I like to have key pieces, along with comfortable pieces. I’ve never been one of those people who feels the need to update her closet every new season. As a matter of fact, my favorite pieces, and most of what’s in my closet, are more than ten years old. I believe that one way we can all practice a more sustainable consumerism is by choosing versatile, good-quality pieces that last a long time and can be used all year, year after year.
Who are some designers of sustainable fashion you have worn and liked?
I wear many different brands, and again, where fashion is concerned, my priority is good quality. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that many fashion brands are trying to produce clothing and other products in a more sustainable way. It’s not an easy process, I know, since it requires a lot of investment and research. The entire cycle of fashion has to be taken in consideration. Both the raw materials, and the production and manufacturing process (including dyeing and washing), have to be analyzed and understood, and that also includes how those same garments are disposed of. This movement is necessary, and in many cases it’s already underway, but it will accelerate when it becomes a priority for consumers.
Tell us about some of your beauty and eating habits that help you practice what you preach?
I believe that our bodies are our temples–and the more we care for them, the more our bodies are able to care for us. My routine for nourishing my body, mind and spirit involves eating healthy goods that make me feel good, and give me as much energy as possible. That includes lots of salads, vegetables, fruits, nuts (and dark chocolate, hey, what can I say, it makes me happy). I exercise every day, though it really depends where I’m at. I enjoy moving my body in different ways, and that can include walking on the beach, playing volleyball, surfing, practicing yoga, horseback-riding, and dancing. As for my own beauty habits, I drink a lot of water, as it’s important to keep our bodies hydrated. Also, knowing our skin is our largest organ, and absorbs everything we put on it, I opt for natural, chemical-free products that are made by sustainable companies.
Of course I have a daily meditation practice! I also make it a point every day to read as much positive and inspiring content as I can.
You are known as one of the true icons of modeling. What advice would you give to models today, in a world where inclusivity and diversity are more in demand than ever?
One thing that I truly believe, and a piece of advice I’ve always given to younger models is this: Know yourself. Be true to who you are. Each of us is unique, and has our own special gift to share with the world.
Have you visited Hong Kong before? Did you know that more than 70 percent of our small city is actually nature?
I visited Hong Kong only once, but I had a wonderful time when I was there! And no, I cannot believe that 70 percent of the city is nature! As I said earlier, connecting with nature brings a lot of benefits to our physical and mental health. Along from my family, nothing makes me happier than spending time outside.
Photographer: Kevin O’Brien
Fashion Director: Sean Kunjambu
Stylist: Bobette Cohn
Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist: Jenna Anton
Casting Director: Jill Demling @Creative Casting Agency
Producer: Alexey Galetskiy & Ryan Fahey @AGPNYC
Offshore Production: James Kelly & Kim Norcott @Offshore Productions CR
Location: Hotel Florblanca, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Cover Wardrobe: Dior
EditorVogue Hong Kong