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Amber Valetta by Alexia Niedzielski and Elizabeth von Guttman

Whether it’s on the cover of Vogue, in the cinema or fronting H&M’s Conscious Collection, chances are you’ve probably seen the face before.

But what we don’t always hear is how Amber is an eco-fashion entrepreneur, and a Tesla driving hockey mum who grew up on a farm in land-locked Oklahoma and now dedicates a lot of her time campaigning for cleaning up the oceans.

The Power of Now

How did you become interested in sustainability? I grew up in Oklahoma on my grandparent’s farm, and my mom was an activist. She was protesting to stop a nuclear power plant being built in my state on American-Indian land. And I think because I saw her approach to activism, fighting for people and the environment, it kind of instilled in me the value of what is important. Growing up on a farm meant I was always outdoors, and I think because of that, I know how much it means for our children to inherit a healthy planet — it’s the natural birthright of every single human being, plant and animal.

Do you have children? Yes. I have a son, Audley.

Have you tried to raise him in a similar way? Absolutely. Unfortunately for him, he lives in a city. But that city is Los Angeles, so nature is right there. And I talk to him a lot about how we treat and respect the Earth, animals and people. I think the education children are having today is much different from what we had — now, they are taught about the environment, recycling and about reusing and composting. It’s part of their culture, this younger generation; it’s really ingrained in them. And it’s necessary, quite honestly. He’s used to it. We have solar panels. We have an electric car. He sees I’m not excessive with what I buy and how I live.

Whether it’s by virtue or simply trying to save money, there are a lot of people who are more sustainable than they know — people who walk or ride a bike, or take hand-me-downs.

And are you all vegetarians? I always say, ‘we’re just animals dressed up in clothing.’ We think we’re greater than these animals, yet the only difference between them and us is that we can raise them. Though I’m not quite certain that they can’t raise us! [Laughs] I was vegetarian for a long time, but at home, nope, we’re not vegetarian, but we don’t eat a ton of meat either. We’re very careful and like to eat organic, grass-fed meats. There’s a lifecycle and a food chain. While I don’t believe in torturing or the way they are manufacturing animals, I don’t think I’m meant to be a vegetarian either.

Do you believe money makes it easier to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Whether it’s by virtue or simply trying to save money, there are a lot of people who are more sustainable than they know — people who walk, ride a bike, or take hand-me-downs. And then there’s that middle zone of people who are turning a blind eye. But no matter what, it’s up to the individual to take actions and to take steps to change. It can be as small as buying food from a farmers’ market or not using plastic bags. Sometimes it’s just about being conscientious of ‘do I need that?’ or ‘can I buy one BPA-free plastic bottle and keep refilling it?’ And the answer to the first question will more often be no, and to the second, nearly always yes.

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH levels of the Earth’s oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Nearly half of the CO2 released by man into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans where it dissolves in seawater to form carbonic acid, which over time decreases the alkalinity of the oceans’ pH. The pH of the ocean has already decreased by 30 percent, and studies suggest that if we continue emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the same rate, ocean acidity will have increased by 150 percent by 2100. Such a monumental change in the ocean’s equilibrium, one that has not been experienced on Earth for 400,000 years, has potentially devastating consequences for all marine life — and is something to consider next time you leave a light on in a room you’re not using.

oceana.org

Talking about plastic — how did you get involved in campaigning for cleaning up the oceans? I’ve worked with a few groups, but after a friend was diagnosed with mercury poising while she was pregnant, I started to work with Oceana on issues like mercury poisoning — which is also found in fresh water, not just in the sea — and the acidification of the oceans. As the oceans become contaminated with chemicals, we risk losing many of these great animals. There are also other issues. In the United States, we have this horrible sonar radio frequency that’s a huge blast sent into the ocean which is used to look for oil. It’s like a sonic boom for big mammals. It’s devastating.

Sometimes it’s about being conscientious of ‘do I need that?’ or ‘can I buy one BPA-free plastic bottle and keep refilling it?’ And the answer to the first question will more often be no, and to the second, nearly always yes.

How have you addressed issues of sustainability within the fashion industry? I recently launched an online store called Master and Muse, which I hope is an answer to some of the fashion-related environmental problems. I think that people are still going to want to consume. We all love beautiful things — beauty is essential to life. We’ve been creating art since the beginning of time when people began drawing on walls. People need to express themselves, so you’re not going to stop that. But I believe that great design and great innovation go hand in hand — it’s the future. It seems stupid to not be more responsible, even in economic terms for big companies; later you are going to pay for your mistakes.

What kind of products are you offering on Master and Muse? So right now we have about 20 different designers and 200 different products. I partnered with Yoox, where we have a pop-up store in the Yooxygen section. Next Spring, we’re going to have 30 designers and almost 400 products — and the designers are great! I’ve found the fashion community to be really supportive and willing to collaborate. It feels like everyone in the industry is excited to see some real change.

masterandmuse.com

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