Even though Anastasia Vakula appears in magazines like L’officiel, Elle, Martha Stewart and The Knot, you might notice that a good portion of her social media content focuses on environmental issues. As a model with a substantial following Anastasia is in a unique position to do some good for planet health.
“I believe that there are more and more models leaving behind the standard glamour pack in order to make a difference. Being a model means having a lot of attention and it is very important to understand that we have the power to use this attention in the ‘right’ way.” – Anastasia Vakula
Vakula’s quest towards environmental activism started when she and fiancé went on a trip to the island of Kauai. Kauai opened her eyes to the environmental issues that face Hawaii. “We were surfing and I saw a longboarder hauling plastic trash out of the ocean,” said Vakula. “He paddled back and forth from the waves to the beach with trash on his surfboard.” She mentioned that the surfer said to her and her fiancé that the ocean was choking. That is when she noticed how careful and mindful native Hawaiians are about their land and the waste they produce. The state of Hawaii is 2,400 miles from the closest landmass. That makes Hawaii one of the most isolated island communities on the planet. Any trash produced stays on the island and creates a problem for the people who live there. “It forces Hawaiians to find ways to be more sustainable,” Anastasia said. “Coffee shops offer a discount if you show up with your own reusable cup, recycling stations are pretty much everywhere, and hands-on beach cleanups are happening every morning.”
After their Hawaii trip Anastasia really dug into research on plastic pollution and its role in climate change. The research, plus her experience, fundamentally changed her way of thinking in terms of everything – from her eating and drinking habits, to her wardrobe choices. Her experience in Hawaii made her think about the harm humanity is causing to the planet as well as how the ocean is being put in a chokehold, along with everything that lives in it and near it, including humans.
What is she doing about it? “I started talking to my close friends and family to make them aware, and to urge them to change their day-to-day habits in order to become more sustainable,” said Vakula. “I now think the most important thing you can do is start talking about the climate crisis with others and work on this issue as a team.” Becoming a climate change ambassador was Vakula’s first essential step in contributing to the cause. With the help of a friend, Alyona Kazantseva, Anastasia joined the World Bank Group Global Youth Ambassador Program. The Global Youth Climate Network is an initiative of the World Bank Youth (Y2Y) Community. The requirements consisted of being between the ages of 18 to 35 and to be a dynamic, creative, and innovative change maker who inspires and empowers others. “I wasn’t sure if others would see these qualities in me, but I felt them inside, so I applied,” expressed Vakula. “Now I am one of 153 ambassadors from around the world.”
Vakula mentioned that Global Youth Climate Network is a melting pot in terms of everyone speaking different languages and having different skills. It is a diverse group of business professionals, journalists, writers, IT specialists, models and artists. Each person is trying to contribute to efforts based on their knowledge and skills. For instance: we do Meatless Mondays, Earth Month challenges, help organize climate change fundraisers and launch websites and apps for sustainable lifestyles. Vakula says, “my favorite thing about it is the opportunity to work with young activists who are inspiring and motivating. I love our virtual meetups where we share ideas on how to help fight climate change together.”
In terms of her modeling career, she mentioned that there are a variety of ways we can all contribute. She believes models can help by working with more eco-friendly brands, speaking up on social media platforms, engaging with audiences, and promoting a healthy lifestyle for human beings and the planet. Vakula makes sustainability part of her everyday life, and you can too.
Anastasia Valuka’s Tips on Eliminating Plastic From Your Life
- Invest in reusable water bottle and shopping bag. Keep them in your bag so you never forget.
- Say “no” to plastic utensils and straws when ordering in.
- Shop at local farmers markets and small shops because they will likely provide sustainable options, such as no little plastic stickers on fruits and vegetables.
- Choose plastic-free chewing gum. Anastasia likes Simply Gum.
- Skip the plastic lid when purchasing coffee or bring your own reusable cup with a lid.
- Pay your bills online, eliminating unnecessary envelopes.
- Shop less, or reduce online shopping. Frequent online purchases produce more packaging waste, and online items tend to come from different distribution centers. Both factors result in higher greenhouse gas emissions per item.
Written by Aida M.Toro, Guest Writer
Edited by Paulina Kajankova, Managing Editor
Photography: Triston Cooper