The move from rural Missouri to New York City was a difficult one for Angela Lindvall. Pursuing a modeling career meant trading in the ample fields and windy trails of her childhood in favor of tiny apartments and harsh runways. With her newfound big-city life came the realization that pristine, untouched nature is not the norm.
"I hadn’t really even considered the environmental problems we faced, so when I moved to New York to start modeling, I started asking simple questions like, ‘Where does our trash go?’ and looking into ingredients in food and wondering, ‘What the hell is Red 40?’" Lindvall tells mbg from her Los Angeles home. "After researching what was going on with our food, our water, and our waste, I was kind of mind-blown. I got a case of environmental anxiety and started wondering why people weren’t talking about these issues on the front page of the newspaper every day."
Back then, green issues didn't have the traction they do today, and Lindvall reports that her peers probably thought she was "a little kooky" to be diving so deeply into them. That, combined with the fact that she was a tomboy in a glam industry, made her a bit of an outsider in the high-fashion realm. But that didn't stop her from going on to grace covers of major publications the likes of Elle, Harper's Bazaar, and Marie Claire—and start an environmental nonprofit along the way.
"Getting into fashion made me realize the power of the entertainment industry and showed me that people knew more about their favorite celebrity than they did about these issues at that time," she says. "But I actually got kind of inspired by that. I wanted to use pop culture and media to get the issues out there." There, her Collage Foundation was born to educate young people about visionaries in the green field.
A model for green living.
Over the years, Lindvall has watched the green issues close to her heart enter a more mainstream conscience: "It's really exciting to see the term become bigger over the years. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things, and I'm always coming across new responsible companies in beauty and in fashion." As the sustainable marketplace has evolved, so, too, has Lindvall's own brand of environmentalism, rooted in self-care.
When she was at the height of her nonprofit work, a series of trials in her personal life left her drained and unsure of where to go next. "I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life, and it really stopped making sense. Here I was, trying to save the world, and my own world was falling apart. I really need to take care of me and look at where I needed to heal myself and stop taking this life for granted. It’s like that idea that you should put your oxygen mask on first. If you’re thriving, you can help others. The choices we make for ourselves affect us, but they also affect the planet." The trajectory she saw in the fashion industry only solidified her new perspective. "So much of the industry used to focus on the external, but now there’s more focus on going inward. Many people are seeking this because we’re stressed out and overwhelmed with all that we need to take care of."
In her own life, rejuvenating practices like yoga and meditation fuel eco-friendly habits. The LA home she shares with two teenage sons runs on solar, has its own well, is stocked with nontoxic products, and will soon be complete with backyard orchards and gardens. Lindvall tries to be a conscious, minimalist consumer both for herself and her boys. "That’s something I’m always trying to remind myself and teach them: to be aware of the energy we’re bringing into a space, how we’re treating each other, and how we’re contributing."
Finding beauty in the wreckage.
These values have shaped the work Lindvall has taken on as well. Enjoying life further from the runway, she now finds herself teaming up with companies like Voz, which uses fashion to preserve indigenous culture and lineage in Chile, and supporting biodiversity restoration efforts in Costa Rica. Her latest project is a collaboration with sustainable, ethical jewelry maker Article 22. With its first line, Peacebomb, the brand turns struggle into beauty. The collection of stunning jewels is handcrafted from war shrapnel dropped in rural Laos. Between 1964 and 1973, a hidden war overtook the region, with the equivalent of one B52 bomb load dropped every eight minutes. In total, a whopping 250 million bombs were dropped, leaving total devastation in their wake. Article 22 features the work of passionate artisans who melt the bombs that failed to detonate into gorgeous charms. (Check out more about their incredible story here.)
Lindvall's line of necklaces, Seed of Life, uses the shrapnel as a base that supports gold and silver that's shaped into sacred geometry. She thought the geometric structure that exists in both mathematics and music was a powerful representation of human potential for creativity. The metal is engraved with her personal mantra, "I am love. I am light. I am peace,"—a message that she wants to bring closer to the heart of the masses.
"Whenever I thought about what Article 22 stood for—taking something negative and turning it into something positive—I came back to this concept of self-care," Lindvall says of her inspiration. "I came up with this concept of 'I am love, I am light, I am peace.' This idea that peace really begins with us. Changing the world begins with us. Tapping into our love and our light is what creates peace on the planet."
Ready for more inspo? These TED talks focused on sustainability could change your life—and save the planet.