GISELE BÜNDCHEN SPEAKS FOR THE TREES
Gisele Bündchen’s home is like a mini-ecosystem: chicken coops, beehives, vegetable gardens, compost heaps. “I wanted my children to experience the same joy and connection to nature I did as a child,” says the supermodel and mother of two. “Activist” gets tacked on to a lot of job descriptions these days, but Bündchen was impassioned about the environment long before it was cool. She credits her Brazilian upbringing—she hails from the small town of Horizontina—with her appreciation of nature, and a 2004 trip to the country’s Xingu region with her eco-awakening. She stayed there with the Kisêdjê tribe and “got to see firsthand the problems they were facing because of the pollution of the river,” she says. “From that moment, I knew I had to do something. I’ve been advocating for social and environmental causes ever since,” including clean water, reforestation, wildlife preservation, and clean energy. “After all,” she says, “our survival depends on it.” In 2008, she and her family cofounded Projeto Água Limpa (“Clean Water Project”) in Brazil.
For five years, “we planted over 40,000 trees on the riparian margins of the stream and cared for the land until the trees grew strong,” which, she says, not only improved the water quality of her hometown but also helped restore its wildlife. Bündchen is also a goodwill ambassador for the UN Environment Programme, a role that has involved field missions to Brazil and Kenya. In January, she fired back at her country’s agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina Dias, who had called her a “bad Brazilian” because of her environmental activism. In a response letter published in the Brazilian press, she called out those who would look to develop the area for profit. “An immeasurable heritage [is] threatened by illegal deforestation and the squatting of public lands,” she wrote. “These, yes, are the ‘bad Brazilians.’ ” It was a potent reminder that you’d better think twice before coming for Gisele—or the land that she holds dear.