Scientist, model and Garnier ambassador Laura Wells is passionate about doing all she can to protect the environment. Here, she reveals the steps we can all take today to support a healthier planet tomorrow.
Laura Wells’ tips on sustainability
What was your life like growing up? Did you spend a lot of time getting out among nature?
I grew up in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney’s south, surrounded by bush and ocean, and was lucky to experience the outdoors a lot as a child. Being part of a surf club from an early age, I spent a lot of time at the beach right throughout primary and high school. I also competed as a still-water rower while I was in high school, so I spent a lot more time on the river in the early mornings before school – I was awake with the birds and jellyfish!
As a kid, however, I was petrified of animals, which seems hilariously out of character for me now. I would refuse to pet animals or hold them, even though I was interested in them. I do remember a trip to the Daintree Rainforest (in north Queensland) as a child and marvelling at the beauty and the fact that it was completely different to anything I’d experienced before. The smells, the colours, the animals – it was incredible.
When did you start to feel that you wanted to be involved in protecting and conserving the environment?
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realised conservation and protection of our natural world was a driving force for me. I studied marine biology and law at university and learnt about ecosystem interactions and human threats to the environment. When I moved to New York to work as a model and travelled all over the world to remote places, I really saw the detrimental effect humans were having on the planet.
In far-off corners of the world, I witnessed plastic pollution spewed across beautiful beaches and I saw animals ingesting and dying from eating our rubbish. I’ve seen human pollution pouring into our oceans and I could feel the lack of political action. Many countries were unable to deal with the problem due to lack of infrastructure and the convenience of plastic and our reliance on it. I knew that I had to use my education, passion and influence to turn the tide in the plastic pollution epidemic and raise awareness, change habits and enforce action globally to protect our oceans.
You encourage people to ‘be curious’ about the environment. How can they do this?
Curiosity is one of the virtues I value most. It encourages you to ask questions, to delve deeper, broaden your knowledge and understand how inextricably intertwined we are with every living thing on this planet. My curiosity consistently leads me down rabbit holes and sparks intriguing conversations with others, allowing me to learn about and appreciate things I’d never once given a moment’s thought to.
Curiosity can come in many forms. Personally, I think the best way to be curious is to get outside. Go for a walk in nature, with no phone and no distractions. Sit against a tree and just watch and listen. Look at the big things and then just look at the soil in front of you. You are bound to see many different creatures. Then when you watch their behaviours, you will start asking, ‘why’. Why are they walking that way? Why are they carrying that leaf and why are they making that call? The curiosity and the questions will flow and from that you can make connections with our natural spaces that will eventually allow you to realise you are part of this ecosystem and what you do each and every day affects it.
Many readers will know you from your time on Australian Survivor. What did you enjoy most about filming the show?
Survivor was a fantastic experience and one that I will always reflect on positively. Besides challenging me physically and mentally, I think the two best things about it were spending lots of time trying to understand the natural space we inhabited and also the lasting friendships I’ve made. I met some incredible people from diverse backgrounds who inspire and encourage me to be strong.
The outback setting of Survivor is a long way from the ocean. What did you learn about the environment during your time in the desert?
I absolutely loved immersing myself in the outback. Sleeping in the dirt for weeks, hunting for food, making fire – surviving in that harsh environment really taught me to appreciate my surroundings. Nature provides us with so much. You just have to look at it, feel and understand it so that you can find all of its nourishing and lifesaving bounties. The outback also taught me that it’s absolutely freezing there at night, so pack a warm jacket!
Which beauty products did you miss most when filming?
I missed having a toothbrush and micellar water to wash my face. I was constantly covered in dirt; it was so pervasive and so hard to get rid of. I never really got clean until I had my first shower and scrubbed my body to within an inch of its life.
How do you typically split your time between working in marine conservation and your presenting and modelling work?
There is never a ‘normal day’ for me, each day is different. I may be working on a photo shoot one day and then flying to a location that night to start filming an environmental documentary the next day. I try to give lots of time and energy to my environmental work, as it’s my purpose and passion. I fill in the other time with modelling, which also brings me joy as it’s quite creative. I’m also able to promote a positive body image in an industry that has traditionally been focused on beauty of one particular size and shape.
I’ve been a model for 15 years and have also been able to work across both the modelling and environmentalism worlds together, as a model and ambassador for brands that are doing great things for the planet. For example, Garnier is a meeting of my two worlds. It’s so rewarding for me to be recognised for my work in each field and to cross-pollinate them to continue to live my purpose.
You’ve been a Garnier ambassador since January 2020. What qualities do you admire in the brand?
Something I love about Garnier is their transparency and commitment towards making greener beauty accessible to everyone. As a global brand they’ve set some amazing targets to reach by 2025, including using zero virgin plastic in all of their packaging and switching to 100 per cent carbon neutral industrial sites.
Each year, Garnier also brings out a Sustainability Progress Report to transparently show the progress they have made and how they have achieved it. The best part is that this report is available on their website so anyone can read it.
How you can support a tree change every time you visit the beauty aisle:
Throughout October, every purchase of a Garnier product in Coles Supermarkets nationwide will contribute to 100,000 trees being planted across Australia throughout 2022. This is part of an initiative between Garnier, Coles and Carbon Positive Australia, which has already supported the planting of thousands of native Australian trees in 2021. “Already this activity has resulted in 29 hectares of ecological restoration of an existing corridor between three national parks in Nimbin, NSW,” explains Laura. “It has also helped increase habitat for endangered species including koalas, improved biodiversity and encouraged further natural regeneration. “This initiative makes it so easy for customers to contribute to having a positive impact on our environment.”
Making smarter choices
Confused about how to make more eco-friendly choices when shopping for beauty products? Here, Laura shares four qualities to look for when you’re in the beauty aisle.
Recyclable: look for items that are made from recycled products and that are recyclable.
Compostable: some products, such as sheet masks, can now go in your home compost after use.
Sustainable: check if the company has a thorough sustainability ethos and lives its values.
Ingredients: check the ingredients list to see how many are derived from natural sources.
These are some of Laura’s favourite beauty buys.
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
“It’s such an effective everyday cleanser and the packaging is 100 per cent recyclable once you remove the label.”
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Reusable Eco Pads
“These washable pads are a fantastic way to limit waste of disposable make-up pads.”
Garnier Fructis Hair Foods
“I can’t decide on my favourite scent – I love watermelon and banana equally. These formulas are vegan-friendly and biodegradable and are amazing for my very salty ocean hair.”
Don’t forget, with every Garnier purchase at Coles Supermarkets in October, you will also help support the planting of 100,000 native Australian trees.