Always a creative and positive force, Susan Rockefeller is a documentary filmmaker, author, jewelry designer and avid conservationist. Deeply committed to nurturing our planet–especially its oceans–Susan is a Board Member of Oceana and Chairs its Ocean Council, as well as being active in several other environmental charities. In addition to her philanthropic work, Susan is a jewellery designer using recycled precious metals to create uniquely elegant ocean themed pieces, the sales of which help fund her charitable causes.
Here, she tells Eluxe about her love of forests, food and finding time for family.
What is the earliest memory you have of being in nature?
As a child, my family spent the summers in East Hampton and I have fond memories of sand, sun, salt, and ocean waves––all primal. The crystalline beauty of the granules of sand in particular have stayed with me. From there my love of nature grew to include the beauty of forests and flowers and grandeur of the changing seasons.
Has the natural world inspired your work, in any way?
Always and in every way. Nature is full of color, texture, light and mystery. In fact, my motto is “Protect what is precious,” which, to me, is family, art, and nature. We are of the earth. Our health is inextricably connected to her health.
Art is the greatest expression of the human spirit and is a universal language with which to communicate this.
What’s the most positive thing you do for the environment in your daily life?
I take time to rest, because a revitalized me is a me that can do that much more for my family and the earth. I call it a Mermaid Moment. It serves as a reminder that the earth and the oceans need time to rest, rejuvenate and rebound as well. I also wake up to a gratitude quote (gratitude.org) and a daily meditation from All Souls Unitarian Church (allsoulsnyc.org). Setting the day with gratitude and acknowledgement of the mystery and beauty of being alive always starts things off right.
What’s your greatest eco ‘sin’?
The amount of airplane travel for both work and pleasure. It’s a lot of fossil fuel but I love the diversity of cultures and landscapes. And I appreciate being able to know the earth more deeply with each place I visit.
What would be your eco-friendly dream travel destination?
I love my home in Bridgehampton, New York. It’s a 1860’s farmhouse and a little piece of heaven on the East End. The light and garden and beaches are gorgeous and I’m able to sneak in some paddle boarding! I also enjoy my husband’s Maine home where we spend Christmas and the month of August. The night sky is spectacular––so many stars! And there’s great hiking, swimming, paddle boarding and sailing.
What are you proudest of so far in your career?
I would say the development of my documentary films and evolving to short format films to talk about what is important to me. For instance, the Susan Rockefeller brand uses a multi platform strategy to start the conversation about our oceans by having a short film, a line of jewelry that inspires and reminds us of our connection to the sea and the power of collaborative partnership with leading brands to leverage retail, fashion and social media platforms. The timing seems really fortuitous for collaborative partnerships that value a healthier and safer planet.
What are your favourite ‘green’ skincare, food, home or fashion brands?
Hourglass cosmetics are my favorite. They’re vegan and feel velvety on my skin.
I enjoy making smoothies using Vega One and also Isagenix protein powder. I am also keen on fresh salads and fruits and eat organic or local as much as possible.
I tend to buy artisan furniture and antiques that we can pass down to our children. I believe in quality craftsmanship and sustainable luxury in clothes and home design. I’d rather have one beautifully made sweater, say, that I wear for years and years, than multiple sweaters that barely make it through one season.
And I like to mix it up with classic Girard Perragaux watches, Gucci boots, Morgan Le Fay and Dolce and Gabbana dresses, Patagonia outerwear and J. Crew for daily wear.
Which high profile person trying to make a difference do you most admire, and why?
Joanna Barsh, formerly a director at McKinsey, who just completed her second book entitled “Centered Leadership.” I think training leaders to listen and maximize the potential of those they manage can make our society a better, more compassionate place for many who are working long hours. She’s also a great artist, wife and mother.
While not “high profile,” I’m impressed with the many social-service oriented nurses and health care professionals who help the sick and elderly and enable them to retain their dignity in their decline and/or suffering.
When and where are you happiest?
With my children and husband, usually in a quiet place such as our home or in nature. Also in moments of solitude where I feel the exquisite yet precarious balance of life and death––in that momentary pause before I realize I am contemplating such things.
For which cause would you die, if any?
I would die for my children. As a mother I don’t think I could die for a cause and leave them motherless, but I would die for them. I think most mothers feel the same way. As mothers, our cause is to love and by doing so empathy is formed and the world transforms.
How would you like to change your work to be more eco-friendly?
I work on this daily. From researching collaborations with recycled metals for my jewelry to making sure that the companies we work with are as environmentally sound in their manufacturing processes as possible. I believe choosing classic things that you can pass down as heirlooms is key as well. Moving from fast fashion that favors trends to slow fashion that values craftsmanship and beauty has been a vital for me.
Which environmental issues are most important to you?
Food––on both land and sea. With a population reaching nine billion, people can impact the health of the environment by what they choose to consume. I sit on the board of Oceana, which working to save the oceans and feed the world. One of their goals is to prevent the senseless waste of fish from bycatch. Fish are the last wild frontier and we can get it right and keep fish populations abundant if we manage the resources wisely.
I also sit on the Program Committee at Stone Barns for Sustainable Agriculture which works as an agri-laboratory, educational outreach hub and training center for young farmers. Current agricultural practices use a great deal of fossil fuel, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. We need to rethink these systems to ensure clean water and healthy food for our children and future generations.
I remember someone saying decades ago it’s hard to wake people up who are pretending to sleep. Climate change is having, and will continue to have, a catastrophic influence on our ecosystem. Each of us has to make changes in our lifestyle choices, from voting with our fork three times a day (i.e. buying local, eating vegetarian or lessening meat intake, participating in Meatless Mondays Campaign) to taking time to think about what you can do each day to make the world a better place.
I always say small ripples can create big waves of change.
Each of us has to be the change and support organizations and politicians that share values of a sustainable future and a kinder and more peaceful world – organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, Oceana, We Are Family Foundation Stone Barns for Sustainable Agriculture and many many more!
For more information, please click here. Images courtesy Susan Rockefeller and Oceana