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Dia Mirza: The Sustainability Advocate Begun in childhood, Mirza's interest in environmental conservation has remained alive throughout her modelling and acting career, driving her to activism and green entrepreneurship

By Soumya Duggal

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Actor and entrepreneur Dia Mirza

That Dia Mirza would find a life-long purpose in the cause of sustainability advocacy appears to have been a matter of destiny.

Growing up in Hyderabad, her school days were spent in the midst of idyllic natural beauty and eco-diversity. "We studied outdoors, did gardening, learned pottery and enjoyed bird-watching. My school followed J. Krishnamurti's philosophy of forming a connection with nature. I was taught very early about the impact of thoughtless consumption; my parents loved nature and encouraged me to explore it further," she reveals.

The following years witnessed Mirza's rapid transition to a public personality as she immersed herself in modelling, beauty pageantry and an acting career in Hindi cinema. Her interest in environmental conservation, however, remained alive, driving her to activism and green entrepreneurship. Today, she works as a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador & UN Secretary-General's Advocate for SDGs and invests in eco-sensitive companies such as green household products brand Beco, sustainable toys brand Shumee, organic clothing brand Greendigo and bamboo baby diaper brand Allter.

"These companies resonate with my guiding philosophy of conscious capitalism–where we must collectively start thinking about business in a way that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our planet and the way we can employ the innate potential of corporates to make a positive impact on the world," she claims.

Her Instagram account offers frequent peeks into this journey towards sustainable living, encouraging her 5.2 million followers to join the campaign against the use of single-use plastic and speak up for endangered wildlife and mainstream issues such as global warming, climate change, deforestation, air pollution etc. "If my work manages to influence even one person to switch to a metal bottle, a bamboo toothbrush or a sustainable hygiene product, my efforts will have achieved something worthwhile," she says.

Today, 'influencers' have wide-ranging traction among their following, often conditioning the latter's cultural and aesthetic tastes as well as their consumer attitudes. Mirza, though, is reluctant to use the term for herself, perhaps because of its connotation of prioritising commerce over ethics. "I instead think of myself as a sustainability advocate. The goal is to not make people buy more but to alter consumer behaviour so that it can become more intentional and mindful. Sustainability cannot be a hashtag and must become a way of life," she explains.

One would imagine that a person of Mirza's fame and stature must employ a team of professionals to manage her social media handles and publish posts, thereby leaving little room for moments of spontaneity and vulnerability in her virtual persona. She disagrees: "Be it the updates on my newborn son's health or a precious memory of him taking his first steps on a beach, whatever is put out there is informed with real emotion and transparency. It also gives me great joy to share excerpts from a poem or a favourite book, glimpses from a shoot or just a quiet moment with a beautiful sunset."

And has being spontaneous and untutored on social media ever got her into trouble with the infamous trolls? "I have been fortunate to receive more love and warmth than negativity but then even a little amount of trolling can be difficult to deal with. However, when you make your choices with conviction and joy, it is easy to stay steadfast when unjustified criticism comes your way. Life is too beautiful to let a few trolls besmirch it," she says.

When all is said and done, it is not that hard for Mirza to remain steadfastly authentic on social media. After all, she claims to be here not for numbers or amassing greater popularity but for amplifying a purpose larger than herself: "Using my voice to support young people, children, wildlife and the planet at large is a privilege that I don't take for granted."

Soumya Duggal

Former Feature Writer

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