The story of Vandaya jewellery🐋
Vandaya jewellery is one of my favorite jewellery brands that I have ever come across (truly because I mean it and because I am deeply impressed by the passion that the founder Amalie Marstrand displays in her work, her passion for ocean conservation and the values and purpose that Vandaya has).
I had the pleasure of interviewing Amalie for the blog and have learned a few things from her answers myself!
Vandaya was founded with love for the ocean as a foundation.
At Vandaya they create responsible jewellery from recycled and ethically sourced materials in plastic-free packaging, leaving no plastic trace behind. And with every piece of jewellery purchased, they support coral reef restoration.
Even though Amalie has a lot on her plate, she took her time to answer my questions thoughtfully and carefully, making sure to give meaningful answers that really represent Vandaya and her own personal thoughts and story.
Thank you for that Amalie!
Let the interview begin. . .
Hello Amalie, thank you so much for answering some questions on the blog today! You are a marine biologist and have a love for the ocean which Vandaya is inspired by. What is the meaning of Vandaya? Where does it originate and what does it mean to you personally?
Thank you so much for having me, Stella! The ocean has always been a huge part of my life. As soon as I finished school, I moved to Fiji to learn how to dive and work with shark conservation and when I returned back to my home country Denmark, it was the natural choice for me to study marine biology. I started building VANDAYA on the side. I always knew that I would work towards a healthier ocean and would dedicate my time on this planet, to leave a positive mark on our oceans. As VANDAYA grew, I realized that there were more ways to do good for our oceans than by being a marine biologist and I felt that VANDAYA could give me a voice I could use to advocate ocean conservation while expressing my creative side as well. So, I never worked as a marine biologist, but use what I have learned almost on a daily basis in building and running VANDAYA. VANDAYA is a name I made with my partner Nicklas. After a diving trip to Bali we were very inspired by the atmosphere in Bali and we wanted to create that feeling in a name. We were inspired by the names of the hotels and villas in Bali and also the way they used letters that were leaning towards each other. We made up VANDAYA as we liked the visual expression. VANDAYA to us represents a feeling of calm, a connection with nature and a luxurious experience, much like the feeling you would experience in a beautiful oasis, garden or spa in Bali. We are trying to pass on that VANDAYA feeling.
You have been engaged in marine conservation from a young age on, how did that come about?
Since I was a kid, I always loved the ocean. All my assignments in school were about coral reefs, sharks, killer whales or something else ocean related. I would be plastered to the screen watching Free Willy, over and over again and I knew the series The Blue Planet by heart and knew all the lines and would say them just before Sir David Attenborough would say them a few seconds after. My grandmother lives in a forest in the western part of Denmark, and taught me to respect nature and be close with nature, so I think that it comes from my upbringing that nature was always a big part of my life and what I cared for. When I finished school, I knew that I wanted to go out and explore the world and wanted to experience the coral reefs I have seen in books, in movies and on tv, in real life. I hadn’t learned to dive yet and that was my no 1 goal to do, so when I found the Shark Conservation Project in Fiji, I just felt right away that that was what had to do. I was in Fiji for little under a year doing shark conservation, and that really taught me so much. When I came back home, I felt that I had found my purpose, that my eternal mission would be caring for our oceans. I just wasn’t sure yet what the right path would be for me.
You were working in Fiji as a volunteer on a shark conservation project, what did you learn during that time that shocked you most about the state of the oceans?
I learned so much from my time in Fiji. I especially remember one dive, where we would go to one reef that should just be magical. There was a strong current and when we went in the water we drifted a bit, ending at the end of the dive site. We descended at this beautiful site with healthy corals swaying in the water. But halfway through the dive, we had reached the end of the healthy reef. We turned a corner and what we saw was just nothing. Like an endless graveyard of a once healthy reef that had been dynamite fished to nothing recognizable. We kept swimming for 25 minutes over endless piles of dead and broken corals and there was no sign of life except from us. That was really devastating, seeing how hundreds of years of coral growth can be destroyed in a second by fishermen throwing dynamite for a very few fish. I think generally, what was really scary to me was that I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so far away from other civilization, I was probably at dive sites where no one had been diving before and still there were so many signs of the presence of humans from discarded plastics and fishing gear. I even saw tires and a plastic chair in the middle of the big lagoon we were diving in. I think the scariest thing was that all that I saw could be lost. I felt incredibly lucky that I got to experience what I did, all that life beneath the surface, I got to spend over 20 dives with a group of bull sharks where I got to learn their names and look at their behavior, I overall had more than 100 dives in Beqa lagoon and still I only got to see a tiny fraction of what that lagoon has to offer. It scares me to think that all that could be lost and that it is a fragile system that us humans have the power to affect so much. I’m even afraid to go back today to see how much it has already changed.
What is one thing that you think is especially important for people to know about the challenges the oceans are facing?
I would say that you do not have to live by the ocean to be affected by the crisis of our oceans, we are all affected. And you do not have to live near the ocean to negatively affect our oceans, we all need to consider our consumer habits and way of life and how it can affect the oceans. I believe that we need to act now and even small improvements are beneficial. It is difficult to say one thing that is important to know as the issues are rather complex and affect each other. But I would say that we need to consider the fish products we eat, that they come from a sustainable and preferably a local source. Overfishing, I believe, is one of the biggest challenges our oceans face and it can lead to ecosystem imbalance and collapse. Our fishing industry is not only hurting the populations themselves but also contribute to loss of habitat with fishing techniques such as trawling and dynamite fishing. Also abandoned fishing nets called ghost nets can drift and destroy habitat together with catching the species unlucky enough to encounter it. I think we need to consider the species that we eat as well, I stopped eating tuna a decade ago as with the tuna fisheries today, the tunas do not have the time to reproduce and recover. In general, what I believe we need to do collectively is try to eat local, green and sustainable, lower our CO2 emissions, protect our water resources, minimize plastic waste and general waste and pollution, conserve habitats and wild nature and support organizations and businesses that fight for a better planet. We do vote with our money, and it all counts in the long run. Vandaya is 100 % plastic free.
Which tips would you give to jewelry brands that want to do the same?
Since we started, we knew that our business should work to solve some of the issues our oceans are facing and at least not contribute to them. We have since day one strived to be 100% plastic free. We have since day one had 100% plastic free and compostable shipping materials and are working with our suppliers to help them become plastic free as well. It has been a demand we have set from the beginning, in the beginning it required a lot of research, but as soon as we found solutions that worked for us, it has been a relatively easy process from there. We believe that it requires a true wish of the brand to not contribute to plastic pollution and drive a demand for virgin plastics. We believe that it requires will and research, but it is definitely possible. If we would ever introduce plastics in VANDAYA it will be ocean waste plastics, to help solve the issue on plastics in our oceans. So, if one can’t go plastic free there are options of using plastics that helps empty our oceans from plastics and ghost nets rather than using new plastics.
What are the main reasons for coral reefs dying?
There are several factors that threaten our coral reefs. One is that our oceans are getting warmer and are staying warm for a longer period of time which can affect the symbiotic relationship between corals and algae, resulting in the algae leaving the corals. The corals are dependent on the algae for food and as a source of nutrients and without the algae, the corals will bleach and eventually die if the algae won’t return. This has resulted in many mass bleaching events over the years. Also, the oceans are being heavily fished. Coral reefs are complex ecosystems that need a balance from apex predators to corals and if one or more segments of the food chain is removed, there is a chance that the ecosystem can collapse. As the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are rising, the oceans start to uptake the CO2 to neutralize the levels, resulting in a chemical reaction with the sea water resulting in acidification of the oceans. Many marine species have exoskeletons or calcium carbonate structures as crustaceans and corals which can be threatened by the acidified ocean water. And then there is the issue of pollution. Plastics from tiny fractions to massive nylon ghost nets can be found all around the world. Toxic wastewater from factories follows rivers to the ocean. In heavy polluted waters the particles can cover for the sunlight, which coral reefs are dependent on, and big plastic pieces and fishing nets can physically break the corals. Ocean pollution is becoming a bigger and bigger problem.
What role do coral reefs play as an eco-system for marine life and in turn for us?
Coral reefs affect us more than we would think. Not only are our oceans a large food source for millions of people around the planet, but the ocean is also called “the real lung of the world” and produce at least half of the oxygen we breath. The corals sustain the life on and around the reef and are important for the survival of the many species who can call the reef their home or hunting ground. Coral reefs also work as a protecting barrier for waves and erosion and can also protect the coast when storms are raging. Millions of people are dependent on the ocean for a living both as a food source and as a way of income from e.g., tourism.
What should we take into consideration when going on holiday/living near the ocean? How can we help conserve the health of the oceans and coral reefs?
First of all, we can act responsibly when being in the ocean. When going diving or snorkeling we should never touch ocean creatures or corals, these are fragile creatures, and we can enjoy the looks of the beauty of the ocean, but we should never touch them as this could harm them. Also, when diving, I have seen so many unexperienced divers and snorkelers standing vertically in the water column kicking and breaking corals. I think it is important to learn to be calm and collected in the ocean before going close to the reef. If you are not completely comfortable yet, it is better to stay further away and with time you will learn to get close. When going in the ocean we should be aware of the chemicals we wear in the ocean such as sunscreen and body lotion. These can react with the sea water and damage corals. When going on holiday also consider where the food you eat comes from and how it is fished and sometimes what species they are. Learn about fisheries in the area you are visiting, prior to going. Be critical of how the fish is fished, as you wouldn’t want to support for example heavily polluting fish farms, trawling or dynamite fishing. Be aware of the threatened species in the area, maybe swap out the tuna for a more locally abundant fish species. And lastly, I would support activities and projects that protects the ocean. From my experience it can also be a great experience for adults as well as children, to go out and plant mangroves together, to visit a coral reef restoration site and support by “planting a coral” or go to an animal rescue center and support the protection of animals. There are many ways to get great experiences abroad, that also do good for nature and the local projects.
A lot of Vandaya jewelry is made from recycled materials. Where do you get these recycled materials from?
For now, we are using recycled silver and recycled gold. These are metals that are collected from old jewelry and discarded electronics, the gold and silver is collected and made into pellets that then can be used for creating jewelry. We are working to incorporate more recycled materials; we can’t say much yet other that they will be ocean related and sustainable.
Do you think that any business today has a moral and ethical responsibility to either not contribute to environmental pollution or more, help reverse the damages we have done?
Yes, we do. We believe that businesses are a huge part of the solution to the problems we face today. We believe that we both as private people and corporations all have a responsibility to help turn things around. We believe that positive change is possible, and we would like VANDAYA to stand in the forefront of how a business can be centered around sustainable decisions.
What would you say to people who run an “unsustainable” business to get them thinking about the type of impact they have on this planet?
Uh this is a tough one. Oftentimes it has been shown that doing good for the planet is also more profitable than not doing so, and I personally believe that if you wish to run a business in 10 years, you need to be sustainable and think sustainable. I think that consumers are the force in this game and that consumers are driving the demand for more sustainable products, so my hope is that with time businesses who are not sustainable will not be able to compete with those who are and will naturally “die out”. But what I would say to a person would probably be “Wake up”, we have this planet that we need to protect not only for the life we share this planet with, but also for our own survival, it is possible to run a more sustainable business and minimizing the impact on our planet, so why not make the effort.
Anything you want to share with readers as a personal, closing thought?
I would love to share about the work that our partner Metamorfosa does. At VANDAYA we wish to have a positive impact on our oceans and have made it our mission to help restore our worlds coral reefs. We have teamed up with our coral reef restoration partner Metamorfosa in Sumberkima in Bali, Indonesia who plants corals and trees in the area of Sumberkima. We would just like to remind the readers that small organizations like these are to be found around the world, organizations that are so passionate to rebuild and conserve their local area with the help of their community and that they can be supported in many ways. We would recommend checking out the project of Metamorfosa to read about the amazing work that they do and if in Bali, we can only recommend visiting them at Sumberkima Hill Retreat Bali and take a trip to the Metamorfosa Coral Reef Restoration site where you can see their underwater gallery and the restored coral reef that we are supporting.
Thank you Amalie! Thank you, to you, the Vandaya team and the coral reforestation workers for making a positive impact and sharing your love for the oceans!
Thank you for reading💚
See ya next blog👋🏼