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Interview Shia Su Wastelandrebel - CareElite

Interview with Shia Su from Wasteland Rebel

Today I had an interview with zero waste expert Shia Su, who also gave me a lot of inspiration and motivation in the fight against plastic waste. Shia has been living according to the Zero Waste Lifestyle and has now overcome all the hurdles on the way to less waste. In this interview, she tells us how it all began, what motivates her and where she sometimes reaches her limits. Have fun!

Hey Shia! Since when do you live Zero Waste and how did it come about?

September 2014, my husband Hanno and I started to reduce our waste a little more consistently. However, we didn't have zero waste as a goal. We thought the idea was great and very admirable, but like so many others, we thought that it couldn't be implemented in Germany. At the time, there was only one unpackaged store, and it was 500 km away in Kiel. Another one in Berlin, also 500 km away, was just about to open. But given the distance, these are not really shopping options (see also the article Plastic free shopping) have been.

But when we started, we stumbled across more and more options. We discovered home remedies instead of aggressive cleansers and body care products from the drugstore. As someone who suffers from neurodermatitis and allergies, I was incredibly skeptical at first. However, it turned out to be the best thing I could have done to my skin! And of course, some of the trial and error was a bit chaotic and adventurous, but it was great fun - you rediscover the child in you that loves to tinker. Every single thing was also much less complicated than we would have expected and somehow we were surprised ourselves when there was so little waste left...

What does zero waste mean to you and what motivates you?

Zero Waste food storage - Interview Shia Su
Food is simply bought and stored unpackaged in preserving jars - Copyright ©

For me personally, zero waste is first and foremost about looking at my own nose. I am not a politician or a company boss. I can't pass laws or decide that products everywhere will be packaged in less plastic from now on. What I actually have direct control over as a consumer is my own consumer behavior. As a consumer, you only have direct control over the last step in the entire supply chain.

However, I also have to say that I honestly have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the name "Zero" waste, because I feel that the "zero" in it leads to a lot of frustration. It encourages people to focus on the things that don't work instead of being happy about the things that do! Many people then start looking for a needle in a haystack instead of seeing the potential for savings. Regardless of the term, for me personally it's about simply opting for the most sustainable option on a small scale wherever possible. Zero waste, i.e. "zero" waste, is not an option for me either and is also not possible in the existing social structures. But I am trying to move in the direction of at least minimizing waste as much as possible. Because I would like to minimize my ecological footprint. Avoiding waste is just one of many things. I also live vegan, avoid Palm oilI don't have a car, I reduce plastic, I'm very conscious of my Energy and also check where there is still room for better decisions. But I don't do any of it perfectly, it's always a work in progress. 😉

I can understand 100%! What things you no longer go out of the house without?

Cloth handkerchiefsbecause I suffer from allergies and my nose runs all year round. Plus a small cloth bag for used tissues. Otherwise, it's like my umbrella, which I only put away if I think it might rain. If I think I'm going out to eat or buying something to eat today, I just put a can in my pocket and maybe my cutlery set. If not, then I don't. My Drinking bottle I also have only with me when I will be on the road all day. If I only run to the health food store to do the weekly shopping I need' no water bottle, but maybe my Nets for fruit and vegetables.

I've heard that you also compost. How does it work, what about the smells and what is your motivation for composting?

We have one in the kitchen Worm box. This is a box in which odorless compost is produced with the help of compost worms (note: see also article Proper composting) can become. Yes, really! This is definitely the more convenient option compared to the normal kitchen garbage can or organic waste 😉.

A worm bin is particularly interesting for city kids like me who don't have a garden and/or no organic waste garbage can in their apartment building, but also for other people who want to not only dispose of their organic waste ecologically, but also upcycle it. Upcycling turns waste into something more valuable than before, and worm hummus is a very valuable and rather expensive fertilizer.

Where did you really have problems not making garbage?

It's generally difficult in the medical and health sector. Last year, I almost cut off a piece of my fingertip while cooking on New Year's Eve. Of course, there was a bit of garbage in the emergency room and I don't argue with that.

But that's also perfectly fine. In my opinion, there are areas in which the use of Plastic makes sense. Of course, I make sure that I use home remedies wherever possible. I don't need a medicine for every ache and I don't need a plaster for every little scratch.

However, I wouldn't talk about "problems" here, as we are back to the deficit-oriented perspective that the name "zero" waste unfortunately quickly leads to. How much waste remains in the end and where you can and cannot avoid waste depends on so many factors, including what kind of infrastructure you have access to. The point is to at least work towards minimizing the waste that is visible to you - and of course there will always be limits.

I saw your jar of plastic waste from a year ago. What was in it and why?

Shia Su from in Zero Waste Interview
Shia with her garbage from a whole year - Copyright ©

It contains my old health card, for example. You can't really avoid things like that. If you ever need a new bank card and the like. But we have canceled our customer cards. We also have fruit and vegetable stickers and a whole lot of till receipts, as these are often printed automatically even in organic food stores. As the thermal paper on till receipts is BPA-coated, they don't belong in the paper waste because they contaminate the things made from the paper.

Then there are some lids from glass bottles, although we prefer metal lids because they are at least recyclable. Then a small plastic bottle of our vitamin B12 tablets. As vegans, we have to take vitamin B12 supplements.

And of course things break sometimes. I am a clumsy animal! For example, the broken handle of a cup is in the glass. Fortunately, the cup is otherwise still intact and is still used for shaving soap.

Super cool! Give our readers an easy start to a zero waste life. What are your best tips?

  1. Jute bag insert, preferably under the key
  2. To the unpacked Fruit & vegetables grab, put loosely on the belt
  3. Glass and paper packaging prefer plastic
  4. Reusable instead of disposable: dishcloth/rinsing sponge, cloth/kitchen roll, cotton pads/washable pads
  5. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? Put it back and tell yourself: If I still want it in a week's time, I'll buy it. You'll probably forget about it a few hours later.

Great. Thank you Shia and see you soon!

Shia belongs with her blog Wasteland Rebel is one of the zero waste pioneers and knows exactly where the hurdles in zero waste living lie. I hope that the interview with Shia Su will also help you achieve your goal, make less plastic waste and live in the spirit of the Zero Waste lifestyle. 

Stay clean,

Replace things Zero Waste

PS.: In the Environmental protection blog you will find many more expert tips, such as my Interview with Dr. Bernhard Bauske, the plastics expert from WWF.

Coffee box Suggestions for improvement Newsletter

* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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