Shia Su, also known as “Wasteland Rebel,” might be a low waste expert nowadays working alongside public broadcasters in Germany, producing segments on environmental issues – but it wasn’t always the smoothest journey to get there. Su would be the first to admit that she veered off course at times, “Oh, how I wish I had an epiphany story and just went for it. But it hasn’t been like that for me,” she says. Still, through all the ups and downs, her core mission has remained the same: to align her lifestyle with her values.
Eco-Warrior Shia Su Reclaims Her Life To Save The Planet
Shia first learned about recycling, ozone depletion, and global warming back in elementary school. She recalls the lessons making quite an impression on her. Outraged when her police officer cousin threw his cigarette butt on the ground, or when her local baker created unnecessary waste by putting each pastry into individual bags, Shia began to question adults.
But as she transitioned into her teenage years, environmentalism wasn’t top of mind anymore. It wasn’t until she graduated school that she actively started to care for the planet again. She and her boyfriend had long conversations about how they “didn’t want to live at the expense of other humans, animals, or the planet.” They sold their car, went vegetarian, and reduced their energy consumption to a third of the European average. (Fun fact: the North American household average is roughly three times the German average!) But like many students, Shia and her partner were on a tight budget and felt they couldn’t afford the eco-friendly lifestyle they wanted. Little did they know, they were actually doing a pretty amazing job at minimalizing. “If you have to make ends meet and stretch every penny, there is simply no room for consumerism.”
After graduating, they both entered the workforce determined to “pay the real price for everything, you know, what things would cost if they were produced without any exploitation.” But things didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead of spending the money on organic foods or ethically produced items, they started to spend an alarming amount on convenience products, junk food, and superfluous consumer goods. “After work, I was too exhausted and drained to do much. That definitely wasn’t what I thought my adult life would look like. Instead of finally being all grown up and independent, I felt small, insignificant, and trapped — powerless against everything we felt was wrong in this world. Living a sustainable life, a life on our own terms that aligned with our values, seemed so out of reach at that point. Like a utopia.”
Shia quit her job. She and her partner moved to a new city within two weeks and began to rewrite their story. Step by step, she inched toward becoming vegan and reducing her waste. Fast-forward to today, Shia’s annual household trash fits into a quart jar.
Her final thoughts? “I really hope we can learn from this global pandemic. Now is the time for new, progressive, climate-first politics, as many things have been reset or will need to change. If we have to change anyway, why not change for the better?”
Inspired to go low waste? Check out Shia’s blog, which features hundreds of low-waste alternatives and more insightful articles to get you started on your eco-journey.