We love reading Alizee’s blog and we wanted to share this pioneer with you. She has made a commitment to change her lifestyle and she is doing it in Shanghai. She is an inspiration and we hope her actions can invoke change in a place where it is needed most.
Hi Alizee, thank you so much for letting us interview you. First can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Shanghai?
I was born and raised in Belgium together with two siblings. Growing up, we were pushed to spend a lot of time outside. We spent half of our summer break living in a tent outside and learning how to survive in nature with the scouts. I studied Business in Brussels and then specialized in the luxury and fashion industries London. I came to Shanghai a couple of years ago for a Chinese emersion program. I decided to come back and discover more of China and Asia. Today I run Zero Waste Shanghai, an organization that tries to bring solutions to the inhabitants of Shanghai to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Besides, the nature and sustainability, I am deeply passionate about the good things in life: good food, fantastic experiences, great conversations, and even greater friends.
Tell us about your mission?
I started my Zero Waste Challenge as a personal mission to become Zero Waste in Shanghai after a year. After a couple of months, my friends and other acquaintances asked me to put all of my experiences and knowledge in writing, which I did. That’s when the blog ZeroWasteShanghai.com started. Word got out and a lot of people and schools reached out to me to teach them the practical side of this lifestyle. So today, my mission is to bring simple solutions to live a more sustainable lifestyle in the city.
I do this through workshops and tutorials through the blog.
What inspired you to take on this challenge?
I was researching for my final master degree thesis on the circular economy in the fashion industry. I confronted very harsh realities, not only in the fashion industry, but also in other aspects of our lives.
I’m someone who is very solution-oriented, and I want to do something to help the situation. But what can you do as an individual…?
That’s when I came across this family in the U.S. who lives “Zero Waste” for over 4 years. This lifestyle inspired me a lot, because I could actually measure my impact. For example, when people tell me to switch off the lights or wear a sweater instead of turning on the heat, that’s great and it helps. However, I need to see change to stay motivated and the zero waste challenge is great for that, because I am actually seeing my personal trash being reduced to almost … nothing. This gives me great satisfaction and motivates me to continue. Furthermore, the reaction and comments I get from people in and out of the green community here in Shanghai is absolutely fantastic and inspiring. But in the end for me it comes down to being able to align my actions with my values.
How has this helped you living in Shanghai?
In a society where consumerism is always pushed with cheaper deals on clothes, electronic gadgets and other stuff, this lifestyle really helped me to simplify my life in Shanghai. I don’t possess a lot of things anymore and I learned how to become more Shanghai-savvy; where to have what fixed, where to find certain foods in bulk, try out new foods, etc.
I will admit that the transition to this lifestyle was challenging at some times, but that’s also the reason why I started the blog. I want to make the transition easier for people who want to adapt to this lifestyle.
How has this developed your relationships in the community?
I have been very present in the green & sustainable community in Shanghai since the first months after I arrived. Most of the time you hear the same issue about sustainable living: it’s difficult and people don’t know where to start. After I launched the blog my relationships became stronger, because people understand that I am able to bring viable solutions to the table and that I am truly passionate about this topic.
For any inspired readers looking to adopt Zero Waste into their lifestyle, where to begin?
There are books out there such as Zero Waste Home, cradle-to-cradle, no impact man and many others. The first one I mentioned has recipes and good tips for being Zero Waste at home and is available in multiple languages. Cradle to cradle explains more generally the concept of no waste and the circular economy, whereas the third book explains the story of a man who went very extreme in the green lifestyle. He gave up electricity, transportation and everything that makes us modern life so comfortable.
On living in Shanghai, what are your favorite bits?
Tough question… there’s so much, it’s difficult to pin point a couple of them as favorites. I love the atmosphere in the old town where you have different foods being sold and people still live in these really old houses and shower outside.
I love the chaos of the city (most of the time), but also the greenery of the French Concession of course. I love the small coffee shops with cheesy lines and pictures. I think as a whole, I feel at home here.
And we ask all of our interviewees – what are your top tips to foreigners navigating life in China?
Learn to go with the flow. China is very hectic and there’s a lot happening and a lot that can frustrate us, but that’s just how life here works. There are days that I think “Not today Shanghai, just not today.” But then I just relax and focus on a good cup of coffee or anything else that calms me down.
Go out and walk around the city, observe the Chinese lifestyle and try to talk with people. I do that sometimes in my neighborhood on weekends and I love it.
There are so many cool little events and things to do in Shanghai such as small music concerts by ethnic minorities, theater pieces, community events and so much more.
Go out and experience the diversity here in Shanghai.
To follow Alizees’ blog or attend some of her events go to www.zerowasteshanghai.com