Alizee makes it possible for more of us to consume consciously by helping to build a zero-waste community in Shanghai. She also hosts workshops and talks to motivate and support anyone trying to reduce their waste. Read on to find out more about her story and thoughts on consumption, waste and sustainability.
Where are you from? Belgium
What brought you to Shanghai?
I first came to Shanghai to do an exchange semester at Tongji University. I fell in love with the city and decided to come back after my masters.
What does sustainability mean to you?
For me, sustainability is about living a certain lifestyle that will not impact future generations. So I know that when I use plastic, the resources to make it came from somewhere and the source is finite so if I use it, I’m depriving future generations of that resource. Basically living in a way that fulfils my needs without affecting the needs of future generations.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about the circular economy and zero waste lifestyle. Waste as we know it doesn’t exist in my worldview. What drives me every day is to find solutions to unsustainable practices, by bringing sustainable lifestyles to not only individuals but organisations and corporations.
Have you always felt so strongly about sustainability/ a zero waste lifestyle?
I grew up in a country where you learn to sort your trash from a very young age. We’re taught how but we didn’t really know why. I really became interested in sustainability at the end of my masters. I had a course on luxury management. The last course was called sustainable luxury, it changed everything for me. I was shocked, but I loved it. So I started researching more about what sustainability means, I came across the concept of the circular economy, and I realised, this is it! I wrote my thesis about it. When I started following a zero waste lifestyle I had to do a lot of research. The more I learnt about it the more passionate I became. I found a lot of people also aspiring to this goal, which really inspired me a lot. It’s a constant drive of energy that pushes me to follow my passion.
What are your top 3 practical changes everyone could make to consume consciously?
· Buy in bulk when possible
· Know who you’re buying from, research.
· No plastic: bags/ packaging
What are the biggest challenges we face today?
1. A lack of infrastructure.
2. A lack of education and awareness about waste
3. Leading a zero waste lifestyle goes against the current
Firstly, whenever I tell people to recycle in China, they tell me there’s no point because it will all get thrown together again. Unfortunately most of the time they’re right. In China, there’s no infrastructure to properly recycle trash. Secondly, people aren’t educated about waste, they don’t know why plastic is bad, they don't know that mixing food with plastic is bad. They don’t want to have pollution but they don’t know where the pollution comes from. They think it comes from cars, but they don’t realise that it comes from trash that gets burnt, clothes, plastic, everything. People just aren’t aware. Thirdly, in China, because nothing is centralised, it’s difficult to make that step, from being non-zero waste to being less waste or zero waste. It’s tough because you don’t know where to go, people will think it’s strange and question why. You’re going against the current. There’s a lot of social pressure, especially in Chinese society people don’t always have a sustainable mindset.
Where should I focus my effort? What’s worth trying now?
Try to cut down on plastics as much as you can. No plastic bags, try to bring your own water bottle. When people go shopping they see a lot of stuff, on Taobao or at markets. It’s all cheap and you think it’s amazing, I can use this, and it’s so cute. But you should ask yourself, ‘do I really need this?’ Especially with clothes. Zero waste isn’t just about finding better alternatives, it’s also about buying less. Try to be more minimalistic. I’d love to be able to fit everything I own into my backpack and just move on. But I know that’s a bit extreme for most people, but for me, that’s the goal. I want to have amazing products and just a few of them. With this lifestyle, I became happier because I have less stuff to worry about. That makes me very Zen, light inside.
What do you do?
I’m a blogger and founder of Zero Waste China in Shanghai, which introduces people to a more sustainable lifestyle by providing tools and solutions to reach the goal of a sustainable lifestyle. I also work for Green initiatives part-time as the Project Manager of reform, a clothing recycling initiative.
Find out more about Alizee at http://www.zerowasteshanghai.com/