Shia Su: The Waste Minimalist

The #Profile series presents exciting and inspiring people from the digital scene. In the spotlight this time: Zero-waste blogger Shia Su.

22. July 2021

Every single person in Germany produces an average of 227 kilogrammes of packaging waste per year. The leftover and plastic waste generated by Shia Su and her husband Hanno, on the other hand, fits into one or two preserving jars. On “Wasteland Rebel”, the zero-waste blogger offers tips for a more sustainable and less waste-intensive way of life. Her book “Zero Waste: Weniger Müll ist das neue Grün” (“Zero Waste: Less Waste is the New Green”) is already in its fifth edition and has now also been published in English and Chinese.

Name: Shia Su

Age: 37

Occupation: Climate geek


What is “Wasteland Rebel”?

“Wasteland Rebel” is the name of my blog and a play on words. A wasteland is what parts of the world are turning into as a result of climate change. But the word itself can, of course, also be broken down into “land of waste”, which is exactly where we’re at. If you don’t just want to accept this, but want to do something, then you’re a Wasteland Rebel. :)

Which topics are of particular interest to your readers?

Sustainable living, Zero Waste, veganism.

The rubbish generated by your two-person household now mostly fits into a preserving jar. What prompted you to change your life to go Zero Waste?

Before I answer that, I have to say that the quantity of waste from our home fluctuates, and with coronavirus it’s increased quite a bit, of course. Last year we got it down to two preserving jars per person. My partner and I wanted to live in a way that was as light as possible on people, animals and the environment. However, we never planned for things to get this serious; if anything, it was accidental ...

For many people, generating as little waste as possible may sound incredibly exhausting, time-consuming, uncomfortable and, at first, barely doable. What has your experience been?

My partner and I felt the same way when we first heard about Zero Waste. We didn't want to go down that route at all; all we wanted to do was cut back a bit on the rubbish in those places where it seemed feasible. The typical response, in other words ... we tried to remember to carry a cloth shopping bag with us and to have our coffee served in our own thermal mugs. Nothing very spectacular at all, in other words. At the beginning we kept forgetting, but over time it became more and more habitual, and we gained the confidence to try out bolder actions. Don’t tell anyone ... but even today I still forget my water bottle or cloth bag from time to time.

What tips can you offer people who are feeling their way into a less waste-intensive and more sustainable daily lifestyle?

Let go of the all-or-nothing mentality. Don’t be so strict with yourselves; after all, every little counts! Just look at what seems feasible in your everyday life or what you’re interested in doing right now: There are a lot of cool things to try! You can start with DIY, like making your own deodorant – when I tried, by the way, I ended up with the BEST deodorant I've ever had! – or even try out new products like hair soaps: the sky’s the limit. It's exciting and a lot of fun! And yes, you can be confident that you’ll succeed, and I’ll allow myself a quick pat on the back here ;). I’m also firmly convinced that it doesn’t mean giving everything up; it’s actually very enriching. It’s just that sometimes you have to swim against the tide if you want to go in the right direction.

How do you avoid the yo-yo effect – by which I mean starting with maximum motivation but then at some point going back to practical plastic packaging through sheer exasperation?

See above. ;)

„For me, this is the much better lifestyle. I’m much more in tune with myself and my values and am living more healthily than before; and I’ve escaped from the consumer hamster wheel.“

Shia Su, Zero-Waste-blogger at „Wasteland Rebel“

What is the biggest challenge you face in your daily life?

For me, this is the much better lifestyle. I’m much more in tune with myself and my values and am living more healthily than before; and I’ve escaped from the consumer hamster wheel which tries to tell us that we’ll find happiness in material things. The only thing missing now is for the social structures to follow suit – but a lot has already happened in this area!

Which digital product has yet to be invented?

We already have more than we need and more than this Earth can cope with in the long run.

And which products can you do without?

I once did a month of digital detox and realised that I didn’t miss social media one bit, which totally surprised me. I would have liked to have got an old dumb phone right away, but those 30 days unfortunately showed me that I would then have been out of a job. I had already deleted WhatsApp until I was urged by absolutely everyone to reinstall it ...

Would you like a household robot?

Depends. The reality at the moment is that there is no one-hundred-percent ethically and ecologically defensible electrical device; our electricity mix doesn’t come entirely from renewable sources, and disposal is often a problem. How environmentally and climate-friendly would the household robot be?

Which technical application will always remain a mystery for you?

To be honest, I don't find any of it that puzzling, but then I do also have a computer science background.

When were you last offline for 24 hours?

No idea, must have been before coronavirus. This was because I often had to cram in a lot of tightly scheduled travel and sometimes didn’t get to quickly check my e-mails.

A holiday without Wi-Fi: Is that a dream or a nightmare?

I like riding my bike as often as I can. At least when I’m on my bike I’m completely offline, and I don’t then really need to go online in the evening, because all I’m good for by then is to fall exhausted into bed. I still need Internet access to plan the route and synchronise it with my satnav before the trip. So, it wouldn't be a nightmare, but it might be a bit impractical here and there if I had to navigate or checking opening hours.


In the #explore format we’re giving a regular voice to exciting and inspiring people from the digital scene: researchers, bloggers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, hackers, and visionaries.