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Interview with Shia from Wasteland Rebel

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Shia Wasteland Rebel
One of our favorites Instagramers is Wasteland Rebel. We love her sense of humor, the ease she turns the complicated into simple and the pics of her weekly shopping. We also recommend her blog (in English and German). The person behind is Shia, to whom we have asked a few questions:
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how did you get into zero waste and blogging about it?
I had already been blogging for a long time when I first heard about zero waste. It was a video about Bea Johnson and her family that popped up on my Facebook feed. I called Hanno (my husband) over and we watched it together. We were fascinated by the tiny amount of trash, but actually dismissed the idea because the video showed Bea shopping at a bulk aisle. Back then, we had never even seen a bulk bin in our life! We looked into it and there was only one single store with a bulk selection in Germany at that time, and it was a 7 hour train ride away! However, we did decide to pay more attention to reducing the amount of trash we created, never intending to go zero waste.
Like I did all the time, I shared my thoughts on my blog Cake Invasion. At one point my thoughts on sustainability were cluttering my blog annoying many of my readers who only stopped by for a quick recipe. So I decided to give those thoughts a new home, a blog only for me and maybe the few readers that seemed interested—and Wasteland Rebel was born.

Entrevista a Shia de Wasteland Rebel

So many people think that being zero waste is so complicated. When we read your blog or check you instragram everything becomes easy. What’s the secret to find clever alternatives for almost everything?


Hm, good question! I think it is breaking a huge project down into bite sized pieces and to keep an open mind about seemingly crazy options. When we first started we only wanted to reduce our trash “a tad” here and there, and we only thought about a problem when it came up, so we were always only dealing with one small issue at a time. For example: we only looked into alternative shampoo options when we were running low on shampoo. I read about using rye flour on a vegan cosmetic blog (Blanc er Noir) and my first reaction was: that sounds pretty gross! However, I also didn’t want to dismiss it without at least giving it a try, so I kind of forced myself to be more open minded. And it paid off! I managed to get rid of my dandruff for the first time in my life! I think this very positive experience encouraged me to try al kinds of seemingly far-fetched options. Some of which turned out to be very bad ideas, others worked fine but were too time consuming or complicated, and many worked even better! It became fun to try new things, and because we are lazy asses, we always tried to find the simplest solutions and hacks.
Apart of being zero waste you buy almost everything local and seasonal. You don’t buy rice, avocados or coconut oil. Being local in a tropical country can be fun but close to the north of Germany… Is not a bit dull in winter?
That’s not completely true! We do occasionally buy rice or coconut oil, and when we eat out, we go for whatever vegan option there is, even though the ingredients are hardly ever seasonal and local. What we do is, we work towards keeping our staples local and to have the other things as occasional treats only. For us it is more about going for the most local and seasonal option there is as often as we can and want to. Why should we use coconut oil for cooking when we can use local canola oil? We do use very small amounts of coconut oil for toothpaste though, because of its unique properties.
We did struggle in our first winter going seasonal and local. But that was because we simply bit off more than what we could chew. We had no idea whatsoever, were completely unprepared, were still catastrophic cooks, and wanted to go all the way from one day to another, forgetting that change takes time.
We decided to go easy after 6 months just to stay sane, and that was the moment when it suddenly became easy! It helped that it was summer at that time of course, but we also learned how to choose recipes that were not too complicated for us. It is all about learning how to keep it manageable. We also eased into the habit of cooking on a regular basis. So when the next winter came, we were prepared! Yes, the selection can seem very boring in the winter: mainly all kinds of cabbages and root vegetables. But you’d be surprised how many different ways there is to prepare the same ingredient! There are still things we wanted to try but didn’t get to before the season ended!
Entrevistamos a Shia
How do you stay motivated? Have you had one of those days when you think about taking a break and go to buy avocados and eat them like if there wouldn’t be no tomorrow?
We are actually very simple minded people… We simply do not think on such a large scale. We always decide from case to case, day to day: what do we want to buy or eat? If we want something, we go for it. Simple as that. We do drink coffee or eat chocolate when we feel like it despite knowing about the horrifying carbon footprint. And yes, if we feel like we wanted to eat an avocado, we would. If we really wanted to eat meat, we would too. But in most cases we just don’t want to. In cases when we do get an urge for something, we usually feel it is just not worth all the destruction it causes. And then we are like: Nah, we’re good.
Besides, we buy our groceries at the farmers market, where there simply is no produce from far away. So we would actually have to make an extra effort to go and buy avocado, bananas, or chocolate. Like I said, if we really wanted to, we would. But it just turned out that we are actually too lazy or we just don’t want it enough.
You said that you and your husband don’t like cooking. When we see your pics of you weekly shopping in Instragam we always think “what the hell are they going to do with this amount of food?” Are you sure that you don’t like cooking?
For us, cooking is still a chore, much like cleaning. Many of our friends enjoy cooking and it is their hobby, but as of now, we just do not feel this kind of joy. However, we love to eat! Over time we have of course improved and we do enjoy the food we prepare now. Just like with cleaning we do not enjoy the work itself, but we do like the results.
You have also a vegan cake blog. Any simple and good advice for baking vegan and zero waste? We are not much into baking, but it’s seems complicated to find all the ingredients in bulk. 
It always depends on what infrastructure you have access to. In Germany, you can get most ingredients in cardboard boxes or paper bags. In Canada, you can scoop your flour from the bins. All of my recipes are simple, straight forward, and 90% only use easily accessible ingredients. So no egg substitute powder, no cacao nibs, no chia seeds. All you really need is flour, sugar, baking soda plus something acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, a vegetable oil, and a liquid, either water, juice, or sometimes a dairy-free milk of your choice, but you can also do without.

Entrevista a Shia de Wasteland Rebel

Recently you moved from Germany to Vancouver. Are there any big differences between these countries relating to zero waste lifestyle?

We love the farmers markets here in Vancouver. In Germany, it can be difficult to find organic produce on a farmers market and there is only little truly local produce, because most of what the farmers sell is actually produce from all over the world. Here in Vancouver, farmers only sell what they grew themselves, which makes so much more sense to me. Canada also has a long tradition of bulk. You will find a bulk aisle at most supermarkets. Much like with produce, you are expected to use the plastic bags they provide for that, but you can always bring your own cloth bags. In Germany, selling dry goods in bulk is a very new idea, and finding stores with bulk dry goods can be very very difficult.
What took quite a lot of getting used to was the extensive to-go culture here in North America! To go cups and containers are often the default option and some shops will not even have real tableware. While in Europe this is usually limited to American chains like Starbucks or McDonald’s, you will find this everywhere here, including universities!
Being vegan and zero waste can be easy when you are in your town, and you know where to go for shopping or eating out. However when traveling is more tricky, especially if you go to small places. How do you do when you travel to places that no are vegan or zero waste friendly?
Fist of all, we do our homework. We will look for vegan options (e.g. happy cow app, local vegan Facebook groups), the public transportation and ticket systems (e.g. can we buy mobile tickets?) and farmers market times beforehand. I might look for ZW instagrammers who live there and shoot them a message.
So far this has been a lot easier than what we expected. We avoid big chains and patronage small businesses, where we usually just talk them into selling their food to us in bulk. Apart from food and transportation there really isn’t a lot that you need when travelling, or at least the way we travel.

Entrevistamos a Shia

Sometimes cross contamination seems the perfect excuse for not letting you use your own containers in a store or in a deli. How do you deal with these “terrible” words?
Personally, we have never been told that. But we are vegan, so we do not buy anything at cheese or meat counters. We do buy bread, olives, salads, etc. from counters though and—except for Whole Foods—we have never been refused. One reason is that we prefer to support small businesses and the farmers markets. I believe the outcome is very different if you go to corporate chain stores, like when we went to Whole Foods. Those are usually a pain when it comes to using your own containers. They either have very strict store policies because they are afraid of being sued, or the staff will refuse you because they obviously do not want to get in trouble and risk their job over that.
I guess you can say that we deal with this by avoiding those situations in the first place? You can also increase your chances by “asking” in a way that makes saying “Sure!” a lot more likely than “No, we cannot do that”, e.g. “Oh, we don’t need the plastic, we brought our own container, you can just put it in here.” If you seem uncertain people will start to hesitate as well. So make sure it’s not a bumpy ride for them.
If there is no other option like a smaller business (which has also happened before when we were in London last year), we will just go back to when somebody else is working. Another staff member might be more lenient.
You were vegetarian and after getting into zero waste you became vegan, also started to buy more local seasonal and organic, decluttering… If was something that you had already in mind, or did the zero waste lifestyle influence on you taking those decisions?
It’s funny that so many people assume that we went zero waste and then vegan! It was actually the other way around! We had also gotten rid of 80% of our belongings before we even went vegan. And before that, we had reduced our electricity consumption to only a third of the German average. So you can say that zero waste just happened to fit in well with the direction we were heading towards anyway.
What is best piece of advice to give to someone who is thinking about giving a zero waste lifestyle a go?
Just start somewhere, and go as far as you feel comfortable. It is completely fine to just go “slightly less waste”, “veg on some days of the week” or “more water/energy efficient”, at least that is my opinion. Start with what is easy. I always compare it to a video game: you wouldn’t start with the facing the end boss, would you? You would start at level 1 and work your way up from there, usually taking multiple tries to clear one level, but having fun while doing so.
Just in one phrase, what does zero waste mean to you?
Zero waste is one of many ways for me to reduce my environmental footprint and to be more considerate of my surroundings.
Thanks Shia for answering all our questions and make us to understand that being zero waste is just a part of the game. There are so many more things we can do to make our lives more sustainable.


All pictures are from Wasteland Rebel blog.

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