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  • Writer's pictureAlizée CCM

Power Women in Shanghai | KAILU Ep 11 | Sustainability Documentary China | Xenia & Ziyu

Meet the Power Women in Shanghai

While the point of this journey was to discover sustainability outside of the city I called home for 7 years, it would feel incomplete to not include the power women in Shanghai and its changemakers in this book.

Zero Waste Shanghai thrived against all odds thanks to those around me who shared a common vision and passion for a more sustainable future.

While the larger community and followers cheered us from afar through likes and comments on WeChat stories, groups, and moments, it is the ones who shared life in the trenches that got us moving forward.

Many people ventured on their first entrepreneurial adventures in this city, and the same is true for our industry.

I would love to share the incredible force that is Xenia Sidorenka, the founder and creative behind USEDEM, and Ziyu Lin.

Xenia Sidorenka of USEDEM Denim Upcycling Brand

Xenia and I started our companies around the same time, and she has been instrumental in my professional life and also in our industry in Shanghai.

In the video today you will see us driving to the city's outskirts to the factory.

USEDEM works with Home Sweet Home, a warehouse that employs people who have been marginalized by society. As Xenia puts it, it really feels like home, there is great energy and I had a great with her and her colleague Ritchie.

That day, they received new materials to recycle, and of course, I sat down for a conversation with her where we discussed her beginnings, her impact, and her plans for the future.

Usedem has sold over 15.000 up-cycled items in the last 5 years.

She saved 7 tons of denim from the landfill, which equals 15.876 pairs of jeans.

In total, Xenia and her team saved:

60.027 litters of water

530.258 kg of CO2

through upcycling.

Find her on

WeChat: UseDem御丹

Ziyu Lin, environmentalist & founder of CHICHIO

Ziyu came into my life through the first entrepreneurial adventure of her beeswax brand BEEZIRO. In 2019, she traveled from the nearby city of Suzhou to introduce her product to meet and share lunch.

From the moment I met her, I felt very comfortable in her presence. We could talk about everything, she was not judgmental and her passion for sustainability and change was intoxicating.

From then on, we would meet regularly when she was in town until she eventually moved to Shanghai for her work.

When Zero Waste Shanghai was in a bad place in 2020, she offered her time and her help to get through these difficult times. Honestly, she’s been a real gem to have by my side all this time.

By the time I returned to the city in the fall of 2021, I'd known Ziyu for a couple of years and wanted her to be part of the project.

I feel she represents a growing and impactful part of society here in China. Although she's not twenty anymore, Ziyu represents a big part of her generation who wants to be part of the change of the future actively. An alignment is needed with her beliefs, values, and work.

Ziyu is driven by something. Although she may not always have the words to express it as such, I can feel the fire in her.

She's relentless in her pursuit of bringing value to the world and having a significant impact through whatever she does. She's not scared of trying, learning, trying again, changing directions ...

I tried to interview her 3 times before I departed for the KAILU project but struggled to find the right questions, the right setting, the right angle to harness her essence, and what she represents. Thankfully, the third time worked like a charm.

You will read in our conversation below that she believes that freedom is as much in what you want to do as what you don't want to do.

Read Ziyu's full interview here below!

Thanks for journeying with us :-)

Watch the episode on YouTube here!

KAILU, The Open Road.

A cross-country journey to meet the Chinese Changemakers in sustainability.

Roadtripping in China


Watch it here: The KAILU Docu Series


CHICHIO - KAILU Documentary
CHICHIO - KAILU Documentary

Read an excerpt from the book here:


Find The Uncommon In The Common

You started a new project this last year, Chichio. Tell me more about it. 

Chichio is a food brand that focuses on pistachio products. Our first product is pistachio butter. We take nice pistachios to grind them into a nut butter form. 

     We are hoping to create more pistachio-based food products that are healthy and tasty at the same time. We founded this brand last year, at the end of August 2021. So it's been less than half a year. Yeah, time flies.

Why pistachios?

Well, I've been eating all kinds of nuts since I was a kid. And I was always in love with pistachios. 

     I could finish one bag by myself, you know, just nonstop eating pistachios.

And then, five or six years ago, I moved to Nanjing and my first flatmate was making energy balls with many kinds of nut butter and one of the nut butter she was using the most often was almond butter.    

       That was when I first encountered nut butter, and I started to eat it too. I was fond of it. 

Among all the nuts that I liked, I couldn’t find pistachio butter, which got me thinking, Why? Why not? Why couldn't I find pistachio butter?

CHICHIO - KAILU Documentary
CHICHIO - KAILU Documentary

What is important to you? What is a strong value that you live by?

The value that comes to my mind immediately is very broad, freedom. 

Well, probably, I think of this word because we are, at this time, not free to travel anywhere we want. Naturally, we see this now as a really precious thing, you know?

     Freedom for me means choosing what you want to do and more importantly, what you don't want to do. Sometimes I think of it as a privilege, you know, but sometimes I think it takes practice to really be free because if you want to be free of others' opinions, then you need to keep telling yourself: what is the thing you really want to do and what is the thing that others want you to do.

If you don't communicate enough with yourself, you might be carried away so easily because you don't know what you really want to do. 

         I value this more and more in my life because when I was in my teenage years I didn't know what I wanted to study, and I simply chose a major that most people believe is good, business, but I don't know why. But anyway, no regrets.

Is there a specific person or moment in your life that has inspired you and shifted your point of view?

There was one experience that I think made me experience something that I had never had before, a  breathwork workshop. 

   My friends brought me in and it was a three-hour session of just breathing. You do all kinds of breathing exercises for two hours and long breaths, short breaths, …an instructor was there, of course.   

    After I don't know how long, I started to cry so much, but I don't even know why.

My tears were coming down my face. I was crying and crying, and there was nothing in my head. I don't know what I was thinking, but I was just feeling so sad. 

       Other people were laughing or they were shouting, you know, it was a way of letting out your emotions. And after it was finished, everything felt different. 

      It felt like I was reborn. Everything was so new, it was as if I received a different pair of lenses on life.

I was so impressed by the whole experience. Because you are basically doing the most basic things in your life, you know? 

      You need to breathe every moment you're alive. But when you're really focused on doing such a simple thing. Life can be changed.

Yeah, I don't know why I mentioned this, but I think the lesson from this is that: If in everything we do, we can come back to the core. The whole world can change for you. So thank you for reminding me of this.

To come back to the value of freedom, someone that reminds me of the value that I want for myself would have to be my dad. 

     I think he has inspired me a lot. When I moved to China I got to see him more often, even though we don't live in the same city. I was surprised at how he can manage to live such a lonely life.

If in everything we do, we can come back to the core. The whole world can change for you.

But the more I got to know him, the more I understood that he was not lonely. If you have a rich spirit, and what I mean by that is that you have a curiosity for life, for other people, for the world, you're not lonely.

       And sometimes I think this is what I lack. Sometimes I can lose my curiosity for potentially interesting things, but I don't have an interest in them. I think what matters is that you don't need to live in a very fruitful world. What matters is how you look at the world.

      You can live in the dullest city in the world, but you can have fun every day if you are fun, if you are interested. I still like Shanghai and what Shanghai has to offer, but what I'm saying is that in the end, it's all about yourself.

Yeah, I wish I could be like him. I mean, I still think that to reach this level, I need to practice more. I'm not saying, he’s perfect. But in this regard, I think he has achieved a level that I aspire to. 

       I guess the people who can enjoy their life are the ones who can see the uncommon in the common. 

What does the word harmony mean to you? 

For me harmony means alignment. You cannot inspire others if you don't believe in your message or if you don't practice it. 

     For example, now with Chichio, we try to promote a healthier diet and lifestyle. But the thing is that if I'm not trying to eat healthier or live healthier, I cannot work as a brand. As a company, we cannot inspire others to do so.

Since creating this brand, I have been trying hard to change my routine. I'm eating better, choosing better foods, and sleeping better, I'm not there yet, but it has given me a lot of reflections.   

      I'm more aware of what I should be putting into my body and how healthy eating is changing the way we live.

I think since I was a kid, I've been eating quite healthily. My mom has been cooking healthy food with no additives. 

    Not too much sugar or salt or anything, but since living outside of the home as a young teenager or young adult, we don't care so much or we don't have the knowledge to identify bad foods from healthier ones. 

We must start learning about how food impacts our body our mind and the environment as well. 

     Younger kids, even younger generations, some of them, might not even know what, let's say a chicken looks like. We are becoming more and more disconnected from the food we eat.

Harmony is to be aligned with what you want, and what you try to convey. 

This is an opportunity to learn something vital for our life on the planet, for me, and for others in general. 

Harmony is to be aligned with what you want, and what you try to convey. I think everything comes with a message. 

      What I'm doing now, comes with a message. We want to create a healthy product, and that is a message for others because people are going to feel it. They're going to eat it and feel it. 

And then if you don't create a product with a good message, the result is not going to be good. 

This is what I believe.

Sustainability Documentary China


Watch it here: The KAILU Docu-Series



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