My name is Shaz Chan. I'm from California. I just graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Masters in Environmental Engineering.
What got you interested in sustainability?
Over a decade ago, I read a book where the author and her family grew and raised almost all of the food they ate for an entire year. This was before the farm to table revolution had really begun, and the idea that one could be food self-sufficient astounded me at a time when I was used to life in the urban jungle, where fully formed food magically appeared at the grocery store whenever I was hungry.
The idea of living sustainably was further ingrained when I visited a village on the Wild Coast of South Africa: disconnected from all municipal resources, and living lightly on the land, it still had hot showers and cold drinks, among other modern conveniences. It made me think about what I can do to help grow such practices in big cities.
What sustainability, energy, and mobility issues are important to you?
I started my interest through food, so of course it's still very important to me. But there's a huge web of the way we as a society do things that needs to be addressed. I'd love it if we could look at the life cycle analyses of everything we do, and come up with more sustainable ways to do them (which is also often cheaper as well!). Also integrating different sectors so that waste of one sector can naturally become resource for another, so we simply cycle usefulness of everything, and we don't have "waste" at all. I'm a huge fan of Cradle to Cradle.
Currently, I've been focusing on water, particularly since I'm from California. The drought has really affected everything, but all of a sudden since we're technically no longer in the drought. People want to go back to the way things were (ie, wasting water), because they don't think there's any danger any more. Water shortage isn't binary, and the years of drought aren't just all of a sudden erased because we had one winter of rain.
What exciting projects/research are you working on now?
Having just graduated from UCLA, my current exciting project is looking for a job that will help me help make the world more sustainable. I'm also continuing work with the Sustainable Capitol Hill and the Capitol Hill Tool Library (borrow tools - just like books from a book library!) in Seattle, which I helped launch. Lastly, I just signed up to volunteer with Puget Soundkeepers, to keep Puget Sound clean.
What are your plans for the next five years?
Improve! I'll probably be working on getting my PE and becoming a project environmental engineer
What made you want to apply to SISE?
The collaborative nature, as well as the focus on transportation are really exciting to me. I've sort of danced around transportation in all my studies, but it's really integral to everything: transportation of food and water, people, merchandise... our whole society has become centered around transportation. Plus, it's really exciting that we are getting the opportunity to interact with people from so many different sectors. While it's all transportation focused, there are so many aspects, and we get to see a little bit of all of them, and work with people with so many different backgrounds.
What are you most looking forward to doing in the city?
I've visited a couple times, but it's never been at the height of summer, so I'm excited for all the summer festivals. Also I used to be really into a few local Chicago bands, so I'm gonna try to go to a show or two and see how the scene has changed. And of course the food. I already made reservations for a Michelin starred restaurant (Band of Bohemia) if anyone wants to join me! (Don't worry: it's for brunch, and priced about what brunch is usually priced.)
Do you like cats? If not, are you willing to learn to like cats?
I will Elmira any cat I come across. The cats aren't coming for me, I'm coming for the cats! :-D