Steph Shep Wants to Save the World
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Steph Shep Wants to Save the World

Story by Katherine Gillespie / Photography by Juan Veloz / Styling by Britt Mccamey

In her years since moving on from the Kardashianverse, Stephanie Shepherd Suganami — Steph Shep to her 1.7 million followers — has made an unlikely but pretty cool pivot towards environmentalism.

The non-profit she co-founded, Future Earth, is a "climate club" that everyone's invited to join, offering a mix of hard facts and home tips for reducing your environmental impact and living a more sustainable life. Take that, people who tell influencers to use their powers for good!

Dress, coat and socks: Kenzo, Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti, Jewelry: VRAI

The Future Earth Instagram account has some of the cutest, '70s-inspired infographics you'll find on your feed, but don't get it twisted: this is serious stuff.

"I wanted to share information and I noticed a gap in the way the message was being communicated," Shepherd says. "A lot of what I was finding was very corporate and scientific to the point where it was completely going over my head. I wanted to create a way of communicating the crisis to my friends, in an engaging, relatable and aesthetically digestible way."

Dress: Pucci, Tights and shoes: DSQUARED2, Jewelry: VRAI

Shepherd isn't just another shill for the slew of "sustainable" brands that have emerged over the past few years. A fan of Al Gore from an early age, she's serious about the science of climate change ("I'm big on facts"), and aware that conscious consumption doesn't offer an overall solution to the problems we face.

"That's the gag, you don't need to buy things to be 'sustainable,'" she says. "It's actually quite the opposite."

Dress: Mugler, Shoes: Philosophy

Ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, PAPER caught up with her to find out more about Future Earth, her best attainable tips for living sustainably and why she's feeling optimistic about the planet's future in spite of... everything.

Dress: Monot

What prompted you to start Future Earth?

The more I was learning about the climate crisis, the more I wanted to share information and I noticed a gap in the way the message was being communicated. A lot of what I was finding was very corporate and scientific to the point where it was completely going over my head. I wanted to create a way of communicating the crisis to my friends, in an engaging, relatable and aesthetically digestible way.

What inspired your passion for sustainability?

I'm big on facts. The science is there and it's telling us we need to change our lifestyles. Besides simply enjoying clean air and green trees, I value the ecosystems and the intricate way humans and nature are connected and I want to preserve that. And it goes so much deeper than just sustainability; climate justice is social justice.

Dress: Dion Lee, Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti, Jewelry: VRAI

What is the best advice you can give to people on becoming conscious consumers?

I'm sure it's been said before but it bears repeating, knowledge is power. The more you know about the climate crisis the more you can actively participate in the solution. We as consumers have so much more power than we realize. If we want safer products, more brand transparency, less waste and more sustainable/ethical business practices, we can use our dollar to set change into motion. And let's not stop there — we're not just consumers — we're citizens, and your voice and VOTE matters. Speak up, message the brands you love, call your reps. So many groundswell changes begin with individual actions.

What do you keep in mind when choosing brands to wear and support?

I like to shop small, I have always loved to shop vintage. I'm trying to make a habit of "less is more" and to just buy less overall. But if I am choosing brands, I obviously look for a sustainable ethos, labor transparency, natural materials, and some type of giveback or mission driven brand.

Dress: Monot, Shoes: Zanotti

For people who can't afford to invest in sustainable goods, what are some other everyday sustainability practices they can take part in?

That's the gag, you don't need to buy things to be "sustainable". It's actually quite the opposite. There are so many ways to reuse and recycle what we already have. Whether that be repurposing bottles and jars from kitchen to personal care or shopping vintage and repairing old clothes and giving them a new life. There are so many great instagram accounts that share sustainable hacks, like @rocket_science, @reducewastenow, @wastefreeplanet, @zero.waste.collective, @zerowasteguide, @zerowastechef, @lucybiggers.

Who are your climate heroes, and what sustainability accounts do you like to follow?

First and foremost, former Vice President Al Gore. I have been a huge supporter and fan of his since I was a kid and his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was really the catalyst for my climate advocacy journey. My co-founder at Future Earth, Max Moinian, is a huge inspiration to me; she is always pushing me to learn more and dig deeper. I love to follow @greengirlleah, @pattiegonia, @atmos, @blackgirlenvironmentalist, @worldwarzeroorg, @climatereality, @chicksforclimate, @cnnclimate.

Dress: Givenchy, Jewelry: VRAI

What's one environmentally-conscious practice you recently learned or that you don't think people know a lot about?

Adapting our way of life isn't going to be easy, so here are two things that are super important, easy, and overlooked: divesting and installing a heat pump in your home. Divesting means switching to an ethical bank like Aspiration or Amalgamated because big banks can use YOUR dollars to invest in fossil fuel projects. Heat pumps also cool your home, and will save way more energy and money than LED light bulbs.

What other everyday actions do you take in order to advocate for climate justice?

I'm on the Future Earth slack channel everyday, learning from our incredible team of researchers and designers. Keeping up with everything they're reading and working on: finding ways at Future Earth that we can support and amplify different voices and stories. Did I say knowledge is power already?

Dress: Dion Lee, Jewelry: VRAI

What's your hope for the next decade in terms of climate justice activism?

I think the kids know what's up. They're out in the streets, they are using their voices. I just hope that the adults take action so the next generation can actually enjoy their time on Earth.

Dress, coat and socks: Kenzo, Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti, Jewelry: VRAI

Photography: Juan Veloz
Styling: Britt Mccamey
Hair: Irinel De Leon
Makeup: Kristine Studden
Prop styling: Star Burleigh
Videography: Olivier Lessard
Production: Brandon Zagha
Lighting: Byron Nickleberry
Digitech assistant: Brianna Alysse
Styling assistant:
Garrett Ives

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