Hi, I’m Minnie! Hope you are ready for my long story that led me here.
Hello and welcome! My name is Minyoung, but everyone calls me Minnie =)
I am a sustainability enthusiast both in heart and in profession.
I was born and raised in South Korea, studied and worked in New York City, got married in Hawaii, and now live in sunny California.
Because I spent several years advising policymakers and business leaders in the sustainability sector, it was only natural for me to live the life I preach.
And because my experience in sustainability is very diverse, I share many different issues on my blog, including energy efficiency, carbon footprint, food waste, sustainable investing, Korean vegan recipes, and vegan beauty & fashion.
Here is the story of how sustainable and climate conscious living became part of my life.
Born in South Korea
Being born and raised in South Korea, “conserving” is something you grow up with, rich or poor.
So what makes Koreans experts in conserving?
First, we are a tiny country in terms of size, with a landmass of only 38,691 mi2 or 1/7th the size of Texas. Second, 70% of this tiny landmass is uplands and mountains — reason we are very good at making tunnels and don’t have much land to bury our waste or use for agriculture. Third, Korea has very little resources for energy, and is highly dependent on foreign fossil fuel imports.
Despite all the lacks, Korea is a wealthy country with the 12th largest economy in the world.
Although Korea has become more wasteful as it became wealthier, I’d like to think that there is still much wisdom of conservation and innovating with what you have, embedded in the Korean culture.
Especially if you are around my age, you most likely have grandparents who lived through the Korean War, and parents who grew up when Korea was an aid-recipient country. Perhaps your mother told you a story of how disposal diapers were uncommon, and she had to hand wash your cotton diapers and sanitize them by boiling them in a pot of hot water.
And if you ever visited a Korean friend’s house, you may have seen clean jars of tomato sauce drying on the kitchen countertop to be reused to store anything from money to beans. My mom goes even further by spending 10 minutes removing the label stickers on the jars, but that calls for an entirely separate blog post.
2011 – The internship I didn’t want changed my life forever
After 4 years of college and 2 years of graduate school in Korea, I still did not have a clear vision of my career. But one thing was certain — I wanted to do something that can help change the world for the better.
And because I was adamant that for-profit companies were evil (I was naïve and now I strongly believe for-profit companies play a critical role in mainstreaming sustainability), I only sought after internships and jobs at nonprofits including the coveted internships at UN-affiliated organizations.
Rejection after rejection, I finally received an acceptance email from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) National Committee for the Republic of Korea.
I was very disappointed because at that time, I was more interested in human rights and poverty issues.
Most importantly, being a stuck-up, shallow girl in her 20s, I was really unhappy that the office was just a large room with with few long desks and chairs (we now have a cool term for this known as the open space office) in a dilapidated building, and not in a fancy glass building.
Neither did I know that, this 3-month internship I stumbled upon, would change my life forever.
I instantly fell in love with the environmental sustainability sector and by the end of the internship, I was adamant that this was the career path for me.
For me, environmental sustainability was the answer to all the social issues I cared about including protecting the animals I love dearly, eradicating poverty, preserving human rights, and preventing marginalized groups and countries from being exploited.
2012 – You can be eco-friendly and save money at the same time!
Until this day, the highlight of my career was advising for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia and Indonesia as a sustainability management consultant. This project was part of the Korean government’s international aid program to help SMEs in developing countries to become more energy and resource efficient. My then consulting firm, was selected as the lead consultant for the project, and in its second year into it, I became the project manager.
With a group of engineers who understood the mechanical aspects of manufacturing firms, I visited and interviewed more than 60 SMEs to identify potential improvements in their environmental compliance, sustainability management, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, energy efficiency, waste management, and resource efficiency.
This project fascinated me because it was the first time I realized, you can save money by adopting environmentally sustainable practices. I have to tell you that SMEs often don’t welcome environmental consultants because they think you are visiting to audit and penalize them for not complying with local air pollution and waste management regulations. Therefore, although we were an environmental consulting firm, we positioned our mission to helping businesses save money through energy and resource efficiency, as well as identifying new business opportunities by looking for potential green technology development opportunities.
And the biggest takeaway from this experience was that, I can also apply the energy and resource efficiency lessons of this project to save many dollars on my living costs.
2016 – Shopaholic to minimalist “still” in training
There was a point of time in my life, when I was very wasteful and purchased whatever beautiful clothes and shoes I could get my hands on.
At the same time, as an environmental sustainability professional, advising policymakers and businesses to why they should conserve and adopt greener practices, I fell into a moral dilemma.
I felt like a hypocrite living a wasteful life.
It was not until I came to New York City to pursue a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University that I really started to think deeply about changing my lifestyle.
Given the major I was studying, I was surrounded by passionate people who were living the eco-conscious life, including my roommate, who carried around her own wooden spoon and fork. I finally motivated myself to make efforts to apply what I had learned in my profession to my lifestyle.
Moreover, I moved 5 times in less than 4 years, and every time I moved, I was appalled by my waste.
Although I am still not close to living the minimalist life as documented in the film “Minimalism“, I can proudly say that I have purged my impulsive purchasing habits.
JUNE 2017 – Adopts a Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle
I became vegan in June 2017. It started with my diet and has now expanded to my lifestyle.
I experimented with vegetarianism for couple of years in the past, but never have I thought that I would become vegan. Although I love animals very much and it is the number one reason I experimented with vegetarianism and now veganism, it was the harmful impact of animal agriculture on the environment that consolidated my conviction to become vegan.
With mounting evidence that many of our environmental issues including climate change can be resolved if you choose a plant-rich diet, there was no doubt in my mind that veganism will add great value to my sustainable lifestyle.
May 2018 – Hello sunny California
Since graduating from Columbia University, I worked in the nonprofit sector to help advance climate policy and sustainability management of governments and businesses.
I was working in the field I love, but I felt this empty void of wanting to do more. Most importantly, I wanted to not only preach sustainability, but live more climate concious and sustainably in every aspect of my life.
My husband, who had recently learned about digital marketing, suggested that I start my own blog as a way to help myself and perhaps even others who are also striving to live more climate conscious.
We both loved being around nature and by this time, we were quite sick and tired of the brutal cold winters of New York. And just like that we decided to leave everything (including both of our jobs) and moved to sunny Southern California to begin a new journey in life.
Oct 2018 – Minnieveggie is born
Sustainability is used broadly, but its idea originated from the report by the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, published in 1987.
This report defines “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Nothing in this definition says that sustainable development deprives the needs of the present. It says it will meet both the present and future needs.
That is what sustainable and climate conscious living is to me. I have not been deprived of anything by adopting this lifestyle.
In fact, in addition to having all my needs met, I saved money that may have been wasted, learned to be more creative, and boosted my self-confidence knowing that I have made a positive social impact in some way.
And through the Minnieveggie Blog, I hope to challenge myself to live more sustainably by reducing my carbon footprint, and share with the world that we can all contribute to reversing climate change by making better choices in our every day lives.
I have many to thank for helping me throughout this journey. First and foremost, I am grateful to God for all the valuable gifts and lessons in life. I am also grateful to my wise and loving mom. Many of the sustainable living tips I share have been inspired by her creativity and wisdom. I also thank my husband, who has encouraged me to a start my own blog and tries his very best to live sustainably together with me. Finally, I thank my readers for walking the journey with me in making the world more sustainable, an incremental step at a time.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy Minnieveggie!
Minyoung “Minnie” Shin
Founder of Minnieveggie