The Voice of a Generation
How the powerhouse journalist Sophia Li’s childhood gave her an early look into eco-conscious consumerism and sustainability
by Sarah Persitz
Meet The Nomad Collective, The Nopo’s community of Ambassadors: endlessly creative and curious individuals who are making a positive impact in the world, working every day to shape the reality of their everyday life for the better. Our Ambassadors are supporting The Nopo in our mission to democratize e-commerce and allow artistic excellence to become truly borderless.
We recently caught up with one of our newest Ambassadors, Sophia Li, for a special conversation around sustainability, the climate crisis and the power of storytelling in honor of Earth Month.
Photos from @sophfei
The Nopo ambassador Sophia Li’s path to becoming a leading climate advocate is deeply intertwined with a lineage passed down through the generations; a lineage of intentionality, gratitude and a deep understanding for the interconnectedness of all things.
In reflecting back on the journey that has brought Sophia to being named by Harvard as one of the top climate communicators of 2022, she gave us a glimpse into her childhood, living in China as a young girl, growing up in the United States and returning to China to visit her grandparents, and how being the child of immigrants gave her an early look into eco-conscious consumerism and sustainability.
Above: Photo #1 from @sophfei. Photo #2: Botera Table Lamp by Alta Estudio, Colombia. “Beyond the charming shape of this lamp, love that the lampshade is woven from artisans from the indigenous Guangui community of Colombia. Artisanal craftsmanship like this is history in itself.”
“My grandparents were Buddhist. They grew up in small rural towns in China, so everyone in my family were farmers which gave them this deep connection to the land. They always had so much gratitude for the food they would grow, and the animals they’d eat, making sure to put everything to use.”
She went on to share, “One of the ideologies that my grandparents instilled within me from a very young age was the idea that we live in a symbiotic relationship with all living things. We live in a symbiotic relationship with humanity, but also with nature.”
Photos from @sophfei
Back in the United States as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, the lessons came less through words and more through actions. “Having parents who were immigrants meant that sustainability was a necessity. There was no term or word or phrase for it at the time, but that was the norm, it was survival. So we’d reuse and upcycle where we could, everything was intentional and conscious; we didn’t take anything for granted.”
Growing up experiencing the world through different lenses had a profound impact on Sophia and how she navigates the world. Between summers in China and living life in the US, moving between four states, different ecosystems and political stances, Sophia shared that the common thread was the family’s connection to nature.
Above: Photo #1 from @sophfei. Photo #2: Luxury Skincare Handmade Soap Bars-Set of 6 by Organic Hand, Morocco. “If you’re like me and still wash your hands 20x a day, a gentle soap that is effective but doesn’t leave your hands like sandpaper is key. I love the ingredients like goat milk, honey, green tea and the tranquil colors that come in this set. Perfect for every bathroom in the household or as a hostess gift.”
As she got older, the lessons of her upbringing stayed with her, guiding her to deeper insights on the journey to what she calls climate acceptance; the recognition that the climate crisis is real and that we each have a role to play in the world we’ve created and the future we are collectively responsible for.
In Sophia’s words, “We can try to ignore the climate crisis, or we can accept it and be proactive in it because the more we ignore it the more scary it seems. But if we accept it and work through the climate grief and come through the other side with acceptance, it feels more manageable and tangible because we’re actually doing something about it.”
Photos from @sophfei
When asked what small steps she encourages people to take, Sophia leaned into the conversation to take it a level deeper, saying, “Of course I can give you answers you’ve probably heard before, like eat more plant based, don’t use single use plastic, compost, vote. Those are all really important actions, but they only matter if you yourself have come into acceptance and into the healing of yourself as an individual who is part of nature.”
It’s not often that we read about the role of individual healing as a critical part of addressing the climate crisis, but in speaking with Sophia it was clear to see why she’s become the leading voice of a generation. She’s able to connect complex, seemingly disconnected issues and bring them together in a way that we can begin to understand on a spiritual level. By weaving through the thread of wisdom first introduced by her grandparents, Sophia shared that it all comes back to being in connection.
Above: Photo #1 from @sophfei. Photo #2: Small Waniku Hanging Lamp by Waraos Amazónicos, Colombia. “Entirely handcrafted in Colombia, I love that this lamp has such character from the craftsmanship — no two lamps are exactly the same and that’s the energy we should bring into our home.”
“Beginning with individual healing means to truly understand our place in this larger ecosystem, what role we play, what healing we need to go through. It means working on trauma, both at the personal level and an intergenerational level. This includes the trauma that’s done by society at large that’s impacting nature.” She went on to say that, “I don’t want to simplify it because it’s quite complex and it’s a very individual path for each person but that’s truly the first step — addressing our individual healing as part of an interconnected web. This can be difficult to grasp because people want the simple solutions, but those only take us so far. We can’t reach net zero through simple steps, it has to come from a very deep intrinsic level of consciousness and connectedness.”
Photos from @sophfei
So how do we begin on this path of connection with the earth? Sophia encouraged earthing, the act of walking barefoot on the ground in nature, or literally hugging a tree, sharing that these activities are scientifically proven to reduce stress and boost serotonin. She went on to share, “Those little moments of reconnecting to earth and nature also open a path to reconnect to ourselves simultaneously. It sounds really simplified and cliché, but it’s powerful. There is healing in connection. The healing is individualized, but the transcendence of healing is collective.”
This ethos and deep belief system has guided Sophia through her transition from living in New York City to buying a house with land in Upstate New York. While she considers herself a city person, she just as deeply connected to nature. “The pandemic showed me that we can 100% be both; we can be a contradiction. Being a city person or a nature person is not binary — it’s all on a spectrum.” And yet, moving further outside of the city is allowing Sophia to get back in touch with some of her family roots. As she shared, “My parents and grandparents always had incredible green thumbs. They were always able to plant and grow so many things sustainably. It’s been my family’s lineage to understand farming and connect more deeply with the earth, and I’m ready to have to my own garden.”
Photos from @sophfei
In the process of transforming her house into a home, Sophia shared how her global upbringing connects her passion for storytelling with conscious consumerism.
“Travel is a huge part of who I am today. I was so fortunate to grow up traveling the world with my parents, and I remember we would always come back with these treasures; memories from places we’ve been. Everything had an emotional story attached to it, a memory of a living place. So when I started designing my interior space I went searching for artisan goods, not just aesthetically, but artisanal goods that are upkeeping long generations of craftsmanship, because that is history in itself. It’s not written in a book, but it’s a form of living history.”
Above: Photo #1 Loop Stool by Casatrama, Colombia. Photo #2 from @sophfei
Sophia was looking for treasures that would have caught her eye on a global adventure. “I was looking for that feeling you get when you find something traveling on a scale that wasn’t fast furniture but it was so hard to find. I really want everything I bring into my home to have a story or an emotional connection. That’s what I love about The Nopo. As a brand they understand how important storytelling is, and they extend that power of storytelling through an object. When you look at the website you don’t just see a product, you get the whole story. You get to meet the artisan, learn about their background and history. We learn to value the story of each product rather than the act of consumption. That’s what I really love, building a new paradigm where we value a product with a story!”