Photos: Steph Shep
There are multitaskers, and then there is Steph Shep. The social media goddess has more on her plate than a hungry teen at a hotel buffet, and most of those projects link back to the planet. There’s Future Earth, the collective she co-founded for climate action; PLUS, a no-waste body wash; and now a collab with Snif that combines plant-based fragrance with compostable packaging. (Her own signature scent, Suganami, shares her middle name, and takes notes from cypress trees and irises.)
Here's how Steph balances Hollywood life with more conscious living, what she learns in the woods, and the beauty of animal videos.
We usually ask artists how nature inspires their creative process. But for you, how does nature inspire your entrepreneurship?Oh, in all ways! First, in terms of products, I work closely with the Environmental Working Group. I'm very familiar with cosmetics laws and clean ingredients, and their standard of safety. Obviously, everything I make needs to be cruelty-free, vegan, non-toxic, and with recycled, compostable packaging. So in the details, of course a responsibility to nature really fuels my projects. But also, you know, growing a business or doing a collaboration is really like planting a tree!
Oooh, how?The seed is your idea, right? You plant the seed, you nurture it, you watch it grow, you watch its branches reach new places, and then you see its fruit going out into the world in all directions! With Snif, specifically, helping them plant a more sustainable product, and showing them how compostable packaging could be part of their system, it really felt like helping them cultivate something big. And you know, I based the scent itself on a plant growing.
So the perfume is, like, the scent journey of a plant?It actually is! It starts with seeds, just like a real plant. The first thing you smell is pink pepper seeds. It’s airy at first, almost powdery. Then you smell the blooms—irises and rosebuds—and then, once it’s been on your skin for a while, it starts going back to the earth, with warmer scents of amber. It took about a year to develop, and the team is just amazing.
Part of your mission through Future Earth and these projects is to make regenerative living easier for people. How do you cut through the noise and greenwashing?
Yeah, the greenwashing can be overwhelming! But I think the best and most simple tip I can give is that when you can, take a beat and do a tiny bit of research. We’re so used to consuming information very quickly—add to cart, buy now, the end, you know? But if we remind ourselves to shop with intention, hopefully that stops the quick buys. Instead, you’re going to take a beat, click on the company website, do a little research, see what verifications they have listed on their website, and what those verifications mean. Learning things for yourself really helps fight those feelings of helplessness and confusion.
How has your personal relationship to nature evolved?I grew up in a very small, very rural town called Ontario, Ohio. I spent the first 19 years of my life there. I try to represent whenever I get the opportunity, because I love my hometown, and I feel very lucky to have been raised in the middle of a beautiful, natural setting. I passed cows on the way to school every day. I got to play in the grass as a kid and chase fireflies—that’s one of my core memories growing up, just running around outside with the neighborhood kids, and getting to see the fireflies light up… I definitely spent my entire childhood and adolescence connected to some form of nature—I was always playing with worms and going to some type of nature camp. We had a creek that ran through our backyard and it would have crawdads. I'm so unbelievably grateful to have grown up around that, because it gave me a very different perspective on how important nature is for happiness.
So nature is a part of your mental health routine?Absolutely. When I moved to Los Angeles, I had to make it a real priority to go hiking, go to the beach, go seek out nature so I could still feel connected to it… I definitely find those moments of connecting to nature, like smelling the grass or walking through autumn leaves that smell so crisp and sweet, and then they crunch—the best is when they crunch, right?
It so is.If I'm feeling anxious or overwhelmed or exhausted, really being around trees and actual grass recharges me. So I try to be really proactive about finding those moments in nature, because it’s self-care.
Please tell us your favorite animal fact.Luckily, my entire Instagram Explore page is just animals. You watch them and you’re like, “We are not worthy of being on the same earth,” you know? So the other day, I saw a video about otters, and how they fall asleep holding hands so they don’t float away on the water and get separated. It was the sweetest thing.
What’s your favorite vegan food?
I've been raised on tofu. I'm half Japanese. My mom always gave it to me as a snack—just cut up, firm tofu. I eat it plain, and I find it a total comfort food. The other thing is, honestly, I used to love hot dogs! Maybe it's like an Ohio thing? Like, you go to the fair, you get a hot dog. You go to the local baseball game, you get a hot dog. And I still love them, but the vegan Smart Dogs are amazing. Also, I am ride or die for Impossible Foods… I actually got to tour their facility in San Francisco. They showed me the science behind the burger, how they make it “bleed” even though it’s entirely plants. It is incredible. But in the summer, I love my Smart Dogs.
At Wild Elements, our motto is “let good grow wild.” What does that mean to you?
Create the space and give the patience and intention to let good things flourish. And let them take over, and take you wherever that might go. Even if you weren’t expecting it!