Posted on January 07 2020
Almost a year ago, I saw an Instagram post by Mai Mimesis that rocked my world. They posted the photo below, holding a small bag containing the trash they produced within a 6 month period. WHAT? There's so little trash. How'd they do it? Seriously? Amazing. I needed to know more.
photo by Emily Ng
I reached out to Mai to ask some questions, like HOW ON EARTH DID YOU-?
What inspired you to start a journey towards a zero waste lifestyle?
I decided to set this zero waste goal for myself because I knew it was possible and I wanted to show people that it could fun, as opposed to an unattainable and difficult standard of living. I had an “enough is enough” moment in which I knew that I could do more if I was able to shift my mindset about what was possible in terms of sustainable living.
I was especially inspired by a dear friend of mine Katie Drackert who has been vocal in the public spheres about the importance of addressing environmental issues. She also makes art from trash and does these super quirky entertaining videos about environmentalism through artistic expression.
She reminded me that we have an amazing platform to inspire and connect with people through social media, so I decided I would try sharing my process in hopes that others would feel empowered to participate in saving the environment and making art.
photo by Tommy Albers
Could you describe a beginner’s guide to producing less waste? Where’s a good place to start?
- Carry your own jars, containers, and reusable bags
- Eat local. Buy local produce, go to the farmers market, and eat at local restaurants
- Recycle, but don’t be an optimist recycler! Know what is recyclable! If you put things in the recycling that isn’t recyclable, it can result in a whole truckload of recyclables to be put into a landfill.
- Ask for your products to be wrapped in paper not plastic at the store, such as meat, fish or cheeses
- Avoid processed foods
- Buy in bulk
- Cook more/ Make your own frozen meals
- Choose glass, there are many things that are sold in both plastic and glass containers (like yogurt, pasta sauce, and juice). Always choose the glass alternative.
- Be gentle with yourself! In a world where single-use plastic is everywhere and sustainable practices require a bit of planning, it can be difficult to practice. Be patient with yourself and do your best, if you falter, try again tomorrow.
- It’s not a zero-sum game. Being imperfectly zero waste is better than not trying at all.
- Google it! If you don’t know if something is recyclable, or how to compost, or where to find sustainable products, the magical internet can help you.
- Vote with your dollar (and vote with your vote!)
What are some pro tips on waste reduction?
- Reduce reuse recycle- in that order, we’ve heard it all our lives, but look at where you can cut down on consumption, and then how you can reuse materials and lastly how to recycle. It may sound cliche, but if you really take this saying to heart and think about its implications, it can be really beneficial for living a less wasteful life.
- Try zero waste for a week, and then you’ll be more aware of alternative ways to consume.
photo by Jinni J
Where are some places you shop at that align with your lifestyle?
- The farmers market
- Wheatsville food coop
- Central Market
- Goodwill, Savers, and other vintage/thrift stores (for clothes)
- Austin Creative Reuse (for art supplies)
- Habitat for Humanity (for building supplies)
Here’s a list of the locations and dates of farmers markets in Austin:
- HOPE Farmers’ Market
- Sunday – 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 412 Comal St
- Sustainable Food Center:
- East: Tuesday – 3-7 p.m. – 2921 E. 17th St.
- The Triangle: Wednesday – 3-7 p.m. – 4660 Triangle Ave
- Sunset Valley: Saturday – 9 a.m.-1 p.m. – 3200 Jones Road
- Downtown: Saturday – 9 a.m.-1 p.m. – 422 Guadalupe St.
- Barton Creek Farmers’ Market
- Saturday – 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy
- Boggy Creek Farm Stand
- Wednesday through Saturday – 8 a.m.-1 p.m. 3414 Lyons Road
- Texas Farmers’ Market
- Lakeline: Saturday – 9 a.m.-1 p.m. – 11200 Lakeline Mall Dr.
- Mueller: Sunday – 9 a.m.-1 p.m. – 4550 Mueller Blvd
- As a contract artist and art curriculum development specialist I’m always looking to grow and expand in my teaching and creating. Whether it’s servicing children, adults, or the elderly I love working with people and helping them find the artist within.
- To create more sustainable art installations and pieces that help people to connect with themselves and their environment.
- To create more full-sensory experience art events with my art collective, Touch Collective, in which you can taste music, smell art, feel the performances, and experience the interconnection of your senses.
- To travel, garden, do yoga, volunteer, paint, ride my bike, fire spin, and play.
- At the end of the day, I’m here to serve my community and support equality movements so, in every moment, my goal is to better the lives of others through my talents and resources.
Photo by Jinni J
What has been the most challenging aspect of how you purchase and consume?
- Coming up with a system that serves me. While my goal is zero waste, I have rules and exceptions that help me to make this goal more attainable. For example, gifts don’t count, if someone is thoughtful enough to buy me food as a gift that is in plastic, I’m not going to keep that plastic because I don’t want to detract from that opportunity for human connection by overthinking the role of waste in my life. Additionally, the same counts for the gifts I give, for example, I keep bags of food in my car to hand out to homeless people, the contents are a can of soup, canned veggies, juice, apple sauce, a granola bar, candy, and socks, some of these things come in plastic, but I’ll compromise on that because I want to prioritize giving food to people who need it.
- Aside from coming up with a system, the hardest part has been navigating the explanation of my habits to people. Asking for my cheese to be wrapped in paper at the store, or explaining to a friend why I won’t eat somewhere can be awkward. One of my main goals in this endeavor is to inspire people and help them feel empowered. I want this lifestyle to seem non-inhibiting in terms of living a full life. Plus, we’re all doing what we can. We’re in this together and I’m merely offering the knowledge and practices that work for me, in hopes that some of them may relate to you.I read that you make art from the waste that isn’t recyclable. What is your process for creating these pieces?
- My plan has been to gather all of my non-recyclable or compostable materials for a full year and then at that time make an art piece that is inspired by the materials. We often focus on an idea and then procure materials based on the idea, I’m trying to propagate for using what’s available to you and coming up with concepts based on that. It will be a full year since I started this come July! So, keep an eye out for the final piece come the end of the summer!
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
I recently released an interactive art installation that is made from all reused materials. The name of the piece is “Rebirth” and it is a 6 foot tall, 9-foot long tunnel modeled after a vagina. The substructure is made from previously used PVC pipes and cement bought from Habitat for Humanity. The structure is covered in a giant red cloth creation I sewed from cloth scraps purchased from Goodwill and Austin Creative Reuse. I hope in my time to see the de-stigmatization of vaginas and to create a platform where we show gratitude to this life-bringing source. You can find my piece at different underground art events in Austin. Bonus points if you find the G spot and release the vocal orgasm within.
photo by Geof Krum at Meow Wolf 2019
What are some words of wisdom you’d give to someone who’s beginning this kind of lifestyle?
- Don’t give up! Somedays it may seem futile, but what you do matters! Remember, we don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, we need a ton of people doing zero imperfectly.
- Work to be informed, figure out the best sustainability practices for you, and stay consistent.
- You are a powerful creator and this is your world, do your best, believe in yourself and your power to make the world a better place!
Mai will be releasing their zine, Sustainable Austin: A Guide to Zero Waste living on Thursday, January 9th from 7-9 pm here at Raw Paw. This zine release party will be the kick off of the Raw Paw Coat Drive, where we will be collecting coats for those in need. Come on by, have a drink, donate a coat, and learn about how you can make the earth a better place.
written by D'Anna Siciliano