Interview with the creator of vegetarian maps (Pt.2)

Author: Xiaoduo Zhao; Translator: Dule; Editor: Riley @Animal Dialogue

First published on Animal Dialogue, 2018/06/15

About Zero Waste

Q: You follow a zero-waste lifestyle, so what challenges have you faced since you had gone zero-waste?

A: I do not think it necessary to put this label on me, because to label people like this will cause more stress and difficulties. Thus, I prefer to be called an “advocate.” I strongly believe that a zero-waste lifestyle should be promoted, even though it is, in fact, impossible to produce “zero” waste. “Zero” is a direction that we can all work towards, and it means to try our best to live with as close to “zero waste” as possible.

It would be amazing if someone could actually live without producing any waste, but I still suggest the majority of people to view “zero waste” as a direction instead of a goal. What I do to achieve zero waste first manifests in my food choice. I always prefer to eat natural vegetables and fruits, a choice that has already reduced tons of unnecessary waste produced by packaged drinks and snacks.

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Ala and Lili’s zero-waste life @Lili Han

Additionally, I always bring my own bag whenever I go shopping for food. If I want to buy food online, I will find stores which offer organic food and deliver their own products. When I receive the food delivered, I always quickly unpack the food and return the packages so that they can be reused. Most organic food stores are willing to collaborate. This is something that everyone can try out. If more people start buying food like this, such a way of shopping will become more acceptable. In fact, many changes started from small things.

Many Alatoy products promote a zero-waste lifestyle. An example is the signature canvas bag, which has a large volume and can be frequently reused. Another is the handkerchiefs. Using handkerchiefs reduces napkin usage, and people can also wrap food such as fruits inside handkerchiefs.

In fact, it is not that challenging. When we buy things online, products come in packages, so we can reuse the packages to pack something else, or to make something out of them. I paint and make sculptures, so I keep the packages, the envelopes, and even the tickets so I can use them as canvases, or build small sculptures with them. I may organize my paintings and sculptures, and make videos of them to share with people.

What I am trying to say is that nothing is really challenging. As long as everyone is willing to try, there is a way. Instead of perceiving the zero-waste lifestyle as a big challenge, it’s better to enjoy the process and make the most of it.

Here is another tip: many people may wonder how to deal with kitchen waste. What I do is, because I am a vegetarian, making compost from my kitchen waste. I also have vegetables that are easy to grow on the balcony, and use the kitchen waste as compost. Additionally, I use peels of fermented vegetables and fruits to clean. It is really not hard to do if you are willing to find a way.

About animal rights and recycling

Q: You have been volunteering for animal rights and environmental protection activities, while simultaneously teaching in college. How do you balance your professional work, your volunteer work, and your daily life?

A: In the beginning, I found it very difficult to balance. I had wanted to quit being a college teacher to work full-time doing animal rights and recycle volunteering. Due to some health reasons, I had thought that I would not have much time to do something for this world. Thus, I wanted to spend all my time volunteering.

However, because many animal rights and environmental protection organizations lack sufficient funding, they cannot afford to hire designers. Therefore, I started designing and drawing for some organizations for free. During this process, I encountered many students willing to join me to work for these organizations. On the other hand, my health condition improved, which meant I was not in a rush anymore.

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Lili volunteering and promoting the nonprofit organization “Don’t Eat Friends” @ Lili Han

Then, I realized that I could be a special teacher who teaches my students not only how to create art, but also how to do something meaningful. I have never advocated vegetarianism or volunteerism to my students, but I want to set a good example for them, to show them that it’s not good to live only for money.

Q: Do you have any special moments you would like to share in your recycling and animal protection experiences?”

A: I have had a lot of touching moments in my animal protection experiences. One time, the audience cried when I was sharing my stories. I am not exaggerating, but simply sharing the real situations we had been through.

In the book I am working on right now, there is a story that I personally feel moved considerably by. My friends found a dog that was hit by a car. I rushed over, realizing it was a little puppy. The puppy was lying on the ground, struggling hard to look up at us. He seemed to be relieved to see us. It was as if he knew we were there to save him. When we were rushing to the vet, we thought that he was not injured badly, since he appeared to be quiet and quite tame. We thought that maybe he was just not feeling good. When the vet was checking up on him, he tried very hard to stand up, despite the fact that he was trembling.

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The donkey saved by WuWei Sanctuary Park, where Lili volunteered. His name is Wuwei (which means “not afraid”) @Lili Han

In the end, the vet told us that the poor thing would have to stay in the hospital. He had gotten pneumothorax and bone fractures, with a leg badly broken. We accompanied him to his room and waved goodbye. It was after we walked all the way to the door when he burst out crying because of the pain, and we were so touched.

Very often, we may think that animals do not have as many emotions and personalities as we do, which is why we take advantage of them in any way we want. But, as a matter of fact, animals are as intelligent and sensitive as we are. We talk a lot about protecting animals and the environment, but if humans don’t disturb or hurt them, nature can stay stable and balanced, deeming humans’ protection efforts unnecessary. Nature does not need humans to repair or protect anything. That’s why I think that the best protection method is for humans to not hurt the animals and the environment.

About the Future

Q: “What expectations and plans do you have for the future?”

A: I hope that more people can change their diet and choose a better and healthier way of living. For now, I have some exciting news to share. The first one is a picture book celebrating the tenth-anniversary of Alatoy, including a summary of her discoveries, explorations, and development, as well as some of my experiences with animal rights and environmental protection. There will also be some nonprofit projects and organizations in the book. All profits gained from the picture book will be donated to these projects.

Another plan that I have now is to help these projects and organizations with arts and design. In fact, many organizations need professional designers, so I have been working with some other volunteers to start a team. If anyone is interested, please contact us so you can join us in our efforts to contribute to animal and environmental protection.

But, of course, I do not want to highlight any single individual in this team. In the past ten years, I have not used my name in most cases, hardly granting credit even to Alatoy. If the organization wants to credit me or Ala, it’s fine, but it’s unnecessary. I also drew Alatoy in grey because I don’t want her to be a heroic person (rabbit). Instead, she stands for anyone who is willing to do something for a better future.

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